There’s nothing cooler than strapping on a ghillie suit (or leaf suit) and walking onto a paintball field with your sniper rifle in hand.
But what’s the best form of 3D camouflage for playing paintball? Ghillie or leaf suit? Below I explain the most important distinctions between the two forms of camouflage to help you decide whether the ghillie suit or leaf suit will fit you best.
Ghillie suits are made from BDU’s with netting attached to them and fabric such as jute or burlap attached to the netting. The fabric should be dyed to match the natural colors in your area and if properly done your ghillie should blend in great in almost any natural environment. Leaf suits, on the other hand, are built with lightweight mesh material that’s designed to resemble leaves, making the leaf suit better suited for a forest environment. The mesh material leaf suits are made from also makes it lighter than ghillie suits and therefore better suited for summer usage, while a ghillie would be better suited for winter or fall.
Below I’m going to further explain the pros and cons of both ghillies and leaf suits to make sure you’re fully prepared before buying or building one of your own. You’ll also find images below of my own ghillie and leaf suit with different backgrounds in nature to help you decide which form of 3D camouflage will blend in best with your natural environment.
Now let’s get to the good stuff.
Ghillie suits are used by military snipers all around the world and for good reason too, they work. The sole purpose of a ghillie suit is to break up the outline of your body so that you blend in better with your natural environment.
To further break up your outline and match the color(s) and texture in your area most ghillie suits come with something in place (such as hair bows cut in half and sewn down on each side) so you can weave natural foliage into your suit. This natural foliage will increase your level of concealment and allow you to effectively hide in plain sight without being seen. Of course, a ghillie suit isn’t an invisibility cloak by any means, but you’d be surprised by how effective a ghillie can be with the right foliage attached to your suit.
Some of the different ways you can buy or build a ghillie suit include a ghillie with netting fully covering the hood, arms, front, and back, a ghillie with netting only on the hood, arms, and back, and a ghillie with netting only on the hood, arms, and shoulders. Depending on how you play paintball will determine which type of ghillie suit will fit you best.
Advantages of a Ghillie Suit
- Offers great concealment (especially in grassy environments)
- Great for cold weather usage
- Easy to attach natural foliage
Disadvantages of a Ghillie Suit
- Can be uncomfortable in hot weather
- Heavy to wear
- Can’t be worn in rainy conditions (soaks up water easily)
- Most pre-made ghillie suits aren’t very well made (will have to build your own suit if you want a quality ghillie)
Leaf suits are primarily used for hunting purposes but recently their popularity has risen in the paintball and airsoft community. This rise in popularity is due to many reasons, the main one being that leaf suits are both lighter and more breathable than their ghillie alternatives. Being made from a mesh material makes the leaf suit the better choice for paintball (or airsoft) players who are playing in warmer environments or who don’t want to be weighed down.
I also find leaf suits to be more comfortable than ghillie suits, but that mostly comes down to my ghillie suit being made from BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform) which are typically hot and uncomfortable — although you could make your ghillie suit from a more comfortable piece of clothing if you like.
Leaf suits are also the best form of camouflage for wooded environments where most paintball matches take place. Unfortunately, leaf suits can often be hit or miss when it comes to matching the particular woods in your area. Many leaf suits are also cheaply made so you have to make sure to do your due diligence before making a purchase.
I personally use the Brown Leafy Suit from North Mountain Gear and recommend it highly, although I do admit that it took some customization to make it the way I wanted. I’ll talk more about those upgrades below.
Advantages of a Leaf Suit
- More comfortable in warm weather
- Doesn’t weigh you down as much
- Offers great concealment in leafy environments
Disadvantages of a Leaf Suit
- Harder to attach natural foliage
- Not as comfortable in cold weather
- Harder to customize (may require a knit pick)
Ghillie Suit vs Leaf Suit
When trying to decide whether to buy or build a ghillie suit or leaf suit the most important questions to ask yourself are what kind of weather will you primarily be playing in and what kind of nature is in your environment.
If the weather is hot or rainy in your area then a leaf suit may be the better option. This is because leaf suits are made from highly breathable, lightweight mesh material. The benefit of wearing mesh material is that it won’t cause you to overheat as a ghillie would and it won’t soak up water like fabrics such as jute, burlap, or synthetic fibers would. For cool or cold weather environments, however, a ghillie suit would be preferable as it will be more comfortable to wear.
Now as far as matching your environment goes, leaf suits typically work better in “leafy” environments, whereas ghillie suits work better in grassier environments. Most pre-made ghillie suits also come with attachments in place to allow you to weave natural foliage into your suit. Whereas leaf suits will typically have to be customized to allow for the attachment of natural foliage.
The customization of 3D camouflage to better match your environment is actually one of my favorite aspects of building a ghillie or leaf suit. You can always add new types of fabric (burlap, jute, etc.) to your suit or remove old fabric that you no longer want. This is the fun side of building ghillies and leaf suits because you can customize your suit the way you want it and truly make it your own.
When customizing a ghillie or leaf suit there are different types of fabrics or materials that are typically attached to each type of suit. Ghillie suits are mostly customized with thread-like fabrics such as burlap, jute, or synthetic fibers. While leaf suits are typically customized with artificial leaves, raffia, and 3D leaf strip material. Any material that you plan on attaching to a suit, however, should be dyed first to match the colors of your natural environment.
This can often be a long and difficult process to get correct as you may have to try out a few different dyes and experiment with the timing process some before you get it correctly. However, as long as you continue to build your ghillie or leaf suit and experiment with dying your fabric materials you’ll eventually have a 3D camouflage suit to be proud of. I guarantee it.