Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Camping Genius: Homemade Ghillie Hat

(c) 2012 by Tom King

Fred disguises himself as a bush in his trusty Ghillie hat.
If you're taking out a youth group for a weekend bird-watching or other nature observation activity, here's a great campcraft activity you can do to get ready.  Have everybody make a Ghillie hat.  A Ghillie hat is a much less ambitious project than a Ghillie suit and for most nature watching activities it's really all you need.

Also, a Ghillie hat is not as hot and uncomfortable as a full Ghillie suit and much easier to snatch off your head if someone mistakes you for Bigfoot.  That's an important thing if you're up here in the Pacific Northwest.  If people think you're Bigfoot up here, they've been known to try and run over you with their cars.

Go to this link:  Making a Ghillie Hat to get the full instructions.

The materials aren't very expensive and you can make one out of almost any old floppy hat.  You can hang the hat on your backpack or stuff it into a small pack.  I hang mine from my belt where I can snatch it onto my head if I need to disappear quickly.  If everyone has their own Ghillie hat, then you can conceal your whole unit in seconds. When you set up your bird-watching or animal blinds, try this for a fun activity with the kids on the hike out to the observation point.

Have the kids practice disappearing on the trail.  Develop a signal for your unit and have them practice moving silently into cover and putting on their Ghillie hats to camouflage themselves when you give the signal.  Practice with them till they can melt into the brush in 10 to 15 seconds. 

Have the kids practice their concealment skills on hikes.  One thing that's fun is to wait till your unit is out of site of a following group, then go to ground and hide.  Wait till the trailing unit catches up, then jump out and startle them.  It's really pretty impressive when you see how well a Ghillie hat can hide you and still allow you to see.  Three things to remember:
  1. Focus on getting your body out of sight. The Ghillie hat conceals your head and shoulders. You just need some brush to get your body behind.
  2. Camouflage clothing or wearing dark, subdued colors help make it easier for you to blend in. The Ghillie hat breaks up the lines of your face and head making your torso more difficult to distinguish and that's the part of you that's more likely to be spotted. In a pinch, grab some loose brush to take into your hiding spot to confuse the eye of the observer.
  3. Be still.  Movement attracts the eye. If you're motionless, you're much harder to spot.

Be sure, before you practice concealment with the kids, that you teach them how to identify poison ivy and other toxic plants.

You don't want them breaking out in a rash later. Moms get pretty unhappy with you if you let them hide in the poison ivy.

Ghillie hats can be the basis of a whole bunch activities.  Add cameras and teach the kids to shoot photos from concealment.  Have them practice on other Pathfinders passing by on the trail. With digital cameras, pictures are wonderfully cheap.  Post your unit's pictures on Facebook.  Do a photo of an area where you have the whole group concealed and post it online with the challenge for viewers to find your kids.  Better yet do a video of an apparently blank section of trail and then have the kids pop up suddenly.  Very impressive and teaching your kids this stuff will make you THE MAN out on the trail with your Pathfinders or youth group.

Happy hiding,

Tom King

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