“Veg is the Edge” you might hear in some forums. “The way to create a perfect ghillie is to add in natural vegetation from the area you’re in”. “Real plants obviously work much better than fake ones”.
This is being written purely for Airsoft snipers.
And I’m going to disagree with all of that, because I like to challenge ideas. Natural veg is not a great addition to your game day ghillie. And I don’t have any loops on my suit to ever add any. Not saying it’s outright wrong, but I’m going to suggest a few reasons against it.
Natural vegetation on the face of it seems like a great idea. The colours will match because it’s obviously the same material/shape/shade as whatever is around you. In terms of mimicking the terrain, it’s the perfect way to do it. However, airsoft compared to other disciplines that might require ghillies (wildlife photography, hunting, real steel sniping) is a bit of a faster paced, more dynamic game. Attaching natural vegetation will take time, which you may or may not have because you have to run your day at the pace the organisers dictate, and if you’re spending too long at Washington services because McDonalds’ breakfasts, you might find you don’t have the time on a morning to do it.
The next problem, digging through the photo archives because it’s raining outside at the moment for three photos taken at roughly the same time of year. What happens if I’m playing a site that has multiple different terrains? In theory, looking at that last photo, if I move out of the treeline and into the grass area, I should be removing all the natural vegetation that I added and replacing it with dead grasses. I might only be passing through that area for 30 secs to relocate to another part of the site, which might be the building in the middle photo. Do I then add a few leaves and shrubs from that area? In gameplay terms, no, I don’t have the time for all of that because it’ll be lunchtime before I get to the first objective.
The next problem with vegetation is the way it is applied. You can cut a branch off something and stick it through a veg loop. Great. But is it going to look right when you go prone, or stand? Notice that the underside of leaves is a different colour to the top – will you be able to guarantee that orientation? Is that plant present ten metres away from where you cut it? Using plants on your suit is one thing, but getting it to sit in a natural position without appearing “out of place” can take some effort to get right. Then you have to consider at what height that vegetation grows; you’re not going to have much grass at head height, meaning you’ll have to stay prone if you apply it there. Also, consider the weather conditions – if it’s warm, that carefully applied biomaterial is going to wilt and die after an hour or so, especially if you’ve been doing some crawling and dragging it through other vegetation. So you’ll need to take it all off and reapply some fresh stuff frequently. And again if you’re switching terrain type. Movement is a whole other problem and if the plant isn’t anchored at the top and bottom, any slight movement by you will result in loose plant stems and leaves waving all over the place. You might as well wear glowsticks if you’re under observation. Dead grass isn’t too bad and is a fairly common element but you could easily save time applying it by using raffia on your suit to begin with.
In recent years, this is why I’ve moved over to Haloscreen and other synthetic materials that are more “generic” in shape and can adapt to different areas, though not a perfect match for a particular spot. Vague cotton and Nanoscreen leaf shapes are more adaptable in different areas which may have different sized and shaped leaves, where attaching for example fake maple leaves will work in one terrain but not another (perhaps beech woodland). Camouflage is about breakup, disruption and disguise to hide what is there rather than looking at perfectly matching a small patch where you find yourself modifying your ghillie. The nature of airsoft dictates that time is short, and it is better to have a suit that works without needing modified with natural vegetation first (you could actually ask yourself why your base is so wrong in an area that it needs hidden by local vegetation in the first place), one that is adaptable and will break up your outline wherever you find yourself.
I know “the professionals use natural veg and they’re professionals so they must automatically know more than we do because they’re pro af and we’re just amateurs and this blog is wrong because it contradicts popular logic and I’ve read the USMC sniper manual myself and it says use plants on your suit” but there are times when you have to look at what we do, why we do it, and how we can improve it rather than just accepting the status quo. And the way to do that is to ask questions, evaluate existing techniques and understand needs and requirements.