Thursday, June 10, 2010

Metal Gear Solid 3 Naked Snake Costume Tutorial - 99% COMPLETE


This is the first complicated costume I've put together and why not chronicle it so it may come in handy for someone else who loves METAL GEAR! To begin with, lots of credit should go to Kyle for making the original tutorial. However, it's a few years old, some of the links are broken, and I wanted to integrate a lot of the comments he got along with the mistakes I made so that others out there can hopefully avoid doing the same thing. I only have very basic sewing and crafting skills, so this is geared more towards people like me rather than the experienced costume makers.

First you need a reference picture. This picture is an excellent one (left), but feel free to Google your own, especially looking at the action figures (right) or other cosplayers.


Of course you can always fire up the Metal Gear Solid 3 game and go into viewer mode for close-ups of any specific items.

Next is where to get your materials and pieces. You can try local military surplus stores or flea markets to save on shipping, but I got pretty much everything online. I'll list the source of each item I got and approximate price as well, but I'll go ahead and say that you can get about half of the things from I looked for several days online and they had the most things you need for what I found to be the lowest price (overall) at the time. It's better to pay for shipping just once, and they sometimes offer free shipping on large orders.

Finally, a great overall resource for pictures and advice from others who have undertaken this task is You can join the Metal Gear Solid thread and ask fellow fans about how they did things.

On to the costume! Let's start from the top down.

Bandanna - ($2)
- Buy some fabric or use an old piece of clothing you have. Cut it to a length of your choice, I'd say at least 3 feet long. As for color, you can probably get away with black, gray, dark green, and dark blue.

Face Camo - Army Universe ($3)
- This is optional and will vary depending on your taste. I got an Olive Drab/Black camo paint stick but you can get more elaborate and do something like the zombie face paint or a country's flag. It may take some time and scrubbing to remove the face paint, but a good tip is to use dishwashing soap like Palmolive (these are meant to break up oil stains).

Throat Microphone & Earpiece - eBay ($11)
- You'll have to buy part of it and make the remaining part. Search for "VOX throat mic" and you should get some good options. What you're looking for is something with an earpiece and the ring that goes around the back of your neck with a cable coming out from it. How the actual VOX/PTT switch looks is irrelevant, but it's probably in the shape of a pea.

Switch Box - ($15)
- The box is the part you have to make. First some supplies from a crafts store. You'll need to buy regular Elmer's glue, brushes, black and white acrylic paint, and some craft foam. I got one 12x18" sheet of the 2mm kind in black, although I may have to suggest a lighter color so you can see your markings better. An extra sheet may be useful if you want to practice on it first.

1. Cut out 10 pieces of craft foam, around 2.5x4 inches. You can modify the length and width to your preference. Try to get them to be uniform in size, maybe using one as a reference to adjust the others.
2. Leave 2 of the pieces alone, these will be the bottom layer and 2nd to top layer. Cut one of the other 8 pieces into what will eventually look like the top most layer, with a circle cut out of the upper right side, and use the scraps to make a dial and fake screws if you'd like. Of the remaining 7, trace and cut out the shape of the actual switch. You may not need all 7, depends on how large the switch is. This picture will give you an idea of what I mean:

3. Glue the bottommost layer with 7 layers that have pea cutout. This is the thick piece. Glue the 2nd to top layer with the top layer and dial. This is the thin piece. Let these dry.
4. Insert switch into the pea-shaped hole of the thick piece (glue it even), and once it's snug, glue on the thin piece on top. If there is an extra cable coming out of the pea-shaped switch box, feel free to cut it off.
5. Once dry, you're going to cover the whole thing in several layers of sealant. Use a 1:1 ratio of glue to water. According to this wonderful craft foam tutorial, you should do about a layer a day for a week to really be certain the foam has soaked it all up. I think I put about 7 coats on there.

6. Get some black and white acrylic paint and decorate the box to your liking. Start on the backside so you know how the paint looks. I did not write in VOX or PPT because it doesn't seem like there is on the reference picture. Attach to your harness with some velcro.

Undershirt/Sneaking Suit - Target ($10)
- Any long sleeve black Under Armour type compression shirt will do. I'd shop around at Wal-Mart or Target before looking online. Get one that's fitted and has a bit of a turtleneck coming up.

BDUs - ($55 total)
- Several options here but I think the most common for cosplaying purposes is the Vietnam Era Tiger Stripe. You may want to wash it a few times soften the material (and get that smell out). Be sure to read up on BDU sizing so you get the right fit for yourself. I'm 5'10" and 175 pounds, and I normally wear men's Mediums. A medium camo shirt and pants fit me just fine, though taking in the baggy pant legs a bit is recommended.

EDIT: Someone recently pointed out that Snake's vintage BDU only has 2 chest pockets and not 4 pockets like most of the modern day BDUs. MooreMilitaria sells the more expensive vintage style, as well as some international vendors on eBay.

Parachute Harness - (EXPENSIVE)
- This is going to be the most expensive and/or the most difficult thing to make, but it can also take your costume from good to great. Snake wears a Vietnam Era STABO harness:

There are a few ways going about this:
a). Construct your own using Kyle's excellent tutorial. Not sure how much that'll run you.
b). Search eBay and the internet for a real STABO harness. This can cost anywhere from $250 to $600.
c). Get a custom harness made for you via independent contractor. This is what I did, unfortunately, the guy no longer makes these.

This is more about my personal preference about wanting Snake's harness and belt to be black. I believe they're a dark green in the game since they appear darker than his olive drab camo, but lighter than his all black camo. With my Tiger Stripe camo, I believe a black harness looked better.

An important note: when trying it on (regardless of whether you bought it or made it), the harness goes with the web belt running through the bottom two loops. It won't look or fit properly unless you're wearing the belt at the same time. Be sure to give yourself some room in the crotch too ;-)

If you want cheaper but less accurate alternatives, you can either buy some regular suspenders (cheap) or military-type suspenders/harnesses (less cheap). Try to look for ones with an X-pattern on the back. Just make sure to not get the M1950 military suspender like I did. It only connects in the front and will ride up all in your junk. Plus they hurt your shoulders from the pressure of pressing down after just a few minutes (not good for walking around conventions!)

Gloves - ($15)
- These are D-3A gloves. Again, read up on military glove size. I typically buy men's S/M or Medium for gloves, and I bought a size 4. Then you'll want to cut off parts of the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. How much to cut will depend on your finger, but approximately an inch from your knuckle or at the first bend in your fingers (PIP in medical terms). You may have to sew the seams if they come undone.

Belt - ($4)
- I got a black canvas pistol belt. It has little holes and a metal clasp, not the more modern quick release plastic buckle. This is also available in olive drab if you prefer, and there's even a combo pack with the belt, a canteen and canteen holder (available on this site, plus eBay and Amazon).

Now for the belt gear. We'll address it from left to right (if you were wearing it):

1) Ammo Pouches - ($10 per pouch)
The first 2 ammo pouches are M-1956 M14 ammo pouches. Pretty hard to find, especially with the old style metal clasp instead of the plastic one. You can also occasionally find them on eBay (look for "Vietnam pouch"). Since most of these will be vintage, you might want to put some baking soda inside it to get rid of the smell. In fact, the baking soda boxes are the perfect size to stuff inside. Put a box in each pouch and leave it for a few weeks to take form. Before you wear the costume, empty out the baking soda, but put the empty box back in so you still have some structure without the additional weight.

2) Canteen & Cover - ($7)
- A GI style 1 quart canteen. It looks like Snake has a plastic one in either olive or brown. Then there's the matching canteen cover, which is available in nylon or canvas (I think the latter is slightly more accurate although I got the nylon one). As I noted earlier with the belt, there's a combo pack you can buy with an olive belt and canvas cover. 

3) Butt Pack - ($12)
- There's a few varieties out there, but I prefer the smaller one (around 9x8 inches) rather than the 12x8 one because it takes up less space on the belt. It's already bulky as it is. Again, try to get canvas and one with metal buckles instead of plastic. To give the pack some structure, make a cardboard box to stuff inside. I also cut off the straps and only left them hanging from the top buckle so I can easily open and close the pack. 

4) Radio Pouch - eBay ($25)
- It was hard to find one similar to what Snake is wearing. After some searching, I found a different variation of the M-1956 ammo pouch made in Australia. You can buy them from this Australian site or search for it on eBay using terms like "Vietnam, Australia/Aussie, cartridge pouch, and/or ammo pouch." It's the middle one in the picture, and as you can see, it's slightly longer than the US version of the M-1956 pouch. 

Once you have it in hand, cut a small hole in one of the top corners for an antenna to come through. For the antenna itself, you'll need to buy the thinnest PVC pipe you can find and cut it somewhere around 18 inches long and paint it black. Additionally, you can go over it with black electrical tape like I did so there's no worries about the paint rubbing off. I did several layers at the tip of the pipe to make it look more like a radio antenna.

Now how do you get it in the pouch and make it look like a radio? Cereal boxes. Measure the dimensions of the pouch and make a paper box to put inside it to give it structure. Here's a picture of the box I made next to the baking soda boxes I used for the regular pouches.

Attach the PVC pipe to one of the box's corners, and skillfully place everything in the large ammo pouch. It's kind of difficult to maneuver with the large pipe, but just be patient. You should eventually end up with something like this:

Someone on pointed out there's a similar pouch you can get. Look for "South African Army Style Ammo Pouch" on Amazon, and you'll find a cheaper and slightly smaller pouch than what I got.

5) Gun Holster - eBay ($20+)
- I actually got a good deal on this, but you want to use search terms like "1911/1916/.45 leather holster." Make sure it's black and has the US logo printed on it. Try to find one that's already broken in. I bought one that was brand new and it was stiff as a board. Could not fit my gun inside so I tried to soften it by putting it in hot water. BAD IDEA! Instead, try to find leather conditioner, mink oil, or lanolin-containing products to rub in the leather. And stuff your gun in there and leave it in for a few days to stretch out the holster.

Knee Pad/Brace - eBay ($7)
- I tried on several athletic knee pads and braces before deciding they didn't quite look how I wanted. So I got some black fabric and attached velcro on the ends so I can wrap it around my knee.

Boots - ($23)
- Any jungle boot in olive drab will work here. You can of course pay for higher quality and more expensive ones but I really can't tell the difference in appearance. They actually weren't bad in terms of comfort. I bought a half size up (since military boots only go in whole numbers) so there would be some room to put in an insole. Regardless of whether you buy a new or used boot, they're going to have a smell so you might want to break out some baking soda again.

Let's move on to weapons. The rules of your convention may determine what kind you get. Whatever the situation, please be careful with these! Don't go around trying to CQC anyone with a knife or aim a gun at someone's face!

Pistol - eBay ($18)
- According to the Metal Gear wiki, Snake uses an M1911A1 in the game. You can look for any 1911 Airsoft gun on eBay but I got one with a brown handle and black frame to be more accurate. Since I wasn't going to shoot it, functionality wasn't a factor.

CQC Knife - eBay ($9)
- I think the one Snake's actually using is an Ontario Ranger Shiv knife (top picture) but these run at least $45. Since it will probably remain sheathed on your harness most of the time, you can get a much cheaper one that has a similar handle (bottom picture). It's hard to describe how to find it on eBay, but try terms like "survival knife,"tactical knife," or "combat knife" and start with the lowest price first. You want a relatively small knife with a rope handle. The one I got is about 6.75 inches with a 3.5 inch blade. It might actually be easier to look on Amazon for "Recon Tactical Knife Set." It'll give you 2 knives and you'll want to use the smaller one (7.5 inches).

As for the sheath, you can either search for small brown leather sheaths that will fit your knife (and maybe wrap it with black string/tape/paint to get the right look) or make your own sheath if you're good with leather craft-making. I bought one that had a 4 inch pouch ($9 eBay) and cut off the extra material. If the knife is a little loose inside, just wrap it in newspaper and stuff the paper inside. I attached it to my harness with velcro, but to keep it more stable, I used some black electrical tape. I would encourage you to play around with the position when it's still with the velcro only. I originally wanted the knife to be slanted at 45 degrees like Snake's, but I found that angle to be restrictive when I tried to aim my gun. So I ended up attaching the sheath vertically.

Survival Knife - eBay ($18)
- There's some debate over it, and it could very well be a KA-BAR knife. I looked closely at the screen caption from my game and Snake's knife has a sawtooth edge and a large fuller. The closest knife I found is a " GI Style Pilot's Knife." It has a similar looking handle, the right type of blade, and most of them come with a free sheath that is also very much like Snake's sheath on his lower right leg. Plus I came across some models of that type that were from the Vietnam Era, so I think it's period correct for the game. If nothing else, the Pilot Knives are cheaper. Attach to your lower leg with some tape.

Calorie Mate - eBay ($7)
- Man was I ever floored when I discovered you could buy them! I got the red box kind. Most of these have to be shipped from Japan so you may have to wait a while for it to arrive. Definitely a neat prop to have, and can fit on one of your various packs. Tastes like a semi sweet stale cookie.

In regards to extras, you could always add an eyepatch, cigar, binoculars, an alligator head, or extra weapons. You can also grow a Snake-like mullet and some facial hair if you really want to get into the spirit. Have fun with it and make the costume your own!

All in all, this project cost me a few hundred dollars and several hours of research. I hope my tutorial can be useful to anyone else wanting to be Naked Snake. Feel free to leave me comments or questions. I'm not an expert in any way but I'll always be glad to fellow Metal Gear Solid fans. 


  1. hey im trying to get a good replica harness for my snake costume and am having trouble figuring out what to do? you mentioned a guy who made you one. how did it come out. can u post pics? any hekp on finding a reasonable solution to my problem would be eternally appreciated. i really one to get one of these without paying 200 to 600 dollars.


    1. - Thats the tutorial he was talking about. There are fairly detailed instructions on assembling a stabo harness from webbing.

  2. first of all i would like to thank you for creating such a nice how to^^i just have a question i've done my full naked snake costume and i was thinkin about creating the crocodile cap (so called also if it's a gharial xD )and had some kind of problems just writing down the project can't figure how to do it nicely may i ask you to add a little how to for the cap too plz?i think loads of ppl would apreciate it ty

  3. Oh man, that is a little out of my ability's range. I wouldn't even know how to make something like that, let alone guide others in doing it. If you can get a hold of this person, they may be able to help:

  4. Thank you very much for this excellent guide. I think it's on par with Kyle's also amazing guide. I'm trying to create my on costume for a Con near me and I was wondering if I could get your say about a certain piece of gear I'm thinking of using.

    I'm on a small budget, so I've had to resort to lower-grade harnesses. I saw this one and thought it looked like a good low-budget one. Tell me what you think. Thanks in advance.

    Here's the front:

    Here’s the back:

  5. For the price, that'd be a great harness! It has an X-style back, two vertical straps in the front, and two that wrap around your leg. And I don't think you'll even need to buy a web pistol belt either. My only concern would be if the other gear on his belt would be able to fit on that harness' belt. Also, you may have to cut off some of the extra straps. If you get it, let me know how it works out.

  6. Alright, I bought the harness and I've found that the straps are too large, so you can't clip any ALICE gear onto it. The harness is alright, but I think I'm going to end up wearing all the pouches and stuff on a pistol belt that I'll just wear like a normal belt. If you want a harness to put the gear on, I'd say not to get it, but I think it's better to have a harness and have the gear on a belt instead than to just have the gear on a belt and not have any harness. I do intend to wear the harness, and for the cheap price, I'm plenty satisfied with it.

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  8. I'm working on this same costume for Dragon*Con as well. Most of my help is coming from my local Army Navy store and I spotted your walk through on Kyle's page. It's great to have a different perspective and your walk through for the radio is great.

    Thanks! Hope to bump into you at some point at Dragon*Con!

  9. Great to hear! I look forward to running into other Snakes as well. I believe I'll be wearing mine on Friday. I'm trying to check on to see if there will be any Metal Gear meetups.

  10. Awesome! I don't have anything in particular planned as far as when I'm wearing what (I tend to plan it around the con schedule itself and what my mood at the time is), but I'll keep an eye on myself. I know Peace Walker just came out so I wouldn't be surprised if a shoot did show up on the list.

  11. I collect Militaria, and you did a damn fine job. You are correct on the knife: the knife Snake keeps on his leg IS an Ontario Pilot's Survival Knife - judging by some of the cutscenes, the handle is also friction taped. For the exact Tiger Stripe uniform, I believe Propper released a repro (no longer in production) of the Tiger Stripe fatigues that were produced indigenously in S. Vietnam for MACV-SOG advisors - these early-style fatigues came with the exact pocket arrangement (shoulder pocket). You did a good job on the uniform research.

  12. I'm doing this costume, got the BDU and everything, but I can't find a parachut harness to cut up. Can you tell me what I'd need to make one from nylon webbing? My e-mail is (remove the spaces) d r a g o n s l a y e r at g m a i l . c o m

  13. Hello
    just wanted to thank you for your up to date list on how to dress up as Big Boss.
    This will help me over the next few days, as I hope to look (try to) like him.
    Thanks :)

  14. Google STABO Harness, you'll find a bunch of new and original VN-era ones for sale. Getting a STABO is cheaper than getting a chute.


  16. just got done reading through your article and it was awesome! Thanks for all of the tips:) the only i wanted to add was about snakes survival knife on his right leg. It is an Ontario knife co survival knife and the link is

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  18. Here is my most recent snake cosplay.

    I made the harness and the sneaking suit by hand. after buying a real military paratrooper harness, I found that in reality they are just too bulky. They are easy to make once you wrap your head around the construction. Just get some either 1 inch, 2 inch webbing, depending on your size. (ratios are very important) it's just two crossing loops with a little piece across the chest.

  19. I've gotten together most of the part needed, but I'm having a hard time finding a 3-strap eyepatch that looks correct. Any suggestions?

  20. This tutorial has been extremely helpful.

  21. This tutorial has been extremely helpful.

  22. This tutorial has been extremely helpful.

  23. I didn't mean to post that three times, I just couldn't sign in correctly. I'd also like to say that I'll be using this tutorial for a cosplay I'll show off on youtube.

  24. I can't find the South African Army Style Ammo Pouch anywhere and the Australian site won't ship their pouch to the U.S. :(

  25. dude what is "Kyle's excellent tutorial"?