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A Complete Campers Guide Explaining What Is A Tent Footprint And Do You Need One!

Have you ever heard of a tent footprint? In this post, we explain what is a tent footprint and whether you need one for your next camping adventure!

An overlooked and often misused camping accessory is the tent footprint.

The right footprint will extend the life of your tent, keep you more comfortable overnight, and prevent water from soaking through the floor.

Furthermore, many options are lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to set up.

Let’s learn what a tent footprint is and why you should bring one with you on your next camping trip.

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What Is A Tent Footprint?

Known as a groundsheet, a tent footprint is a piece of material placed between the ground and the bottom of your tent. A tent with these sheets will be more comfortable, and waterproof as well.

A tent footprint, designed for your specific tent, can be purchased directly from the manufacturer or retailer that sells your brand of tent. These will fit the shape of your installation perfectly and often match the color as well.

A universal tent footprint can also be used under any tent. All you have to do is find one that closely matches the size of your tent. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to protect your tent.

As an alternative, you can use a tarp or other plastic sheeting to make your own DIY footprint. Tarps and plastic sheets are usually lighter and more affordable. You can also make your own footprint below.

Do I Need A Tent Footprint?

If you never move inside your tent, camp on smooth surfaces, and don’t go outside in cold or wet weather, we recommend you use a footprint. Tent campers rarely fall into any of those categories.

Despite the jokes, a footprint for a tent can help in the following ways:

  • Sleeping on a groundsheet keeps you warmer and more comfortable. It provides an extra layer of insulation and cushion between you and the potentially cold ground, thereby making your tent more comfortable to sleep in.
  • Using a footprint keeps the inside of the tent drier. Your floor cover keeps water, dew, and ice from collecting on the bottom of your tent, keeping you dry and warm at night.
  • Footprints also make setting up and tearing down your tent easier. When you spread out your protective layer, you can see exactly where your tent will be.
  • You can then remove any unwanted objects from the area instead of finding them with your spine when you lay down to sleep. Furthermore, your tent won’t be muddy when it’s time to store it.
  • Covering the ground below your tent will extend its lifespan. You are less likely to see small punctures or tears on the floor surface if you consistently use your footprint. Any way to make tents last longer is ideal since they aren’t always cheap.

Do Footprints Prevent Holes In The Tent Floor?

Do Footprints Prevent Holes In The Tent Floor?

Both yes and no is the short answer. Any sharp object cannot penetrate your canvas because it has a footprint. It prevents rips caused by normal wear and tear.

The chances of puncturing your tent floor are still high if you set up your tent on top of cacti, sticks, or sharp rocks. A hole like this cannot be prevented by ground covers.

That’s why you should check the entire area before setting up your tent. Look closely at any plants you are covering and remove any rocks or branches that may be in the way.

When possible, we recommend staying at established campsites. In addition to following Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics, this method also puts less strain on your gear.

Despite careful use and perfect campsites, all tent floors eventually break down.

While sleeping, everyone moves a little bit. Your sleeping bag rubs against the bottom of the tent when you’re camping.

The constant moving about, even when it’s slight, creates friction on the inside and outside of the floor. As a result of this constant tension, the fabric weakens and eventually rips or tears.

Ground covers slow tent erosion. In this case, you don’t have to worry about your tent’s bottom rubbing against twigs, rocks, or plants. Therefore, you will be able to spend many more nights under the stars before you need to repair or replace your tent.

Can I Use A Tarp As A Tent Footprint? Tent Footprint vs Tarp

A footprint made especially for your tent might not be within your budget or would put your backpack over your weight limit. For these circumstances, you can make your own footprint.

Designed specifically for tents, camping groundsheets fit perfectly. Most come with snaps or clips that make it easy to attach them. By using this method, you ensure that it won’t slip out of place and that you set it up correctly to avoid flooding.

Especially if you’re planning a long backpacking or trekking trip, these clips add up in weight. It will make you question whether you can sacrifice the comfort of the ground cloth to save weight. This is where DIY options come into play.

Polycryo plastic or Tyvek are the most common options. They are both lightweight, durable, and affordable.

If you choose to make your own, you must cut it to the right size. Next, we’ll discuss why this is important. We’ll explain here how to cut it into the perfect shape for your tent.

  1. First, set up your tent with the tarp underneath. Make sure you buy a sheet that is long enough to cover the entire floorplan of your tent when you buy it.
  2. After that, trace around the edge of the tent. Make sure you follow the curves and lines as carefully as you can.
  3. Next, cut the plastic about two inches inside the traced lines. This method not only protects the majority of your tent floor but also avoids any of the potential pitfalls of a large cover.

It’s really as simple as that to make your own tent footprint. 

Should A Tent Footprint Be Smaller Than The Tent?

At first glance, you may assume that you’d want an extensive ground cover underneath your tent. After all, it protects the canvas, keeps you comfortable, and prevents water from seeping in. Why wouldn’t you want it to cover the entire area?

If your footprint is larger than your tent, you’ll likely experience flooding inside. It won’t be a problem if it’s slightly smaller than the tent floor.

Consider this: when it rains, water accumulates on the ground. As it flows downward, it eventually absorbs into the ground or flows into the lowest point.

Water is perfectly captured by a large ground cover. Rain falls down your tent and hits your large tarp instead of the ground.

A large puddle will form when the rainwater slides into the middle of the tent. Directly beneath your sleeping spot is the last place you want water to accumulate!

Rain simply flows across the footprint when the footprint is smaller than your tent floor. As the water drips off the edges, it soaks into the ground rather than pool underneath your sleeping spot.

In Summary – What Is A Tent Footprint

We hope this article has helped you understand more about tent footprints. Now, all you need to do is put your newfound knowledge to the test on your next camping adventure!

Marco Santos

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