tent footprint with carry bag

Is a Tent Footprint Worth It? | Tent Footprint vs Tarp

In Beginners Guide, Buyers Guide, Tents by J. PenneyLeave a Comment

Tent Footprint

Camping is an exciting and enjoyable outdoor activity but can also be cumbersome and rugged.

Camping is the art of getting closer to nature whilst getting farther from cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.

While this is true, we can definitely make sure that the quality of our shelter is the best we can have, which means having dry, warm and comfortable tent to stay while camping.

What is a tent footprint?

A ground-sheet like cloth that is cut to the exact size of the bottom of your tent is a tent footprint.  Based on how big the tent is, the tent footprint is pegged down in the corners and sits between the ground and your tent.

Types of Tent Footprints

There are some tents that come with an existing footprint. In case your tent doesn’t have it, you can either buy or make it yourself.

In buying, it would be best to spend a bit more if necessary and get the footprint from the same manufacturer as your tent so that the size matches exactly.

If you are creative and resourceful, you could create your own footprint by following one of the many available videos and tutorials on the web.

Materials used in Tent Footprint

Tent footprints are generally made of nylon or polyester.

The best tent footprint material is water-proof, tear-resistant, durable, breathable and light weight.

The various other materials used for making tent footprints are polycryo, tyvex, silnylon, reinforced aluminum foil and oxford cloth.

Size of the Tent Footprint

The most crucial aspect of tent footprint is that it is sized according to the tent.

A tent footprint is tailor made for your specific tent.

Some footprints are slightly larger than the tent base to provide a little extra spacing while some are very slightly smaller than the base to prevent water accumulation. The optimal size of the footprint depends on the manufacturer, but it is always sized according to the ground coverage area of the tent.

Why use a tent footprint?

Tents are fragile and investment intensive items. Therefore, it is imperative to take proper care while pitching and using them.

Most of the tents come with an existing ground-sheet as a base layer but a separate footprint is still advisable to use. A tent footprint will serve as a shield between the floor of the tent and the ground.

1. Extend the life of your tent

A tent footprint prevents wear and tear on the tent’s surface. The ground surface of camping places can be rough and while in use, the floor of the tent wears out faster due to abrasions. A footprint acts like a screen protector for your phone.

2. Form of waterproofing

An extra layer of protection from water and muddy ground underneath the tent is great to have when camping in rains or near damp places.

3. Increasing warmth in the tent

Most heat is lost to the ground while camping so a footprint adds an added layer of insulation to trap warm air and prevent heat loss.

4. Simpler pitching

Tent footprints are specific to your tent and therefore can act as a ground outline. You can place the footprint and get an idea of where to start pegging and pitching the tent.

5. Cleaner tent

Tent footprint prevents the tent from getting dirty especially in murky surroundings. It is much easier to wash the footprint than the whole tent.

A tent footprint can thus save your time, effort and keep you as well as an essential part of the tent protected.

Tent footprint vs tarp

What is a tarp?

A tarp is a big sheet of strong, flexible and water-resistant material. It is similar to tent footprint but is not specifically used as a ground sheet and not designed for a particular tent.

Comparison between tent footprint and tarp

A tarp is more versatile than a footprint because it can also be used as a shade or rain protector.

While a tarp is like a jack of all trades, it can also have the drawback of being master of none. In comparison, a footprint is made for a precise tent and explicitly used as a ground layer, so it will protect the flooring better.

A manufacturer footprint might be more expensive than a tarp, but it will last longer since it is intended for just one purpose.

Tarps are heavier than tent footprints. Also, tarps can be bulky for packing and a bit problematic to carry around.

What to choose and why?

A very common dilemma that campers have is whether a tent footprint is worth it and whether to opt for a tent footprint or a tarp?

Well, it ultimately depends on your preference and priority.

There are 4 types of campers – those who carry tarps, those who prefer footprints, those who choose to take both and those who take neither.

For an occasional camper, maybe neither would suffice though it is not recommended.

For an avid camper who goes camping very often and in various regions with different climates, maybe it is best to have both the tarp and the footprint.

If you are tight on the budget and want to get the maximum benefit in minimum investment, tarps would be ideal since they are multi-functional.

In case you are someone who goes camping on beaches or places where the ground might be very rough and coarse, tent footprint should be your priority since using it will extend your tent’s life.

Tent footprints should also be preferred by campers that hike carrying the luggage and when weight is a consideration.

It is your personal proclivity but remember that tents are a big investment and the more care you take, the longer they will last. Also, if you get a tear in the bottom of your tent while camping, a footprint will be invaluable especially in wet conditions.


Home is where you pitch your tent!

The tent is your home whenever you camp and therefore it is really important to protect and preserve it as well as make sure that your stay is happy and comfortable.

Thanks for reading, go ahead and search around our website for more information or learn about some great camping products. We love our solar power gear, click to head to our best solar power camping gear article.

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