Tent Footprint vs Tarp – Which is healthier?

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Damaging your tent is simpler than you may suppose.

Any time you pitch a tent by itself on tough terrain, its ground is getting worn down, little by little.

Mainly, you’re enjoying Russian roulette along with your tent’s life.

To extend the lifespan of your tent, it comes down to 2 decisions: tent footprint vs tarp.

However which is healthier? Whereas each have professionals and cons, we discover the winner by a slight edge is the tent footprint.

Listed here are the outcomes:

Tent Footprint – Why We Love It

Tent Footprint's are Made to Fit the Size of Your Tent
Tent Footprint’s are Made to Match the Dimension of Your Tent

A tent footprint is a bit of fabric that’s specifically designed by the tent producer to go beneath your tenting tent.

These days, most tents are manufactured from skinny materials to be able to be compact and light-weight. Their flooring, though waterproof and thicker than the partitions, aren’t too sturdy.

That’s why footprints are designed to guard your tent ground from pointless harm and put on and tear attributable to the floor you place it on.

They arrive in several sizes and styles, meant to match your tent completely.

Tent footprints are made of various supplies, from polyester and nylon to rubber and even Tyvek.

What do these supplies have in widespread?

They’re waterproof!

Apart from additional safety towards abrasive surfaces, this is likely one of the most essential capabilities of a tent footprint.

Which brings us again to my earlier level – tent footprints are made to match a particular tent’s ground dimensions. If it was bigger, extending previous the perimeters of your tent, rain would discover its means beneath, and you might say hey to a puddle beneath your tent.

On either side, footprints are usually 1 to 2 inches smaller than the particular tent they’re made for, to keep away from this rain situation. For many tents, you will discover a becoming footprint in the marketplace.

I received’t lie, they’re not normally low cost.

However, this value is nowhere close to the worth of a brand new tent in case you harm your ground. Personally, I’m extraordinarily choosy when shopping for a brand new tent. That’s why I’d slightly spend somewhat more money on ground safety to increase its life, than undergo that meticulous and costly course of once more.

One factor it is best to know is that tent footprints aren’t precisely featherweight. The truth is, you’ll be able to anticipate them to weigh roughly 25% of your tent’s weight. That’s one thing to bear in mind when going backpacking or thru-hiking.


  • Reduces the quantity of warmth loss to the bottom
  • Permits you to pitch your tent sooner, due to the grommets the place the poles go in
  • Suits your tent completely


  • Not versatile, solely serves as a groundsheet

Utilizing a Tenting Tarp as a Tent Footprint

How to Use a Camping Tarp as a Tent Footprint

For those who thought a tent footprint was your solely choice, you have been unsuitable.

A tarpaulin (or tarp) is probably the most versatile piece of tenting gear, and may work nice as a groundsheet, too.

It’s waterproof and very sturdy – each encompasses a tent footprint must have.

In case of an apocalypse, a tenting tarp can be one of many first issues I’d pack. Nay, I’d in all probability put on it as a cape.

I discover a tarp to be among the finest tenting innovations ever made. It’s light-weight however sturdy sufficient to face up to the weather.

All the weather. Wind, rain, solar, snow…

When correctly used, you may make a tarp shelter in any and all climate situations with such a easy piece of fabric. However I’ll cease right here earlier than my digression will get out of hand.

When used as a DIY tent footprint, a tarp does every part you want it to do. It protects the tent ground from harsh terrain, in addition to including an additional layer of waterproofing.

However, there’s a catch. Keep in mind how tent footprints are barely smaller than the tent ground to forestall water from amassing between the 2 layers? Properly, your tarp shouldn’t prolong previous the tent edges both.

Discovering a tarp that’s the suitable measurement in your tent is slightly tough, so some modifications is perhaps so as. You’ll must both reduce it to measurement or fold it.

Plus, relying on the fabric, a tarp may tear on extraordinarily tough terrain. However, hey, I assume that’s why you set it down within the first place, proper?


  • Usually cheaper than a footprint
  • Will also be used as safety towards all climate components
  • Can function an emergency shelter


  • Wants some changes to suit correctly below your tent
  • Might be fairly cumbersome

Tent Footprint vs Tarp – Which is greatest?

Tent Footprint vs Tarp - Which is best?

Each tarps and tent footprints can serve the identical objective, certainly.

However the true query is – can they do it equally properly?

And to get probably the most exact reply, let’s evaluate a few of their most essential options:


Like I stated, tent footprints are designed to suit a particular tent. So in case you personal two tents of various shapes or sizes, you’re going to wish two footprints as properly.

Tarps will provide you with the protection you want, and somewhat additional. However on this case, you don’t need any additional, as a result of water will accumulate in case you go away it uncovered.

So that you’ll want to regulate your tarp to get the proper match.

Some campers reduce their tarps to get the suitable protection, a way that I’m not keen on.

Relying on the tarp materials, chopping might trigger the ends to fray. And in addition to, you’ll take away the grommets on the edges you chop, and these are fairly helpful for retaining a tarp in place.

As a substitute, I like to recommend merely folding it to your tent measurement, simply previous to pitching your tent.


For those who’re backpacking, that is in all probability an important function of each piece of kit. Particularly in case you’re an ultralight backpacker.

Your groundsheet must be light-weight and compact when packed, or else it can solely sluggish you down.

Portability relies upon loads on the supplies this stuff are manufactured from, in addition to their measurement. Usually, tarps are bigger, and you may anticipate them to be barely heavier. Plus, they’re normally bulkier when packed.


For probably the most half, tent footprints, and tarps are manufactured from both nylon or polyester.

Each supplies are waterproof. However they’re additionally moreover handled with a water-resistant coating, to completely shield you from the weather.

Different, not-so-popular decisions of fabric embody Tyvek, polycryo, silnylon and Cuben Fiber. They’re all waterproof materials, however their different traits like weight or breathability are the rationale they don’t usually make the reduce.

Each a tarp and a tent footprint will be manufactured from both of these supplies, so your selection of material doesn’t have an effect on your selection of groundsheet.


Any tough floor requires some kind of tent ground safety.

Properly, in order for you your tent to dwell one other tenting day, that’s.

Consider it or not, this additionally contains sand. When you may get pleasure from strolling barefoot on sand, your tent doesn’t share your enthusiasm.

Each a tent footprint and a tarp will work properly on completely different surfaces. However, as a lot as I really like utilizing a tarp, I need to admit {that a} footprint will do a barely higher job.

In spite of everything, they’re made for this very objective.


The explanation I rave a lot about tarps is as a result of they’re nice for all climate situations.

Relying on the forecast, you’ll be able to resolve if it’s extra wanted beneath or above the tent.

Tent footprints, alternatively, are designed to guard your tent from beneath solely.

However, if it’s actually, actually chilly, a thick footprint won’t solely preserve you dry, however heat too.

It’s a fantastic insulator, and in case you’re winter tenting, I’d decide it over a tarp.


Pricewise, tarps are usually very inexpensive. Polyethylene tarps are just about a steal, however even nylon ones received’t value you a reasonably penny.

Relating to tent footprints, they’re manufactured from the identical materials as their respective tents. So, in case your tent was costly, you’ll be able to anticipate the footprint to harm your pockets, too.

Tarp vs. Tent Footprint In contrast


Is it value getting a tent footprint?

Whereas not an absolute necessity, a tent footprint prolongs the lifetime of your tent, so it’s addition to your gear.

Nonetheless, a tent footprint will be dearer, which is why many campers go for a tarp as an alternative.

Can I take advantage of any tarp for a tent footprint?

A tarp must be the identical size as the underside of the tent. If it’s shorter, it received’t be as efficient.

An extended tarp, alternatively, will trigger water to gather beneath the tent. Fortunately, you’ll be able to keep away from that by becoming your tarp to measurement.

We do that by folding it all the way down to the right measurement proper earlier than pitching our tent.

Do you want a tarp below a tent with a footprint?

If you have already got a tent footprint in place, there’s no want so as to add a tarp beneath.

Nonetheless, it’s not a horrible concept to make use of a tarp as properly when tenting on a extremely harsh floor, as it can preserve your tent footprint from sporting down.

How can I make an affordable tent footprint?

You may get a tarp or a tyvek sheet (a water-resistant, puncture-proof materials), that you would be able to modify in measurement to suit your tent backside.

Including grommets to every aspect requires a bit extra work, however it’s simply performed with a number of fundamental instruments.

Ought to a tent footprint be waterproof?

Sure, a tent footprint, identical to the tent ground, needs to be waterproof.

And going with the double-proofed backside is rarely a nasty concept, as you’re twice as positive you’ll stay dry contained in the tent, whatever the climate.

The Ultimate Verdict

Each a tent footprint and a tarp can do a fantastic job at defending your tent from abrasion in addition to retaining it dry. Finally, the selection is situational.

For those who’re tenting on tough terrain, a tent footprint is a barely more sensible choice.

If you’d like a extra inexpensive and versatile choice, then tarp is what you want.

However, if potential, get each!

That means, no terrain or climate situation can damage your tenting journey.


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