What is a Footprint for a Tent?

A close look at a man installing footprint for the tent.

Are you into tents and camping? Get to comprehend more about the essence of footprint in a tent. A tent footprint is also known as ground cloth or groundsheet.

A tent footprint is a lightweight sheet of material woven from impermeable fabric to blend the same shape as the floor of your tent. Keep intact and read within the page to understand the worth of a footprint for a tent.

Modern world tents are fragile due to complex ultra-light designs and modern high-tech fabrics. One way to increase the lifespan of your tent is to use a footprint. Footprints for tents are designed a couple of inches smaller than the floor of your tent edges.

Do I really need a tent footprint? Suffering a tear in the bottom of your tent comes with a struggle with water seeping into the tent from underneath. Mitigate such occurrences by integrating a footprint within your tent.

More so, if you hate packing away the muddy tent, a tent footprint is a valuable investment.

Table of Contents

Tent footprint

A tent footprint is a waterproof sheet place between your tent’s floor and the forest terrain. Many tents on purchase do not include a footprint in the price. Thus, most people wonder whether the tent footprint is necessary. Scroll below as we hope to answer some of the queries you may have about the tent footprint.

In appearance, most tent footprints look like simple tarps and are crafted from similar synthetic, waterproof materials. They are made from materials like silicon-coated polyester, Tyvek, polycry, and nylon fabric. Factory-designed footprints are designed to come with clips and buckles to attach to your tent.

A tent footprint can be a point of contention among campers and backpackers. Tent footprints are available in various sizes, depending on the dimension of your tent. The tent footprint is pegged down at the corners when pitching a tent.

Every time you pitch a tent, the floor experiences some abrasion from tiny rocks, twigs, and grit accumulating on a preexisting campsite. To decide whether you require a tent footprint, you need to understand the thickness of your tent floor and its waterproof rating. Some of the directly noticeable benefits associated with a tent footprint include;

  • They are designed to deter wear and tear on the base of the tent.
  • The tent footprint aids in stopping any scratching caused by sand and obstacles on the rough, gritty ground.
  • They prevent water from seeping into the tent.
  • They protect the investment you have made in your tent.
  • They cushion the ground
  • They insulate the floor and keep your tent tidy

Common uses of Tent Footprints

A bright white tent setup by the river.

Other than being laid beneath tents to protect the tent from abrasion, groundsheets can be integrated for other uses such as;

  • For shelter to protect yourself from rain or sun
  • Used as play surface area for tiny campers
  • Used as a protective surface for sleeping under the stars
  • Offers perfect ground tarp for open bivying
  • Used as a surface for organizing gear
  • Provide an excellent rope tarp for climbing
  • It can be scavenged to patch other gea

As much as tent footprints are optional pieces of gear, let us help you decide whether a footprint is worth purchasing. Find out what you need to know about tent footprints within the post.

Materials used in Crafting Tent Footprint

Tent footprints integrate a wide array of materials. The fabrics used in crafting necessitate differences in weight, cost, durability, and protection. Most commonly used materials include;

Polyester Fabric/PU Coated Nylon

They are the most commonly used materials in making tent footprints. The nylon fabric is coated with polyurethane. Tent footprints made from these materials are lightweight, water-resistant, and durable, thus providing a good level of protection for your tent floor.

Polyester-made groundsheets weigh about 170-225 grams. They also integrate straps, stuff sacks, and grommets which adds some weight. The footprints cost about $30-$50.

Tyvek Home Wrap

DuPont Tyvek CommercialWrap Home Wrap - 5' x 200' Roll

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It is a popular groundsheet in backpacking. It is designed for use as a house wrap. The Tyvek material is a synthetic material made from polyethylene fibers. Tent footprints made from Tyvek fabrics are lightweight, inexpensive, durable, and water-resistant.

For a one-person tent, a Tyvek-made footprint weighs about 55-140 grams. It costs about $14-$17 to purchase a pre-made Tyvek footprint.

Pros of Tyvek materials

  • Indestructible
  • Inexpensive
  • Waterproof

Cons of Tyvek materials

  • Bulky and heavy

Polyethylene/ Poly Tarp

10x15 Multi-Purpose Silver/Brown Heavy Duty DRY TOP Poly Tarp (10'x15')

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They are classic utility fabric that you would use to cover vehicles parked outside. The groundsheets are made from tightly woven together polyethylene fibers. Footprints crafted from polyethylene are inexpensive, water-resistant, and durable.

They are an excellent option for car campers who don’t care about the bulkiness. They averagely weigh 283 grams for a 6 X 8 footprint. It costs about $5-$10 to purchase a readymade poly tarp. They are best suited for large tents, walk-in campsites, and car camping.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Completely waterproof

Cons

  • Bulky

Did you know you can purchase some of these fabric material rolls and easily make your own tent footprint? Keep reading as we outline the techniques to create one.

Polycryo/Window wrap

The polycryo is a material designed to add insulation. Due to its lightweight nature, it is a popular material in the backpacking community. Polycryo made footprints are waterproof but less durable. These types of groundsheets last for one season, thus best suited for ultralight backpacking.

Tent ground cover made from polycryo weighs 55 ounces per square yard and 28-56 grams for a one-person tent. They are the cheapest and lightest footprints available from cottage manufacturers.

Pros associated with Polycro materials

  • Waterproof
  • Extremely light
  • Durable
  • Clear

Cons associated with Polycro materials

  • Fragile
  • Expensive

Cuben Fiber/ Dyneema

It is an ultra-light, ultra-strong material made from polyethylene. Dyneema fibers are among the most potent synthetic materials available. The cuben thread is said to be 15X more powerful than steel. Footprints made from cuben fibers are incredibly durable, highly expensive, and wear and tear-resistant.

The Dyneema footprint weighs about 55-115 grams for a one-person tent. It costs about $100-$200 to purchase a ready-made manufactured tent footprint.

Why You Need a Tent Footprint

REDCAMP Ultralight Tent Footprint, PU 2000 Waterproof Camping Tent Tarp with Drawstring Carrying Bag for Ground Camping Hiking (55"x87" UL Black)

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Lengthen the tent’s lifetime

Tent footprint is mainly used to protect the floor of your tent. The tent floor is highly impacted by body weight tossing and as you grind the bottom of the tent on the ground. The abrasion can quickly wear down and damage the fabric.

Protect your tent from abrasion, cut from stones and twigs, and keep it in the best condition as long as possible.

The tent floor deteriorates much faster than other parts of the tent. It is much cheaper to replace a ground cloth. New tents are expensive to buy. Integrating a tent footprint helps protect your floor, thus saving cash as the tent’s lifetime is prolonged.

Waterproofing

Heavy downpours within campsites may affect the tent floor. Wet ground acts like a sponge; thus, when you pitch a tent on top of the ground, it wets your tent. The addition of an extra layer of a footprint blockades water to rain from seeping upward into the tent.

Double the protection on your brand new tent as you add the footprint accessory.

Tent footprint takes all dampness and mud formed from morning dew. The buildup of potential mold and mildew on the tent is prevented. Additionally, it is less tedious to clean and wipe down your print than washing the entire tent body.

Cushion and Insulation

Your body takes on and feels whatever temperature is on the ground. Tent footprint adds a smidge of extra insulation from the ground and provides extra cushion. Although modern tents amalgamate thick sleeping pads, a groundsheet can be blend to increase comfort during camping.

Footprint underneath the tent creates another layer, slightly raising you off the floor. The sheet material reduces the amount of heat loss. Experience a cozy night’s sleep as you combine the footprint with a good sleeping mat.

Easy Positioning and Pitch

Not all campsites are perfect for camping; thus, finding a good pitching site can be difficult. Tent footprint occupies minimal space; hence it is super easy to drape it on the ground and size out the pitching area. Make sure the ground is level and flat before setting up.

Tailor-made footprints give a clear outline of where your tent will be set up and fit perfectly. The pegging on the tent footprint gives an idea of where the camper will pitch the tent at ease.

Easy to pack

Campsite grounds are usually fairly wet, especially when packing. A Sewed-in groundsheet can turn our brand new tent muddy or get wet. Footprints prevent dirtying your tent, leaving it dry and clean.

Easy to customize

Most available footprints are designed for specific tent models. The made-to-measure approach makes it easy to find a suitable footprint for your tent. More so, you can tailor-make a custom groundsheet for your tent through DIY footprint materials.

Considerations to make before purchasing a tent footprint

REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tent Tarp - 83" x83, 4 in 1 Multifunctional Tent Footprint for Camping, Hiking and Survival Gear, Lightweight and Compact

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Fabric denier

Denier describes the weight of the thread used to weave a fabric. The higher the denser, the thicker the fabric. Tents coalescing low denier fabric strongly require a footprint to extend the durability of your tent floor. Tents with 30 densers or higher may not necessarily need one, but that doesn’t restrict blending one if need be.

Camping site terrain

Mountainous and dense forest camping sites feature all sorts of abrasion objects ranging from roots, rocks, and sticks all over. Such things can result in tearing down the fabric of your tent. It only takes a well-positioned pebble to put a hole in the tent floor. Soft sand, beach, and lush grass campsites may not necessarily need a groundsheet.

Weight

High denier fabrics in tent footprints can significantly increase the total weight. Manufacturers’ footprint adds about 18% more weight to your tent; thus, not ideal for ultralight backpackers. You can DIY your own lightweight groundsheet from the preferred sheet material.

Cost

Purchasing a tent rarely includes footprints. The manufacturer’s footprint can run for as much as $80. Weigh the options between buying readymade tent footprints or making your own groundsheet for less.

Did you know tent footprints can double like a poncho?

Reasons why not to use a Tent Footprint

The view from inside the tent that is overlooking the river.

As much as a tent footprint is a great accessory, it may not be necessary for every trip. Below are some reasons to leave your footprint at home.

Extra weight

Despite being crafted differently, footprints add a bit of weight to your pack; thus, opting to leave behind the footprint cuts out a few ounces. Tyvek footprints weigh approximately 55-140 grams. Polycyro weighs around 28 to 56 grams. Custom-made footprints from tent manufacturers weigh between 170-225 grams.

Extra bulk

Tent footprint occupies valuable space in your pack. If you are on a hiking excursion, you may opt to use the area for other carriage needs.

Cost

Not all tent manufacturers include footprints in tents. You have to buy the accessory separately. Tent-specific footprints usually cost $30-$50.

Tents integrate a high denier durable floor

Tent floors are 20-30 denier thickness. The thickness of fibers is measured in deniers. Tents blending fabrics measuring 30 deniers or higher can do without a footprint. Tents with a 20 denier or below require a footprint.

Soft terrain campsite

Campsite terrains differ. For instance, beaches and soft grass fields do not really require a footprint. You need to be careful of mountainous and forest camping fields since they are full of abrasion objects. Use a tent footprint on sites with rocks, twigs, and thorns.

How to make your own tent footprint

A close look at a group of friends pitching their tent.

You can make your own tent footprint if you are on a budget. While it costs about $300-$600 to purchase a new tent, it’s only logical to spend less for a tent footprint. You can slash the price of a footprint by half or more if you make your own. Steps to make your own footprint include;

Pitch your tent: Pitch your tent on soft ground where the tent floor won’t get damaged. Ideally, if you have space, the indoor space is best.

Measure the dimensions of the base: Measuring is imperative before purchasing the footprint material of choice. One person’s tent might measure 7 ft long by 3 ft. For the rounded floor, try to keep it as flush as possible with the ground for an accurate border.

Subtract 1 inch from the edge dimension: This facilitates ensuring that the footprint is slightly smaller than your tent floor. A larger footprint may trigger the pooling of water during a rainstorm.

Purchase tent footprint material of choice: Tyvek footprints are the most popular DIY material due to their durability, whereas polycyro groundsheet materials are cheap and light.

Lay your tent footprint material out flat, mark your dimensions with a pen, then cut as per size needed. To ensure that the tent will fit on the markings made, you can simply pitch the tent on top of the footprint dimension. Cut along about 2 inches inside the border of the markings. Cut around the outline correctly. Some of the tools required include a hammer, scissors, and a rolling pin.

Tape the seams, apply the grommets, and use a Nylon cord to make the edges of the footprint stronger. Cut the hole at the edge and affix the metal fastener. Tie loops of cord through the grommet to secure the groundsheet when pitching. Do a trial setup with the tent on the footprint to ensure proper fitting.

How to repair a hole in a tent floor

This is a common occurrence if you don’t use a tent footprint. It only takes a well-positioned abrasion object to put a hole on your tent. Once your tent floor ends up with a hole, you can attempt to patch the hole with a Tenacious Tape.

The T-tape is strong, easy to use, inexpensive, and water-resistant. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape is designed for suiting repairs on outdoor gear like tents. Clean and dry the area around the tear, cut a piece of tape off the roll, and then apply it on the tear with pressure.

Tent Footprints FAQs

How do you clean a tent’s footprint?

Use a clean cloth and clean water to wash away any dirt. Substantial mud attached to the footprint can be best removed through the use of a scourer. Do not use rough objects.

What size should the tent’s footprint be?

A tent’s footprint should be slightly smaller than the base of the tent. It is primarily designed in that dimension to prevent water from collecting between the footprint and the tent. If you are guaranteed good weather, then a large footprint isn’t really an issue.

What is a tent footprint made of?

Different footprints incorporate varying fabrics. Readily available footprints are made out of durable and easy to clean polyethylene.

Is the tent footprint worth purchasing?

It depends on your needs and budget. But for long-term extension of life for your tent, the groundsheet is effective.

That’s a wrap for our today’s topic footprint for a tent. We hope we have answered most of the queries you have had regarding tent footprints. Keep regularly checking within our page as we update on the newest trends in the tent world.

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