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Tent Footprint vs Tarp

Outdoor activities include any recreational activity done in the open, commonly involving nature. Some examples of outdoor recreational activities are camping, fishing, backpacking, biking, canoeing and many more.

Benefits of outdoor activities include physical exercise, spiritual healing, and general wellbeing. Outdoor activities make people engage in physical activities while being with nature.

Going outdoors may involve bringing different equipment and tools. Common tools that are used in backpacking and camping activities are tent footprints and tarps.

What Is a Tent Footprint?

A tent footprint is a sheet placed between the floor of the tent and the forest floor. These groundsheets are usually waterproof, and its purpose is to prevent the wearing and tearing of the tent floor. It also prevents scratches from sticks, stones, and sand. Other than these functions, it also keeps the tent clean from the dirt from the ground. Before putting up your tent, the tent footprint must be settled first.

REDCAMP Ultralight Tent Footprint, PU 2000 Waterproof Camping Tent Tarp with Drawstring Carrying Bag for Ground Camping Hiking (95'x87' UL Black)
Tent footprint fabrics vary. The most common tent footprints are made out of clean and durable polyethylene. Another type of material used, called oxford polyester, makes tent footprints lighter and easier to bring around.

Why Use Tent Footprints?

Extra waterproofing

Putting a groundsheet or tent footprint can add layers. The more layers, the more your tent is protected from the elements. Another layer of waterproofing can extend and prolong the life of your tent.

how to weatherproof a tent

Longer tent life

Tent footprints serve as a protection for the tent from stones, dust and sticks that can be found on the ground. It prevents accidents as well. Tent footprints are essential when in comes to taking care of your tents.

Extra warmth

Adding another layer underneath the tent can raise it off the ground. The floor releases heat so when there is additional layer, the heat from the ground is reduced. When camping out, body heat is lost to the ground so with the help of tent footprints, you will be kept nice and cozy.

Easier pitching

By using tent footprints, you will have a clear idea on where to start pegging. This will save you time when actually pitching your tent.

Is a Tent Footprint Worth It?

If you plan on camping in adventurous areas where it can get dirty, rocky, and mysterious, then a tent footprint prepares you for the great unknown. You want to ensure that you maintain safety and security even as you go on adventures in the wild.

Branches, leaves, and roots may also puncture your tent. Not only will it destroy your equipment, but it also leaves you vulnerable to wounds and scratches. Having a tent footprint around minimizes these risks and also protects you and your fellow campers from hazards.

is Tent Footprint Worth It
Credit: Josh Larios – Flickr.com

It is always a good idea to protect something that you will use a lot. Most campers who enjoy the wilderness experience will go on multiple trips a year, which is why it is good to pick a durable tent. However, you want to ensure that you maximize your purchase because the best tents are not cheap. It makes a lot of sense to protect your investment, and a tent footprint is one way to make sure it lasts long.

The additional weight might be a cause of concern, but if you choose a makeshift footprint using a tarp, then it should not be that much of a problem. It is also not going to be noticeable if you travel around with a car, because you can just place the footprint in the trunk and bring it out when needed. You can also practice a lot of survival skills like tying knots and making repairs when you set up a tent footprint.

What Is a Tarp?

blue polyethylene tarp

Tarp is the short term for tarpaulin. This is an essential part of the gear when going out for camping. Tarpaulin is handy because it serves as a sitting blanket, a floor covering and protection from the sun and rain. It prevents dust, dirt, and debris from the ground.

Tarpaulins are usually made of polyester or canvas. Quality tarps are coated with polyethylene. This is a type of flexible and durable plastic. With this, a tarp can be easier to clean and is more lightweight.

Why Do You Need a Tarp Under the Tent?

While camping outside, it is always good to ensure that your tent is safe and secure. Having a tarp under your tent adds a layer of protection that can help ease your worries as you enjoy the great outdoors. Tents are not cheap, especially if you get the higher quality ones.

It is good to have an extra layer of coverage beneath your tent, because of the many hazards around campsites. Things like dirt, branches, leaves, and stones might cause holes or tears in the material of the tent.

Having a tarp under your tent will also prevent water from seeping in if ever you are forced to be outside during a rainstorm. The tarp will stop moisture on the campsite grounds from multiplying and invading the insides of the tent.

3 season vs 4 season tent

While it is good to monitor the weather on the day of your trip, the truth is that conditions can be unpredictable. Emergencies might happen. You may be forced to camp out in areas that are dirtier than your usual clearings. Thus, having a tarp under your tent is a great way to ensure safety.

The tarp can also help lessen the impact of air on the tent, protecting those inside it on windy days. That way, you worry less about things hitting you or your fellow campers when sleeping. You have the assurance that you are safe as you doze off into the night. The amount of additional protection that a tarp gives you should be enough reason to go through the effort of setting up.

Using a Tarp as a Tent Footprint

Even if you have to make some adjustments to it, you can use a tarp as a tent footprint. You might have to conduct a trial and error regarding the size and fit of the tarp because you want a tent footprint that is appropriate and secure. Luckily, tarps come in a variety of sizes, so you just need to know the dimensions of your tent when making a purchase. These sizes may be a bit larger than your tent, which is why you will probably need to cut the tarp down a bit.

tarp as tent footprint
Credit: OakleyOriginals – Flickr.com

Just because a tarp is big, it does not mean that your tent is automatically protected. This only works for dry campsites, because water can pool in the excess areas of the tent during rainstorms. You must pay close attention to the size of the footprint. Try to aim for a tarp that is two to three inches smaller than your tent, so that it fits snugly.

When setting up your tarp, make sure that any dirt or debris is removed from your desired pitching location. Things like branches and rocks might destroy your tent, which can be dangerous for campers (and also bad for the pricey tent you just bought). It will also be uncomfortable because you might feel these things as you lie down to sleep.

Make sure you are careful when hammering down stakes to secure your footprint. If you do not pay close attention, you might poke a hole into your tent. Try to hit it from an angle that fastens the tarp, but does not puncture the tent itself. Maintain the cleanliness around the tarp, and you should be good to go.

How to DIY a Tent Footprint

The good news about tent footprints is that you can make them on your own. The usual materials used are tarps, which you can get in most stores. This video does a great job describing the DIY process of making a tent footprint. The uploader did not use a conventional tarp, but a six-mil black plastic sheeting available in most hardware stores. It looks similar to a large garbage bag but is thicker and more durable.

First, you have to unfold the plastic on the ground. Make sure that all areas of it are exposed so that you get maximum exposure. Then, you can proceed to set up the tent on top of the laid-out sheet. Place the tent on the corner of the plastic, then install some grommets to fasten it in place. You can buy grommets from most hardware stores.

Make sure you do not puncture the tent itself when installing them. Be careful when hammering the stakes to the footprint. When finished with this, you can cut off the excess parts of the plastic and save them for later.

You can move the tent around to your liking, but if you followed the steps in the video correctly, then you should be good to go. The plastic is secure enough to protect the underside of the tent without costing you a lot. You can also neatly fold it up and reuse it for your next campsite. It is very easy and can be done in a matter of minutes.

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