What is a Tent Footprint & Do You Need One?

Tent Footprint

Do you love camping and soaking in the wonders of nature? If you do, your tent and other camping equipment likely cost a pretty penny, right? That, right there, is where the tent footprint comes in. A tent footprint is what some people call a groundsheet. It is a sheet in the shape of the tent’s base that you place between the ground and the floor of your tent.

Does a tent footprint provide additional waterproofing?

Contrary to what most people believe, a footprint does not improve the waterproofing of your tent floor. Unless you still use the tent your gramps used when he took you camping as a child, your tent will have a robust waterproof floor. So why use a groundsheet?

What is the purpose of a tent footprint?

Most places you would pitch your tent in nature have rocks, roots, twigs, sticks, pinecones and other abrasive objects. You might see no damage at first, but repeated abrasion every time you don’t use a tent footprint could progressively ruin your tent floor. Adding a tent footprint between the tent floor and objects that could damage your tent will significantly increase your tent’s life.

What size should a tent footprint be?

Some camping equipment providers include a footprint with each tent they sell. However, if you’re not that lucky, you should buy one that is approximately two inches smaller than your tent’s floor. That way, rainwater will not fall on the footprint, allowing it to settle between the groundsheet and the tent floor, increasing dampness and possible mold forming.

Do you need a tent footprint?

A tent footprint is certainly not an essential piece of camping equipment. Factors that play a role include the quality of your tent. If your tent is ultralight with a floor made of low denier material, it might be a good idea to use a tent footprint. Another role player is the frequency of your camping trips. If you’re a once-a-year camper, your tent floor would be less exposed, and you might choose to go without a groundsheet.

If you’re a frequent camper who has experienced a torn tent floor with water seeping in and having to pack up a muddy tent, not to mention having to unpack it when you get home, you’ll likely be a candidate for a tent footprint. If you’re on a budget, a tarp cut to the correct size can do the job. Heck, I have read about a camper who buys a plastic tablecloth each time they go camping, claiming it serves the purpose of protecting the tent floor.

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.