What Is A Tent Footprint – Do You Need one For Your Camping Trip?

If you are planning on going camping for the first time, or you haven’t been for a while, then you might have seen the words tent footprint floating around in your research and be left wondering what they mean. A tent footprint can be really useful when you go camping, which is why you should learn what it means.

Setting up a tent can easily become stressful at times, especially if you are unsure what you are doing, which is why it is best for you to be prepared for any situation. We are going to explain what a tent footprint is in this article.

What is a Tent Footprint?

A tent footprint is a groundsheet that you can put in your tent that is waterproof. It will be positioned between the floor of the tent and the ground, and this will work to prevent any wear and tear of the tent that could otherwise occur.

A tent footprint will make sure that no damage occurs to the bottom of your tent, and it also comes with many other additional benefits.

A tent footprint will also work to stop any water from seeping into the bottom of the tent, while working to cushion the ground at the same time.

As well as this, it can help to keep your tent clean, and it is the first thing that you will put down before you go ahead and put up your tent. We will talk more about the benefits of a tent footprint in the next section.

Why Do You Need a Footprint for Your Tent?

There are lots of reasons why a ground sheet can come in useful, and we will explain some of the benefits of a tent footprint below, so you can see why they are so important.

In short, a tent footprint is a sheet(second layer) you place under your tent which provides protection for your tent against friction, which in result gives your tent a prolonged usage time and increases the level of comfort of the tent in general

Tent footprints are generally made from polyester or polythene so they are lightweight, so you won’t have a hard time trying to put it into your backpack, and it is also easy to carry if you are bike camping or backpack camping.

Dry Surface

The first benefit of a tent footprint that is worth mentioning is that it will provide you with a dry location to pitch your tent, rather than having to pitch it on the wet grass.

The groundsheet will keep the bottom of your tent clean and dry, which makes packing it away after your trip much easier.

Extra Warmth

Another great benefit of using a tent footprint is that it will provide you with an extra layer of warmth. The majority of heat will be lost to the ground when you go camping, and a footprint sheet will add an additional layer of insulation that will work to trap the warmer air and prevent heat loss.

Tent footprints don’t offer huge amounts of insulation, however depending on the thickness they can have some insulating effects. Especially if your campground is lumpy or wet the ground will suck the heat from your tent but if you have a footprint it will avoid direct contact, which results in less heat being taken from your tent


This is the basic use of your footprint, it is not comfortable to sit on the ground directly but if you have some kind of layer on the ground it will add some comfort.

But remember footprints are not thick so don’t expect too much from them.

Protecting the Tent

If you have just gone and spent a good chunk of money on a brand new tent, the likelihood is that you will want to do your best to preserve its excellent condition. Tents can easily be snagged and torn by rocks that are lying in the ground, and the footprint will provide more protection from such things.

So, this groundsheet will help you to prevent any damage from occurring to your tent, keeping it in the best possible condition for much longer. After all, it is much easier and cheaper to replace a tent footprint than your entire tent.

If you use your tent often the floor will start to get damaged and will wear out and if you don’t do something about it, there will appear holes on the floor. These are the main use of footprints, to prolong the lifetime of your tent by acting like a protective layer against the rough ground.


The average groundsheet will have a string 10,000 mm hydrostatic, which will mean that you are unlikely to get water seeping through the ground. However, it can still happen at times, like in heavy rain conditions.

Providing a second ground layer through the use of a footprint will help to further increase the levels of protection that you have. This means that it will be much less likely for water to penetrate your tent.

Some tents are waterproof but most arent and if you have a tent that is not waterproof the footprints will give much help. As I have mention tent footprints are made from polyester or polythene which makes them waterproof and besides that the fact that your tent will not touch the ground directly decreases the chance of water getting into your tent.

Are Tent Footprints Worth It?

A tent footprint is definitely worth it when you weigh up all of the benefits that they can provide you with when you go camping. They are really lightweight, extremely adaptable, and they hardly cost anything at all.

If you have never used a tent footprint before, then we can understand why you might be skeptical, but there are so many added benefits to using them that they can be invaluable. If you want to ensure that your tent lasts for as long as possible, then you should get a tent footprint.

Can I Use a Tarp Instead of a Footprint?

You could use a tarp instead of a footprint, and the results will be pretty much the same. Due to the durability of the tarp, they are often used to protect the outside of the tent from the elements. So, they can definitely be used as a groundsheet layer to protect the bottom of the tent.

There are lots of different tarp sizes available to choose from, which makes it really easy to find a size that is suitable for your needs. They will work to provide you with a durable foundation to set your tent up on, and it also creates the perfect barrier between the tent and the ground.

One of the best things about using a tarp as a footprint is that you can use it for other purposes if necessary. If the rain were to get really heavy, you could put the tarp over your tent instead, to keep the rain from coming in.

You might even want to consider taking two lots of tarp with you on your trip, so you can use one underneath the tent and one above it to offer the best possible levels of protection. Water will find it really difficult to get anywhere near your tent if you do this.

Does a Tent Need a Groundsheet?

You don’t have to use a groundsheet when you are setting up your tent, but if you want the best possible experience, then we highly recommend using one. It can make setting up your tent so much easier, and you can keep your actual tent bottom clean and dry at all times.

This also makes packing your tent away a more pleasant experience, as you don’t have to deal with the mud. The extra layer of insulation is always handy too.

How big and thick should your footprint be?

This is a very tricky question and it depends on what you are looking for you might get different size footprints. But you have to know the bigger your footprint the more it weighs.

The perfect size of your footprint should be 1 or 2 inches smaller on all sides of the of your tent unless you want to collect water. and at the maximum it should not be bigger than your tent, it has to fit perfectly.

But if the footprint is bigger, when there is heavy rainwater will get trapped on your groundsheet(footprint) and as a result, water will get into your tent and things will get messy.

But if you are a more experienced camper you can buy a bigger tent footprint and collect water from it when it rains, how? the rainwater that comes from your tent will collect on the sheet and if you angle the footprint in one direction and put some kind of pipe the water will go into it.

How do you know the size of the footprint if you are going to buy them from an online store? so the have their size written, most of the time, like “8feet by 10feet” or by the number of the person ” 1perosn” or “4person”. As I have said just buy a bigger footprint and you can cut it according to the size off the tent.

If you have 1 person tent, just get a footprint that is for 2 person tent but it will be easier if you can get them measured by feet or meters.

The second question is how thick should your footprint be, the thickness is completely your choice. What you have to know is that the thicker the heavier it becomes, but on the other side the thicker your footprint is it will last longer and will give you more protection.

Best tent footprint you can get

Most tent selling companies provide tent footprints too so you have many brands to choose from. But make sure you get something that has good quality and also avoid anything which is too expensive.

There are around 5 types of camping(check this article I have written if you don’t know the 5 camping types) if you have already identified which one you are going then it will be easier to pick your footprint.

But generally, I have found this footprint nice I have bought them from amazon, used it for over 6 months now they are very good they have different sizes and colors you can choose from.

When you buy a tent footprint make sure it won’t be smaller than your tent just buy a bigger one and you can cut it depending on your tent size.

You might hear the word tarp, and you might see some companies selling footprints as tarps, but there is a big difference between tarps and footprints what are they?

How to make your own footprint

Step1- Start with buying a sheet, any kind of sheet you want it doesn’t matter I haven’t tried this sheet on Amazon, but you can use it or go to any hardware store and find one.

Step2- Lay the plastic sheet on the ground and put your tent on it, get a marker and put a mark on the sheet.

Step3- Cut the sheet 1 or 2 inches smaller than the marked because as I have said you don’t want water to gather on your sheet. Done

Footprints vs Tarps

A tarp is a heavy-duty strong flexible sheet that have grommets at four sides. It is mostly used to cover your tent from the sun rain and even snow, as I have said on the other side footprint is a very lightweight friction-resistant sheet you put under your tent.

Tarps have a fabric that have similarities with a trampoline it is flexible and it is very strong. And so you use it to cover your tent and you can have good shade from the sun, you can sit in the shade and enjoy your breakfast.

Tarps also protect you from snow if a huge amount of snow pile on your tent it might be a danger but if you have a tarp it will take care of it.

How can you tell if it is a tarp or a footprint? the first thing is if it has a grommet it is most likely a tarp, and tarps have reinforced double edge.

Can you use a tarp as a tent footprint what about a footprint as a tarp? yes, you can do both but they won’t be as effective. For example, if you use a footprint as a tarp it won’t protect you as a tarp would, but it will not be that bad if you try to use a tarp as a footprint.

Using a footprint and tarp as a tent

If you don’t want to buy a tent you can combine a tarp and a footprint and use it as a shelter or you can buy a big tarp or a footprint and use it as a shelter.

In the above video, you can see how to build a shelter from a tarp and if you don’t want to buy a tent this is money conserving thing you can do.

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