What Is A Tent Footprint: Benefits Of Using A Tent Footprint

What is tent footprint

When you are going out for a camping endeavour, the tent is your friend that protects you from rough surfaces and harsh weather. 

The tent footprint helps you in protecting the tent floor that can potentially get damaged due to the presence of sharp stones, gravels, and sticks present on the ground surface.

What is a Tent Footprint

Tent footprint

A tent footprint is a waterproof sheet almost of the same size as the tent or a little bit smaller than the tent. Tent footprint also is known as a groundsheet that goes underneath the tent on the top of the surface where you are going to pitch your tent. 

Tent footprint will help you protect your tent’s surface from getting damaged due to the presence of rocks, gravels or sticks. The rough surface in the wild has many elements like uneven rocks that could severely damage the tent surface. 

When the tent floor rubs with the forest surface it gets torn after some time resulting in decreased waterproofing capacity which ultimately reduces the lifespan of the tent.

Water proofing by tent footprint

The tent footprint prevents the water from seeping in during rain and helps you keep the tent clean by keeping away dirt and mud. The tent footprint provides insulation from the surface temperature and keeps you cushioned from a rough uneven surface. 

You would lay your footprint first that will help you get an idea regarding where the tent will go which makes it easier for you to pitch your tent.

Tent footprints aid the water drainage by keeping water underneath the tent at distance and protects the tent floor from any sort of ground moisture. 

The footprints are lightweight that makes it easy to carry in backpacking trips.

Why Do You Need Tent Footprint 

You would need a tent footprint to provide

  • Protection of tent floor against wear and tear
  • Waterproofing by keeping the water from seeping in
  • Cushioning from the rough surfaces you are camping on
  • Insulation from heating up or cooling down from the earth’s surface
  • A tent footprint would cost far less than replacing the tent if it gets damaged
  • Easier and simpler pitching as you easily get the idea of space you need to pitch
Backpacking tent footprint

How to Choose the Best Tent Footprint

You should consider the following factors while choosing a tent footprint for your tent.

#1. Thickness

You need to make sure that the tent footprint which you are going to use is thick enough to withstand the stone rubbing on the rough surfaces.

#2. Material 

The material used in the tent footprint should provide a cushioned surface to camp on. The best tent footprint must be made from waterproof material that would help in preventing any water seepage.

#3. Insulation 

Tent footprint must provide insulation from the surface temperature. It must keep you safe from heating up quickly during hot weather or cooling down during winter.

#4. Lightweight

The tent footprint must be lightweight that would make it easy for you to carry around during backpacking trips.

Tent Footprint vs Tarp

#1. Tent Footprint 

Example of tent foot and trap

The tent footprint is the groundsheet that you place underneath your tent to help you protect your tent floor against abrasion. 

Polyester material used to make a tent footprint (the green sheet in the above image) that helps you in protecting your tent surface. The polyester footprint can withstand harsh rubbing from gravel and getting torn. The footprint also provides you with cushioning and insulation against the rough surface. 

The tent footprint is always laid first before pitching in the tent. 

Depending upon the size of your tent you can choose a tent footprint of the same size or a little less that will prevent water collecting. 

#2. Tarp


Unlike a tent footprint, a tent tarp provides you with shelter from rain, wind, snow and hot sunshine while you are camping in the open. 

A tarp is a large canvas sheet that is coated with polyester that makes it waterproof and flexible. Tarp has reinforced grommets (also known as hootch) on each corner to provide attachment points. You can use the hootch to either suspend the tarp in the air or tie it down. 

The tarp is often used for extra protection against the sun, snow, rain coming from above by acting as a roof.  A tarp can also be used as a makeshift camp but it would not provide complete protection in the harsh camping conditions.

The tarp is made using stretchable fabric that you can pull and cover the desired area. It will provide you with nice shade while providing you protection against rain, snowfall and cold winds that comes with snow. 

The tarps are strong and can possibly outlive your tent. The tarp is multifunctional and can also be used as a footprint in case of need but the opposite is not true in case of tent footprint. 

Both tent footprint and tarp help you to protect your tent from unnecessary damage that could happen because of rough surface or harsh weather.

How to Make DIY Footprint 

Making your own footprint would be ideal as it would be the most cost-effective and can be easily prepared by following the below steps. 

Step 1 – Sourcing Material

For making a tent footprint you need a tarpaulin that is used for waterproofing or an ultra-lightweight Polycro which is a great material for making groundsheets. 

You can also experiment with different other waterproof materials like Tyvek.

Tent foot material

While sourcing the material make sure the size of the sheet is larger than the size of the tent surface for which you are going to use. 

Step 2 – Marking the Sheet

marking sheet for tent footprint

Lay the tarpaulin sheet down flat on the ground with a tent on top of it. After placing the Tent on it, make a mark on the sheet around the tent as per the design. 

If your tent has a rounded floor then you need to be extra careful in marking the border so that you get a more accurate border.

Step 3 – Cutting the Sheet

Cutting sheet for tent footprint

After marking the outline for the tent make another marking about 2 inches inside the earlier marking and cut the sheet as per this new marking. 

The idea behind having a 2 inch smaller footprint is to capture the runoff water underneath.

Apart from making the tent footprint from tarpaulin or polycro you can also use a tarp as a footprint. All you need to do is fold the extra fabric inside so that it only extends till the end of the tent.


Q: Is a tent footprint worth the cost?

Yes, tent footprint is definitely worth every penny you spend because it helps you to protect the tent surface from getting damaged due to rough surface. Tent footprint also provides you other benefits like insulation from the earth’s surface temperature and cushioning when you lay down. 

The tent footprint protects the tent from getting dirty from the muddy surface or getting wet by keeping the water away from the tent floor. 

Q: Do you need a tent footprint backpacking?

Tent footprint is mostly lightweight and can be carried easily along with your tent without the need of an extra backpack. 

Q: What is a tent footprint made of?

The tent footprint is made polyester, tarpaulin, or an ultra-lightweight Polycro. All the material makes an excellent tent footprint that provides protection against the rough surfaces, harsh weather and a bit of cushion. 

You can also experiment with different other waterproof materials like Tyvek.

Q: How to clean a tent footprint?

You can easily clean your tent footprint by using water and sponge or you can also use a hosepipe to clean it quickly. 

After washing you can air out in the sun for a few minutes to let it dry before it is ready to be used again.

Final Words 

Tent footprint is a must-have tent accessory that is worth every penny. That is because tent footprint helps to protect your tent against the rough surfaces which have the potential to damage your tent badly. 

The tent footprint goes under the tent floor and that also provides cushioning and insulation for you when you are out there in the wild.

If you are running tight on budget you can also make your own tent footprint quite easily using a simple waterproof sheet and cutting it to the size of your tent. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *