Camping Tips Highlight

Do I need to buy a Tent Footprint

Kelty Gunnison Tent
Kelty Gunnison tent on an early spring morning
A tent footprint is made and sized especially for your model tent, and is meant to be a barrier between your tent and the ground. Do you need to buy one of those, use a tarp, or just not use anything at all?

A tent footprint is a ground cloth made specifically for your make/model of tent, and sized to perfectly match the bottom of your tent.

Why should you use a ground cloth?  The main reason is for protecting the bottom of your tent from wear and tear.  When you camp on sand, or rough ground of any kind, just moving around on the floor of your tent rubs your tent against the ground.  Over time, this can wear the waterproof coating away on the bottom of your tent, and in extreme cases you could end up with a puncture or hole in the bottom of your tent.

A tent footprint is a ground cloth made specifically for your make/model of tent, and sized to perfectly match the bottom of your tent.

What I normally use is an inexpensive tarp that is sized close to the size of my tent.  If you do this,  you need to make sure that the tarp does not stick out from under your tent and tent fly.  If it does, it can collect rain, which can then go under your tent between the tarp and the floor.  Most tents have waterproof bathtub type floors and won’t soak through.  However, if there are any seams that have worn, or the waterproofing has worn away, you will get this water in your tent.

So when should you get a footprint?  Some tents come with one, and some of those have the option of letting you set up only the rain fly, and the footprint for a ground cloth.  If you are backpacking, this provides you with basic shelter, and reduced carry weight.  The downside is that you don’t have protection from bugs without the tent itself.  But at the right time of year, or if you have other means of keeping bugs at bay such as a bivy bag, or just don’t care about bugs, then you can save weight in your pack.

I definitely recommend using a ground cloth of some sort under your tent.  If a specially sized footprint comes with the tent, I would use it. And for anyone that is hiking, and wants to reduce weight in their pack, I would suggest looking into the possibility of using just a rain fly and footprint with no tent.  It may or may not be worth it. But if all you want is something under your tent, and the choice is buying a $10 tarp, or buying an optional footprint which is $30 or more, I would go with the tarp.

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