Why Putting a Tarp Under Your Tent is So Important

by | Jul 1, 2021 | Shelter

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If you’re someone who loves spending quality time in the great outdoors, then your tent is probably your home away from home. Tents are great for helping you set up camp just about anywhere. And while they do a good job at shielding you from the elements, it’s not uncommon for your tent to experience the wear and tear that comes along with rugged grounds of nature.

Luckily, there is a way to help maintain your tent’s integrity. If you put a tarp under your tent, or use a durable piece of material as a footprint for your tent, you can increase the lifespan of your second home. Here’s everything you need to know about using a tarp as a footprint for your tent, and why it’s definitely something you should consider.

What is a Tent Footprint?

A tent footprint, or groundsheet, is a durable piece material commonly used by campers as a barrier between their tent and the ground. The footprint provides extra protection for the floor of the tent, helping prevent any damage. Additionally, the tent footprint provides insulation and waterproofing in less than ideal conditions. 

The term groundsheet doesn’t refer to any specific material. Rather, it’s a broadly used term used to describe any sheet placed underneath the tent floor. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what you should use as your footprint.

What to Put Under Your Tent Floor?

Today, most manufacturers include custom footprints that are custom tailored to fit your tent. A lot of the time, they include convenient clips and are super lightweight, making them ideal for taking them with you wherever you go. 

If your tent didn’t come with a custom footprint, or the groundsheet it did come with is too worn, here are some alternatives you can use.

  • Tyvek – A lightweight material that is made from high-density spunbound polyethylene fibers. It’s both durable and water resistant, making it the ideal tent footprint.
  • Polyethylene – As one of the most widely used plastics in the world, polyethylene is a great material to keep your tent protected from the elements.
  • Window Wrap – While window wrap isn’t as durable as other options, it’s both affordable and lightweight. So, if you’re in need of something cheap to get you through a trip or season, you should consider window wrap.

Can You Use a Tarp as a Tent Footprint?

Yes, you can absolutely use a tarp as a tent footprint. In fact, tarps are one of the most common groundsheets used by campers as a tent footprint due to their durability and functionality. While a tarp is perfect for added protection and insulation for your tent, it can also be used to collect rainwater, as cordage, or even a shelter.

Here are some of the top reasons you should use a tarp as your tent footprint.

1. Waterproof Your Tent

While it’s always a good idea to check the weather before you set out for a relaxing getaway, rain isn’t always so predictable. In all honesty, the sounds of water droplets echoing through the backdrop of your campsite is both soothing and relaxing. That being said, if the rain keeps pouring down, you can quickly find yourself in your tent surrounded by water seeping through the floor.

You can’t always plan for the weather, but you can make sure you’re always prepared. Tarps are an excellent way to waterproof your tent so you, and all your gear stay dry. Even if your tent is already waterproof, all it takes is a single abrasion to rip a hole, and leave you vulnerable.

2. Keep Your Tent from Ripping

Quality tents are made from some of the most durable materials, such as nylon. Many even come with added protective layers to help prolong the lifespan of your tent. With that in mind, it’s important to note that even with all the new technology that goes into developing tear-resistant fabrics and coatings, not tent is invincible.

Using a tarp as a tent footprint helps prevent your tent floor from ripping and tearing. All it takes is a friction between a single stone and your tent to completely ruin the fabric. So when you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night, your tarp footprint will take the brunt of things.  

3. Better Insulation

An added layer between you and the ground beneath your tent makes camping just a bit more comfortable. There’s always something to be said when it comes to comfortability, but more than just comfort, placing a tarp under your tent can provide much needed insulation.

In nature, the weather can be unforgiving. And sleeping on the ground won’t do you any favors regulating your body temperature. Even though it may not seem like much, using a tarp between your tent and the ground can provide just enough insulation to keep you comfortable.

Bear in mind that a tarp and tent alone won’t be enough to keep you warm. When heading to your favorite outdoor escape for the weekend, make sure you are prepared with proper gear.

Tent Footprint Setup

Setting up your tent footprint isn’t a complicated process. However, there are some things that you need to be aware of to make sure that your groundsheet doesn’t work against you. If you follow our simple tent footprint setup below, you shouldn’t have any issues.

  • Step 1: Find level ground, and remove any rocks or pieces of wood that could harm your gear or make life uncomfortable for you.
  • Step 2: Unfold your tent footprint, in this case your tarp, and lay it on the ground where you plan on setting up your tent.
  • Step 3: If you haven’t already, make sure that your tent footprint is smaller than the body of your tent. The reason being, you don’t want water pooling between your groundsheet and tent floor. This can lead to you and all your belongings getting completely soaked.
  • Step 4: Set up your tent on top of the footprint, tucking any visible tarp underneath your tent. This will make sure the water hits the ground surrounding your setup, while you stay nice and dry.

That’s it! Once your tent and footprint are set up, you’re good to go. Now it’s time to enjoy the extra comfort and protection while you hang out in your tent.

Brian Segal

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was drawn to bushcraft at a young age. I constantly find myself trying to learn and improve on my survival skills, and enjoy writing about everything I discover to help pass along to others.

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At Bushcraft Wild, our goal is to help people learn the necessary skills to reconnect with nature. From basic survival skills to recreational camping, we’re confident you’ll find a way to spend more time in the great outdoors.

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