What is a tent footprint

What is a Tent Footprint and Do You Need One?

It doesn’t matter if you are looking to spend a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand on a tent, investing in a well-made tent footprint may be one of the best decisions you ever make. Although they have a general low-ticket price, they are an essential component of any camping gear that can save you effort, time, and protect an integral part of your tent.

If you are not sure whether you want to buy one or not but want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place. Here we will discuss what one is and the various benefits of using one with your tent.

What is a Tent Footprint?

Although the name gives a huge hint towards what a tent footprint may be, we’ll put the guesswork to rest by explaining it’s a kind of groundsheet. So, it is a material that lays on the ground – so you don’t have to.

They come in different shapes and sizes, so they can be fitted to most tents. How are they fitted? They are pegged down at their corners and are the first thing you need to sort out before erecting the rest.

Why Should You Use a Tent Footprint?

Tent footprints provide a list of benefits I have listed below in some detail, but something is for sure, once you have used one and experienced the small benefits they bring you will never go on a camping trip without one again. For such a modest cost, when compared to other camping gear, they are a must-have for even a first-time camper.

Fewer Problems When it Comes to Packing Up

It can be nothing short of annoying, irritating, and uncomfortable if you discover in the morning when you wake that there is a lot of rain and moisture around the campsite. This is a huge issue when you are packing everything away. The sew-in base sheet gets muddy and wet very fast in these situations. Just having a sturdy footprint in there will stop any of this becoming an issue and help keep your tent reasonably clean and dry.

Pitching That’s Simpler and Easier

As most tent footprints are specific and tailormade for the style, shape, and size of your tent, you have a clear idea from the get-go where you can put your tent and where to start to place the pegs around it. This alone can save you minutes as well as stress when you arrive at a site and need to pitch. It’s particularly useful when the weather is not so good, and visibility is low.

Gives an Additional Layer of Waterproofing

By using a footprint, you are giving your tent twice as thick layering on the base, meaning you have double the protection. As well as protecting against bugs and little critters who may be roaming around on the ground, it also means extra waterproofing.

Provides Additional Warmth

With the addition of a durable footprint on the base of your tent, you are building up another layer. That is a layer that lifts it off the floor level a little more, something that is very important to those going on a winter camping trip. As a result, there is less heat loss through the ground. Many campers take for granted how much heat from their bodies is lost to the ground while out in the great outdoors. But with an air bed or sleeping mat and a tent footprint combination in with a tent footprint, there is no reason to have anything but one of the best nights of sleep while camping.

Read my handy guide for more tips on how to keep a tent warm.

Increases the Lifespan of the Tent

One of the most obvious benefits and reasons for investing in a footprint is the fact that it can help extend the lifespan of your tent. As most tents – around 90% seem to be designed with a sewn-in groundsheet – it is more important to invest in a robust footprint. A tent footprint should be seen as similar to a smartphone cover or protector, which could protect your tent against cuts and abrasions caused by loose twigs and stones.

Available in Make and Model Specific Sizes

As we’ve already noted, there are various shapes and sizes of tent footprints available. Generally, these groundsheets are designed and manufactured to fit a specific make or model. Some can be adjusted to fit several different models. They tend to run a little shorter than the tent floorplan to stop water collecting between the footprint and the groundsheet that is sewn into the tent.

Still Wondering If You Need a Tent Footprint?

We are sure we’ve given enough reasons to show how vital a well-made footprint could be to your camping setup. We think they are high on the list of priority items, like guy ropes or pegs, but it really depends on your own needs, how you like to camp and what you prefer overall.

For instance, you may have been camping hundreds of times in the past and never needed one, so it might seem like a pointless waste of money. However, if you’ve ever had to deal with the ingress of water from under the tent or have had tears on the floor in the past, then you will want to consider using one. Even if you just don’t really like packing away a muddy, dirty, and wet tent, it may be time to give a footprint some serious consideration.

There’s also the point that because they are not very costly, there’s nothing to lose really and more to gain for such a small investment.

Before You Buy One, You May Have Some Question

What is the Ideal Size of a Footprint?

Really, you should have a footprint that is a little smaller and shorter than the tent base. This will stop water collecting between the tent and footprint, as that would be contrary to the reason you got the footprint in the first place.

What Are They Generally Made From?

The type of material used in the construction of footprints can vary between make and model. Most tend to be made from polyethylene, a material known to be easy to clean and highly durable. There are also some groundsheet footprints made from polyester with a lower denier count – or oxford material.

How Do You Clean A tent Footprint?

The best way to clean a footprint is with some water and a clean new cloth. If there is a lot of stubborn mud stuck to the footprint, use a scourer, but be cautious of being too rough and damaging the material.

Wilderness Junkie’s Opinion

I used to be firmly in the belief that a tent footprint was a nice to have a piece of my camping setup. These days it’s the second item I pack, right behind my tent.

For all the benefits and quality of life enhancements it provides for a camping trip, it would silly not to have one. You will likely spend more money on the fuel back to and from your campsite so why not spend a little on a footprint when it can make a difference to your experience, keep you a little warmer, drier and make setting up and folding down your tent easier and cleaner.

In short, buy one.