How to Use a Tent Footprint the Right Way

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When used properly, a tent footprint is a great way to offer additional protection for your tent.

Lightweight and easy to use, these ground covers protect your tent from sharp objects as well as from wet grounds and moisture build-up.

So, let’s look at how to use a tent footprint the right way, which type to use, and we’ll look at whether you even really need one.

Should You Use a Tent Footprint?

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Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Tent Footprint available on

Tents are made up of different materials, but it only takes one sharp object to ruin your temporary home, even with the toughest of tents. Tent ground cloths prolong the life of your tent and keep it in good condition.

A tent footprint can protect you from abrasive objects. These include pebbles, branches, roots, and so on.

Although small items under your tent may not seem like a big deal, repetitive rubbing of them on the bottom of your tent can wear holes through. Small holes can easily be stretched and caught until you have a full-blown hole in your tent.

Tip: Even if you plan on using a footprint, you should thoroughly clean the area you plan to pitch your tent on and make sure it is free of debris.

And the benefits of tent footprints don’t stop there!

  • Sticky tree sap and mud stains can easily be avoided with the addition of a tent footprint.
  • Footprints help keep your tent dry while camping in the rain. In a rainstorm, water can pool up under a tent and seep in through the bottom.
  • Even if it doesn’t rain, ground moisture can accumulate in your tent through the floor. Tent footprints are waterproof and can help keep you comfortable and dry.

So, do you need a tent footprint? A tent footprint is by no means a camping necessity; you will likely get by just fine without it if you take the necessary precautions when pitching your tent.

However, if you want to keep your tent clean and extend its life, a ground cover is a smart move. You can save a lot of money in the long run, especially if you have a nice tent. We’ll expand more on this later in the article (and we cover it in great detail in our guide titled Do I Need a Tarp Under My Tent?).

How to Use a Tent Footprint for Best Results

Using a tent footprint is pretty straightforward. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use a tent footprint for the best results.

Step 1: Place the Tent Footprint on the Ground

First, decide where you want to set up your tent and place the footprint on the ground in your desired position. If you don’t know which side of the tent footprint goes up, simply look at the product label to see if it indicates the top.

Typically you will want the waterproof, coated side facing up and the dull or uncoated side facing down. Pull on each corner of the footprint to ensure it is completely flat.

Step 2: Set Up the Tent Over the Footprint

Pitch your tent over the footprint. Fix your footprint to your tent by inserting your pole tips into the grommets. Additionally, some come with straps that you can use to fix it to your tent.

Tip: When you pitch your tent, it is best to insert the tent poles into the foot’s grommets first, then into the tent grommets. That way, if you move your tent to reposition it or if you lift it to shake it out, the footprint will stay on, and you will not have to reposition and reattach it continuously.

Step 3: Make Sure the Footprint is Completely Covered

Make sure that the groundsheet is not sticking out around the tent. If it does, then rainwater will collect on top of the footprint and make its way between the tent and the footprint, defeating the purpose of using a footprint.

Which Tent Footprint Should I Use?

If your tent came with a footprint, it’s typically best to use that particular one because it is specifically designed and fitted to your tent model.

However, if it did not come with one, you can always buy an aftermarket groundsheet. There are many brands available, and most major brands perform well. Below are three popular options that are effective and affordable.

Related: Tent Footprint vs Tarp: Which Is Best for Camping?

Just remember, no matter which option you choose, the tent footprint size should be smaller than the tent!

Tyvek Tent Footprint

Tyvek is an ultra-light, breathable fabric made from spun bond polyethylene fibers. Tyvek makes an excellent footprint material and will help protect your tent and keep moisture out.

The Tyvek tent footprint below comes with grommeted corners so you can easily stake it out. It’s affordable, lightweight, and easy to pack and transport while out camping.

Ultralight Tyvek Tent Footprint

Ultralight Tyvek Tent Footprint

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Universal Tent Footprint

This waterproof tent groundsheet comes in many different sizes and features grommets to secure it to your tent.

It also features sewn loops on the corners for more tent fixation or to stake it into the ground. These footprints are made from 201T ripstop polyester materials and are both waterproof and rip-proof.

REDCAMP Ultralight Tent Footprint

REDCAMP Ultralight Tent Footprint

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DIY Tent Footprint

You can also make a DIY tent footprint. Making a tent footprint is easy and fast and can allow you to fit it for any shape. How fancy you chose to make it is up to you, but it can be done quickly for under $15!

Materials Needed:

  • Tent footprint material (tarpaulin, Tyvek, etc.)
  • Scissors
  • A sharpie or marker

Steps To Make a Tent Footprint

  1. The first step is to purchase whatever you chose to use as your base, either online or at a hardware store. Tarp and Tyvek are the most common. Just make sure that the material is bigger than the bottom of your tent.
  2. Next, you will want to spread out your material and place your tent on top of it.
  3. Trace around the edge of the tent. Keep it flat on the ground and try to make it as precise as possible.
  4. Finally, remove your tent and cut out the shape. Don’t cut directly on the line that you traced, but rather an inch or two inside of it. You want to cut it so that it is smaller than the base of your tent. If it is too large, water can pool up underneath it.

Is a Tent Footprint Worth It? Our Take

Yes and no…

When a tent footprint is worth it:

  • If you camp frequently and want your tent to last a long time, then a footprint is worth considering.
  • If you plan to camp in a rocky, branchy, or rough area, then a footprint might save the bottom of your tent. Check out the type of terrain you will encounter before you camp to determine if you want to bring a footprint with you.
  • If you are car camping and unconcerned about excess weight and bulk, then adding a footprint to your camping gear has few downsides other than the initial purchasing cost.

When a tent footprint is not worth it:

  • If you are going on a long backpacking or hiking trip, then every ounce of weight matters. In backpacking situations, it might be beneficial to leave the tent footprint at home and bring more essential goods.
  • If you don’t mind the risk, then there is no need to waste your time and money acquiring a tent footprint. Tents are made to be placed directly on the ground, so if you are not particularly worried, don’t waste the money.
  • If you are camping on sand, on cement, or in a designated campground, you likely won’t need a tent footprint. They are most helpful if you are sleeping in the wilderness on rough terrain.

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