What Is A Tent Footprint And How To Use It?


The past few years have seen a rise in the popularity and demand for tent footprints. That said, every manufacturer nowadays is releasing tents that come with their own tent footprint. And considering all the benefits that come with using one, this is one camping gear that you wouldn’t want to ignore. But what is a tent footprint exactly and how can you use it to make your camping adventure much more enjoyable?

What Is a Tent Footprint?

Simply put, a tent footprint is a groundsheet-like piece of material that is placed between the floor of your tent and the ground. It comes in a variety of sizes depending on the size of the camping or backpacking tent and is cut slightly smaller than the size of the bottom of your tent to prevent water from collecting between the sewn-in groundsheet and the footprint. Tent footprints can be made from various materials like plastic, rubber, a vinyl tarp, and another lightweight yet water-resistant fabric.

Although most tents are now sold as fully complete with sewn-in or zip-off groundsheets, having and using a separate tent footprint still has some advantages as can be seen below.

Extend the Life of Your Tent

A tent footprint is mainly designed to prevent premature wear and tear on the floor of the tent and protect it from abrasion and punctures that can be caused by sand, sticks, or stones on the rough gritty ground. In the same manner, it is also able to provide the same kind of protection for your sleeping pad or sleeping bag. When you set up your tent and then get in, your body weight and movements during the night will grind the fabric in the ground. This will then wear off the coating underneath the sewn-in groundsheet and even damage the fabric. But when you put a tent footprint down, it takes the abuse instead, thus protecting and extending the life of your tent.

For many campers and backpackers, a tent is one (if not ‘the’) most expensive piece of camping equipment they will own. And if you just spent a significant amount of money on a brand new tent, it’s pretty normal for you to want to protect it and keep it in the best condition for as long as possible. Otherwise, you will find that your tent floor will deteriorate much faster than the rest of it. Besides, repairing or replacing a tent footprint is significantly less expensive than repairing or replacing your tent (or your sleeping pad as the case may be).

Provide Extra Warmth and Cushion

Many campers and backpackers usually underestimate how much body heat can be lost when sleeping on the ground. Some people think that by lying on the ground, they are actually warming it up (e.g. notice how warm a seat is when you get up after seating on it for quite some time). However, this isn’t actually the case. What really happens is that the ground or whatever surface you’ve been lying or seating on draws heat from your body.

Sure, a quality sleeping pad and a sleeping bag should help to prevent this from happening and keep you warm and snug, but having a tent footprint underneath your tent floor will provide you with another layer of insulation and cushion. Despite the thinness of the tent footprint, it can help to slightly raise you off the floor and thus reduce the amount of heat loss to the ground. This, combined with a sleeping pad and sleeping bag will help ensure that you have a warm and cozy night at the campsite.

Protection from Water underneath the Tent

Tent footprints need to be durable to protect your tent’s floor from damage. However, another important feature of an excellent tent footprint is the ability to fend off moisture coming in from the ground. This is why tent footprints are usually made from water-resistant materials as those mentioned above. Along that line, when inspecting a tent footprint, one thing you’ll want to look for is whether it’s water-resistant or waterproof. There is a difference between water-resistant vs. waterproof when it comes to their ability to keep water out, and for the most part, you’ll want to get the latter instead of the former.

During heavy rains or even light precipitation, the soil acts as a sponge that absorbs the water that doesn’t run off its surface. After a while, the ground becomes saturated and there is a huge chance that it won’t completely dry up in time for you to set up camp. Many campers and backpackers are quite familiar with this scenario, but you don’t have to be an outdoor enthusiast to understand how uncomfortable and miserable it can be to have to sleep on damp ground.

By using a tent footprint, you have a layer of protection that will prevent moisture from the ground from seeping into your tent floor (and sleeping pad, backpack, and other items you have lying inside the tent). Keep in mind that only waterproof tent footprints will be capable of completely fending off the water. If your tent footprint is made of water-resistant materials, it should still be able to protect you from water coming in from the ground, though not as well as a completely waterproof tent footprint is capable of doing.  It will also prevent your tent floor from getting in direct contact with water and mud and thus make it easier to clean and pack away.

Fewer Hassle when Packing Away Your Tent


Campgrounds can get fairly wet even with the lightest of rains. Unless you have a campsite with ample coverage, you’ll probably have to pitch your tent over the wet ground. Needless to say, this will leave your tent’s sewn-in groundsheet muddy and dirty. This can be avoided or at least minimized with the help of a tent footprint. By keeping your tent’s groundsheet (relatively) clean and dry, you will have less cleaning to do when packing away your tent. Besides, cleaning a tent footprint is much easier than having to clean a whole tent.

Tailor-made for Your Tent

Most tents being sold nowadays come with their own tent footprints. These are specifically designed to match the particular size, type, or model of the tent. If your brand new tent didn’t come with one (or perhaps you already have a tent and only need a tent footprint), then you can buy it separately.

Individually sold tent footprints are available in a variety of sizes, so you should have no trouble finding one that will match your tent perfectly. Just remember that an appropriately sized tent footprint should be slightly smaller than your tent’s floor space to prevent any water collection between the sewn-in groundsheet and the footprint. Also, make sure that you look at the quality of the tent footprint. Low-quality tent footprints may be able to provide ample protection for your tent floor, but they usually won’t last long and soon enough you’ll find yourself needing to buy a new one. Also, these don’t have water-resistant properties, which means that they won’t be able to effectively prevent moisture from the ground from seeping into your tent floor.

Easier Tent Pitching

As mentioned earlier, tent footprints are made to measure perfectly with your particular tent. Because it is specific to the outline of your tent, you can use the tent footprint’s dimensions as a guide for pitching your tent. Simply place the footprint on the ground and assess if it’s wide enough for your tent. Afterward, you can start setting your tent and start pegging from the outset. Tent footprints are pegged down in the corners and it’s the first thing you should sort when pitching your tent.

You can also use your tent footprint to determine if the ground is flat and even. Simply lay and flatten the tent footprint on the ground and look for any bulges on the surface. This will help you to easily identify areas of the grounds that need to be cleared before pitching your tent.

Globo Surf Overview

Many campers and backpackers now consider tent footprints to be just as important as any other camping equipment they own. In general, though, the need and use of a tent footprint is much more a matter of personal preference and individual need. For instance, if you’re merely a hobbyist who rarely goes camping and mostly stay in commonly visited and cleared campsites, then a tent footprint may not be a necessity. On the other hand, if you’re an avid backpacker or camper who usually find yourself in rugged and wet terrains, occasionally suffer from one or two (perhaps more) tears in your sewn-in groundsheet, or always struggle with water seeping in from underneath your tent, then a tent footprint becomes an invaluable investment.

If you belong to this group, then a tent footprint can definitely make a significant difference in just how much you enjoy your camping adventure. And considering the cost-to-benefit ratio, a tent footprint is bound to be one of the cheapest yet most beneficial pieces of camping equipment you can invest in.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!