What Is a Tent Footprint and Should You Purchase One?

young man staking down the corners of a waterproof blanket

Waking up in a puddle of rain or spending hours scrubbing your tent after your camping trip is a great way to ruin the entire experience. A tent footprint protects the bottom of the tent floor from water, dirt, and tears. Tent footprints are lightweight and easily packable. Plus, your tent will be better protected from moisture and those annoying rocks and bumps on the ground, ensuring a more comfortable sleep. With a suitable tent footprint, you can preserve your tent longer, making it the preferred choice for camping by novices and experts.  

A tent footprint is a sensible purchase if you plan a long trip and travel in rough areas or with various weather conditions. If you want to pitch your tent twice a year for three nights on a well-kept lawn, you likely do not need a tent footprint. On the other hand, venturing out onto a quick car camping trip or a week-long backpacking getaway, a tent footprint will protect your tent (and your sleeping conditions) from the environment.

There is, however, a difference between footprints and ground sheets. Footprints are ideal for keeping the tent floor dry, while ground sheets cover a larger tent camping area and are multifunctional. Since the tent footprint is an additional piece of equipment to pack, light and compact versions are recommended, especially for backpackers. Good craft and sufficient water resistance are also important.

Don't Skip the Tent Footprint

The tent footprint is a piece of protective fabric or material that you place under the tent to ensure the floor is protected against punctures and abrasions. The bottom of your tent is subjected to some abrasion each time you pitch it because of the grit, tiny rocks, sand, and twigs that accumulate on existing tent sites. Tent floors can become soaked through by punctures or holes caused by this weakening of the fabric. Your tent footprint is a protective barrier under your tent, absorbing damage and preserving your tent floor.

A tent footprint is ideal for preventing the tent floor from soaking through and water entering your tent. It is therefore particularly recommended if you are staying in a humid region or expect changeable weather. Footprints are a few inches smaller than the actual tent floor, so when it rains, the water runs off the edge of the tent and seeps into the ground without penetrating it.

Rottay Waterproof Camping Tarp in use

Photo source: amazon.com

Purchase Criteria and Evaluation

In this section, we provide information about the distinct aspects that are important when buying a tent footprint. The perfect footprint should fit your tent. The first thing you should do is check whether you can buy the footprint in the correct dimensions. It is best to measure the floor of your tent or read the measurements in the technical information.

Many manufacturers offer tailor-made footprints for specific tent types; these are footprints that only span wide enough to protect the tent floor. On the other hand, a groundsheet is more extensive and, depending on the model, also protects the camping ground and provides a less-dirty place to rest outside the tent.

In this article, you can compare the advantages and disadvantages of the two product types. In addition to the tent-specific footprints, you can buy universal footprints in various sizes. The dimensions vary between:

  • 80 x 200 and 600 x 800 centimeters (about 26.25 ft) for tent footprints

  • 12 x 8 x 1 centimeter (about 0.39 in) for foils

  • 46 x 19 x 4 centimeters (about 1.57 in) for textile pads 


There are many options for tent footprints, so the prices vary greatly. Depending on the size and material, they can range from $15 to $190. In any case, a suitable tent footprint effectively protects the tent floor of your tent and thus extends your tent's lifespan and improves your camping experience. 

Groundsheets are often cheaper than footprints because they do not have to be specially made to measure. In addition, for optimal protection against water penetration, a footprint is a few centimeters inches from the actual tent floor. Due to these specific requests, the choice is small, and the price is a bit higher.

In addition to the size of the tent footprint, the material is a cost factor—high-quality textile fabrics with a high fabric density cost $25. Tarps are usually cheaper, but some are not specifically designed for camping and are therefore comparatively heavy. Foils are available for as little as $10, but these are not UV-compatible and can change their dimensions in high heat. The total price of the footprint is $30-70 and the groundsheet $10-40.


If you decide to buy a tent footprint, you will be carrying additional equipment on your hiking trip and as with the pack size, paying attention to a lightweight purchase is worthwhile. The fact that weight increases with size may influence your decision for or against a footprint or groundsheet. Footprints made specifically for backpacking take this factor into account and are often ultra-lightweight. Depending on the size, the weight is between 160 grams for a one-person tent pad and more than 600 grams for a multi-person tent pad.


It is also essential that the material is breathable and dries quickly. Textile fabrics are generally advantageous here. Polyethylene (PE) coated materials are less breathable but are considered exceptionally stable and tear-resistant. If you decide opposite in favor of textile fabrics, you should pay attention to UV resistance, as films can warp or shrink in high heat. In addition, some materials have a strong smell and need to be aired beforehand.

REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp

The REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp is high-quality outdoor equipment for only $21.99 on Amazon. Taking the principle, "Focus on outdoor camping gears, made for outdoor life," it's obvious this company strives for excellent outdoor experiences for its customers. So let the REDCAMP be your guide to the outdoors! REDCAMP waterproof tarps cater to all your outdoor needs; it is a multifunctional footprint that can be used under a tent, laid on the beach, used for picnics, or brought to sporting events. The ripstop polyester material makes this footprint waterproof, adding an extra moisture layer under your tent. Additionally, the four 6-inch straps, grommet, and loops at the end provide extra strength and durability for securing the footprint into the ground. Last, the footprint is lightweight and comes with a storage pouch, making it easy to carry on the road and convenient to store when not in use. Bring along your family and friends when you get this tarp.

Besides being primarily a tent footprint, it can serve as a groundsheet, canopy for shade, or cover in the rain. These are great for backpacking, hiking, camping, bicycling, boating, picnics, or just hanging out at the beach. 

REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp

Photo source: amazon.com

Rottay Waterproof Camping Tarp

Rottay Waterproof Camping Tarp offers flexibility and durability for $18.99 on Amazon. The material is a high-density 210D ripstop with leakproof taped seams, ensuring that water has difficulty entering through the footprint. The flexibility of this footprint allows you to utilize it as a rain cover, sun shade, picnic mat, or ground shelter. Looped straps on the corners and rust-resistant grommet rings embedded in the tarp allow extra strength and durability for securing the tarp. You can choose the perfect configuration for different applications with tied loops attached. Be prepared for the unplanned with a set in your trunk!

Using tarps as a tent footprint offers more convenience and comfort when traveling outdoors. These lightweight tarps are easy to fold and pack, making them suitable for lightweight campers. In addition, Rottay offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. The company will give a full refund or replace the piece if it breaks or the accessories are missing.

Rottay Waterproof Camping Tarp

Photo source: amazon.com

GEERTOP 1-4 Person Ultralight Waterproof Tent Tarp

The GEERTOP 1-4 Person Ultralight Waterproof Tent is sleek and just as waterproof and durable as the others. The material is made from a 20D double-sided silicon coated mat, making this footprint ultra-lightweight, waterproof, tear-resistant, wear-resistant, and moisture-proof. In addition, mats with PU8000MM water resistance levels are more moisture-resistant, making tents more durable. It is an essential item for camping, picnicking, fishing, mountain climbing, or other outdoor activities!

It includes a heavy-duty hammock rain fly with four hang points for tear-resistant durability. The four metal rings can be used to set up a shelter, rain cover, or dampproof mat for your tent. With a drawstring pouch, this footprint packs into a small, light, and compact size. Traveling and carrying this footprint will be a piece of cake.

The right camping tarp is essential to stay comfortable when spending a day at the park or the beach. Bring the outdoor camping tarp everywhere you go and enjoy its many functions. Placing the groundsheet beneath the tent prevents the tent's interior from being punctured and getting dirty. They are also a good picnic mat, and for the features this footprint offers, it's only $27 on Amazon. Finally, make a solid rampart between you and the dirt, mud, and sharp objects by laying flat on the ground.

GEERTOP Ultralight Tent Footprint

Photo source: amazon.com

Azarxis Waterproof Camping Tent Tarp 

Azarxis Waterproof Camping Tent Tarp is versatile and offers 420d Oxford cloth combined with a waterproof treatment. As it's compact, you can easily transport it while traveling. You can use it for camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, backpacking, and other outdoor pursuits. In addition to these dual coatings, these footprints offer protection against water damage to the tarp. In addition, this product comes with 13-21 reinforced webbing loops to make hanging easier. Due to its low weight and compact design, anyone can easily transport it.

It is made from lightweight material, so it is easy to lift. Azarxis Tent is made with UV 50+ fabric that protects you from harmful sun rays. There are nine holes for fixing, so it is easy to install. It comes with a bag that makes the installation even more accessible. This roof is made of water-resistant material, preventing water and snow from seeping. It is ideal for camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, backpacking, and other outdoor activities.

Azarxis Waterproof Camping Tent Tarp

Photo source: amazon.com

What Alternatives Are There to a Tent Footprint?

In addition to the classic tent footprint, specially made for this purpose, you can use some alternatives like a tent pad. Below is a brief overview of options for tent footprints:


The pads are intended as insulating sleeping pads. They can compensate for unevenness and, depending on the quality, keep out a certain degree of cold. However, they are usually not waterproof. 


Tarps are usually PE /PP/ PVC coated, waterproof, dirt-repellent, and easy to wash. However, they are not breathable, comparatively heavy, and difficult to fold into a compact size.

Painter's Fleece

A Painter's fleece consists of fleece fibers that are very robust and tear-resistant. However, the painter's thread is not waterproof and does not last long, so the painter's fleece is environmentally unfriendly as a base.

The various alternatives have their advantages and are often cheaper than special groundsheets. Thanks to their practical shape and materials, tent footprints offer the great advantage of optimally protecting your tent with its compact size and lightweight.

Why Should I Get a Tent Footprint?

Footprints are generally a good idea if you're expecting to camp on terrain that is possibly wet and contains objects with points and edges that are likely to be sharp. However, there can also be problems in areas with plenty of downed wood or strong branches. If you go camping and backpacking frequently (think dozens of nights per year) and intend to have your tent last for many years, you may want to consider a footprint.

In addition to the footprint under your tent, you can add another layer, slightly raising you off the ground to help reduce heat loss through the floor. It may be easy to forget that we lose a lot of body heat through the floor during a camping trip is impossible. Heat loss and a suitable sleeping mat or air bed will make an excellent combination for a relaxing night's sleep. Since most heat is lost to the ground during camping, a footprint will keep you nice and warm. In addition to matching the tent shape, footprints have corner loops to ensure they are securely attached to the tent frame, ensuring that the footprint is located correctly under the tent.

Most tents now come with an integrated groundsheet, so purchasing a footprint has become even more important. Also, invest in a screen protector or cover for your brand-new tent to protect it from abrasion or cuts—just as you would for your phone; it is better to be safe than sorry! It doesn't matter how much care and attention you put into your camping experience. The unknown always awaits—so in the long run, it makes sense to give your tent as much protection as possible right from the start.

Outry Waterproof Multi-Purpose Tarp

Photo source: amazon.com

Tent Footprint vs. Tarp

Placing a tarp (when modified) or a tent footprint under the tent is a good way to protect it from moisture, dirt, and other external elements. A tarp is normally used as a canopy to cover your tent from sunlight, snow, hail, and wind. However, many people use a tarp as a ground cloth when camping. Tarps are manufactured from different materials such as Tyvek, vinyl, and plastic. These materials are synthetic and water-resistant. Although they are mostly used as a canopy, most people cut them out in the tent's dimensions and use them as a tent footprint. Comparing the two, while the tent footprint is perfectly sized for your tent, you'll have to modify the tarp to use it as a ground cloth. In addition, the makeshift footprint from a tarp will not have the durability (grommet eyelets or straps) for control. Hence, the tent footprint is way better in this situation. Tarps are available in a wide variety of materials, thicknesses, and sizes. However, the fact that you'll have to cut it out to fit your tent makes them not a good option to be used as a tent footprint. 

Final Words

A tent footprint can be helpful, but you must decide if you consider it necessary. Several cheaper alternatives would fulfill the same purpose; however, a good tent footprint will guarantee you all the functionality and protection you need.

The type of tent footprint you need depends on the location you are camping in. The soil of many pre-existing campsites is covered and has indentations from many people sleeping there in the past. Grass, grit, sand, and water accumulated in these dished-out areas will wear down the floor of your tent if you camp there often. You may encounter less damage to your tent floor if you only camp occasionally. A footprint would be appropriate if you have a thinner, less waterproof floor at your campsite or camping on a campground.

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