Do I Really Need A Tent Footprint?

Tent footprints have become a popular accessory for campers in the last few years, but I have to admit that I never really considered using a tent footprint until recently.

After doing some research on the benefits of using a footprint under your tent, I thought I’d share some of my findings with you. 

You don’t need a footprint for your tent. They are an added extra that isn’t a necessity for your average camping tripOpens in a new tab.. If you are camping in muddy and wet conditions, there are benefits to using a footprint to protect the bottom of your tent from dirt and damage. 

When choosing whether to buy a tent footprint, to make a footprint, or not to bother with one at all, there are lots of questions that regularly come up. I’ve tried to answer as many of them as I can below and give you some insight into whether a footprint is a good idea for your tent.

tents with groundsheets and footprints

What Is A Tent Footprint?

Getting the right footprint for your tent is very important, but first, let’s find out exactly what a tent footprint is.

A footprint is like an additional groundsheet to the underneath of tents. Footprints go between your tent’s groundsheet and the grass as an additional layer of protection. Tent footprints are usually made from the same or slightly stronger material as your tent’s groundsheet, usually a highly waterproof polythene material. 

The fitting of your footprint is really important. Many modern tents, such as the Vango PurbeckOpens in a new tab., have the option to buy a specifically fitted footprint for the tent. There are also a few companies that sell universal footprints in various sizes. 

If you’re going with a universal footprint for your tent, get one that is slightly smaller than the surface area of your tent.

Having a smaller footprint means there is less chance of it collecting water under your tent. You’re at a lesser risk of your tent flooding in heavy rain or the water pooling under your tent and ruining your tent’s groundsheet.

What are tent footprints used for?

A tent footprint goes underneath your tent, pegging to the ground independently before you put your full tent on top. Adding a footprint to the underside of your tent is a good way to add an extra layer between your tent and the ground. It protecting your tent’s groundsheet in the process.

We never quite know the weather and conditions that we will face on our next camping trip. A footprint gives the security that your tent is going to be protected from the mud, saving you from needing to clean the underside of the groundsheet after your trip. 

Footprints can also add some warmth to your tent. They trap in a little extra air between you and the grass.

Will a footprint prolong the life of my tent? 

A footprint will help to extend the life of your tent. This is because you have an extra layer of protection between your tent and the ground. It protects the groundsheet from stones, insects, other debris and helps to add another waterproof barrier between your tent’s own groundsheet and the muddy floor.

The question is, of course, how important is a footprint in relation to the price of your tent, and should you really invest in one? This is question is a little more difficult to answer.

double skinned tent - yougo camping
This tent would benefit from a footprint as the porch and bedroom are separate

Are tent footprints worth It?

As a general rule, if you have a small and cheap weekend tent it’s not financially worth it to get a bespoke footprint. These tents are not usually of good quality and are only designed to last a few years. For a much more expensive tent, a footprint is a good investment to prolong its life.

Having a footprint under your tent won’t help your tent to survive should you face heavy rain and gale-force wind. It will also offer some protection to the underside in all conditions. In my opinion, if you’re spending £700+ on a family tent, an extra £60 to give it the longest life possible is really worth it.

The average price of a tent footprint is between £30-£60, depending on the size and the make of your tent. As a general rule, it’s always best to get a footprint that is specifically made to fit your tent, rather than use a footprint for another tent.

Can I make my own DIY tent footprint? 

It is possible to make your own tent footprint. This is especially helpful if your tent doesn’t have a bespoke footprint as an optional extra. Use a waterproof groundsheet and lay it under your tent to add an extra layer. If it’s bigger than your tent, fold it under so it sits just under the edges of your tent by about 2 inches.

If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can use a cheap waterproof tarp and cut it to size to make a custom footprint. Leave enough room for seam allowance to ensure the tarp won’t fray over time.

How big should a tent footprint be?

A tent footprint should be slightly smaller than the floor area of your tent. As a general rule, a footprint should be about 2 inches smaller so that your tent overlaps the footprint and any rain can run off from the outer skin of your tent into the grass.

When buying a footprint that has been designed for your tent, this should be fitted correctly. If you’re making your own, be sure to cut the groundsheet and sew the hem so that it sits inside the total surface area marking of your tent.

How thick should a tent footprint be?

In general, tent footprints don’t need to be overly thick. They just need to add an extra layer of waterproofing between your tent and the ground. The standard thickness of a footprint is approximately 1-2mm. 

Footprint thickness can also be measured in grams per meter squared. 560g/m2 PVC mesh is considered a good thickness for a groundsheet.

Can you wash a tent footprint?

Learning how to clean a tent footprint is a simple process whether it’s dry or wet. If you can, it’s best to leave the footprint to fully dry regardless of how muddy it is and when brush off the mud. When leaving it to dry isn’t possible, footprints can be rinsed easily with water to clean them.

If you need to rinse the mud off of a footprint, it’s always a good idea to give it a spray with a waterproofing solutionOpens in a new tab. to help preserve the waterproofing.

Niki Younie

Camping lover since birth particularly enjoys chilly sunsets in the grounds of historic castles and fresh sunrises at sacred places.

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