Friday, December 2

Tent Footprint vs Tarp – 2 reasons, why Tarp is the best!

tent footprint and tarp

The more you go camping, the higher the chance of you damaging you tent, generally down to wear and tear. The most vulnerable part of your tent is the base, it can get damaged a lot quicker than other parts of your tent.

The base of your tent is trampled on, has to deal with the elements of what’s underneath the base and so on. Although you think you are pitching your tent on grass, there may still be stones, broken glass and more underneath.

Obviously other areas of the tent can get damaged through wear and tear, but today we are looking at the base and what we can do to prevent it damaging! Or at least prolong the base as long as you possibly can, of course nothing is invincible.

So what we need to do is, add a separate layer, that we can put underneath your tent base, to give it that extra layer of protection. This is called a tent footprint. Do you know what one of those is? No?! Lets find out what one is in more detail…..

What is a Tent Footprint?

So like i said a tent footprint is something that you put underneath your tent to add a layer of protection. You can different materials of tent footprint but the most common basically feels and looks like, the same material as your tent base. When you buy a tent, generally your tent doesn’t come with a footprint, this maybe the reason you have never heard of one before.

So if you decide from this guide, you will have to buy one separately. There are a few types of tent footprint, so we are going to have a look at the different types here.

Different types of tent footprint

Mesh footprint

mesh protector

These types of footprint in my opinion are the worst of the three types of tent footprint. The are made of a mesh material which is light weight and easy to carry. But wont defend your tent from moisture and mussy areas, you may want to pitch your tent on when its not sunny.

Solid footprint

solid base protection

A solid footprint is a very similar material to the material of the base of your, but its a lot better than a mesh material. You can use this all year round, and is very easy to clean. You can buy manufactured tent footprints that are designed to fit your tent or you can buy universal tent footprints, that might not fit perfectly but are cheaper.



The last option is to use tarp, tarp is not much different to using a universal tent footprint, but its a lot cheaper to buy. Just like a solid tent footprint, its very easy to clean, because it isn’t mesh and doesn’t have loads of little holes to clean. Keep reading to find out which is better between a tent footprint and tarp.

Do I need a tent footprint?

A lot of campers don’t actually bother buying a separate footprint. This might because they don’t actually go camping very often and didn’t even think of protecting the base of the tent. Or they may just feel like they don’t need one!

The main benefit of having a foot print for your tent, is that it adds another layer of protection for the base of your tent. The base of your tent will be pitched on many different things over time from grass, mud, stones, maybe glass or anything. Overtime the base is going to wear, so by adding a footprint it just gives your base that added protection from the elements.

It’s also great at keeping moisture off the base. How many times have you gone to pack up your tent and when you are rolling it the base is covered in moisture. Obviously you need to dry the moisture overwise you are going to get black mould. If you where to protect your tent base with a footprint, you would only have to dry the protection and not the tent.

Another benefit is that it will also give your tent an extra layer of insulation. As a camper myself i know how cold it can get at night. Another way to insulate your tent even more is to use moving mats as a tent inner flooring. Check out our guide on using moving mats for your tent floor for even more insulation and warmth for your camping nights.

tent base footprint

Tent Footprint vs Tarp?

So you have decided to protect the base of your tent, but you have maybe heard from someone else that they use tarpaulin instead of using a footprint. So which should you use? A specifically made tent footprint or tarp?

They will both add a slight protection layer between your tent and the floor. They will both add that little bit of insulation from the tent and the ground.

What’s the difference between tent footprint and tarpaulin?

Tent footprints come with little loops that you can peg into the ground so that it doesn’t blow away. But tarpaulin doesn’t, a lot of tarpaulin that you can buy, does have little ringed holes in each corner. So it is still possible to peg down, I would definitely recommend pegging your tarpaulin down, just in case it gets really windy.

The price of tarp is slightly cheaper than the cheapest footprint I could find (the cheapest I could find on Amazon was $10). You can of course buy the footprint from the manufacturer, but to be honest buying tarp will actually do the same job.

One downside to using tarp, is that the tarp might not quite fit your tent size. So make sure you buy the right size of tarp. Manufactured footprints will be specifically made for your tent and will be the correct size, but it totally depends on you. If your feel that the slight overhang of tarp looks awful then don’t use tarp.

Also tent footprints may come with a separate bag designed to store your footprint in, which obviously makes it easier to transport and store in your loft.

Tent Footprint and Tarp, which is the winner?

Overall my opinion is that tent footprints made for your specific tent are overpriced, and using tarp is good enough to protect the base of your tent. For me its a lot cheaper to do so, and I will continue to use tarp.

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