What is a tent footprint? This is a very common question asked by outdoor lovers and campers. In this blog post, we will be discussing in detail what a footprint is and is it worth having a footprint or not. 

There are two opinions on the use of tent footprint: one group says it is worth having a tent footprint to increase the life of the camping tent. In contrast, the other group of backpackers believes that the footprint for a tent is an additional burden on the weight of the backpack, and you can go camping without it. 

We have answered all the questions and opinions of both types who favor footprint and are against its usability. We will also guide you on selecting a footprint or doing it yourself. 

What is a tent footprint, and What is it Used For 

The footprint also referred to as a groundsheet, is a sheet that goes underneath the body of the tent to keep the surface nice and dry. The tent footprint serves as a layer of protection between the tent base and the rocky and rough land surface. In this way, footprint reduces the damage done by the friction of the land surface against the tent.

But what do you find now that the modern tents have a sewn-in groundsheet. So it’s got a certain groundsheet you can’t remove that. So if that gets mucky or muddy, you have to hit the whole tent or drag it to the nearest hosepipe to clean it down or be there a towel wiping it down as you come and fold it, so the footprint is a good idea in my opinion or a necessity you need to have. 

The principle of the footprint is you get your tent out, pop your footprint out and then put the tent on top of it. So it keeps the base of the tent clean and dry and gives it an extra layer of protection against hard rocks and pegs. So footprint will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

Are tent footprints worth it?

are tent footprint worth

Yes, the footprint is worth buying if you want your tent to stay for a longer time for multiple camping trips. It can protect your tent from the wear and tear of rocky surfaces and keep it clean from dirt, so you can avoid washing your tent after every trip. Washing tents multiple times can decrease the life of fabric material, resulting in wear and tear.

Additionally, footprint gives you double water protection from the moisture and dew on the ground. It gives you more of a thermal layer from the bottom. Also, it protects from water pouring in from the ground and getting into your tent too. So the footprint enhances the tent’s waterproof protection capability. 

What size should a tent footprint be? 

Your tent footprint must be four to six inches smaller than the tent’s base because it will come underneath the tent. If your tent is larger than the tent base, the rainwater will pour into it and come inside the tent. So make sure your footprint is a few inches smaller from all sides than the base area of your tent. 

Can you use a tarp as a tent footprint? 

The trap and footprint are two different things. The primary difference is that the footprint (groundsheet) is specially fitted for a particular brand’s tent and model. The footprint that comes with the tent is designed for that tent as the dimensions are perfect for the size of the tent base. 

Traps are cut into standard dimensions of square or rectangular shape. So if you are using a trap as a groundsheet for your tent, you have to fold it or adjust the size of the trap so it comes underneath the tent’s base.

The other significant difference between trap and the footprint is that traps are bigger, bulkier, and cheaper than a footprint, so keep this point in mind when choosing whether to put the trap or footprint underneath your tent. 

So if you want protection from rainwater and keep your tent base protected from the wear and tear of the ground element, we advise you to use your footprint instead of a trap. 

DIY Footprint and Manufacturer Built Footprint

The footprint is just a square sheet that goes underneath your tent. So why spend extra dollars on the manufacturer-built footprint. There are pros and cons of both approaches. Let’s talk about the manufacturer’s built footprint. 

One of the main advantages of having the manufacturer’s built footprint is that it is specially designed for the tent model, and you don’t have to worry about the size of the footprint. The disadvantage of the manufacturer’s built footprint is that sometimes its fabric material is not the highest quality, getting expensive. 

The advantage of the DIY footprint is that it is a less expensive option and hardly costs you around a few dollars only. All you need to do is buy a trap sheet from a hardware store and cut it into size few inches smaller than the size of the tent. The disadvantage of this method is that you may cut your sheet more, making it shorter from the sides, leaving a gap from all four edges. 

How to Create Footprint Yourself

You can create a footprint yourself from any of the following three materials. 


Tarpaulin is a heavy-duty waterproof sheet made of polyurethane material. You can purchase it from any hardware store. It is the best material for a DIY footprint. 


  • Waterproof
  • Strong Material
  • Inexpensive


  • Heavy
  • Bulky


Polycro, commonly known as a window insulation sheet, is made from an industrial-grade cross-linked polyolefin, making it challenging and water-resistant. You use this material as an alternative option to the brand’s footprint. 


  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Clear


  • Little expensive 
  • More Fragile


Tyvek is a 100% synthetic material made from high-density spun-bond polypropylene. It is a lightweight, durable and breathable material. It has high tensile strength against wear and tear. This material is water-resistant and has bacterial penetration as well. 


  • Strong
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive


  • Heavier than polycro


Meet our camping blog author, Mark Allen! Mark is an avid outdoors enthusiast who grew up camping and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. He has since explored the wilderness of many different regions across the United States and Canada, and has a deep passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge with others. Mark has been writing about camping and hiking for over five years, and has contributed to a variety of online publications and print magazines. Her writing style is approachable and engaging, and she loves to share tips and advice for beginners just getting started in the outdoors.