Tent Footprint VS Tarp: Which To Choose?

When it comes to setting up camp, there are a lot of things to consider. One of the big decisions is whether to use a tent footprint or a tarp.

Tent Footprint VS Tarp

Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to weigh your options before making a decision. Here’s a rundown of the key differences between tent footprints and tarps.

What is a tent footprint or a tent ground cover?

A tent footprint is a ground cloth that is designed to fit under a tent forming a barrier or extra layer between the ground and a tent to protect the tent floor.

It can also be used with a tarp to create an improvised shelter. Generic tent footprints are made of durable and waterproof materials, such as nylon or polyester.

Most tent footprints feature grommets (metal rings) around the edges so they can be staked down, and may also have a webbing loop or handle in the center for easy carrying.

What is a tarp?

A tarp or a tarpaulin is waterproof, often plastic sheeting, used as a temporary roof or ground cover.

Tarps are one of the most versatile pieces of camping gear that will serve you well for different occasions and provide extra protection in extreme weather.

Using tarp VS footprint

When deciding whether to use a tarpaulin or footprint under your tent, there are a few things you need to consider.

The main difference between the two is that a tarp will provide waterproof protection, while a footprint will only protect the bottom of your tent from wear and tear.

If you’re car camping or backpacking in an area with fair weather, a footprint is probably all you need.

Tent Footprint

But if you’re expecting bad weather or want to extend the life of your tent, you can use a tarpaulin as a footprint alternative.

Ground tarps also offer more flexibility in terms of setup. You can use them as a ground cloth, overhead canopy, or windbreak, while tent footprints are limited to under the tent.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference.

Tent footprint

These are the pros and cons of tent footprints.


  • Prevents tent flooring from getting wet and dirty
  • Can extend the life of your tent by protecting it from sharp objects and abrasion


  • May add extra weight to your pack
  • Can be more expensive than a tarp

Tarp for tent floor

If you want to use a tarpaulin over a tent footprint, here are the pros and cons to consider.


  • It may be less expensive than a footprint
  • Can provide an extra layer of protection against water and wear and tear


  • It may not be as durable as tent footprints
  • Can be more difficult to set up correctly

Why do you need a tarp for camping?

If you decide to get a tarp for camping, you can use it in many different situations while enjoying the great outdoors.

camping tarp in great outdoors

Here are some ways you can utilize a tarpaulin while camping (besides using it as a ground cover).

-As a rain fly: In the event that it rains during your camping trip, you can use your tarp as a rain fly. This will help to keep you and your camping gear dry.

-As a sun shelter: If the sun is beating down on you and your campsite, you can use your tarpaulin to provide shade. This will provide UV protection and some relief from the heat.

-As a windbreak: If the wind is blowing strong, you can use a tarp as a windbreak. This will help to keep your campsite more comfortable and element protected.

-As a privacy screen: If you need some privacy while camping, use a tarpaulin as a privacy screen. It will give you a little bit more privacy while you are enjoying the great outdoors.

These are just some of the ways that you can use a tarp while camping. Get creative and see what other uses you can find for it.

Do you need a tent footprint?

A tent footprint isn’t necessary, but if you’re using a tent that isn’t freestanding (meaning it relies on tent stakes and guy lines to stay upright), then you’ll need a footprint to protect the bottom of your tent from abrasion.

A tarp can also be used as a groundsheet, but it’s not as durable as a footprint and it doesn’t offer the same protection against water and wear and tear.

If you’re looking for a lightweight option, a footprint is probably your best bet. But if you’re looking for something that will offer more protection, go with a tarpaulin.

Why use a tent footprint?

Tent footprints serve two main purposes: to protect the bottom of the tent from abrasion and to keep the floor of the tent dry.

If you are using your tent on a rocky or sandy site, a footprint will help prolong the life of your tent by protecting the bottom from being scraped and abraded.

tent on rocks footprint

If you still get a tent floor tear click here to know how to repair it at the spot.

It will also keep the tent’s floor dry in wet weather, which can be important for both comforts and preventing the growth of mold and mildew inside the tent.

Where do you put your tent footprint?

A footprint for a tent is meant to protect the tent’s bottom from being damaged. It is usually placed under the tent, between the ground and the tent.

How big should a tent footprint be?

It’s important that you choose the right tent footprint size.

Too small footprint and you’ll be constantly worried about the fabric touching the ground and getting dirty; too large footprint and you’ll be hauling around unnecessary weight.

To determine the right size for your needs, start by measuring the tent’s floor.

Then add an extra two to four feet to that measurement to account for rain and wind protection. This will give you the size of footprint you need.

Tent footprints by size

Tent footprints vary in size, depending on the type and model of a tent. However, most tents will have a footprint that is at least slightly larger than the tent itself.

This is to provide an extra layer of protection against moisture and water infiltration, as well as to increase the overall stability of the tent setup.

If using a tarp

If you’re using a tarpaulin instead of a footprint, be sure to take into account the size of the tarp and the number of people who will be using it.

tarpaulin instead of a footprint

A good rule of thumb is to allow 18 inches of tarpaulin per person. So, if you’re using a tarp for two people, you’ll need a tarpaulin that’s at least 36 inches wide.

Can you use a tent footprint as a tarp?

If you want to use a groundsheet as a tarp you should know that it’s not designed to be used as one.

A footprint is made from much lighter and thinner material (is fairly lightweight) than a tarpaulin, and it doesn’t have the same features or reinforcements that a tarp does.

A tarp will provide better coverage, maximum protection, and better durability than a footprint.

Are tarps good insulators?

Tarps can be effective insulators, but they depend on a variety of factors. The type of tarpaulin, the thickness of the waterproof material, and the way it is set up all play a role in how well it insulates.

Generally speaking, tarps are better insulators than tents. Tents rely on an inner layer of fabric to provide insulation, while tarps have a thicker layer of material that can better hold in heat.

Tarps are also more versatile when it comes to insulation – you can add extra layers underneath or on top of the tarp to further increase its efficacy.

Of course, all of this assumes that the tarpaulin is set up properly.

The best material for tent footprint

Polyethylene is one of the most used materials for tent footprints. It is a synthetic material that is durable and abrasion-resistant.

Tyvek is another popular choice for tent footprints as it is also durable and has a high tear strength.

Both of these durable materials are good choices for protecting the bottom of your tent from uneven ground, sharp objects, and wear and tear.

Is Tyvek a good tent footprint?

A Tyvek is a synthetic material made of high-density polyethylene fibers that are often used as a moisture barrier or as an exterior sheathing for homes.

It’s also commonly used for tent footprints because it’s lightweight and durable. It’s also water-resistant, which can be helpful in rainy or wet conditions.

However, some people find that Tyvek can be a bit slippery, so it’s important to test it out before using it in a real camping situation.

There are several different types of Tyvek footprints available, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs to have a good camping experience.

Some tent footprints are designed specifically for backpacking while others are made for use with larger camping tents.

What is the best tent footprint?

If you want to have the best footprint for your camping tent then you need to make sure to choose the right one.

tent footprint size

There are a few different types of tent footprints that you can choose from, and each one has its own benefits and drawbacks.

The first type of footprint is the simple plastic sheet.

This type of footprint is cheap and easy to find, but it doesn’t provide much protection or insulation. It’s best used as a basic waterproof layer to keep your tent flooring dry.

The second type of footprint is the fabric footprint. This type of footprint is made from a durable fabric, and it provides good protection and insulation.

It’s also fairly easy to find and relatively cheap. However, it can be a bit bulky to carry around.

How do you make a tent footprint?

To make a DIY tent footprint, you will need some sort of tarp, a heavy-duty sewing needle, and strong thread.

First, lay the tarp out on a flat surface. Next, fold over one edge of the tarpaulin about an inch or so, and sew a seam along this edge.

Repeat this step with the other three sides of the tarp. Once all four sides are sewn, you will have a finished tent footprint to use.

Do you need a tarp if you have a tent footprint?

Using a tarp under a tent footprint is always a good idea. The tarp will protect the bottom of the tent footprint from abrasion and wear, as well as from moisture.

using tarp as a footprint

In addition, the tarp will provide an extra layer of insulation between the ground and the bottom of the tent, which can be important on a cold-weather camping trip.

How thick should a tarp be under a tent?

If you will use a tarp instead of a tent’s groundsheet then it should have a thickness of at least 12mm. A tarp that is too thin may not provide adequate protection against the elements.

How do you make a tent footprint out of a tarp?

To make a footprint out of a tarp, you will need to:

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a tarp, a sewing machine, and thread.
  2. Cut the tarp to size. Your tarp should be slightly larger than the area you want to cover.
  3. Sew the sides of the tarp together. Start by sewing the two long sides of the tarp together, then sew the two short sides together.
  4. Cut out a hole in the center of the tarp for your tent stake.
  5. Put the footprint under your tent and stake it down.

How do you put a tarp under a tent?

The best way to put a tarp under a tent is to make sure that the edges of the tarp are at least six inches away from the tent.

You can use rocks, sticks, or logs to hold down the tarp. Make sure that you put something under the tarp to protect it from getting wet.

If you don’t have anything to hold the tarp down, you can use stakes.

Make sure that you drive the stakes into the ground far enough so that they won’t fall over. You can also use ropes to tie the tarp to trees or poles.

What do you put on the floor of a tent?

A tent bottom padding is a layer of material placed on the floor of a tent to insulate against cold ground and provide additional comfort.

There are different types of materials that can be used for this purpose, including foam mats, closed-cell pads, and inflatable sleeping pads.

In addition, some tents come with a built-in floor liner that can be used as padding.

The most important factor to consider when choosing floor padding is the climate in which you will be using the tent.

For example, in warm weather, a foam mat may be sufficient, but in cold weather, you may need a closed-cell pad or an inflatable mat.

Use puzzle foam mats as a padding

If you will car camp in a big family tent you can use puzzle foam mats to provide comfort for the entire family.

puzle foam mat

These pads serve as padding and insulation and can also be placed on the ground to prevent moisture from seeping up.

They’re made of closed-cell foam, which makes them waterproof and able to withstand a lot of wear and tear.

The downside is that they can be a bit bulky and heavy, so they might not be the best option for backpacking trips (but the inflatable mats are!).

Is a tent footprint better than a tarp?

All-in-all, there is no definitive answer as to whether a tent footprint or tarp is better. It depends on the situation and what you are looking for.

My advice would be to consider all of your options before making a purchase and then make the decision that will work best for you.

If you are looking for an all-in-one solution and don’t want to carry another item in your pack, then a tent footprint is probably the way to go.

However, if you want something that can do more than just protect your tent flooring from abrasion and moisture, then a tarp may be a better option.

No matter which tent floor protection you opt for, make sure to check out my comprehensive guide on getting the best tent floor saver for your needs.