Tent footprint vs tarp | Everything you need to know

Camping is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. One of the biggest challenges is setting up your tent in the right way. To avoid ending up with a tent that doesn’t stay put, or worse, a ruined tent floor, tent flooring is a very important step to consider.

Over time, rips and tears in the fabric of the tent are a real possibility. If you’re a frequent traveler, you would know what exactly we’re talking about here but if you’re just a beginner, we got you covered!

Tent footprint Vs Tarp

Do I really need a Footprint or Tarp for the Tent?

Worn-out spots on the fabric because of small rips and tears tend to allow moisture to seep into the tent from below, leading to a soggy mess and a very uncomfortable camping outing. The floor of the tent is perhaps the most vulnerable in these terms, Even while manufacturers go to great pains to guarantee that the floor is made to last, uneven terrain and weight placed on the floor of the tent can cause considerable wear and tear.

There are several advantages to using a tarp or a tent footprint to cover your tent’s floor that is mentioned here-

  • protects the flooring of your tent from wear and tear.
  • Waterproof material used to make the footprints and tarps for flooring protection ensures no moisture enters the tent.
  • It makes the flooring of the tent even and leveled so that you have a comfortable sleeping area, the soft rubber used to make it gives an additional comforting experience.

Key features of Tent Footprints

Talking about tent flooring protection, the best product to consider is a tent footprint which is a square piece of fabric that is very lightweight and fits over the bottom of your tent, between the ground and the tent floor protecting it from various damages during your camping trip.

Footprints are a great investment for camping because they help protect your tent’s floor from rips, tears, and other damage. In addition to the slight lift that the tent gets, the waterproof material used for making the footprints also help prevent water from entering through holes in the bottom of the tent.

A tent footprint is made from the same fabric as your tent but thicker, so it will not wear out easily as thinner fabrics do. some common materials used to make tent footprints can be: heavy-duty canvas, ripstop nylon, polyester, as well as cotton. They are also available in different colors and styles if you want any particulars for your tent!

A tent footprint other than protecting the tent floor can be made to use for various other benefits like becoming a ground cover to have a picnic on, patching your tent in case of any tears, protecting you from rain, or even insulating your car’s windshield.

Types of Tent Footprints

The materials used to make a tent footprint can vary. Some are made from plastic, rubber, vinyl, or a sheet of Tyvek. The most common and versatile material for making a tent footprint is Tyvek which is an easy-to-use product that comes in rolls and rolls of pre-cut pieces, It’s a synthetic material that’s waterproof and breathable. It’s also lightweight, durable, and inexpensive.

The type of tent footprint you use is completely a matter of preference, so here are the other 3 commonly used materials for a tent footprint-

Rubber- Rubber tent footprints are best for dry conditions, as they drain water away from the bottom of your tent. Unlike plastic footprints, rubber ones don’t cling to mud and dirt, making them easier to clean. Rubber also lasts longer than plastic or vinyl. Most manufacturers recommend replacing rubber footprints every two or three years, depending on how much use they see.

Vinyl (polypropylene)- Vinyl tent footprints are the most affordable option, but they have a shorter lifespan than rubber ones. Vinyl can withstand high temperatures and UV rays better than other materials, but it’s not as durable as rubber. If you are going to an area with hard ground or rocky soil, you should invest in a better-quality vinyl footprint to protect your gear from damage over time.

Key features of Tarps

Another product that is widely used and is very affordable is a tent tarp, In addition, it offers more versatility for the application.

Tarps are made of lightweight materials that are easy to fold and unfold. They are made of various materials, such as nylon, polyester, PVC, and most commonly polyethylene which makes the tarps have greater strength and durability than most other types of tents in the market today. These tarps also come with special features like UV protection, water repellency, and lightweight material which makes them easier to carry around with you throughout your trips or trips.

Types of Tarps

If you are looking for the best camping tarp materials, then you should consider using canvas, vinyl, and polyethylene. All of them are highly water-resistant, while canvas is even flame-resistant. You will be able to get a good cover for your camping trips with all of these materials. The following 2 materials are the most common for tarps in addition to polyethylene.

Canvas – This is the most popular material used in outdoor gear today. It’s lightweight and durable, which makes it perfect for camping trips where you need something that can handle rain and wind without tearing easily. The downside to using canvas is that it doesn’t offer much protection from the sun or cold weather if this is an issue at your campsite. Another issue with canvas is that it can be difficult to repair should it get damaged during use.

Vinyl – Vinyl is another commonly used material for making tarps that can handle rain and wind well. They’re also lighter than canvas, so they’re easier to pack up when you’re done using them for the trip.

Tarps vs Footprints Weight and Portability

When it comes to weight, both tarps and footprints are lightweight with not a very substantial difference, that said tarps can be larger in size hence, weighing a little extra. The only difference is that the footprint comes in a variety of colors and patterns while the tarp comes in black.

Both products are also portable. The footprint is much smaller than the tarp, which makes it easier to carry around whereas tarps may be bulkier. However, the tarp is less expensive than footprints.

Footprints have a more modern look and feel to them compared to their counterparts: footprints have colors and patterns that appeal to kids and adults alike. In contrast, the tarp can look like something from an old-time movie with a plain black color scheme.

Tarps vs Footprints Durability

Both tarps and tent footprints are made to last. They are made out of polyester taffeta fabric, which is much more durable than cotton canvas. The quality and durability of both products rise along with the price, but if you’re looking for the most durable type, it would be a vinyl tarp which is also widely used for industrial use. With being slightly on the heavier side, It can withstand harsh weather conditions, like rain or snow, and can be used in extremely cold environments.

The material is also waterproof, which makes it ideal for any outdoor activity. The downside is that it may not be suitable for use in high-humidity areas as it will not breathe well enough.

Tarps vs Footprints Weather Resistance

Although footprints are excellent when it comes to keeping the mechanical damages in check and the rainwater out, they don’t offer much protection against other elements. The water when collected on the ground will drench the tent if it gets inside, This can be an issue in wet weather or when camping in areas with a lot of moisture.

On the other hand, tarps, apart from canvas-made ones, are waterproof. Tarps can offer protection from above or from the sides as well. If there is a strong wind or stormy weather, you might want to use a tarp to cover your tent during these times.

Advantages of Tent FootprintAdvantages of tarps
1. Extremely Lightweight and compact- can be packed in a small bag and weigh around 1 pound.

2. Anti-abrasive material to protect the floor from regular wear and tear.

3. simple and easy to clean by making it easy to sweep off the mud that might come in on the tent floor.

4. Provides protection against the water that might seep in by giving the tent a slight lift.

1. Completely waterproof – protects against harsh climates and elements.

2. Can be used as a rainfly- to protect your tent from rain, a tarp can be used efficiently as a fly on top of it.

3. Prevents tents from winds- Tarps can be used as a barrier against winds which can make tents collapse. Traps effectively reduce the pressure caused by winds.

4. Has numerous other benefits other than protecting your tent like being used as a sunshade, Cover for your bags, cooking equipment, and stuff, vehicle cover, and for emergency purposes like as a blanket, a stretcher as it is very solid, a backpack, etc.

Disadvantages of Tent FootprintDisadvantages of tarps

1. Costly- Because of the quality material that is being used and the benefits that it provides, footprints can be heavy in cost in comparison to tarps.

2. Limited sized- they have ready-made sizes for tents that can be used with matching tents.

3. All are not waterproof – some of the models only work to prevent abrasion while only some have waterproof material.

4. Only made to prevent the tent floor and have no other uses.

1. Heavyweight- Not generally very heavy but tarps in comparison with footprints lie on the heavier side. Because tarps come in large sizes and can be cut out in any size, and they are made of heavy-duty fabrics, they weigh more than footprints.

2. Have a bulky tendency- The irony is that when packed they can be very compact but they are still bulkier than footprints.

3. Don’t match tent sizes- Because tarps are not specifically made for tent floor protection, they don’t come in sizes matching the tents. They can be folded to make it even to the tent floor.


What is the perfect size of a footprint?

The footprint of a tent is the area of ground that is covered by the tent. It is important to ensure that you have a large enough footprint for your tent, as this will affect how stable it is. The golden rules are not to be bigger than the tent floor.

Can I DIY a Tarp or Footprint?

It’s easy to make a DIY footprint and saves some money. Fabric, tools, and scissors are needed. You can choose polyester or polyethylene textiles but this requires sealing of edges so it does not fray. The edges are easily fused with strong fire and heat or steam. Tyvec is used as it is economical and easily cut into dimensions. Tyvec is stronger and cheaper whereas polypro is heavier. The kit with hammer and grommet allows for quick attaching. Most people who camp prefer this DIY option because they can choose the most important aspects – size, material, feature, or price.

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