Do I Need a Tarp Under My Tent? (Tent Footprint vs Tarp)

Last Updated on April 10, 2022 by DAVID

When you start to get a backpack, you would be confused about the protection of your tent. You will put the tarp under your tent if there is any possibility of bad weather or rocky outside. Using a tarp under the tent is ruled out in a nice environment and clean weather. Usually, people use a tarp over the tent on camping trips, but the usability of the audience says it is far better than ground cloth under the tent for its thickness.

So, do I need a tarp or tent footprint? Yes, you need a tarp or tent footprint under your tent.

This camping gear is an awesome and multipurpose investment for both over and under the tent function. People can use it according to the environment and weather demand.

What are the purpose/benefits of a tarp under a tent?

The tent is a very important investment in camping events, and you must cover it in any way. You should prefer the tarp under your tent for mainly two reasons-

Protection from materials:

To protect the bottom of your tent from any damage from sticks, rocks, and other things that are on the ground you don’t want to rip your tent or cause damage to the tent.

These materials may puncture your tent at any time, so a tarp as extra protection can keep your ground of tent away from any mishaps. But remember, it just reduces the probability of tent damage; can’t solve tent problems.

Protection from nature:

To keep your tent dry especially the bottom of the tent if it recently rained or it’s just wet conditions out. Then this can help separate your tent from that moisture and also from the dew that may fall overnight. So, prevent the moisturizer from ruining your comfort zone inside the tent.

You have to select a trap smaller or exact with your tent size, as an outsized tarp would let the water pool underneath the tent.

Enough floor space:

A tarp could give you an average space of 10 to 8 ft on the floor. This is enough for cooking, sleeping, spreading out gear with your bigger limit. As this can save your tent from unfriendly weather and environment, so it is best to add to your tent for effortless enjoyment.

Cooler than tent:

In hot weather when you want to sleep under the tent you can feel too hot on the tent ground. Tarp is made of cloth or polyester or polyethylene which is sandwiched within a woven mesh cloth. They are resistant to UV rays that are wonderful to keep you cool.

Water and fire resistance feature:

Usually, tent fabric is known to be flammable, but with a legal law, it tends to be less flammable by maintaining a minimum standard for tent protection. On the ground, there may be random materials that create flames within the grass and other inflammable things. And this could burn the tent. But if there are fire-resistant tarps then the risk diminishes to a larger extent.

At the same time, a tarp is water-resistant too, it greatly helps in wet weather when there is rain or dew in the grass after a long overnight falling.

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Comfortable sleeping:

The tent floor is normally slippery, so the pad that you sleep on may move to other sides upside the hill or on a downward sloping area. But the tarp is not, you can sleep comfortably even on hills.

Tent clean

Wherever we want to live and whatever the time is, cleanliness is an important criterion to stay calm and comfortable. With the tarp, you can keep away the dust, mud, moisturizer from the bottom of your tent to inside the tent. Nobody would like the muddy, dirty, or wet floors to live for the whole day. However, you can use lemon & vinegar formula for tent cleaning or washing to remove mold or bad smell.

What size tarp do I need for my tent?

To select the size of a tarp under the tent you should consider several factors like

Weather condition

In rainy weather, water can move through the inside of the tent. In this case, the water-resistant tarp can keep you safe. But you have to take a smaller size than the tent ground to prevent the flow of water from the outsize tarp.

Finished and Cut size

There are three parts in tarps- seams, eyelets, and hems. Before sewing and attaching all these parts the size is called cut size. So, after the sewing procedure, the size reduces to the finished size. So always keep in mind the finished size, before buying the cut size. A 10.8 *8.8 ft may reduce to 10*8 ft.

Number of people

Per person need space of 15sqft inside a tarp. This is a rule of thumb. So, for two persons you may need a tarp of 30 plus sqft. You need to consider some extra space for keeping accessories.

Tent footprint vs tarp

The tent footprint is specially made of proper material to put on the ground or underneath the tent.

Tarp is made of fire- and water-resistant material that is perfect for over and under the tent that means the whole tent.

There are some outright conditions about when to use footprint and when to use a tarp. So, let’s learn tent footprint vs tarp difference.

Tent Footprint Tarp
Tent footprint is especially made to fight with all odd weathersIn rough weather tarp can’t be a proper solution
Tent footprint should be made with exact dimension, so installation is quite messyTarp is much easier to set up
Purchasing a tarp can provide the facilities over and under the tent both.Tent footprint only covers the ground.
If you feel you may fall in an unpredictable weather and afford to take the expensive footprint, then Tent footprint is the best. If you feel the tent footprint is not needed according to weather or environment and you are in a tight budget; Tarp is the best one

You may read: How do you sleep in a tent with a bad back?

How to put a tarp under a tent as a footprint?

setting up tarp under tent

It is very simple to put a tarp under a tent as a footprint. This is one of the reasons people use a tarp as their footprint.

  1. First, get the tarp laid out on the ground.
  2. Then grab the whole tent and put it on top of the tarp. In this stage, you notice that the size of the tarp is not measured as exactly to the tent. The tarp is a little bit outsize that comes out of the tent.
  3. As the tarp is a little bit wide outside the tent, many people like to put the shoes or other things outside the tent. Mistakes occur here, this extra length creates the little funnel and flows the water inside the tent. So, it is a bad idea to keep the extra line of the tarp outside the tent.
  4. You can just take the tarp and tuck it underneath your tent. Thus tuck the parts that are shown outside the tarp.
  5. In another way, you can solve the problem in advance to cut or sew the outside parts of the tarp by checking the size of the tent.

For comfortable sleep in a tent, you can use camping cot in a tent.

How to set up a tarp over a tent without trees?

Let’s find the steps to set up a tarp over tent without trees-

Prepare the materials that you need to set up over the tent without trees like

  • Poles
  • Tarp
  • Ropes
  • Stakes of metal, wood, or plastic.
  1. Position your set of poles with the tarps. When you lay out the tarp flat on the ground, you can attach the poles with the canopy. The attachment should be tight enough not to fall.
  2. After that stake the poles on the ground with guy ropes. Make sure you pull the guy lines strong.
  3. Finally, check and adjust (if necessary) the whole tarp to make it secured.

You can make a rain tarp for the tent for keeping you dry in heavy rain. It keeps the whole tent dry as polyethylene material is used here. Ensure the shelter for rain is water-resistant and should not leak water in rainy weather.

You should make a tarp as a shelter for wind in a way that the tarp must be pulled out from the ground. And the wind goes over the tarp not directly touch the tarp.


How thick should a tarp be under a tent?

There are not any hard and fast rules about the thickness of a camping tarp but make sure your tarp should be thick enough than 2 mm. The thicker, the better as many travelers take a ground trap of 6 to 10 mm. But there is a big drawback, you cannot carry a heavy and thick tarp for floor protection inside your backpack. So, 2 to 4 mm thickness is enough with comfortable material.

Can I use a tarp instead of a footprint?

Sure, you can use a tarp instead of a footprint. The tarp is relatively durable and easy to use to put under your tent. At the same time, if you keep a tarp that is water and fire-resistant, you can utilize it for both over and under your tent at the perfect time.

Should the tarp be bigger or smaller than the tent?

Depends on where you want to use it. If you want to use a tarp over the tent it should be bigger with a length and width of 5 to 6 ft more. But if you want to put it under a tent, the external dimension should be smaller than 2 to 3 inches.

How do you keep a tent floor dry in the rain?

In the rain, you can use a tarp or footprint to protect your tent floor. The size of the footprint is preset with exact dimensions, but a tarp may not. So, you must tuck the outside part under the tent, so that rain doesn’t flow under your tent through a little funnel.

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