Outdoors blog


Tent Footprint vs Tarp(which one to choose)

To forget the daily busy and depressing routine, congested city, and intolerable noise of the city, one ought to enjoy the most appealing and breathtaking views of mountains, plateaus, lush green valleys, lakes, and rivers.

Before camping, one should learn the different use of tent footprint and tarp.

Protection from Rain& Snow

Weather can be unpredictable anywhere especially out in nature. Tent footprints are best in situations where the ground is wet which keeps the tent protected from moisture or excess water. It protects the tent from getting wet and keeps the tent dry. Tent footprints protect the tent from water build-up near the bottom. Tarps, on the other hand, are good for protecting the tent from rain and snow that is coming from above. Tarps are used to protect the entire tent though it is mainly used to cover the top part of the tent.

Temperature Protection

To maintain a safe place for rest and protect oneself from extreme heat, tarps are used. Tarps act as an umbrella of the tent to protect it from the sun. Tarps provide great coverage and protection from extreme heat from above the tent. It gives the campers extra protection from such elements. While tent footprints are used inside the tent as floor protectant or as a barrier between floor and feet.


The tarp is made of strong fabric, often stronger than the tent and it is therefore durable. On the other hand, the tent footprint is a piece of fabric or material that is used under the tent to protect the tent from moisture,etc and act as a cover between the ground and feet. Every time, the floor experiences some abrasion or tiny rocks weakens the fabric and can damage the footprint.

Easy to carry and pack

Fourthly, the tent footprint is a lightweight waterproof floor and easy to pack, unpack, and carry. It keeps the tent protected and dry, almost with the negligible load. It is easy to carry while hiking or traveling. While tarp is made of strong fabrics and heavy to carry and complicated to pack, unpack, and tie. It has attachment points along with the corners and at the end for attachment. These points are used to suspend or tie the tarp to a tree or any other support.

Tent Lifespan

A tent can be a fairly fragile item if used or cared incorrectly. One should take steps to protect the investment and increase its lifespan. A tarp acts as an umbrella or a shelter above the tent that keeps the tent safe from sun, rain, or snow. The tarp is a big strong waterproof sheet made of durable material, which protects the tent for a long time. It also protects the tent color. The sun will not make the tent colors fade. The sun might damage the materials of the tent, but with a tarp, the tent will have a permanent shade to reside under.

However, tent footprint protects the tent from inside moisture or wet and hard surface. It keeps the tent groundsheet safe from getting muddy or wet, protecting the tent. A tent is one of the most expensive camping investments, and it could be the last tent one ever needs to buy if properly cared for. Tent footprints help protect the floor of the tent from elements by serving as a shield between the ground and the tent floor.


Using tarp above the tent is cost-effective. As it protects the tent color and increases its life. A single tent can be used every time if properly cared for. Also, a tarp lasts for a long time. While tent footprint is normally ideal for the bottom of the tent to protect the camper under the tent. It can be quite expensive. It helps prevent any damage, rips, and tears to the tent floor from unseen stones or sticks on the campground. This means, the use of these both, increases the lifespan of a tent that could last from a couple of years to a decade, even for an avid camper.


Also, outside of price, the main point in choosing a footprint or a tarp is compatibility. Tent footprints are typically thinner than tarps. Footprints are much easier to pack. It is easy to roll it in a tent so it doesn’t take up any more space. It is lighter in weight, which is easy for campers to carry it to hiking sites. To avoid heavy luggage during hiking, a tent footprint is the best choice for campers. While a tarp is bulky as compared to a footprint and also involves the folding issues. It occupies more space. But one has to learn the smart way of folding a tarp to save space. A tarp is ideal for car camping

Easy to clean

The tarp protects the tent from wind, snow, or rain and keeps the tent clean. It is made of durable material that does not easily stain. A tarp can be easily washed and cleaned. On the other hand, the tent footprint keeps the groundsheet of the tent from getting muddy or wet. By using a footprint, the tent floor is protected from dirt or mud from the ground and keeps the tent protected. It can also be easily washed and cleaned. This means that one can simply pull out the footprint and hose it down.

Camping at Rough Terrain

With all the adventures that come with camping, there’s also plenty of rough terrains. When camping on rough terrain, a tent footprint is probably the best bet. If one uses a tarp in this situation, it may not be a good option. A tarp protects the campers from extreme weather conditions and is used as an umbrella for a tent but for camping at the hilly area or stony surface, the use of tent footprint becomes requisite. The floor of the tent is the most vulnerable section of a tent, the rough earth can usually lead to some serious wear and tear. Environments that have rough or hard surface requires a protectant to prevent injury from happening while on the trip and to protect the tent from damage.

Multipurpose use

Also, a tarp plays multiple roles which can also be placed underneath the tent. It has multipurpose use and can also protect the tent against any injury. The tarp is designed to increase and enhance the overall safety and comfort of a tent, even underneath the tent. In case a camper does not have a footprint, he can use a tarp for protection against abrasive ground services or environments. Also, if the campground is too muddy or wet, the tarp can be used as an additional groundsheet. Whether one needs a tent footprint or not depends on the campsite selection.

But for a frequent camper, it would be smart to invest in a footprint that’s customized to a personal tent.Moreover, the tarp can also be used as a mat on open grounds for picnic or trips. It can be morphed into an open shelter in emergencies. It can also be used as an open shelter during hot summer camping due to its improved ventilation that allows free air circulation.

Also, a tarp can be used to protect the gear storage as it can cover outside storage while no space intent. It will protect the gear from possible elements that may damage the gear.

Keep Water Away

Moreover, the tent footprint keeps the rainwater away from the floor. It keeps the tent floor dry and protects the tent from the water build-up. It protects the tent from getting wet. A tent footprint is designed to take in all of the mud and dirt that might be on the campground and keep the floor spotless. It is waterproof and prevents water from sipping through the floor of the tent. While a tarp is used above the tent that is used to keep rainwater away from the tent. Tarps are used to cover the top part of the tent, that protects the entire tent from water or getting wet.

Added Comfort and Level Sleeping

Lastly, camping involves a lot of adventures. Nobody likes sleeping on rocky, rough terrain or a hard surface or a very uncomfortable camping outing. But with a tent footprint, one has a better chance of comfort and leveled sleep. Most of the footprints are made of waterproof soft rubber materials that do make sleeping on the ground much comfortable. Although, a tarp can also be used as a flooring protector but a tarp will not usually add any extra comfort especially on rocky or uneven turf. Tarps tend to be much thinner than most of the footprints, so they will not offer that level of comfort and level sleeping as the latter.

In a nutshell, a shelter needs to be durable, efficient, comfortable, and secure. But what is best depends on many things. Therefore, one should learn the difference between a tent footprint and tarp. By identifying all of the main threats that will be on your path, one will be able to wisely choose which unit of protection and coverage will be best. The choice between a tent footprint and tarp mainly depends on the particular camping that one intends to do.

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