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A ground tarp for tent is more than just an optional accessory. It is actually a piece of camping gear you don’t know you need until you urgently need it. A tarp, for some campers, is just an extra item and added weight to your backpack. Not so for the Geez. I’ve had one too many holes in my tent floor from not using one.
With sandy or grassy tent sites and under nice weather conditions, its importance is seldom appreciated. However, if you hike in inclement weather or your backpacking adventure traverses rough rocky terrain, you know that a portable ground sheet is worth packing for the trip.
Ground tarps are mostly used as tent footprints or groundsheets underneath a tent. Placed on the ground before setting up your tent, it provides a barrier between your tent and the ground. It protects the bottom of your tent from moisture, abrasions, and punctures. This extends the lifespan of the tent.
In addition, unpredictable weather often factors into your decision to carry a ground tarp. It prevents rainwater seepage under the tent floor to keep it clean and dry. Tent footprints are preferred by hikers who hate cleaning the entire tent bottom when its sewed-in floor become filthy. I especially appreciate this when setting up my tent on the muddy ground.
Other Uses of Ground Tarp for Tent
Aside from providing a moisture barrier for the bottom of the camping tent, ground tarps have many outdoor uses. Many tent brands offer footprints designed to best fit their tent model. But aside from being costly, these footprints tend to be bulky.
The ground tarp must be appropriately sized with the tent to accommodate both your tent and your gear. When the ground cover is too big, it is bulky and offers lesser protection.
When raining, water can pool and seep into the underside of the backpacking tent. It is far better to have it travel to the underside of a ground tarp than to the bottom of your tent. The ground tarp must be properly sized to accommodate your tent and vestibule. When your tarp is too small, it may not be able to accommodate and protect all your camping gear and belongings.
If you want a universal camping tarp without the burden of weight, you can check out tarps like DAKOUT. This ultralight backpacking ground tarp weighs no more than 2.5 oz and is ideal for both day hikes and overnight camps.
You will love the versatility of this pocket tarp since you can use it as a small picnic mat, yoga mat or to sit on wet grass or logs. Although too small to use as a tent footprint, it is ideal to use in the tent vestibule for storing items off the ground and out of the rain. It provides a clean place to set your backpack and boots outside the tent. In addition, when you step outside your tent your socks don’t get dirty while you put your boots on.
Ground Covering for Tent Vestibule
The tent vestibule is an extra space in front or along the camping tent’s side that serves as a mudroom or doormat. You can also store extra gear, muddy shoes, and wet clothing.
In windy conditions, the vestibule flaps can be closed. This makes an excellent enclosed windbreak. You can use the space to cook outside the main tent body in inclement weather. Just be careful with your backpacking stove so that you don’t burn your tent.
Some tents do not have built-in vestibules, but you can buy them as add-ons from the same tent manufacturer. They come with a price that some hikers are unwilling to pay.
And this is where a camping tarp becomes a practical alternative substitute to a vestibule. A ground tarp for tent vestibules is practical for:
Creating a Dry Porch Area
When the tent is too cramped, you may need to sacrifice your camping gear and set them outside. But you do not want to leave them outside in the elements to be drenched in rain.
It helps to have a little porch area you can stow equipment outside of your tent. You will not need to drag your equipment inside and crowd your space. You already have your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and other items taking up valuable real estate within the tent.
Keeping the Tent Dry
Ground tarps for tents are handy if you are in a location that gets unpredictable rain. Wet boots are usually taken off, with half of our body inside the tent and the other half dangling outside.
A ground tarp for a tent vestibule gives hikers a dry place to remove wet clothing before scampering inside the tent. Then the wet clothing, footwear, and other belongings stay outside along with their mess of mud.
Extra Sitting Area
If you want to spend a little more time outdoors before resigning for the night, tent vestibules are the perfect spot. They provide a dry sitting area to stay for a while with good ventilation. A camping tarp keeps your bottom dry and cozy from moisture or precipitation.
Best Ground Tarp for Tent and Tent Vestibules
Ground tarps are handy hiking accessories for making the campsite more functional, comfortable, and protected. If you want to extend the versatility features of your tent, here are a few of the best products we can recommend.
1. Ultimate Choice: DAKOUT Ultralight Backpacking Tarp
- 100% waterproof tarp
- Lightweight and compact
- Highly tear-resistant
Dakout groundsheets are tarps designed by hikers for hikers. That’s how you can be sure of its practicality, portability, and convenience for outdoor use. It is made of premium ripstop nylon material to resist abrasions and punctures during pitching, folding, and packing.
DAKOUT tarp is best for customizing a tent (doormat) and vestibule. It is also one of the most compact groundsheets or ground cloths you can find. The fabric is 100% waterproof to keep the tent dry regardless of the outdoor condition.
- Does not tear easily
- Can sit two persons
- Premium quality
- Multipurpose use
- Small 27 x 48 inches
2. Compatible with Most Tents: Tyvek Homewrap Sheet
- Strong and durable
- Less slippery when softened
- Building Construction-quality
- Made of DuPont High-density polyethylene
Tyvek is a plastic material you commonly see in construction works for wrapping buildings. Construction plastics make a very good ground tarp for tents because they are waterproof and abrasion-resistant.
You can easily fold them without sliding or bunching them up. That makes it a premium material for groundsheet in the tent vestibule.
Although a little bit noisy with its crinkling sound, Tyvek’s footprint is less slippery. But, you can remedy this by washing it in the gentle cycle without detergent a couple of times to make it more pliable.
It is made of high-performance polyethylene that is heavy-duty for a ground cover. Tyvek also features a grommet or rod pocket versatile enough for use with trekking poles if you want to use it as a roof. If pitching it as ground cover, you can use the grommet to position the stakes.
- Easy to fold and pack
- Minor shrinkage after laundering
3. Best for Backpacking: MSR Universal Tent Footprint Tarp
- 68-denier polyester
- 1,200mm water-resistant polyurethane-coated
- Reg 82×48 in., 7 oz. Lrg 85×51 in., 8 oz.
- Webbing stake-outs at corners provide easy attachment
- Comes in a variety of size options to fit MSR tents
- 3-year manufacturer’s warranty
MSR is one of the best-rated footprints specially designed for backpacking. It helps to protect your tent’s floor thereby extending the life of your tent. If you purchase the MSR Universal Footprint, it is best to buy one that matches the size of your tent. You can use the fly and footprint as a vestibule to make your camping tent more functional.
MSR footprints are made of taffeta (twisted fibers) polyester and coated with polyurethane for unprecedented durability and weather resistance. This type of fabric is lightweight but highly resistant to abrasions and wear and tear from routine use.
Although designed specifically for MSR tents, its universal design along with multiple size options applies to many other tents as well.
- Water Resistant
- Fitted for specific MSR models
4. Other Ground Tarps for Backpacking:
REI has a variety of Tent Footprints & Ground Cloths for Camping & Backpacking to fit many models. They have tarps compatible with the REI product line. However, they also have footprints and tarps for other tent brands. Most are made of polyurethane for lightweight camping gear. Most importantly, it is also easy to dry for less cumbersome cleaning and packing.
Ground Tarp for Tent FAQ
How thick should a tarp be under a tent?
Generally, a tarp for under the tent should be about 2mm or anything thicker. However, the thicker the tarp, the bulkier and heavier it is when you need to carry it in your backpack with your other gear.
What is the best way to use a tarp underneath a tent?
When you place the tarp under your tent, fold it, so it doesn’t go past the edge of your tent. If your tarp goes out too far, dew or rainwater can ultimately run down the tent and collect under it. If camping on a beach put the tarp inside the tent rather than underneath it.
How do you waterproof the bottom of a tent?
To waterproof the bottom of a tent, you can use a seam sealer to seal the tent seams, reapply a urethane coating to the floor, use a tent waterproofing spray on the outside, bring a tent footprint for extra protection, or use a rainfly or tarp to reduce the amount of rain that falls onto your tent.
Most importantly, ground tarps are multipurpose camping gear that is a must-have for a camping trip. It is crucial for use as a ground sheet and serves other uses as shade, mat, tent vestibule, or emergency blanket.
When trekking, ultralightweight ground tarps are most beneficial. But ensure it is also durable and weatherproof to serve its purpose.
Tent tarps are sold mostly where tents are sold. There are alternative materials if you want to customize your tent footprint.
You can choose from a range of fabrics, thicknesses, and weights for the best one befitting your lifestyle. Furthermore, keeping it handy at all times will keep you secure wherever you are, and whatever wind and weather condition awaits you.