Groundsheets or the floor of your tent is important, and you should know how to take care and protect it to make your camping experience more comfortable and preserve the life of the groundsheet.
These days most tents come with built in groundsheets, which is fab as it keeps the cold and bugs out. It makes pitching your tent easier as it all goes up in one and saves rain getting in.
The one downside to having a tent with a built-in groundsheet is that it is not as easy to clean if it gets dirty.
Groundsheets can also be damaged by small sticks or stones, so always make sure you clear the area where you are going to pitch your tent.
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But that is where a tent footprint comes in. Footprints are designed to be laid underneath your tent. Footprints are designed for individual tents, this is to ensure a correct fit and proper shape. They help preserve the longevity of your sewn-in groundsheet by protecting it from the ground.
Using a footprint also helps when pitching and taking down your tent as it gives you a clean and often dry surface to work on. This is especially true when packing your tent away as you try and roll your tent up as neatly as possible to get it back in its bag. And hopefully, the underside will be clean and dry for you to do so because you used a footprint.
No Footprint – No Worries
If you do not have a footprint for your tent whether due to expense or your tent manufacturer does not make specific footprints to match your tent, please don’t worry.
You can easily make your own with some shop-bought tarpaulin. This can often be much cheaper, but you will need to probably alter it somewhat to suit the shape of your tent.
This is best done on a dry day where you can lay the tarpaulin out and pitch your tent on top of it. You then mark out your tent shape onto the tarpaulin. Sometimes you will need to use more than one sheet of tarpaulin if you have a bigger tent.
Your footprint should be just slightly smaller than your tent floor. In other words, no tarpaulin should stick out from under your tent. This is so that when it rains that water runs off your tent onto the ground and away from your tent. If it were to run onto the tarpaulin or footprint it would run under your tent.
I find that using gaffer tape to join them effective enough. Just ensure that the tarpaulin is clean and dry before taping.
Once you have your tent shape marked out you can take the tent down and cut the tarpaulin to the correct shape. Again, you can use tape to neaten the edges and save fraying.
Protecting from Above
Now that you have protected the groundsheet from underneath what about protecting from above, or inside the tent.
The things to remember is that the groundsheet is there to keep cold and wet out to make your tent stay more comfortable. So, the one thing you do not want to do is cause damage to it.
Damage can be caused by sharp objects, so if you have taken the time to clear under the tent and put a footprint or tarpaulin down underneath you should also take the time to protect inside.
Always ensure that tent furniture has plastic feet on them if they are of the pole design and no sharp objects are left lying around.
These days many tent manufacturers make lightweight carpets for inside your tent. Some of these are made to fit specific tents, a bit like the footprints. Others are universal square or rectangular carpets that you can put in any tent.
If you want something a little cheaper than a tent carpet you can also use a picnic blanket as it will do the same job for slightly less cash. Extra-large blankets are available and will cover larger areas of your tent.
If your tent is tapered to the front and your need to make a fold in the carpet or blanket so it fits better be sure to fold the excess underneath, so it doesn’t become a trip hazard.
As well as protecting your groundsheet from inside the tent it will also provide you with more comfort for your stay. Let me tell you there is a huge difference getting up in the morning to some soft and warmer underfoot than the cold slippery (when wearing socks) groundsheet. It just makes it feel homelier, especially on those wet and rainy days.
Now that you have protected your groundsheet from both sides it should also be kept nice and clean. If the ground is muddy or dirty now all you should have to wash is the footprint or tarpaulin and hopefully, you will get to pack up the tent without ending up with muddy knees. And if anything is spilled indoors the carpet or picnic rugs can be washed once home.
This will prevent any damage to your tent whilst trying to wash a groundsheet and save on drying time too. Often for footprint, I will leave it to dry and brush off any mud and then just give a quick wipe with a damp cloth. Our carpet and picnic rugs just go through the machine.
Hope this helps you to not only protect your groundsheet but have a more pleasurable camping experience and an easier time keeping your kit clean.