Groundsheets – What You Need to Know

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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Tent Footprints

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.

You may also like to read Tent Fabrics, Tent Carpets.

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15 thoughts on “Groundsheets – What You Need to Know”

  1. This is perfectThank you for this incredible blog postI need to thank you for sharing this awesome informationThank you for the very valuable tips – I’ve made plenty of notes.This is an eye opener on groundsheet and I am sure it will be very helpful for me.  Your reviews will keep me going whenever I want to write on groundsheets

  2. HI Michelle,

    This is great informative review about Ground sheets product and it’s feature. Since this is a very important for tents, we should take care of it. After reading your article, I have understood the difference of built in groundsheet tents and external groundsheet tents. I like the external groundsheet tents though it is now available in built in tents. I am going to refer this to my best friends. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Yeah, I cant agree less with your view of proper maintenance of the groundsheet. I think it should be well cleaned and properly laid. By so doing it will always be in good condition at any given time. Do you know the best online stores to buy groundsheets.i enjoy every bit of what you wrote here. 

    • It will really depend on where you live, Clement.  Any good camping and outdoor equipment store should sell good quality groundsheets.

      If you are buying a tent with a sewn in groundsheet ask the retailer if they also sell footprints for that perticular tent.

  4. Hi Michelle – I love to camp, but it’s been several years since I’ve been able to go.  I never had a groundsheet inside my tent, I see now that there are many benefits to having one.  I did used to put a tarp down on the ground first, and then put the tent on top of that.  Having one that is the exact footprint of your tent would be ideal.  If I do get out camping again, I am going to look for the groundsheet, as well a tent footprint. Both are very good ideas.

    Thank you for this information,


  5. Hello Michelle,

    I remember my last camping trip and I really can’t wait for August when I go camping again. Pardon my ignorance, I didn’t know about footprints for my tent. I like that you’ve taken your time to explain how to create a footprint for my tent.

    I fully understand now, it’s the footprint that will get stained instead of the base of my groundsheet.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks for your comment Louis.  And no more dirty knees when packing up. Hated stopping for a coffee on way home with muddy stains on my trousers.

      Enjoy your trip when it comes, Happy camping!

  6. Hey,

    Thanks for sharing an excellent article about groundsheet.  A groundsheet is material that is placed under you tent to prevent the bottom of your tent from wear and tean.  If you have decided to use a groundsheet under your tent there is one key rule- don’t let tha groundsheet be bigger than your tent floor.  Your groundsheet has gone from protecting your tent,  to being a water catch meal zone.  Water can not escape once it gets on the tarp.  So, it is very important you do make sure there is no overhang.             

    • Exactly, always keep it slightly smaller than tent that way when any water runs off it is soaked into the ground and not under your tent.

  7. Hi Michelle,

    Camping is something i do once a year, only in summertime, and i always .. always… always hate the bottom floor. It’s always superthin fabric and u can feel the grass beneath u. Your article about the tentfloor is something that is given to me and will make my campingtime more enjoyable.

    The part to prevent water to come in is something i find very important as well. This is definitely something i have to share with my friends so they can prevent from problems for happening. I see it happen every year but because i have 0 knowledge about camping i never say anything.

    I know for sure 1 friend can use this article very much because in some strange way his shoes always become wet when camping!! Then he always says: why does this always happen to me ?! 

    Thank u for this article. I am shure my friends wil love to read it.

    Much love,


    • I hope it helps Dahay, little tip, if you can carry a little paper or newspaper your friend can stuff them in his shoes to dry them quicker or hang them by the fire if you build one.

      Happy camping!

  8. Hey there Michelle,

    I’ve recently for the first time in my life tried out camping, and my god what an amazing and fulfilling experience that was! I was absolutely blown away by the feelings & vibes which I’ve experienced during my very first camping. I was with the group of very close friends who were also quite experienced in camping, and thanks to them- they were able to  create this very friendly, cosy and warm atmosphere in the woods. We were playing the guitar enjoying the music, having good laugh, staring at the sky, which by the way during nigh time looked unbelievable and we also had few exciting board games to spice up the experience a bit (I am a huge fan of board games, haha!) While for the most part I’ve enjoyed chilling and spending time in the tent for the 1st time, however at night I won’t lie- it could get pretty cold and that distracted me from the experience a bit and I had some troubles falling asleep because of that. I din’t have the footprint for my tent and I didn’t even know that such thing exists, so it’s my fault that haven’t done enough research before going camping. My friends actually offered to help me with the equipment, but I said I was good and had everything (well clearly- I didn’t, haha!). Therefore I am happy that I’ve stumbled across this article so I can finally improve my camping gear by adding some very useful gadgets & tools to it which You covered here in You article, so thanks a lot! And yeah, I will be more than sure to follow Your advices and hopefully I will be prepared better for my next camping experience and won’t freeze to death during night time.

    Thank You for such informative and helpful article, I really enjoyed reading it and learning something new today 😉 keep up the great work Michelle and best of luck to You!


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