Can I use a tarp as a tent footprint? 

Can I use a tarp as a tent footprint? 

If you are a hiker or camper and you wondered about “can I use a tarp as a tent footprint?” then, you are at the right place.

Can I use a tarp as a tent footprint? 

Yes, you can definitely use a tent tarp as a tent footprint as it serves the same purpose of avoiding any damage to the tent, keeping the tent warm, and eliminating pinches from rocks or sticks under your tent. However, the tent trap is heavier and bulkier than the tent footprint, which makes them a good choice for camping rather than backpacking

There are various benefits and cons of using the tarp as a footprint. Moreover, they may look the same but you will some differences between both. 

The major difference between both is the size difference. Usually, tarps are made for multiple purposes, so the size of tarps is generally bigger than footprints, which are designed for only one purpose i.e protecting the tent from the bottom. Because of its big size, one has to find a way to fit it properly so that it serves the purpose efficiently. 

Another difference between both tent tarp and footprint is shape. Generally, tent tarps come in rectangular or square shapes. On the other hand, that is not the case with tent footprints. Tent footprints are designed for specific tents by a specific brand. Because of this, setting up a tent tarp as a tent footprint is a little bit difficult, then setting up a tent footprint. 

How to use tarp as a tent footprint

Clean the ground 

Before setting up your tent or tarp, you need to make sure that surface is clean and there are no rocks or sticks. If you leave the surface unclean then, that may itch you during the night and you may feel uncomfortable.

If you didn’t clean the surface before setting up a tent then, afterward it becomes a little bit difficult to move the tent on side when you are using a tent tarp as a tent footprint. 

Lay down the tent tarp

After cleaning the surface, the second thing you need to do is to lay down the tarp on the surface. Make your tent by adjusting poles and then put it over the tarp. 

This step is different when you are using a tent footprint that is designed for the tent. In that, you have to first put the tent over the tent footprint and then start the process of making or pitching the tent.

Because you have eyelets in the tent footprint and eyelets on the tent. The purpose of eyelets is to provide grip to the tent and hold the tent. Poles go inside the eyelets of the tent and then poles go inside the eyelets of the footprint so that tent gets attached to the footprint. 

Though you will get this feature in tarp as they do have eyelets on the corners of the tarp but because of the size or hole size the poles may not fit inside properly. 

Fold the extra tarp downwards

Tarps are usually wide in contrast to footprints which make them go outside the width of the tent. I have seen some people leave the tarp as it is to use it for other purposes like- boots.

But you should never do that, as it may get worrisome when it’s raining. The water will come inside a tent, or the moisture from the ground can easily enter inside and make it wet from inside. To avoid such situations you should always fold the extra tarp. 

While folding the extra tarp, make sure it’s downwards. Don’t make the mistake of folding the tarp in an upward direction as it may trap moisture. 

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Avoid cutting the tarp

Don’t cut the tarp if you are just using a tarp as a footprint for once. Cutting a tarp is not a good idea as it may tear the tarp with time.

Also, if the tarp is cut incorrectly, then it may not be used for your tent or for any other purpose for which it is made for. I have seen, some information on the web where some people are giving suggestions for cutting down the tarp. Well, that is unnecessary I think because folding up your tarp does the job as good as cutting it down.

And moreover, it will consume your time as you have to take perfect dimensions and precise measurements of both tent and tarp to give it a size and shape according to it. 

Benefits of using a tarp as a tent footprint

Use them on the top and bottom of the tent

As discussed above, a tarp is made for different purposes. You can use them under a floor as a tent footprint to protect the tent from any damage.

Similarly, you can also use a tarp as a top cover for the tent to prevent moisture or to provide more warmth during cold nights. 

Keeps you dry 

If you set the tarp correctly by folding it down then it will keep you dry from the bottom of the tent.

However, if it’s raining outside, you can use it on the top of the tent to prevent any moisture enter the inside. It will also keep the tent dry in the rain when all things get wet from outside and inside. 

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Keeps you warm

As discussed above, it will provide you warmth on cold nights. Cold can convert your night into sleepless nights and in case you forgot to take a sleeping pad with you to provide you extra warmth, then don’t worry all you have to do is, use the tent tarp as a tent footprint. 

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Tarp is made of tough material

Tarp is made up of tough material so the winds and high rain can barely do any damage to them.

But you should also make sure that the tarp is attached strongly to tent or have some grip, otherwise it may fly from the tent in case of high winds. 

What I don’t like about tarps as a footprint for the tent

Cons of using tent tarp as a footprint

There are some things that I don’t like about tarps. 

Not fit

The first thing is tarp is bigger than the tent itself. I know you can manage it when it’s wide or bigger than a tent. But if you are using a big tent and the tarp is a little small, then it may lose the whole purpose of footprint. 

Heavier than footprints

This is a fact that tarp is heavier and bulkier than tent footprints. Because of this, it becomes difficult to pack the tarp inside the backpack as it may take a lot of space. 

It is also the reason I would never suggest you to bring a tarp as a footprint while you are hiking. Tarp as tent footprints works best when you are camping and you have to travel for few miles.

While hiking it not only increases the weight on your shoulder but also takes a lot of space inside the backpack, definitely not a good option for long hikes where you already don’t have enough space in your backpack.

You may find this different but there is no such need to bring a footprint or tarp as a footprint while you are hiking. Though it may add protection, however, tents are also made of string fabric that can easily survive in the wild.

You can use a cloth or an alternative to the footprint. A cloth will protect you from forming the moisture inside.