Ground Cloths

When ESP Boss was doing research for our new back-packing tent, he read a lot of online reviews. On of the things that the reviewers said that made a huge impact on him was to buy the matching footprint (or ground cloth) for our tent.

And boy was I ever glad he did!

Now, when you’re buying a tent, you want to get a tent that has a waterproof floor. But even WITH a waterproof floor, you should use a ground cloth beneath your tent. (You should always use a ground cloth beneath the tent, no matter when or where you go camping!)

The ground cloth serves two purposes: it protects the floor of your tent from getting torn by rocks and debris below the tent, and the second purpose is to keep moisture from seeping up from the ground into your tent.

Ground Cloth Tips

If you DON’T have a waterproof tent floor:

  • Get a ground cloth that is the same size or a few inches smaller than your tent floor. That way, rain water won’t get between the two layers as easily.
  • Purchase a ground cloth that’s made for your tent’s size. If you can’t cut one to size from an old tarp.
  • It the ground cloth is too large, fold the edges UNDER to make it smaller. You want to fold the edges under or else rain will puddle under the tent floor.
Backpacking Tent

You can't SEE the ground cloth, but trust me: It's there!

The ground cloth for our backpacking tent is exactly the same size as the tent. Both the tent floor and the ground cloth are waterproof.

If you DO have a waterproof tent floor:

  • Consider using a tarp that extends out in front of the tent door a few feet. That makes it a perfect “porch” for your tent where you can take off your shoes.
  • Use a ground cloth that will allow water to pass through it. That way, the water won’t puddle under the tent!
Ground Cloth Car Camping Tent

See my shoes in the corner? There's plenty of room for me to take them off outside so I don't bring extra dirt into the tent!

But, for my car-camping tent, I personally prefer a larger, non-waterproof ground cloth. I like it because it traps the cushions the tent floor from pokey things, it allows water to run through and away, and because I have about three feet of ground cloth extending out from the main zippered door.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What’s your take on ground cloths? Do you like them the same size as the tent or larger than the tent?
  • Have you ever been camping without a ground cloth and wished you had one?
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