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How Do You Use a Tent Footprint?

Q: My tent came with a footprint. How do you use one?
— Maxime, Marietta, Georgia

A: A footprint, also called a ground cloth, goes underneath your tent to protect it from moisture.

If the bottom of your tent gets wet, that moisture can seep through the tent floor, which isn’t completely waterproof, and you and your stuff can get wet. These waterproof plastic sheets can help keep the bottom of your tent from getting damaged by rocks and sticks, too.

Spread the footprint on the ground, and unfold your tent on top of it. If the footprint and tent have eyelets, place your tent poles through the eyelets, securing them both.

Footprints are often designed to fit exactly under a specific tent, like the Lizardhead Basecamp ($200 at the Scout Shop) or the MSR Elixir 3 ($272 at the Scout Shop), both of which come with a footprint.

You can also use a tarp, which is usually a cheaper yet bulkier option. You’ll likely need to fold the tarp under the tent because you don’t want the edges of the tarp showing. If the tarp’s edges show, rainwater can accumulate on the edges and run under your tent.

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