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  1. #1
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Tent foot prints

    What is the advantage of a manufacturer's precut footprint over one you cut yourself out of blue or brown tarp material? Is it lighter, more puncture resistant, more water resistant? For sure it's more expensive. Is it worth the extra $$$? Anybody had experience with both?
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  2. #2
    It's true, man.
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    I've been using a piece of Tyvek house wrap that I picked up at a construction site 2 years ago. Tough , light, cheap, durable, packs small & recycled = win

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    Senior Member Bacchusbill's Avatar
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    A lot of foot prints have grommets and things that allow you to use only the footprint, fly and poles for a lighter option in mild weather.
    "Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." ~Mark Twain

  4. #4
    Hooked on Touring
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    I use a $1.99 Ace Hardware tarp.
    Much tougher than most footprints.
    And it has grommets, too.
    So I can make a quick lean-to if a storm hits.

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    Because the manufacturer's footprint has grommets as Bacchusbill said, it not only allows you to pitch the footprint/fly, but it means the footprint will be automatically positioned exactly right with the tent, and it will stay there. You can also pitch the tent under the fly--useful if you are pitching in the rain.

    In most cases, the manufacturer's footprint will be lighter than one you can make and pack smaller. Even Tyvek, which I use, it a bit heavier and bulkier than the manufacturer's footprint.

    But I agree that manufacturer's footprints are obscenely more expensive.

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    I've been reading a little about this, and it seems that good sizing can be an issue when you use a tarp or your own materials. If the footprint is slightly larger than the tent, rain will collect on top of your footprint but under the tent itself, effectively creating a pond under your tent. Haven't created my own footprint yet, but this seems like something to watch out for; should be able to avoid it simply by carefully cutting it to the right size.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    What is the advantage of a manufacturer's precut footprint over one you cut yourself out of blue or brown tarp material? Is it lighter, more puncture resistant, more water resistant? For sure it's more expensive. Is it worth the extra $$$? Anybody had experience with both?
    I have used poly sheeting from home depot in the past and it worked fine at a fraction of the price.

    For some tents one supposed advantage is that you can pitch the fly and footprint without the tent. Since the most frequent reason for needing the tent is biting insects, that just never seems like an option for me.

    I have recently stopped using anything unless i expect to be camping on surfaces that are especially hard on the tent bottom. If I spend a bunch of money to get a tent that is 8 ounces lighter why spend even more to make it just as heavy as the cheaper tent?

    I carried a ground sheet for much of the TA, but at some point decided it was not worth the extra weight. I find that the only time I usually wish I had a groundsheet is when I am on a tent pad with a surface of sharp edged crushed stone and I seldom stay places that have that. I can remember only a couple nights on the entire TA where that was the case and i will just accept the extra wear and tear those few nights. If you stay places like that frequently or are inclined to really pamper you equipment maybe a ground sheet is more important to you. I will generally leave mine home.

  8. #8
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    Footprints ... I've been camping/backpacking/touring since way before anyone thought of footprints. We carried a few inches of adhesive, coated ripstop to patch snags. Now, Tyvek all the way. I'm thinking of a catenary cut silnylon tarp as well, just as a rain/shade shelter or an ultralight option when bugs aren't an issue (like on much of the Ca coast). That setup would get me generous shelter for two for under 2 pounds, but without much privacy and with no mosquito protection.

    The nice thing about tyvek is that when it becomes battered and bruised, it's not painful to replace.

  9. #9
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    Make your own tent footprint with grommets:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RueJ7t2J6t0

  10. #10
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I generally buy a footprint when I buy a new tent. It does cost more than a DIY footprint, but the extra time and effort to source DIY materials, cut it and grommet it more than out weighs the cost of a footprint made by the manufacturer that fits perfectly.

    I've worn out zippers and tent fabric from UV, but I've never worn out the floor of a tent or had one leak when used with a footprint.

    I use the footprint to sit on and to sort my gear on when it's not under my tent. Keeps me off the dirt.

    I don't think a footprint is essential, but it certainly saves wear and tear on the floor, keeps it waterproof.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  11. #11
    It's true, man.
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    My tyvek sheet is there to protect my Thermarest as much as my tent.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Can anyone help me -what's the difference between a ground sheet and a tent footprint? Also:

    How can you pitch a rain fly without needing to put up the tent in most designs anyway?
    Is it really useful to have grommets in the footprint? What do you use them for?

    Assuming you use the grommets to set up a shelter (e.g. over you), how often can you do this anyway? (surely you'd need handily placed trees and appropriate fasteners such as long enough bungee cords or rope). And wouldn't the footprint need to be pretty big to give you a reasonable amount of shelter (thinking that most people have 1-3 people tents)? And then of course, if you use the footprint as a shelter it's not protecting the bottom of your tent anyway....

    Assuming you use the grommets to somehow secure the tent, why do you need to? I use a groundsheet -it certainly seems secure enough under the tent.

    Honestly not trying to be argumentative here, just can't work out why the foot print is worth it -am I missing some advantages? FWIW, I didn't even use a ground sheet until my last tour, when I did take a plastic sheet I'd cut to the size of my tent. To be honest, I wasn't bothered about getting it perfectly sized as if heavy rain is expected I dig a trench anyway. So why did I take a sheet?

    i. it's very light
    ii. it's something to sit on or put things on
    iii. it protects the bottom of the tent as well as my airmat
    iv. when I put my tent on my front rack, I can wrap the tent in the sheet -tent is now waterproof so in heavy rain, I know my tent will be dry.
    v. doesn't move under the tent

    Advantages seemed to outweigh the disadvantages -plus I did happen to camp on some very gritty campsites, so I was happy to have it with me.

    Anyway, I admit all of this is a moot point, my tent isn't made anymore so I can't see me buying a footprint!

  13. #13
    It's true, man.
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    Nigeyy, generally a footprint holds the poles of a freestanding tent under tension - sort of like a bowstring holds a bow.

    In this case, the poles can then support the rainfly of the tent without the inner tent layer.

  14. #14
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    I use a hand-cut ground sheet from 4mil poly material. It costs less than a dollar and weighs a few ounces. It's not very bulky, but I don't worry about bulk (within reason) on my bike.

    I cut it slightly larger than my tent floor. When I pitch the tent, I roll the extra 6" or so of ground sheet up and under the floor edge of the tent. It makes a concave edge that forces any water that reaches it to flow under the ground sheet.

    I use the ground sheet for keeping the bottom of my tent clean more than any other reason. I camp in the summer when the bugs are out. I don't always put the rain fly on, but I'd never consider pitching a tarp only without mosquito netting.

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    Nigeyy, perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the fourth image here, labeled "Fastpack option":

    http://www.rei.com/product/737059

    To answer some of your more specific questions:
    - A "footprint" goes under a tent and protects the tent floor from abrasion. A "groundsheet" is a more general term--it can be used even without a tent--it's simply a (usually) waterproof sheet that goes on the ground, perhaps under nothing more than your sleeping bag.
    - It would not be possible to pitch the fly without something to anchor the ends of the poles which hold it up. Those anchors are usually the corners of the tent, but if you are not using the tent, the corners of the footprint serve instead. You need grommets in the footprint for that reason. You also need grommets in the footprint so that it is held in exactly the correct position and stays there--if your footprint slips and starts extending beyond your tent, you risk that "lake under your tent" problem previously discussed.
    - Digging a trench is very highly discouraged as it violates the "leave no trace" principle.

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    Can't say that I really see the point in either footprints or groundcloths. I've got tents that range in age from 5 years to 34 years and haven't used a ground cloth with any of them. The oldest one is showing some deterioration of the fly from UV damage and a couple of them have had issues with the zippers, but none have had any problems with the floor. And if they ever did it doesn't seem like it'd be hard to fix a rip in the floor. Worst case I'd consider using a groundcloth at that point, placed inside the tent as a secondary floor and wrapping a little up the sides. But in the meantime I've saved the effort of carrying the extra weight for the last 34 years.

    And the 'Fastpack Option' seems to me to be marketing's idea to be able to quote a lower weight. I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually pitch just the fly/footprint combination when camping. I've seen people just spread out their stuff on a groundcloth in good weather, and I've seen flys being used as tarps. But if I'm going to bother putting up the poles, fly, and footprint; why not pitch the tent as well and keep out any bugs.

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    As others have mentioned, the footprint also keeps your tent cleaner and dryer, which helps when you are packing up. It's generally easier to clean and dry the footprint than the tent floor, but perhaps the difference is not very significant.

    I'm not sold on the idea of a footprint. I've used it and I've skipped it.

  18. #18
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    Apple vs. PC
    Taste's great vs. Less filling
    Ground cloth or not
    Outside the tent or inside

    The debate has been going for decades. I don't think anyone has ever changed their mind.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies! Good link with the photos too, make it very clear.

    However, it seems they'd only be worth it then if your tent design supported such a structure, and you camped somewhere where there were no insects. My tent definitely does not meet the first condition, and I almost certainly wouldn't meet the second either! But having said that, even if my tent did support a footprint, I just can't see its worth it for the kind of touring I do.

    I always find the "leave no trace behind" a bit disingenuous at best, at least depending on how extreme you want to take it. If I camp at a non-camping location (e.g. not a recognized camp site) I'll most certainly try to leave it exactly as I found it. A campground? I have to be honest and say I don't bother filling in a trench a couple of centimetres deep -most campgrounds I've been to have access for cars which will compact the site down anyway, or the site itself is an obvious trace anyway. Course, you have to remember to get where you're going, you've already made use of a huge intrusive road system that most certainly has left a trace too

    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    Nigeyy, perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the fourth image here, labeled "Fastpack option":

    http://www.rei.com/product/737059

    To answer some of your more specific questions:
    - A "footprint" goes under a tent and protects the tent floor from abrasion. A "groundsheet" is a more general term--it can be used even without a tent--it's simply a (usually) waterproof sheet that goes on the ground, perhaps under nothing more than your sleeping bag.
    - It would not be possible to pitch the fly without something to anchor the ends of the poles which hold it up. Those anchors are usually the corners of the tent, but if you are not using the tent, the corners of the footprint serve instead. You need grommets in the footprint for that reason. You also need grommets in the footprint so that it is held in exactly the correct position and stays there--if your footprint slips and starts extending beyond your tent, you risk that "lake under your tent" problem previously discussed.
    - Digging a trench is very highly discouraged as it violates the "leave no trace" principle.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the responses.

    Apparently, the only real advantage a manufacturered ground cloth offers over DIY is with free standing rain flys that use the grommets as pole anchors. I guess that's why they are rarely included in the price of the tent.

    I use blue or brown tarp material, cut to size. Guess I'll stick with that. Or maybe just slather the floor with silicon and not bother with a ground cloth any more.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  21. #21
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Thanks for all the responses.

    Apparently, the only real advantage a manufacturered ground cloth offers over DIY is with free standing rain flys that use the grommets as pole anchors. I guess that's why they are rarely included in the price of the tent.

    I use blue or brown tarp material, cut to size. Guess I'll stick with that. Or maybe just slather the floor with silicon and not bother with a ground cloth any more.
    They don't even have that advantage if you put grommets in your diy ground-cloth/footprint.
    Check out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RueJ7t2J6t0
    or google "diy tent footprint" for plenty of links.

    Still, I don't bother since I most often pitch the tent to keep the bugs out.

  22. #22
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I think the value of a ground sheet under your tent [DIY or store bought] really depends on the surfaces you pitch your tent on and how much you use your tent. I have friends that bought the same tent as I did at the same time. Their tent is still nearly in perfect condition because they use it a handful of nights per year on prepared campgrounds with smooth surfaces for pitching a tent.

    My tent is history because I camped in it for 4 months + in one year and for a couple months+ in the other years I used it. My camp sites were rarely prepared and smooth...much of the time I was camping in the desert or on the beach - both spots with sharp pokey things lying about.

    Additionally if you camp a lot in unprepared sites there is often nothing to sit on so having a tent sized piece of nylon to sit on is very convenient.
    safe riding - Vik
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  23. #23
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vik View Post
    I think the value of a ground sheet under your tent [DIY or store bought] really depends on the surfaces you pitch your tent on and how much you use your tent. I have friends that bought the same tent as I did at the same time. Their tent is still nearly in perfect condition because they use it a handful of nights per year on prepared campgrounds with smooth surfaces for pitching a tent.

    My tent is history because I camped in it for 4 months + in one year and for a couple months+ in the other years I used it. My camp sites were rarely prepared and smooth...much of the time I was camping in the desert or on the beach - both spots with sharp pokey things lying about.

    Additionally if you camp a lot in unprepared sites there is often nothing to sit on so having a tent sized piece of nylon to sit on is very convenient.
    I agree with all of that except one thing. Some of the worst sites for the bottom of the tent are the "prepared sites" at campgrounds that often have really sharp crushed rock as a base and most of the unprepared sites I have used are grass, dirt with smooth rocks, or sand, all of which are pretty forgiving. I don't get why they use that sharp stuff for tent pads in so many campgrounds. It is hard on the tent bottom and and hard to drive pegs into. I am sure this varies geographically and with your style of camping though.

    I typically skip the ground sheet and sometimes carry an 18"x18" piece of poly sheeting or tyvek to sit on. I mostly carry the sheet to sit on for backpacking though. When i take one it usually lives in my pocket.

  24. #24
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    I haven't used a footprint before, just take a bit of care when picking out a site. Ymmv.

    I setup, then check for "pointies" which may poke through the tent floor and adjust as need be.

    On my year tour I ended up selling my tent in Nepal. I camped hundreds of nights in that tent by then (including some pretty severe stealth sites), and had no obvious holes in the tent floor.

    Tent was a Eureka Zeus exo 2 classic, and I am planning on buying another.
    mmmm coffeee!

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  25. #25
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    Tyvek is too cheap, lightweight and versatile to not carry it as insurance for a $XXX tent.

    http://sporting-goods.shop.ebay.com/...&_sacat=159043
    Last edited by seeker333; 07-22-09 at 04:53 PM.

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