close up of a tent with a hand made tent footprint
How to make a tent footprint

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Ever go to the sporting goods store and wonder why they are trying to sell you a special footprint for your tent at a cost of forty dollars? That's not exactly cheap - especially after you just plunked down for a brand new tent. Many people pass on the tent footprint when purchasing a new tent and in doing so unknowingly just decreased the life of their new tent. Well, the good news is that you can easily and cheaply make your own tent footprint for seven dollars.

As far as I am concerned, a tent footprint is a necessary piece of gear if you do a lot of camping. One of the first things to wear out on your tent is the floor. Over the years, twigs, sticks and rocks work on the bottom of the fabric. Inside, the wear and tear of your feet, pebbles, sand and pine needles work to remove any protective coating of the fabric. After a couple of years you are looking at a perfect recipe for leaks and sometimes quite a few leaks. When that happens it is time for a new tent. Floor leaks are much more difficult to fix than leaks in the tent wall.

The first thing you need to do is to pick up a plastic tarp from your local hardware store. These tarps are usually around seven dollars and sometimes available in different colors, but the standards are blue and clear. You will also need a pair of medium to large sized scissors. Make sure they are sharp or it can be a pain to cut the material in a precise fashion. A thick black marker is also an option for those who don't want a pair of scissors anywhere near their tent. Finally and obviously, you need your tent.

Begin by unfolding the tarp and laying it on a flat surface. Once the tarp is positioned, begin to set up your tent on the tarp in a way that matches it from length to width.. Set the tent up as you normally would without the fly. The tent fly is not needed for the footprint creation. Once the tent is complete and set up on the tarp, makes sure it is taught and well staked out. When that is finished, take your black marker and trace the outline of your tent on the plastic tarp which is on its way to becoming a footprint. Those who are confident that they will not slice open their tent with the scissors can feel free to proceed here without the marker. If you went with the marker, slide the tarp(now a footprint) out from under your tent and cut along the line you traced. You have no created your seven dollar tent footprint!

In my experience, these cheap tent footprints actually last longer than the forty dollar footprints that the tent manufacturers sell(sorry guys). The only negative is that these footprints tend to be bulkier than the official footprints, but it's not an unreasonable difference. The plastic from the hardware store bought tarps seems to really take a ton of abuse over the years with no real loss in quality or toughness. Another plus is that the sun does not seem to eat away at the material unlike the fabric created official footprints. In fact, your new cheap tent footprint may outlive your actual tent depending on how often you go camping. The UV rays are a tent's worst enemy, and even the most cautious tenter will see their old camping tent reduced to shreds over time.

Always try to use a footprint for your tent. Your tent will last much longer and you will also stay drier in strong storms. For seven dollars, you can't go wrong.

Enjoy your new footprint and sleep with confidence in our great outdoors!

a long blue plastic tarp cut to tent shape doesn't look like much but this is a very valuable piece of gear.

Top image note: You can see the custom tent footprint under the tent in the image. With the fly on the tent, the slightly exposed plastic of the footprint doesn't matter. I experienced twenty hours of rain the follwing day without a drop in the tent.



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