Should I Put a Tarp Under My Tent?

Camping is an excellent way to connect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors. However, it is crucial to take necessary precautions and set up your campsite correctly to have a comfortable and safe camping experience. One of the questions that arise while camping is whether to put a tarp under your tent or not. In this article, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using a tarp under your tent and help you decide whether it’s worth the effort.


What is a Tarp?

A tarp is a waterproof sheet made of durable material, such as polyethylene or canvas. It is commonly used as a shelter or a temporary cover to protect outdoor equipment from the elements.

Benefits of Using a Tarp Under Your Tent

There are many advantages of using a tarp under your tent. These include:

  1. Protects Your Tent from Moisture: One of the primary reasons for using a tarp under your tent is to protect it from moisture. A tarp acts as a barrier between your tent and the ground, preventing moisture from seeping through the tent floor. This keeps the interior of your tent dry and comfortable.
  2. Extends the Life of Your Tent: A tarp under your tent provides an extra layer of protection, which helps to prevent wear and tear caused by rocks, roots, and other sharp objects on the ground. This increases the lifespan of your tent, saving you money in the long run.
  3. Easy to Clean: A tarp is easy to clean and maintain. Simply wipe it down with a cloth or rinse it with water, and it’s ready to use again. This is especially helpful when camping in muddy or wet conditions.
  4. Versatile: A tarp can be used for various other purposes, such as a groundsheet for your camp kitchen or a shelter for your gear during a rainstorm.
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Drawbacks of Using a Tarp Under Your Tent

Is not all goo though, there are also some negatives including:

  1. Potential for Condensation: Using a tarp under your tent can create a barrier that traps moisture between the tarp and the tent floor. This can result in condensation buildup, which can make the interior of your tent damp and uncomfortable.
  2. Weight and Bulk: Adding a tarp to your camping gear adds weight and bulk to your load. This can be a disadvantage, especially if you are hiking to your campsite.
  3. Additional Setup Time: Setting up a tarp under your tent requires additional time and effort. This can be challenging, especially if you are setting up camp in unfavorable weather conditions.
  4. Additional Cost: Purchasing a tarp is an additional expense that may not fit into everyone’s camping budget.

Alternatives to Using a Tarp Under Your Tent

While using a tarp under your tent can be beneficial, there are alternative options you can consider:

  1. Footprint: Most tent manufacturers offer a custom footprint, which is a groundsheet designed specifically for your tent’s shape and size. A footprint is an excellent alternative to a tarp because it provides the same level of protection without the potential for condensation buildup.
  2. Polycro Groundsheet: A polycro groundsheet is a lightweight, durable, and affordable alternative to a tarp. It is made of clear plastic and is designed to be used as a groundsheet or a rainfly. Polycro groundsheets are easy to clean and can be reused multiple times.
  3. Tyvek Groundsheet: Tyvek is a synthetic material that is commonly used in construction and packaging. It is lightweight, durable, and water-resistant, making it an excellent alternative to a tarp. You can purchase Tyvek sheets from hardware stores and cut them to the size of your tent.
  4. Natural Ground Cover: If you are camping in a location with soft ground cover, such as grass or pine needles, you can skip the tarp or groundsheet altogether. However, if you are camping in an area with hard or rocky ground, using a natural ground cover is not recommended.
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Keep in mind that while these alternatives can be effective, they may not offer the same level of protection as a tarp. Consider your camping needs, the environment you’ll be camping in, and your budget before deciding on an alternative to a tarp.

In Summary

So, should you put a tarp under your tent? The answer is, it depends. If you are camping in a wet or humid environment, using a tarp under your tent can be beneficial to protect it from moisture and extend its lifespan. However, if you are camping in a dry and warm environment, a tarp may not be necessary. Consider the potential drawbacks, such as added weight and setup time, before deciding whether to use a tarp. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your personal camping needs.