Is a Tent Footprint Worth It?

April 29, 2013

Yes and no, but mostly no.

A tent footprint protects the underside of the tent from abrasion and moisture, helping to extend the lifespan of the tent and keep it drier on the inside. Footprints exactly match the shape of the tent, which minimizes the amount of fabric required for full coverage, and feature corner grommets to secure it to the tent frame, ensuring the footprint is correctly located underneath.

Depending on the size and materials, most footprints for two-person backpacking tents weigh roughly 5 to 10 ounces and cost anywhere from $30 to $60.

When is a tent footprint worth it?

  • A footprint is generally a good idea if you expect to camp on rough, rocky terrain with significant potential for sharp points and rough edges. Areas with lots of downed wood and the potential for sharp branches are also a concern.
  • If you camp and/or backpack a lot (think dozens of nights per year) and would like your tent to still be going strong years down the trail, then a footprint is certainly worth considering.
  • If you’re car camping, and unconcerned about a little excess weight and bulk with your tent, adding a footprint has little downside other than the cost of purchasing it.

When is it not worth it?

  • Anytime you’d rather not carry the additional weight and bulk. Ditching the tent footprint is an easy way to save some tangible weight in your pack.
  • Personally, I seldom carry a tent footprint and have logged many, many nights in several of my tents without one. I’ve experienced little to no significant damage to the tent undersides (and any small tear or puncture has been simple to repair using Tenacious Tape) and the loss of extra moisture protection has been a minimal inconvenience at worst.

When should  you buy one?

  • If you think you may have use for a footprint, even if only on an irregular trip-by-trip basis, definitely buy one at the same time you purchase the tent, or at the very least, during the same season you purchase the tent.
  • Why? Many tent models quickly come and go. Manufacturers also constantly change and tweak the dimensions of recurring models (and their accompanying) footprint from year-to-year. The odds of finding the exact footprint to match an older tent rapidly diminish as the years progress.

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.