Taking good care of your tent will allow you to have years of faithful service from your outdoor dwelling. Tents require a modest amount of care and attention, but it is necessary if you want to extend its years of use. One portion of your tent most affected by your usage is the tent’s footprint.
So, how do you clean a tent footprint?
You will need to keep your tent footprint clean by washing it down after each camping trip. Wash them with cold water and a sponge, and if the dirt doesn’t come off with the water alone, buy a tent-specific wash. Tent-specific wash will not degrade the coating on your footprint.
Do not use conventional detergents and soaps as they can ruin the waterproof coating on the footprint. You should also never throw this part of your tent into the washing machine as it more than likely will come out in shreds.
If you do not have access to a tent-specific wash, you can soak the footprint to make the dirt easier to remove. Leave it to sit in warm water for about an hour, and the dirt should come off much easier with the sponge.
Once you have removed all the dirt, place the footprint in a shaded area to dry. Do not let it get exposed to direct sunlight if possible, even though it will take longer to dry.
Do You Clean Tent Footprint After Every Trip?
You should always clean your tent and footprint after every long trip. If you make short trips in well-maintained camping grounds, you may get away with washing it once a season. How often you clean your tent, and it’s footprint greatly depends on where you camp.
If your tent’s footprint has been resting on the ground that exposed it to sand, bird droppings, fine dust, or tree sap, you will want that material removed before placing your tent back on top of it on the next trip.
Look your footprint over carefully before packing it away and determine if the debris on it can be shaken off, or if you will need the warm water and sponge to remove it.
Why Use a Tent Footprint?
A tent footprint is the custom-cut ground cloth, which is specifically for the floor plan of your tent. This cloth is what protects your tent’s floor from damage as it is a layer of protection from the ground.
Some camping terrains can do extensive damage to your tent’s floor. The tent footprint will protect the floor from elements such as sand, which works like abrasive or rough sandpaper.
The footprint also gives you a clean area to use when packing up your tent at the end of a trip. Using it as a clean surface at the end of each trip makes it especially important to keep the tent footprint clean.
Another good reason to use a tent footprint is it will provide another layer between you and the ground and work as insulation. If you are camping during cooler weather, it will help keep you warmer.
Is a Footprint Waterproof?
Most of your quality tents have a waterproof floor, and if your tent comes from a quality manufacturer, your footprint is most likely constructed from the same hydrostatic head rating as the tent.
In most footprint’s design, one side of the sheet is covered with waterproof coating, and the other side contains no water resistance value.
If the ground gets wet while you are camping, the footprint will keep your tent out of harm. It will also protect your tent’s floor from mud and other debris, so it is easier to pack up at the end of the trip.
Do I Have to Use a Purpose-Built Tent Footprint?
Many campers wonder if they have to buy the manufacture’s footprint for their tent or if they can make their own? A tent is pretty fragile when it comes up against the elements such as UV exposure, rocky or sandy terrains, and other possible hazards found in nature.
When you pitch your tent on gritty, rough ground, the footprint will protect your investment in the tent. This ground cover protects the floor against natural elements as well as wear and tear from your body weight.
Your bodyweight from tossing and turning while in the tent grinds the fabric into the ground. This grinding will wear the waterproof coating off your tent’s floor. If you use a footprint, it will take the abuse instead of the tent floor.
A bonus of using the manufacturer’s footprint is it doesn’t extend beyond your tent’s perimeter, so it won’t collect rainwater as a tarp or generic ground cloth would.
The manufacturer will design the footprint to the exact measurement need to fit under your tent. Having a footprint that matches the size of your tent makes set up easier.
You do not have to use a manufacturer’s footprint; you can design one yourself by buying a tarp. If you do use the tarp or generic cloth as your footprint, you want it to be as close to the tent’s floor size and shape as possible.
A Polycryo sheet is a good option for making your own footprint. They are plastic sheets that can be cut to fit your tent’s floor. Many campers prefer to make their own footprint as it saves both money and weight. If you are concerned with how heavy your equipment becomes when camping, a home-made footprint might be a better option.
You do not have to use a tent footprint, but realize that by not having one puts your tent at risk for damage and may shorten the life-span of your tent. Having a tent footprint is like having an insurance policy; it keeps it from wearing out too quickly and reduces the risk of suffering major damage.
Add to these benefits that it makes camping more comfortable, and it just makes good sense to add it to your camping equipment list.