If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best waterproof groundsheet is for a tent, we recommend the Redcamp ultralight tent footprint.
Any camper who’s been around the block a few times will emphasize the importance of a waterproof tent. Rainy days can spell disaster for the unprepared, but having the right tent is only half the battle – you’ll need that little extra something to provide even more protection.
A groundsheet (also referred to as a tent “footprint”) is a valuable tool that will extend the life of your tent and help you stay dry in bad weather. Many tents come with their own custom fitted groundsheets, but plenty of others don’t, meaning you’ll have to go out and find one yourself. To help save you some time on your journey, here are a few of our favorites that get you moving in the right direction.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following groundsheets:
- Redcamp Ultralight Tent Footprint – Best Overall
- GEERTOP Ultralight Footprint – Most Sizing Options
- Outdoor Products All Purpose Tarp – Most Versatile
- Amazon Basics Camping Tarp – Most Number of Grommets
- Rottay Camping Tarp – Most Durable
What is a Groundsheet?
As the name implies, a groundsheet is a tarp that lays on the ground, underneath your tent. You’ll often hear it referred to as a footprint as well, and I may use the terms interchangeably throughout the article.
Essentially, a groundsheet is just a waterproof tarp that you can (ideally) stake into the ground or clip to your tent. Many tents come with their own custom made footprints, but it is possible to make your own by trimming a tarp down to the size that you need.
Why are Groundsheets Important?
That’s a pretty loaded question, simply because there are so many aspects of camping and tent maintenance that groundsheets are involved in. Ultimately, though, you can think of it as an added barrier between you and the ground, and all of the rough elements that comes with it. To get a little more specific, here are a few reasons why you’ll want to add a footprint to your shopping list, if you don’t have one already.
Keeps Water Out
One of the primary reasons why campers like to grab a groundsheet for their tent is because it works to prevent water seepage. Naturally, if you get caught in a storm where the rain is literally turning into a river around your tent, there isn’t much that will be able to help you. But for anything less than that, a groundsheet just might be a lifesaver, especially if you need to set your tent up in the rain.
A good footprint will cover the entirety of your tent floor, but it won’t extend past it. In fact, it might fall an inch or two short. The reason for this make sense if you think about it – if the groundsheet extended past the tent, it would provide a non-absorbent surface for rain to pool on. Then you’d be making your own puddle to soak your shelter in, which is precisely what we’re trying to avoid! So, if you’re thinking of buying a separate groundsheet, or are interested in making your own, keep these dimensions in mind when doing so.
Increases the Lifespan of Your Tent
The wilderness isn’t as concerned about the welfare of your gear as you are. Rocks, roots, and other objects are constantly pressing up against and rubbing the bottom of your tent, wearing it down over time. If you like the thought of replacing your $300 tent every couple of years, then this won’t be a problem for you. Otherwise, I suggest getting a groundsheet for a fraction of the cost that will take most of damage for your tent.
Adds Comfort and Insulation
As an extra layer between you and the ground, a footprint does provide a little more comfort. Though the effect is minimal, some of those pointy rocks will feel a little more tolerable when they’re digging into your back. It certainly isn’t a replacement for clearing the area of painful objects before you pitch your tent, though!
Along those same lines, the added layer also provides a bit more insulation. When the nights start getting chilly, especially, you’ll be grateful for even a little extra protection against the cold seeping up from the ground. Of course, it’s still no replacement for a good sleeping pad and mummy bag, but every bit helps, right?
As handy as they might be, there are some notable downsides to bringing a groundsheet on your next camping trip. For backpackers in particular, groundsheets are just a source of extra weight that may not be worth the benefits they provide. They aren’t included in the minimum trail weight section that many outfitters list next to their tents, simply because they aren’t essential. So, if you’re planning a backpacking trip, you may want to leave the footprint behind when you’re reaching for your one person tent.
Best Groundsheet Reviews
The great thing about tarps like the Redcamp ultralight tent footprint is how multipurpose they can be. Sure, the primary use that I’m covering here is as a footprint to go under your tent. However, this product can be used in far more capacities than that (i.e. a place to sit on the beach, for picnics, or at sporting events), as well as a makeshift canopy for barbeques and other outdoor gettogethers.
In addition to the loops in each corner, there are also grommets that would allow you to secure tent poles, if you wanted to make the footprint your actual tent floor. This can be a nice feature to have if you want to set up a canopy tent that doesn’t have any walls, or if you’re trying to pack light and don’t want to bring anything other than the footprint, poles, and rainfly.
Obviously, tents come in different sizes depending on how many people you’re trying to fit. The product link in this article will direct you to one size, but there are plenty more to choose from once you’re there.
– Comes in different sizes
– Grommets and corner loops
– Weights half a pound for the 1-2 person tent size
– Material feels thin
– Tends to be smaller than advertised
Like the footprint mentioned above by Redcamp, there’s a lot that you can with GEERTOP’s ultralight footprint. Though most commonly used for its intended purpose as a groundsheet, the shape is just right to act as a hammock rain tarp as well. The loops in each corner make it possible to attach some guylines or paracord, and stake down the other ends into the ground, giving you easy weather protection for your hammock.
There are 5 different sizes that you can get this tarp in, so that you can accommodate your 1-4 person tent. The smallest size is said to weigh 85 grams (about 0.2 pounds), while the largest size comes in at about 200 grams (0.45 pounds). Any way you slice it, “ultralight” isn’t a bad word to describe the different sizes of this groundsheet, especially when compared with the product listed above.
A drawstring pouch does come included with this tarp, making for an easy way to pack it away and carry with you. However, stakes are the one thing that don’t come with the groundsheet, which I find to be unfortunate.
– Durable material
– Can be used in a variety of ways
– Compact and lightweight
– Comes with a drawstring pouch
– Ripstop nylon
– Though the product is still lightweight, it does tend to be heavier than advertised
No one ever said your makeshift footprint had to look pretty, right? For those of you who have handyman qualities, you may consider going with the Outdoor Products all purpose tarp for your next groundsheet. The smallest size is 8×6 feet, so naturally you’d need to do a little trimming if you wanted to use it for a smaller tent. But if you have a 6 person tent, for example, you may be able to make it work without any adjustments needed.
Grommets do come built into the tarp at the corners and the mid point of the long sides, no matter what size you go with. The material is thin, but adequate for preventing water seepage, and providing a little extra insulation. Many people also like to turn this tarp into a rainfly or awning, if multipurpose gear is something you’re fond of having.
I will say, though, this wouldn’t be my first pick for a footprint. Long term durability is questionable, and the hassle of cutting it down to size might be more than you bargained for. But if you’d like an option that only costs a handful of dollars, this is the perfect, budget friendly solution.
– Incredibly cheap
– Very lightweight for the size
– Comes with grommets built in
– Will need size adjusting
– Isn’t the most durable option
Like it is with any tarp, it never hurts to have a product that can be used for more than its intended purpose. The Amazon Basics camping tarp is probably my top pick for a “jack of all trades” groundsheet, because there really isn’t anything bad about it, but there isn’t anything super spectacular about it either.
Coming in at 2.4 pounds, the largest size doesn’t exactly do a great job of staying lightweight, but it can be used under something as big as a 6 person tent. The smallest tarp still won’t work for something like a 2 person tent, but perhaps you could get it to fit under a 4 person tent. If you can get over the excessive weight, though, it’s a highly durable option for a very good price.
It doesn’t come with a pouch for storage, but you can easily fold it up when it’s not in use. Wrap a couple of rubber bands around it, and you’ll be set until it’s ready to get used again. When you’re ready to pull it out, there are 12 grommets spread around the edge of the tarp, making it easy for you to drive in a few stakes to keep it in place. If you’d like to convert it into a rain tarp for a hammock, just pass some guylines through the grommets and stake those down until the fabric is taut.
– Easy to pack away
– Waterproof and tear resistant
When it comes to quality, Rottay’s camping tarp has got it down. The material is durable enough to prevent abrasions and punctures, even when acting as a footprint where it’s constantly pressing against and rubbing hard object on the ground. To keep things from falling apart, the seams are double stitched, and the fabric is thick and heavy. One side of the tarp is even reflective, so if you wanted to use it as a rainfly or canopy, you can face that side upward to keep the inside of your tent even cooler.
Of course, the downside of having such a thick, durable groundsheet is that you’re tacking on some extra weight. Depending on what size you get, it could be a full 2 pounds heavier than many of the other options listed in this review. For some of you, that will be a big enough turnoff to avoid this product altogether, but if you weren’t planning on carrying it very far, it’s one of the best options you can get.
– Very durable
– Thick and well made
– One side of the tarp is reflective
– Folds up well
– Quite heavy for a footprint
A good groundsheet might not be vital for the success of your camping trip, but they are incredibly useful tools to have nonetheless. When possible, I recommend buying a tent that comes with it’s own groundsheet, simply because it’s already the correct size and usually comes attached. If you aren’t able to do this, though, it isn’t too hard to create your own.
Remember that the groundsheet shouldn’t extend past the edges of the tent, since you don’t want water to start pooling, but it should do a good job of covering most of your tent floor. Durability is worth considering, but so is price and weight, as well as the number of grommets and stake loops. With that in mind, our top pick is the Redcamp ultralight tent footprint, because we felt it checked all of these boxes better than the other products. At half a pound, it’s pretty lightweight, and it was specifically designed to act as a groundsheet for a variety of tent sizes and shapes.