Tent Groundsheet – What Do They Do, Do I Need One, and What Can I Use 

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Jay Elliott

Chief Camping Officer

What is a tent groundsheet?

A tent groundsheet is a protective material for your tent floor. It protects your tent floor from damage caused by wear and tear and damge from friction against the rough ground. It is especially useful and less expensive in the long run as your tent is protected from sticks or stones that may be under it. A groundsheet also helps keep your tent clean of mud or sand, keeps the tent floor dry, and provides some insulation for your tent.

Groundsheets help boost your tent’s water-proofing ability. Having it under a tent gives you added protection from water seepage. They can also serve as a makeshift shelter if your rainfly gets damaged or you forgot to bring your tent canopy. Having a groundsheet offers a lot of benefits for campers. 

Do I need a tent groundsheet?

A groundsheet is not required but if you want to protect your tent from damage, provide some warmth, and extra protection from the hard earth, a groundsheet is a way to go. On the other hand, some types of groundsheets are heavy and can be an added weight especially for those who like to travel light. 

Choosing a groundsheet depends on your personal preference. Find out which type of groundsheet works for you and your camping lifestyle. Tent groundsheets come in different types:

Made to fit

These groundsheets are made by tent manufacturers to accompany their tents. They can be an added cost when you’re buying it along with your tent but these will fit perfectly and provide more than adequate protection.

Solid type

Solid type groundsheets offer dependable protection for tents but these do not allow the grass underneath the tent to breathe. This is why this type is not allowed on most campsites or camping parks. Examples of this will be the multipurpose tarpaulin and the lightweight and transparent polycryo.

Mesh type

Mesh types allow dirt and water to pass through and they are the recommended groundsheet type for camping parks or campsites. However, they aren’t as durable as solid-type groundsheets and are difficult to clean. 

Remember that tent groundsheets need to be replaced every so often to provide the best protection for your tent floors.

What happens if I don’t use a tent groundsheet?

Getting a tent groundsheet comes down to personal preference, but without a groundsheet, your tent floor is prone to:

  • Punctures from sharp sticks or stones. 
  • Moisture from the ground
  • Dirt or mud tracking over your tent 
  • Flooding

How Big Does My Groundsheet Need to Be?

A good groundsheet needs to be slightly smaller than your tent floor. If the groundsheet is bigger than your tent it will catch the water if it rains and you’re left with a pool on your tent floor. Tent manufacturers make groundsheets that are made to fit their tents. If you are using materials like tarp, make sure to have it cut according to the dimensions of your tent. 

Is a Tent Groundsheet the Same As A Foot Print?

 Yes. A footprint is just another name for groundsheets. 

What Can I Use For A Tent Groundsheet?

 For a groundsheet you can use:

Heavy-duty tarp

You can get this at any hardware store. It is the most commonly used material for groundsheets. It’s easy to find and if you’re worried about weight, it comes in different sizes and thickness levels. A tarp is cheap and easy to clean. It can also be used as a makeshift canopy to protect your tent when it rains. 

However, as a solid-type groundsheet, tarps are often not allowed in most campsites or camping parks because the material blocks air and sunlight. It causes grass underneath the tarp to die or wither. If using a tarp, avoid pitching your tent in one place for long. Move it every so often to relieve the vegetation underneath.

Garden shade cloth

This is a mesh-type material that lets dirt and water pass through, quite effective in keeping your tent clean. A garden shade cloth also helps to let the grass underneath your tent breathe. This, however, maybe a bit heavy and an added weight to your luggage. Think about it if you want to travel light. 

Builder’s materials

Also called Tyvek, this groundsheet material is durable, affordable, water, and water-resistant yet breathable. You can get this from home construction sites, those who have leftover Tyvek, or you can easily go online and order it. The downside of this material is that it’s about 4 times the weight of a polycryo or even a tarp.

Does a Groundsheet Damage Grass?

Yes, a groundsheet can damage the campsite grass. If the material you are using is not breathable, such as tarp or polycryo. This happens because grass underneath your tent cannot get proper sunlight or moisture, especially if camping for long periods. In some campsites or camp parks, the guidelines do not allow non-breathable materials as groundsheets. To follow this guideline, get a mesh-type groundsheet like a garden shade cloth. It allows water and dirt to pass through and it also lets the grass breathe.

See the range of ground sheets available on the Snowy Camping website.