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DIY ultralight tent footprint

DIY ultralight tent footprint

I have two tents that didn’t come with a ground cloth or footprint, and as per manufacturer guidelines, aren’t necessary or sold. This is mostly fine, except there’s a part of me that’s just not comfortable going without a footprint/groundcloth. Sticks, rocks, anything sharp and pointy make me a little nervous, and if it’s a particularly wet trip I’m more comfortable having an extra barrier underneath me to help keep things dry. What’s a hiker to do here?


A commonly recommended option is to use Tyvek house wrap as a footprint. This is a material that’s fairly lightweight, waterproof, and puncture resistant. The trick is finding a small enough piece of it for your tent. There are a number of sellers on eBay and Amazon that will sell a small piece, and several cottage gear manufacturers will also sell pieces customized to their tent sizes. If you live near a construction site you may be able to find scraps/cutoffs of the house wrap (ask nicely of course), which would be the best price of all.


My preferred option is polycryo cloth - aka window insulation shrink wrap. It’s easy to find at your local big box home improvement or hardware store, easy to trim to size, totally waterproof, lightweight (mine weighs in at 70g/2.5oz), and also very puncture resistant.

Pay attention to the dimensions on the box that you’re buying, you’ll want to make sure it meets or exceeds the size of your tent. Typically an “extra large” or “patio door” kit will work well, and will have enough material for a couple of footprints. Trim it with a pair of scissors to the size of your tent (I go for about an inch narrow/shorter than my tent) and you’re off to the races (or the trail head?).

You may be wondering about what “shrink” from the “window insulation shrink wrap” name means. It’s true that this material will shrink a bit under heat (it’s applied to your window by taping it around the edges of a window, and then shrinking it tight with a hair dryer). In my experience it either doesn’t get hot enough under the tent, or it shrinks such a small amount that it’s not noticeable. I’ve been using the same piece for several years and while it’s a bit creased in the edges, it’s still holding up well and I have no plans to replace it anytime soon.



Do always use a ground cloth/footprint with your tents? Have you tried Tyvek or polycryo? Do you have another option that works well for you?