Should You Put a Tarp Under Your Tent? [Yes & Here’s Why]

Yes, you should put a tarp under your tent! Seems like a bold statement to make without providing enough evidence? Don’t worry, we’re here to tell you everything about camping and tarps.

Almost every camper asks themselves this question before they head out on their camping trip- “Should you put a tarp under your tent?”

Many campers would tell you that you don’t need to bring a tarp, and they are right! You don’t NEED to, but you SHOULD!

Not taking a tarp with you while going on a camping trip would lighten your backpack. But, you have a lot of other factors to consider before making this decision.

If you want to know everything about the pros and cons of having a tarp under your tent, we suggest you continue reading through this guide!

Should You Put A Tarp Under Your Tent?

tarp under tent

The answer to this question depends on the type of tent you have. If you have a tarp beneath your tent, you can avoid any tears or holes on the underneath of your tent.

Also, you can keep the moisture from the ground away. It helps you prevent the moisture from soaking up the inside of your tent.

If you put a tarp over the tent, you can easily prevent the rain from getting inside your tent.

It can also work as an added insulation against the wind if the weather is windy outside.

Since the main reason for a tarp is to help you avoid any punctures in your tent and keep away the moisture, you don’t have to worry about putting the tarp under your tent if you are out in nice weather.

Moreover, if you have a tent that is just around $100, there is no point in you putting down a $20 tarp under that tent.

Those cheaper tents are not made to last more than just a few brief camping trips.

Of course, you can increase the longevity by keeping it up somehow with duct tape, but it will still come down soon enough.

But, using a tarp starts to make sense when you are crossing the $100 mark for your camping tent.

When you make that much of an investment in your tent, it is worth going through the extra hassle of putting down a tent footprint or a tarp for your tent to sit on.

No matter how good you say you are at removing all of the sharp sticks and debris, they will still somehow find a way to slip into your tent.

Putting A Tarp Under Your Tent: Exploring The Reasons

We’ve listed some of the benefits or pros of having your tent sitting on top of a tent footprint or a tarp.

These might be helpful for you to decide whether to have a tarp on a camping trip or not.

#1. You’re Having A Secured Tent

There might be times when you find that your campsite is full of beautiful patches of green grass all around a nice slope, and even the bugs around the area are keeping to themselves and not bothering you.

It might be an exaggeration, but you might get fortunate sometimes.

However, almost all of the other times, your tent will have to be set up on gravel, dirt, or roots, or it could even just be plain rocks that you have to sleep on top of.

Some parks in Texas will have you sleeping on limestone.

Since most campgrounds only allow you to set your tent up in some designated areas, you do not always get to choose your perfect little spot.

Keep in mind that your tent is your home when you are out camping.

To stay comfortably in your home, you must ensure that both moisture and bugs are out of your tent.

If your tent gets punctured, it can always be a horrible experience because you might have to spend the night with some unplanned roommates with six or eight legs.

You are rubbing the underneath of your tent on twigs, rocks, and roots even if you make a slight movement.

It could be you moving around in your sleep or changing your dress. Just that bit of friction is actually enough to be able to tear your tent apart.

With a tarp under your tent, you will add an extra protective layer that will help you keep your tent safe and in good condition for a lot longer.

#2. Offers Great Protection Against Moisture

Water condensation is natural when the air has less energy. This is when the air keeps the water molecules apart, and you’re in for one hell of a trip of unwanted moisture.

This is why you will see water droplets take form when warm air is cooled down.

You can easily picture it by thinking of a nice glass of cold drink on a warm day.

The earth absorbs an enormous amount of warmth at night from the sun.

The temperature comes down to the lowest around dawn, and this is when you’ll find the most amount of dew getting formed.

The process of losing heat during this time requires a lot of energy, which eventually helps form the water molecules of dew.

There are a few ways a tarp could help you out in this situation.

  • With the tarp on the ground, your tent is kept away from the ground that is covered with dew.
  • The tarp can also work as a vapor barrier between the ground and your tent. It helps you to prevent any condensation inside of your tent.
  • If it is raining outside, then your tarp is also able to keep you safe from the running water, and it also offers you protection from a ground that is already soaked.

It would be in your best interest to avoid pitching your tent in an area where the land is dipped.

As you might have guessed, those are the areas where water can collect quickly.

#3. You’re Having A Clean Tent

There might be times when you go to your campground, and the ground is all muddied up. There might not be enough options to clean it as you’re somewhere with limited access to cleaning tools.

Even though there is no real contest to see who has the cleanest tent once your camping trip is over, you still must keep your tent clean.

Making sure that the outside of your tent is clean makes it a lot easier for you to move from place to place if you are on a trip where you will be going to different places.

It can be annoying to take care of the sticky pine needles and the mud. So, it’s better to have a dirty tarp rather than a dirty tent.

#4. Offers Easy Insulation For Your Tent

You can only dream of insulating your tent while being on a campsite in case you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on just a camping trip.

This is when a tarp might act like your best friend!

Tarps offer natural insulation beneath your tent as well as add an extra layer of warmth between your body and the cold floor.

It’s like using a sheet while being on a picnic in a park. You won’t have to deal with the cold grass and bugs while resting after a long day.

Reasons Why You Might Not Want To Do It

tarp tent

When packing for your camping trip, you might often forget packing in a ground cloth or your tarp.

This is because it’s quite an unessential camping item to carry. Of course, it is beneficial, but that help only extends to certain situations.

Outside of that, a tarp is only just an excellent extra addition to have with your gear.

  • If you want to save some more space with your camping gear and not bring along a tarp with you, here’s why you could be okay with it.
  • When you are certain that your camping ground is going to be a soft bed and you will not have to deal with pokey or unmovable objects scattered around, then a tarp isn’t the most necessary item.
  • You might also not require any moisture control if you’re not worried about condensation. This is something that applies when you are out camping at a place where it does not get too humid or too cold.
  • The more items and gear you bring with you, the more things you have to stow away at the end of your camping trip. So, if you think you don’t need one, then don’t pack a tarp in your pack.
  • If your camping site has a lot of sand, then you can forget about the tarp. The sand will create a soft texture under your tent which omits the necessity of a tarp. It’s also dry enough to suck out any of the moisture. You still have to clean out your tent after your trip since it is still sand.

If there are any holes or punctures under the tent, then you would do better to keep a tarp down because the sand will inevitably get inside your tent sooner or later.

Not bringing a tarp with you might save you some precious space if you pack in a tight space and can only carry limited items.

You might want to get some of the more essential items and gear with you in that scenario and ditch the tarp to make space for them.

Should You Consider Bringing A Tarp Either Way?

Of course, we just discussed why you would be okay without bringing a tarp to your camping ground.

However, if you are not limited by storage or space in your car, you should always consider carrying your tarp on your camping trip.

They can help when you need to shelter yourself against the wind. That’s right, they work as great windshields!

If you are going on a camping trip and plan on using a hammock, then the only hope to stay dry is to use a tarp.

If you use some ropes and your tarp together, you can easily shape it up in the form of an A so that it can protect you against the rain.

They can also be used as just a great place to sit and enjoy yourself in.

Have a wonderful time with yourself and your friends, of course with some food in hand

What Type Of Tarp Should I Get?

To answer this question most simply and easily, you need to go and get yourself a tarp or a ground cloth that is just a bit bigger than your tent’s floor.

However, something to keep in mind when you do this is that you will be making a pool between the tarp and your tent if you don’t fold the edges of your tarp properly. Make sure you are allowing the water to run off.

When it comes to tarps or ground cloths, there are many options to go with.

There are plenty of different materials that you can choose from, but it all boils down to the climate of your area.

Knowing this allows you to select a material that best works with your climate.

Go for a simple and cheaper tarp that’s suitable for beginners. It’ll work great for any camping trip.

Final Words

So, should you put a tarp under your tent?

Of course! The gist of our discussion tells us that it’s pretty beneficial to use a tarp under your tent while camping.

According to some campers, carrying a tarp or a ground cloth with you when going camping might be an entirely optional choice.

But, you won’t find a store to buy a tarp if you can’t sleep on a damp floor or see your favorite tent getting wet while camping.

So, no matter how many reasons you have that tell you not to bring a tarp, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Fred Hoffman

Hey, I'm Fred Hoffman, founder of The True Wilderness. I've been exploring nature since I could walk, and my passion for it never ends. My mission is to show people that there's more to life than just the city. There's a whole world of beauty waiting for them out there, and I hope to inspire as many people as possible to get out and explore. I love to share the experience I've gathered throughout my life to make everyone's outdoor adventure smooth and enjoyable.

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