Tent footprints – worth using?

I recently bought a Terra Nova Laser Comp to replace my Macpac Microlite for a saving of just over 1kg.  While the Macpac is a great tent it certainly isn’t microlight, but it handled quite severe conditions for a 1 pole tent and had plenty of room.  More importantly to this topic, it has a solid floor fabric unlike the Laser Comp which survived a couple of hundred nights use intact.  This has set me thinking about footprints and whether they were worth the weight or not.  Given the price of the Laser Comp I would like to get plenty of use out of it.  My plans for the next 18 months see over 100 nights use;  the Australian Alps Walking Track in Dec-Jan and Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne in August-September 2011 are the major contributors.

The footprint options seem to be

  • Don’t use one and end up doing minor repairs on an increasingly frequent basis
  • Buy one off the shelf and add 250 grams or more to the pack weight
  • Build one – largely a cut out job using a very lightweight material such as Tyvec.

The other aspect I am playing with is trying to get multiple uses out of a footprint if I am going to use one.  I was thinking about using a rain cape but then decided to look at using 3mm closed cell foam.  This should provide really good protection, add a little to the warmth and comfort of the tent and make the tent floor a little less prone to condensation.  On investigation the lightest closed cell foam is 30Kg/cubic metre which equates to 30 grams per mm or 90 grams per sq metre of 3mm foam.  This density is used for sleeping mats so it should be perfect.  The sheets available in Australia are 2 metres by 1 metre while a useful size may be 2 x 0.75 metres, giving a weight of 135 grams – worth checking out.  There are not a lot of places that may stock this in Canberra so if I can’t find it locally it will have to wait until I go to Sydney in a few weeks time.

The only downside I can think of right now is that the bulk will be considerably greater than a fabric footprint. A quick calculation says 4.5 litres for the proposed size.

Does anybody have a thought on this?


About ozwalk

My interest is long distance walking in natural environments. I am returning to this after my middle years of family, full time work etc. As part of this is a quest to go lighter.
This entry was posted in Bushwalking, Camping, footprint, Gear, Hiking, Lightweight, tent, Ultralight. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tent footprints – worth using?

  1. blogpackinglight says:

    I think the Laser Comp groundsheet is tough enough to cope with most conditions.

    Team IO ( http://www.teamio.co.uk ) used to do a Comp footprint which was about 125g. I use one but reverse it so it becomes a porch groundsheet. I like having an extended covered area. A cheaper alternative is to use some Polycro from Gossamer Gear or Mountain Laurel Designs. Tyvek is also a possiblity. A very cheap alternative is to use a silver space blanket.

    • ozwalk says:

      Thanks for your comments. Having thought about it a bit more I think the solution is to not use a footprint until the floor starts to cause problems and then use a footprint to extend the usability of the tent. No doubt by then some really fantastic shiny new tent will be trying to lure my credit card into a rash and injudicious act. I certainly don’t relish trying to sew a new floor into a tent.

  2. Maz says:

    I agree – perhaps it is a truism but whether you use a footprint depends on the ground you’ll be camping on. Nice, bushy, soft grass = no footprint. Hard rock = strong footprint. Somewhere in between is sadly the norm but if you inspect the ground carefully and treat lightweight materials with respect, they will last some time. I would certainly have mentioned Team IO as well and there are other options too – I am looking at sourcing cuben fibre at the moment for various applications. Footprints are an easy way to test the manufacture and distribution lines. I suspect that, for most lightweight bushwalking, if you can find grass and clear it of debris no footprint would be required.

  3. Hugh says:

    Late suggestion, but another option is to use a footprint on the first night if camping at the car, and leave it in the car. This means that every second or third night or so is with the footprint and it will give an extension of life of the floor and the footprint can be as cheap and heavy as you like.

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