Has anyone ever tried using lightweight painter's tarp as a tent footprint? I spent about $5 on a small roll at Home Depot, folded it in half in each direction and taped the corners. It weighs 1/3 the weight of my existing footprint. Have yet to bring it out on the trail.
Did you know that 83.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot?
Loc: Portland, OR
How long a plastic painter's drop cloth will last as a footprint depends on the thickness. The thinner it is the lighter it will be to carry, but also the more vulnerable to damage and the more quickly used up and disposed of. I use a plastic 3 mil footprint, cut to size, under my car camping tent, which helps to keep the bottom clean and gives a bit of extra protection. But that is for car camping, where the extra weight and bulk of a footprint is negligible.
If you are taking a footprint on a backpack, then the more fundamental question is: why should your tent floor need a footprint under it?
From my point of view, if it needs a footprint to keep from leaking, then your tent is not very reliable, either because of age and wear or poor materials and workmanship. If the tent floor is watertight, then usually a bit of care in removing sharp objects from the ground where you pitch it ought to maintain it in good shape. In my opinion, tent footprints for backpacking don't justify their weight, no matter how light they are, so that personally, I do not carry one with me.
Edited by aimless (03/13/1403:08 PM) Edit Reason: rethought it
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
What aimless said! I haven't used a "footprint" in years and have had no problems, even with lightweight silnylon floors and a fairly large dog.
EDIT, LATER: I did, in the dim distant past, use a piece of painters dropcloth cut to fit. However, I gave that up about 1995. Yes, it's basically disposable, but with a duct tape patch or two, one did last for a 9 day trip.
If your heart is set on a footprint, check out polycro. This is the shrink-to-fit stuff used in storm window and door kits. It's also sold separately (but more expensively) by Gossamer Gear and Mountain Laurel Designs, among others. It's about the same weight as that painters dropcloth, but far more durable. Many tarpers use them for ground sheets, (you do need one with a tarp) and some claim they've lasted a whole season. With polycro, cut it a trifle larger than you need, because it will shrink, especially in warm sun.
You undoubtedly know this, but for any beginners who might be reading this--the footprint, if you use one, should be about 2 inches smaller each side than your tent. Otherwise it will catch trips off the tent side and funnel them underneath--on top of the plastic!
Edited by OregonMouse (03/13/1405:38 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Like others have mentioned, I also have stopped using a footprint for my tent. I find the thin mesh parts break-down before the floor.
I have heard of people using painters drop-cloths, but they don't hold up very well. Tyvek (home insulation cover) and polycryo (window insulation film) are more popular options I have heard of; also available at home depot. I think a few online cottage gear companies sell small sheets of the stuff for this purpose.
I don't take a footprint when my tent is on "benign" ground. although a lot of time I'm in a tent, I'm actually in a tent because I'm not really in places where it is all that easy to keep sharp objects from under the tent, so if I know I'm going to be on rocky ground, I take a piece of tyvek as it's fairly puncture resistent and does protect the floor if my tent.
We used a painter's tarp for years. Very lightweight, and it did keep the tent very clean. We actually like the way an oversized groundcloth can provide a kind of "porch" for the tent. Makes it easier to get in and out of the tent without tracking in dirt and debris.
Of course if it rains, you need to pull it in underneath the vestibule, or it just collects rainwater....