Why do I need a separate ground sheet?

I often see people asking why they need to buy another groundsheet if they have one already sewn into their tent.

Groundsheets have several different purposes. A bathtub groundsheet sewn into your tent protects against the damp, wet ground, waterproof rating 3000HH plus—a higher rating than the walled tent material. An additional groundsheet adds another layer of protection to the underside of your tent. You provide an extra layer of insulation and protect the bottom from damage caused by debris on the ground. Plus, avoiding the main tent from getting wet and dirty when packing away.

On average, 80% of tents have sewn-in groundsheets; these usually are more expensive. Consider adding another layer of protection not only to increase your camping comfort level but to avoid damaging a costly tent.

Why do you need to use a groundsheet with a sewn-in groundsheet?

Because a tent has a sewn-in groundsheet, it’s assumed that you do not need to buy an additional footprint to place under the tent.

Having an additional groundsheet has the following benefits:

  • Increase insulation
  • Double waterproofing
  • Protect the underneath of your tent
  • Avoid tears due to stones, rocks or other sharp items on the floor
  • Helps to protect your tent whilst packing away
  • Aids in pitching your tent to find ideal flat ground
  • Easier to clean rather than the main underneath of your tent
  • Prolonging the life of your tent
  • Avoid cleaning squashed bugs from the base of your tent

The minimum waterproofing on a standard tent floor will be no less than 3000 HH, which stands for a hydrostatic head. It’s an essential rating, as it will determine how much endurance the tent floor can undergo without water seeping in. However, this doesn’t consider heavy continuous rain.

If you have a high HH rating, it does not mean you will be fully protected. Tent floors need to be the robust section of a tent when considering the amount of walking and furniture. Plus, having the groundsheet in complete contact with the floor will decrease the waterproofing over time.

I have several tents, and my main large family tent has a bathtub groundsheet, which is sewn-in. We camp all year round, so it is crucial that not only do I protect my tent, but it helps with cleaning. I can peg out my separate groundsheet or hang it over my washing line to clean quickly, rather than trying to hang or turn over my large tent and clean underneath.

My main concern is ensuring that my primary tent groundsheet is debris-free and dry before packing. The additional groundsheet protects the underside of my tent, and I can easily brush or wipe dry any water or condensation build-up underneath. My groundsheet can easily be folded and stored separately from my tent and cleaned when home.

What type of groundsheet should I buy?

Tarpaulin (Tarp)

Tarpaulin is a heavy-duty, waterproof, fire-resistant woven material, commonly polyester or polyethene. The thickness and weight are shown in GSM (Grams per Square meter). The higher the number, the greater the protection for waterproofing and strength.

They have eyelets on either corner, along the width and length, for easy pegging. They are available in different grades and colours. Blue usually is economy. Black is heavy-duty, and white is flame-retardant.

Tarps are a cheaper option compared to a footprint. They will not fit your tent precisely as they come in standard sizes. The tarp will need to be folded to work correctly.

During the summer months, I use a blue 90g/m², which is waterproof but not heavy-duty. During colder camping seasons, I use a 200g/m² as it has increased insulation and is waterproof. But it is heavy, which can be a nightmare when packing away and transporting as bulky.

Mesh groundsheets

Mesh groundsheets are a fine net that allows dirt, water, or debris to fall through. So dirt will not lay on the top of the groundsheet like a tarp. They are not suitable for everyday camping unless in an arid area. A mesh footprint is ideal for beaches. The sand will easily fall through the mesh, so you will not need to sweep clean.

They are not waterproof, so if the ground is wet, the water will seep through the gaps to the base of your tent. Compared to tarps and footprints, they are an expensive option, which do not protect the underneath of your tent.

What are breathable groundsheets, and why use them?

Some campsites do not allow an everyday groundsheet as it destroys grass over time. They request a breathable groundsheet instead of a tarp or footprint.

Breathable groundsheets should not be used for your tent, even though they are waterproof and have good insulation. Mud and dirt will stick to it and is a nightmare to clean. They are heavy, bulky and an expensive option to use compared to a tarp.

Breathable groundsheets are great to use during warm weather and protection outside your tent entrance. It will help to keep the inside of your tent clean.

We have used ours in our gazebo, as they are nice to walk on, plus they will keep the cold ground at bay in the evenings.


Footprints are often confused with groundsheets. Footprints are made specifically for a tent design and size. They have straps instead of eyelets aligned with your tent poles when pitching. It is easier to pitch a tent using a footprint than a tarp. You can easily position your tent over the footprint, which is an exact match.

They are sold as an addition to a tent purchase and are expensive.

Footprints are softer, easier to fold, and less bulky than tarps. However, it is an expensive mistake to make if footprints become damaged or mouldy because they have not been cleaned and dried correctly.

What size groundsheet do I need for my tent?

Tent groundsheet – folding to fit

A groundsheet should always be smaller than your tent. The edges of the groundsheet should not be visible once your tent is pitched. You can fold the edges underneath if the groundsheet is more prominent than your tent. It does not need to be an exact fit.

Modern tent designs will have a universal groundsheet suitable for several models. They will have eyelets or tags which align with your tent pole ringlets for pegging down. They are polyethene material, more expensive than standard footprints.

I have four different tents and one groundsheet for all. It is a standard waterproof heavy-duty tarpaulin which is an exact match for my large tent. For my smaller tents, I fold to fit the footprint size. It cost me £26.99 compared to £40 – £60.

Why is the underside of my tent wet when using a groundsheet?

What happens when a groundsheet is not placed correctly underneath a tent

There are several reasons why the underside of your tent may be wet. Either due to the footprint you are using or has not been laid correctly.

A PVC groundsheet is an excellent waterproof base, but it will sweat, especially during hot weather. Condensation will build up underneath your tent, causing the underside of your tent to become wet. There is no solution; only wipe the bottom of your tent before packing away.

A groundsheet needs to be smaller than your tent. If the groundsheet sticks out from underneath your tent, water will run down the sides of your tent onto the groundsheet when it rains. The water will then seep underneath, and the underside will be wet.

Key takeaways

  • Protect the base of your tent by using a groundsheet
  • Footprints are expensive but fit accurately
  • Tarps you will need to fold as it will not be an exact fit
  • Tarps are a lot cheaper to buy than footprints


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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