Why Do You Use a Tarp Under a Tent?

This article is for new campers who want to know how to set up their camp the proper way. And the first question you might have is why do you use a tarp under a tent?

So if you want to know why you use a tarp under a tent: Here are the reasons why you use a tarp under a tent. The First reason to use a tarp under the tent is to keep the bottom of the tent dry. And then secondly the tarp is used to keep the bottom of your tent clean. Also you can prevent the uneven sharp objects from tearing your tent.

Read on if your ready to learn more tips to properly set up camp using a tarp.

How Do You Put a Tarp Under a Tent?

This may seem like a silly question how to put a tarp under a tent. It’s simple right? Place the tarp on the ground and put the tent on it right? This seems like a silly question “how do you put a tarp under a tent”. But if you don’t do it properly it could be a disastrous weekend.

There are some things to consider when placing the tarp under the tent. First is the location of your tent. You want to survey the campsite to find the right location to place your tent.

You want the ground to be level, and free from big rocks sticking out of the ground. This is for two simple reasons. Which maybe you haven’t thought of or are not aware of. If the tent is not on an even ground then water can pool and run under the tent when it rains. The second is obvious you don’t want to have sharp objects under the floor of the tent.

After you have picked the perfect location for the tent. You want to take your tarp and fold it so that it is smaller than the bottom of your tent. Make sure the edges of the tarp are folded under. So that water can not pull on the tarp.

The tarp is placed under the tent to keep the bottom of the tent dry. The tarp will do this when it rains. And then also in the morning there is dew that forms. With a tarp the dew will still form, but the bottom of the tent will be dry and cozy.

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How Thick Should a Tarp be Under the Tent?

I have never measured the thickness of a tarp. But when you buy a tarp to place under your tent. You want to get it big enough tarp so that you can fold it. And of course it will depend on how big of a tent you have on the size of tarp that will work the best for you.

If you can fold the tarp into half. This will give you some cushion when you are walking on the inside of the tent. A tarp can also help insulate from the cold ground.

Also the thicker the tarp can be folded in two; Then it will be less likely any sharp object can puncture the bottom of the tent.

Tarps come in different thicknesses. Measured in millimeters. A heavy duty tarp can be from 5 milometers thick to 16 Mil thick.

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Tarp Size for Tents

Tent Tent SizeTarp Size
3 person tent (Dome)
8’L X 7’W X 50′ H
10 X 12
6 person tent (Family)10′ X 14′ X 70′ H16 X 20
8 person tent12′ X 9′ X 76′ H20 X 20
10 person tent (2 Room)14′ X 10″ x 86′ H20 X 30

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What Should You Look for When Buying a Tarp

Material Quality

Tarps come in lots of different colors and sizes. But what kind of material due you need for use under your tent? A tarp is made of different materials such as Tarpaulin. Which is a thick heavy duty material that is rugged enough that your not scared to kick it about. It is waterproof, mildew resistant and the grommets are rust resistant. This material is thick enough to keep from tearing. When used between your tent and the ground.

Materials used for camping tarps:

  • Polyethylene fabric – Water resistant thinner tight woven material. Lighter than canvas. Which is washable, and is mold & mildew resistant.
  • Multipurpose heavy duty Plastic.


Your going to want a tarp that is rugged enough that it will not rip easily. The material needs to be thick enough to insulate and cushion. The material needs to be water and mildew resistant. And easy to clean.

Size & Color

Size does matter when it comes to a tarp. So make sure your tarp is the correct size for the purpose that you are going to be using it for. I always take measurements before I go and buy a tarp.

Tarps come in all different colors. And some are reversible. They may be green on one side and silver on the other. I know your only camping, but green is a neutral color for camping.

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Can You Use a Tarp as a Tent Footprint?

Yes a tent foot print is the protection between your tent floor and the ground. Which is a fancy protection and name of tarp. The tarp most definitely can be used for a tent footprint.

Why Do I Need a Tent Footprint?

You need to protect the tent from the elements of the ground and the inclement weather. If you place a tarp under the tent it will save the tent floor from deteriorating faster than the tent.

You need a to protect the tent from rain water and dew. And also any dirt and grime that is on the ground. Moisture left on the bottom of the tent can cause mold and mildew and eventually ruin the tent.

Related Article: How to set up a campsite.

What is a Tarp Used for in Camping?

A tarp is great for using under your tent. Keeping it dry and cutting down on feeling the cold from the ground. Then also it will protect the life of the tent. But what else can you use a tarp for?


I like the idea to make your tent even more waterproof. By placing the tarp over the tent. Even if your tent is waterproof in a torrential rain things get wet. To place a tarp over the top this will help prevent getting rained on when your in the tent and there is a down pour of rain.


The best way to waterproof the tent with a tarp. Is to tie the corners of the tarp to the trees. And make sure the tarp is slanted away from the tent. So that any water will not run through the tent area.

Tarp the Campfire Wood

A tarp also works great for keeping the rain off of the firewood. Which we all know is easier to light and stay lit when it is dry. A tarp will keep the elements off of your firewood.


You can also use a tarp to take on a picnic. Spread the tarp out on the ground to use for the picnic. This will keep the wet grass off of you and give your picnic a line of protection against the ground.

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Related Questions

Should You Put a Tarp Over Your Tent?

Placing a tarp over the tent is a great idea. You want to place a tarp over the tent before the rain starts. This will help keep the tent completely dry and waterproof.

A tarp over the tent can also help keep the tent shaded from the rays of the sun. Which in turn will keep the inside of the tent cooler.

If you are wondering Is it Safe to Sleep in a Tent? Read the article and get the tips every camper needs when tent camping.

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Tarp Under Tent or Inside the Bottom of Tent?

The purpose of the tarp under the tent is to protect the tent from premature wear. Cushion and protect against sharp sticks or objects that could tear the tent. Also a tarp can help keep the coldness from ground off the inside floor of the tent. Most important, a tarp will keep the dew, rain, moisture and grime off the floor of the tent.

The tarp will not prevent any of these problems if you place the tarp on the inside of the tent. My recommendation is to place the tarp on the outside of the tent. Underneath the tent. Properly folded and tucked in for maximum protection.

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