Do You Need To Put A Tarp Under Your Tent? A Detailed Guide

Have you ever wondered if you need to put a tarp under your tent? I have because as I started camping, I started seeing more and more people put a tarp under their tents. I did some research to find out why.

So, do you need to put a tarp under your tent? You don’t have to put a tarp under your tent but you should in order to protect the bottom of your tent from damage.

Using a tarp can also help with keeping some moisture out of your tent in heavy rains. You also need to know how to be able to set up the tarp correctly in order for it to be effective.

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Tarps Protect The Bottom Of Your Tent

Making your camping equipment last longer should be a top priority. Your tent is one of your biggest assets when camping and so you should protect it as much as possible. In some camping locations, your tent could be at risk of damage from the ground where you set up camp. Tarps can help prevent this damage because it acts as a cushioned barrier against things like rocks, sticks, thorns, etc. Even one small hold on the bottom of your tent could grow to a large rip if not protected properly.

So for the protection of your tent, you want to make sure to get a thick tarp that will withstand rough terrain and keep your tent safe. Make sure that you know the size of your tent and the size of the tarp so that the entire bottom of your tent is protected. You should be able to stake and secure your tent normally because you will be folding the tarp slightly under your tent to help keep moisture out.

Tarps Help Keep Moisture Out Of Your Tent

If you properly fold your tarp under your tent, it will greatly aid in preventing moisture from getting into your tent. Rain could potentially moisten the ground under your tent and then seep into your tent. This is especially true if there is some damage underneath your tent from not previously protecting it! Even a few very small holes in your tent could potentially let in a lot of rainwater. No one wants water inside of their tent so be prepared.

Even if the weather forecast does not predict rain where you are camping, it always helps to be prepared for it. The best places to camp also happen to be the places where the weather is the most unpredictable. I have personally experienced this when I was camping in the desert and woke up to being covered in snow!

Nowhere in the weather forecast did it say rain or snow, in fact, it was predicted to be sunny clear days in the low 70s. Luckily I was prepared that night with my tarp and my rain fly on. You don’t want to be caught without a tarp in wet or snowy weather. Needless to say, use a tarp because you never know what the weather will be like when you are going camping.

Okay so we know that a tarp will help protect your tent from terrain and help keep water out but we need to make sure we set up the tarp correctly so that it is as effective as possible.

Set Up Your Tarp Properly So It Can Provide Effective Protection

For terrain protection, it is pretty easy. Just make sure that the tarp is thick enough and large enough to cover the entire bottom of your tent. It doesn’t hurt to get a slightly larger tarp just to be sure, because you could always just fold it a little bit to make it fit. It also doesn’t hurt to get a tarp that is a little thicker than what you might need because you don’t always know how sharp something underneath your tent could be.

For moisture protection, you need to make sure that the tarp is folded to be under your tent and that the folds are facing outwards so that water will not be able to pool directly underneath your tent and on top of the tarp. Ideally, you want the water to be able to run off of the tarp, and you do that by having your tarp folds rolled under the tarp itself.

It also helps to not place your tent on low ground in your campsite if you can because gravity will naturally run the water into the lowest spots. Additionally, water will run down the sides of your tent and if the tarp is sticking out too far then it will catch the water and trap it under your tent. That is why the folds are so important, double-check to make sure that they are not sticking out from under your tent and that the tarp is folded underneath itself.

For extra protection from the rain, consider adding another tarp on top of your tent. Sure, rain flys are supposed to keep water out, but we all know that rain doesn’t always just fall perfectly vertically. Wind can cause rain to fall at your tent sideways and some tents are not properly sealed in every direction. A tarp on top would be useful if you know that it might rain hard and there might also be some wind.

Be sure to secure the tarp properly as well, you do not want it to fly off in the middle of the night in the rain. Tarps are very affordable, so it’s not a big loss if you end up not needing it. Plus as a side bonus, an extra tarp on top might just keep you a little warmer at night because wind cannot penetrate them as easily as they can with thin tent material. You have a few options to pick from when it comes to getting a tarp for your tent, and it is always good to have options.

There Are A Few Different Tarp Options For Protecting Your Tent

Tent Footprints

Tent footprints are one option for you. They are specifically designed for camping and for tents. So they are a premium option that offers all of the best protection that you can get. Some tents even have their own tent footprints made 100% for that brand and model so do a quick search on to see if your tent has its own. If not there are some great quality ones that are built to fit common tent dimensions. You can’t really go wrong with a high-quality tent footprint.

Classic Multi-Purpose Tarp

A more economical option is the classic multi-purpose tarps. These are the ones you see everywhere on boats, pools, lumber, etc. and the classic color is blue. They might require a bit more work to make them fit properly under your tent but they get the job done. They do cost less than tent footprints but I wouldn’t go too cheap because after all, you want it to protect your tent, which is a bigger investment. Look for “heavy-duty” in the name or possibly “for camping” in the name. 

Combination Of Both

Getting a tent footprint for the bottom of your tent and a classic tarp for the top of your tent could be the best combination to keep you prepared for whatever comes your way while out camping.


While you don’t need to have a tarp under your tent, you definitely should have one. You don’t need a tent to go camping either, but sleeping on the floor isn’t much fun. Tarps help you protect your tent from damage and help keep you dry. Make sure that you set up the tarp properly so it can do what it needs to do. Also, make sure that you have the right tarp for your camping needs and you will have a great time.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here Opens in a new see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here Opens in a new see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click hereOpens in a new tab. to see the best camping stove on Amazon.

Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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