Footprints help extend the life of your tent by protecting its floor. But, they're inexplicably expensive. You can slash that price by half or more if your make your own from Tyvek. Here's how.
We have a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent ($390) that we use for pretty much every backpacking trip. It's a great tent that's stood up to much more abuse than you'd expect from its ultralight construction, but I still fear for its long-term durability. I'd like the added reassurance a footprint ($60) offers, but they're just so expensive for what's just a simple piece of fabric.
In addition to protecting the tent floor from being punctured and torn, footprints also prevent water seeping in through the floor and, in the case of the Fly Creek and similar designs, can be used with the rainfly to pitch the tent while keeping rain off in bad weather.
As it turns out, Tyvek is an ideal material for making footprints because it is lightweight, durable, waterproof and inexpensive.
The pros of using this template are that it triple reinforces the corners, uses grommets to put the tent poles through and tapes the seams. You can do this simpler by just cutting a piece of Tyvek or 6 mil plastic to shape, but this method has virtually all the same features and convenience of a factory footprint.
Step One: Plan It Out
First, you need to know what materials you need and how much of them. I based my foot print on our tent, which is 86x52-42" (it tapers off). I then added three inches to each corner in order to reinforce them where the grommets will be. I calculated I needed at least 92x58" of Tyvek, to make it happen without gluing two pieces together (which you can do if you have a wider tent). I decided to place grommets in each of the corners and one in the center of the rear because my tent happens to have a pole that connects there. Then, nylon cord will be looped around the grommets to attach the tent at the stakes. The edges will also be folded in 1" all the way around the perimeter to ensure the footprint is slightly smaller than the tent, and to make the edges more durable.
Step Two: Gather Materials
- 1 x piece of Tyvek (Amazon, $varies)
- 1 x grommet kit (Amazon, $10)
- Nylon cord (had some laying around)
- Dap Contact Cement (Amazon $5)
- Rolling Pin
Step Three: Measure And Draw
Once you have your plan and materials, it's time to start measuring where you are going to cut. Lay the Tyvek sheet out where you have enough area to work around it and sketch the outline of the footprint.
It helps to have another set of hands while doing this, someone to hold the ruler or tape measurer and someone to draw the lines and keep the points straight.
Once you have sketched your outline onto the Tyvek, it should look something like this.
Note the 3" of additional material around the corners for reinforcement.
This is how I measured and then folded the edges over to make the reenforced area. The lines with dashes through them were for measuring and were not used to cut around. The cut out corner can then be seen in the next picture.
Step Four: Cut Out The Footprint
This is pretty self explanatory. Cut around the outline you created and, assuming you measured correctly, the footprint should be just the right size for your tent.
Step Five: Tape The Seams
In order to make the edges of the footprint stronger, I folded them over and "taped" them using the Dap Contact Cement. I used a 1 oz bottle for all of the edges, however I probably could have used more like 2-3 oz. Just fold the edges over and apply the cement. I found it easiest to pre-fold the edges and then apply the cement going around the tent (without actually pressing the folded edge down). Then, you have glue around the perimeter, ready to fold and press the edges into place. Go around the perimeter in the same order you applied the glue, allowing time for it to cure. Press down the edge then roll it with a rolling pin to ensure a good seal. Glue all of the edges and corners in this manner and you will have a very strong footprint that will resist tears extremely well.
Step Six: Apply The Grommets
Now, with the glue dry, apply the grommets. The grommet kit I bought had all the equipment needed to cut the hole, then affix the metal fastener.
Step Seven: Apply Nylon Cord
This is relatively straightforward. Simply tie loops of cord through each grommet in order the secure the foot print to the stakes when pitching the tent. Do a trial setup with the tent on top of the footprint to determine the appropriate length.
Here's how mine turned out.
It may look a little larger than the tent in the pictures (which would allow rain to collect underneath, which is bad), but when the tent is staked out, it stretches out about one inch all-round. Make sure to account for this in your measurements!
Overall, I'm very happy with the finished product. It fits like a glove and seems durable enough to last a very long time. I also have a sizable chunk of Tyvek left over and many unused grommets, so my next footprint will be virtually free.
We plan to take this footprint with us wherever we take the tent to help protect it and prolong its life.
I wondered if it would fit into the same stuff sack the tent usually goes into and, sure enough, it rolls right up with the tent, adding virtually no size.
The footprint ended up coming in just at 3 oz, keeping the total weight of the tent under 3 lbs!
This article originally appeared on Tyler's blog, KandT Adventurizing and has been reprinted here with permission.
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