​DIY tent footprint

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I have a new Hubba Hubba tent, and a footprint from an old one that fits perfectly. Two tents, one footprint won’t work if both tents come on a family trip. A new footprint is $40. Time for some DIY.

The shape and design of the HH footprint is functionally efficient and effective, with scalloped edges that don’t peek out from beneath the tent, corner webbing with grommets for the pole ends and cord loops for the stakes.

The mission was to replicate all of that with materials I had on hand in the shop.

First thing out-of-stock, I did not have enough scrap Tyvek. But I did have a big piece of thick plastic, so that will have to do to cut out the body of the footprint. Having the existing perfect-fit MSR footprint available made getting the size and shape easy.



I have lots of scrap webbing, but adhering it to the plastic footprint seemed problematic. I used 1” Gorilla tape instead. I wanted to duplicate the same 2 ½” of tape/webbing sticking out past the footprint body and have 3” stuck on the plastic, so an 11” piece of Gorilla tape folded in half should do.

The stake cords loops are 4” long, plus an extra inch for the knot, call it 10 inches of cord with a little excess I can trim off later if need be. I marked the plastic footprint 3” in from the edge, stuck the tape under, marked the tape for a center fold over, laid the cord on the sticky center mark and folded the tape over onto the plastic to the 3” line.



Dang, that looks just about right.



The most critical measurement is the location of the pole end grommets, but I have that exact position courtesy of the OEM footprint.

I may have been out of Tyvek, but grommet kits I got, in various sizes. Half inch grommets appeared to match those on the MSR footprint, but just so I didn’t screw up the last step I checked to see if the pole ends fit.

Those proved to be a snug fit with an unassembled grommet. Hmmm, let’s not eff it up now.

Step 2 of not screwing up – I installed a grommet in a test piece of folded Gorilla tape and checked the pole end fit. That also gave me a chance to test my hot nail head size for melting the grommet holes.



Pretty work, and if you seat the grommet immediately after melting the holes the still-hot and gooey tape edges seal nicely inside the grommet. (Works well with webbing too).



I checked that pretty test work, only to find that the poles did not quite fit into an assembled grommet. So close, but I’ll have to use ¾” grommets. I know from past experience that a 20 penny common nail head melts a perfect hole for a ¾” grommet (and a 20 penny nail point melts a perfect 3/16” hole for machines screws).



Holes melted one at a time and grommets seated in still gooey tape. Done and done all four corners.



Me likee. Me out a piece of plastic, 44 inches of Gorilla tape, 40 inches of cord and a few grommets. Me still have $40 for beer.

I have in the past always scalloped the edges of our various family tent ground cloths so that they don’t peek out from underneath and collect water, but I like the cord loops for holding the ground cloth in place during windy set up or take down, and the pole end grommet seats.

I see a roll of Tyvek and weekend of DIY tent footprint customizing in my future.
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2014
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WOW. I love it. The last time out, I said to M "Instead of a stupid piece of carpet in our gear shed, we need a fitted ground cloth." How would you do it honey?" "I'll think of something." Your tutorial has solved all my problems Mike. Thanks. The hot nail thing is super. I may consider an all in one ground cloth for both tent and gear shed. That'll eliminate a tent-shed seam. Thanks again Mike.
 
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The last time out, I said to M "Instead of a stupid piece of carpet in our gear shed, we need a fitted ground cloth." How would you do it honey?" "I'll think of something." Your tutorial has solved all my problems Mike. Thanks. The hot nail thing is super. I may consider an all in one ground cloth for both tent and gear shed. That'll eliminate a tent-shed seam.

The tent-shed seam might not be a bad thing. If water blew in under the shed end it would be less likely to flow under the tent if made of two separate pieces, and if at some point you used just the tent without gear shed you wouldn’t have an oversized groundcloth to deal with.

On the entry door side of our tents we use a piece of “fake grass” in the vestibule. That stuff is very porous, so any water goes right through, and the soft plastic “grass” bristles serve to brush any sand or dirt off knees and feet when getting into the tent. That fake grass (cheap, in the carpet section of any Home Depot or Lowes) is porous enough that even the sand and dirt falls through so it doesn’t accumulate on top as with a plastic or nylon sheet.

I cut that fake grass long enough that it sticks out past the vestibule door to serve as a “welcome mat” to stand on just beside the tent to put on/take off shoes.

Well, sand, dirt and rain fall through. Sleet doesn’t.

 
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. The hot nail thing is super.

About the hot nail thing – the center punch that comes with grommet kits is useless with many materials. It doesn’t work well with any kind of vinyl coated material and will not begin to punch a hole through webbing. Plus even if you do manage to pound it through it leaves frays around the hole.

The hot nail head seals those frays, and if you install each grommet immediately after melting the hole the still gooey edges off the material seat and seal inside the grommet nicely.

I use the point of that 20-penny common nail to melt perfect 3/16” holes in webbing, that size hole being ideal for pop rivets and machine screws in canoe outfitting. I like having a few webbing tie points in the canoe and the sturdiest attachment points are already there and require drilling no additional holes – the ends of the machine screws through the thwarts and yoke.

I just make small webbing loops, with a single twist in the webbing so it is open and easier to pass a line through, take the nut and washer off the end of the machine screw, slide on the webbing and replace the washer/nut.



Actually I use those webbing loops for a variety of gear restraint applications. The inside of the travelling truck cap has dozens to keep gear secured in place.



BTW – the battle scarred piece of 2x4 is really helpful in making webbing loops. The “cross hairs” help align the webbing loop with the hole in the center of the 2x4 so the hot nail head has a void to aim for.
 
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Jan 8, 2014
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I have never understood footprints. I remember using them in the Boy Scouts and waking up soaked. I have seen several friends make the same mistake. There has been no damage to my tents without them in over 50 years. But I am glad that other people like them.
 
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ppine - you probably had ill fitting footprints. They are just water collectors if they don't stay under the tent bottom and fly.

When properly fitted they provide a better vapor barrier between the tent bottom and the ground and take the beating of rocks and roots more so than the tent bottom.

If you have a high mm coated tent bottom, they aren't really necessary but with the lighter tents these days, the bottom coatings are thinner and thinner, so to add so vapor barrier and abrasion resistance, some people prefer them. Others, who want to go light or aren't worried about a damp floor (not really a concern when sleeping on a good mat), they can be left off.
 
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If you have a high mm coated tent bottom, they aren't really necessary but with the lighter tents these days, the bottom coatings are thinner and thinner, so to add so vapor barrier and abrasion resistance, some people prefer them. Others, who want to go light or aren't worried about a damp floor (not really a concern when sleeping on a good mat), they can be left off.

Even on a good (thick) pad I have assorted unprotected gear around the edges of the tent, and I’d rather keep my sundry stuff out of any dampness or seep. I usually have a book flopped beside me, some clothes and raingear in stuff sacks in the foot corners and edges of a sleeping bag flopping off the pad as I toss and turn.

My first warning that something is amiss is usually turning over in the bag and discovering a wet edge pressed against my knees or feet. Gawd dammit. I hate having to take care of a damp floor in the middle of the night.

I’m still looking for the perfect tent floor, with a high mm of waterproofieness. Until I can find (and afford) one I try to make do with a footprint, and an auxillary “emergency” innie of lightweight plastic.

Having seen the pin holes and wear on our ground cloths and footprints I’m firmly in the “outie” culture. Tents are expensive – a ground cloth or footprint is relatively cheap.

I do like a properly cut, scalloped-edge ground cloth with stake loops, so that I can at least stake down that barrier in some predetermined (head up, right about here for best drainage) position without the corners of the ground cloth blowing free in the wind.

I do not like starting on step 1and already having to chase the ground cloth across the beach.
 
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Oh I understand. I use a footprint myself for the reasons you state. I can goo up the cloth if it gets a hole or a rip - less heartbreaking than doing the same to the tent.

I'll assume you haven't looked into Hilleberg tents?

http://www.hilleberg.com/home/usa.php

And yes, those are the real prices!

If you pick the right one, it's likely to be your last though... or so I read. Too rich for my blood. I can deal with the wimpy fabric and just be careful and patch as needed.
 
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