A tent footprint is a customized ground cloth, meant to fit exactly to the shape of your tent. Do you need to bother with a tent footprint? On one hand, a tent footprint adds weight and takes up space in your backpacking gear. On the other hand, you make a significant investment in your tent, and a tent footprint can help prevent your tent from getting wet or punctured. Think of it this way--it costs less to buy a new tent footprint than to buy a new tent.

Tent footprint material is usually some type of denier nylon, and it often has one dull and one bright side. Place the dull side down, so the bright side faces the bottom of your tent.

For example, the North Face Vario 23 tent footprint is designed for use with the North Face Vario 23 tent. The footprint features grommets that line up with the tent poles, and the tent footprint material is denier nylon coated with polyurethane.

Visit your local Sun & Ski shop for expert advice about backpacking tents and accessories.