Anyone who has taken a broom or branch from a nearby tree to try to sweep the rocks, sticks, and other items from a tent site to protect the tent floor from damage understands the value of a footprint tarp. They are not particularly expensive. The price range runs from around $15 and up. Their value to the longevity of your tent floor is hard to measure. A good footprint tarp can easily double the useful life of a new tent.
After clearing anything that will cause sleeping to be a problem from a campsite, it is time to use the footprint tarp.
Unfold the footprint tarp and stretch it over the spot where your tent will be erected. These tarps are made to be anchored down much in the same way that you would stake a tent except they are easier to use. Since these tarps cost only a fraction of the price of a new tent, you may find yourself replacing the footprint tarp several times during the lifetime of a good quality tent. Most manufacturers of better tents will also market their own footprint tarps to match each model of tent that they sell.
A footprint tarp is slight smaller than the actual footprint of the tent
A footprint tarp is intended to protect and not replace a tent floor. Because most tents have space around the edges of their perimeters that are not convenient to use, a footprint tarp can be a few inches smaller than a tent floor and still do an excellent job of protecting it. These tarps are meant to be a barrier for sharp objects or abrasive surfaces. The other features of your tent will serve to repel water, insects, and other potential problems.
Not all campers use a commercially manufactured footprint tarp
If you have access to cheap tarps, you may find it just as convenient to fashion your own footprint tarp to save money. Since footprint tarps do not receive excessive wear and tear, almost any quality of tarp will do for this purpose. A home made footprint tarp may be a little more difficult to fasten down securely under your tent if you are not particularly skilled in adding on the extras that make them convenient to use. You can add corner straps to extend out a little for anchoring the tarp to the ground. It is not too hard to install metal rings for this purpose if you prefer.
Make sure the footprint tarp is secure to the ground
If do not get the tarp fastened, it can move some on an extended stay at the same campsite. It is possible for it to bunch up and make lumps under the floor of the tent. This type of movement reduces the effectiveness of the tarp for protecting the underside of your tent floor. Taking just a couple of minutes to make sure it is well fastened to the ground will pay off in the long run.