Anyone who has purchased a new tent in recent years knows that salespeople are pushing slickly designed groundcloths hard. They are touted as a sort of insurance for your new badass tent. We beg to differ. Not only is this accessory not needed, but also it adds extra weight and bulk to your pack. Let’s take a harder look at tent groundcloths and their place in today’s backpacking arena.
There are two potential reasons to use groundcloths with a tent: (1.) waterproofing the floor and (2.) durability so the floor won’t tear or wear out. In the good ol’ days, tent fabrics were very different than they are today. They weren’t always waterproof, the laminates dried and peeled off, and the floors wore through quite quickly. Groundcloths were needed to combat these issues and were very effective. Today’s backpacking tents (late 90’s and on) are constructed of much more sophisticated fabrics. Silicone impregnation offers waterproof-ness and durability, as does seam taping and welding. “Bathtub” designs keep would-be leaky seams off of the ground. So, the manufacturer has already solved the waterproof issue. Regarding durability, SYMG’s fleet of tents can offer perspective. These are tents that in one summer see more use than 10 years of the average person’s tent! It’s the zippers that bust, not the floor. While it is possible to get the occasional hole or tear in the floor of the tent, a gore-tex patch will fix it right up. The zipper, however, is another story. The better companies will warranty the zippers, but taking care during use is your best insurance.
The take home message: groundcloths don’t help your tent in any meaningful way, so save yourself some weight, bulk and money by leaving them at the store. Happy backpacking!