Sunday, 29 January 2012

Footprints and carpets

If, like me, the whole reason you love camping is that it is such a simple way of life. I've given up on housework because the kids and dogs are always one step ahead when it comes to hoovering and cleaning. I'd rather wait half an hour for the kettle to boil, and the eggs to fry,  then saunter across the field with my plastic bowl of dirty dishes and hang around the washing up area like some bored teenager in the shopping centre on a Saturday morning, waiting to have a chat with whoever comes along, still in their pyjamas too.

So it might seem a bit strange to be worrying about footprints and carpets on a camping trip. Footprints are tarpaulins that you place on the ground before you pitch your tent. They should be the exact size of the groundsheet of your tent and the reason for this is that if they stick out too much beyond your tent, any rainfall will collect on them and trickle down so it's underneath your tent. If they're too small, then the edges of your groundsheet won't be protected. Footprints are good for a number of reasons. They are an extra layer of insulation below your tent to keep out the cold and wet. They help stop the sewn in groundsheet of your tent from getting too wet and muddy, so that when you put the whole tent back in its bag at the end of the trip, it doesn't get too much mud put back into the bag (which will keep the tent wet and it will go mouldy and rot if it's not dried before it's stored). They also protect the groundsheet from small stones and twigs to stop it ripping.Get used to using a footprint, it will prolong the life of your tent.

Because they need to be the same size as the floor of your tent, many manufacturers and suppliers make a specific footprint to match your exact tent dimensions. This makes the whole process easier for you as you can buy a whole start-up kit that includes the tent, footprint and carpet, all the exact size that you need. You will need to pay extra though for this convenience. These are sometimes sold as the tent coming with a free footprint and carpet. You may need to shop around as you might find the tent available elsewhere cheaper, without a footprint and carpet.

If you're working on a budget, you can make your own footprint and sometimes, these can actually be more hardwearing, but perhaps a little heavier than the manufacturers' official ones, which the sun can damage a bit. Measure the exact dimensions of the floor of your tent (or just google it, you'll usually find the floor measurements given in the specs if anyone is selling your make of tent online.) Buy some cheap tarpaulin from a discount shop or online (I got mine from ebay for a very cheap price) and just cut it to size. You might want to add some duck tape around the edges to stop it fraying.

The tent carpet is a similar process. It's usually a soft colourful fleecy fabric with a waterproof backing. If you buy it as part of the start up kit with the tent and footprint, everything will be wonderfully colour co-ordinated (but it comes at a price). If you want to shop around, you can get some big picnic rugs which do the same thing, but you might need to buy 2 or 3 (again, you need to find out the measurements of the tent floor, but with the carpet, it's not really as necessary that it comes right to the edges. You may find one tent carpet is cheaper than several picnic rugs. If you use picnic rugs though, you can easily pick one up and use it as a picnic rug during the day, so it has a dual-purpose.

The carpets have an amazing effect on the warmth and sound of the tent. They stop a lot of the rustling and they provide another layer of insulation.  Get into the habit of leaving your shoes at the door of the tent (get a box with a lid if your tent hasn't got a porch). My children like to wear crocs or flip flops when we camp so they can fling the shoes on and off quickly; unless you're going hiking and you need them for your boots, don't bother with socks, they get soaking wet within 10 minutes and you'll need to take a month's supply. The feeling of the carpet on your bare feet is really cosy, it's especially nice when you finally brave getting out of your sleeping bag in the morning. Plus, it does make the tent look cosier.

I even know a couple who, on their camping trips, take a full size blow up bed, a duvet, cushions, a tent carpet and a little lamp and make their tent a real home from home. You can see people peering into the tent as they walk past!Then, they pack it all away into the pannier on their motorbike and ride home with their amazing folding bedroom all tucked away until their next trip!

How to make your own tent footprint

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