Open says me, the proverbial can of worms.
Being that I was a Scout in the days before tents had sewn in bottoms, we used ground cloths extensively.
At Philmont in 1959 as a Scout, I used my official BSA poncho as my ground cloth under my sleeping bag. What did I use for rain protection after the tent was set up and before retiring? Of course, the poncho. We set the bedrolls on a layer of crossed sticks built like a log cabin fire lay to keep them up off the damp ground until we crawled inside the tent and carefully spread out the poncho and unrolled the bedroll. Attention to detail kept us dry then and will keep you dry today.
OK. there are two schools of thought on a ground cloth used with tents with sewn in floors.
Innies and Outies.
Both have advantages over the other but the purpose of it is to keep one's bedding dry and for that duty, the choice location of it is INSIDE the tent. This is contrary to convential wisdon, but it works and works well.
Inside, it is protected from sharp sticks and rocks by the tent floor and you don't have to worry about dripping water on the top of the edge running on top of the ground cloth and under your tent floor and soaking through to wet your sleeping bag as su rely as a bad dream does.
During one of those frequent monsonnal downpours that occur on occasion in the mountains of Philmont, you can pull the edges of the inside sheet of plastic up into the shape of a boat and remain nice and dry even though water is seeping in the bottom of the tent which it WILL DO.
The only thing a ground cloth does better outside under the tent floor is to keep the tent floor clean. That is not the purpose of it, but if your vanity insists you do this, then by all means do so, but be aware that at some time in the future in the m iddle of the night when you wake up in a wet bed, just remember that I told you so.
When the ground cloth needs repositioning, which they all will, if its OUTSIDE, then guess what, you got OUTSIDE in the rain to fix it. Not a smart idea is it?
This outie thing probably got started by a mother admonishing her son to "keep your tent tidy and clean sonny!". For Petes sake, tents are washable!
Tyvek or Plastic
Many prefer Tyvek, but heavy plastic will do very well indeed. The choice is yours.
Some choose both innies and outies. This is quite similar to using two forms of birth control and if it's that's important to you or fear of wetness is scary and the thought will ruin your day/night, then by all means consider carrying the extra but unn ecessary weight of double protection.
Don't go just on my word, give them both a try in a real rain, vanity not withstanding, and tell me which works best.
Philmont crew 1959 and 2002
Ah ha! This one is easy to understand. But first a preamble.
I live in SE Texas, home of the eye of Rita and previously Audrey. Not including those rainmakers, we get 53" of rain a year. The only place wetter in the lower 48 is Seattle.
Therefore we have learned the hard way how to stay dry. It is not uncommon to get to a campsite and ALL tent sites soaked. Don't take my advise and shared hard earned lessons, do it the way you feel comfortable with, but for my buck, I want to get a li ttle more bang.
I'm not at all concerned about "protecting" the floor or my tent, nor am I concerned about "protecting" the finish of my hunting rifle or shotgun. All my gear shows tender and loving wear from use. When it's used up, I either repair or replace it.
The reason the tent mfg sell "footprints" is so you get a warm fuzzy feeling that they care about protecting your investment in their tent. Makes you think they care and it sells "more stuff"
Actually, if they gave a damned they would make the floor from material that could "take it". In reality, the reason they don't do that is that they wouldn't have the lightest tent would they? In backpacking tents lightness sells.
Some actually do. For example, the Timberline models from Eureka are available in "outfitter" models which have heavy floors that can take the abuse and stay waterproof.
However, in todays world, lightness is everything and if a backpacking tent isn't light, it won't sell.
And yeah, Philmont would prefer you put a ground cloth UNDER their tents to "protect" them rather than keep you dry. That's simple to understand. The more protection they get, the longer they last and the cheaper your trek costs. Keeping cost down is everything with youth programs.
Think how much it would cost if the Scout footed the entire cost of his share of Philmont expenses? No PhilTower revenue or ranching or oil lease revenue to offset the cost. It would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, to keep costs down, they prot ect and therefore make equipment last longer.
And finally what tent manufacturer is going to recommend you put a layer of plastic down inside to keep you dry because the tent floor they sold you will not? That would insinuate that their floor isn't waterproof. When they can advise you to protect th e underside of your expensive tent from briars, brambles and sharp rocks?
If you were the sales or aadvertizing guru for them what would you recommend?
Hey, use your tent for what it was designed for, to keep the crawly things out and put a little plastic inside to keep you extra dry and get on with the program.
An added benefit with the inner liner is in the morning, you pull the whole thing out like a giant kitchen drawer and stand up while you pack up your kit and kaboodle with it all layed out in front of you.
Hey, that's cool!
If you still don't like the idea, for heaven sake, don't try it. You will never know the difference and that is called ignorance. Ignorance is bliss and we'll all live happily ever after. Sorry Pholks, I just couldn't help myself!
Seriously, keep an open mind to new and different ideas that sometimes come from unconventional wisdom. You might just be amazed.
Brought back great memories as a young Scout camping in wet, soggy, clothing and wet soggy sleeping bags with dirt and mud 3 inches thick on my wet boots.
Thanks Heavens for modern equipment.
1. I carry my own tent. Dependent upon the season, in summer I use one with netting so I can watch the stars. Can't sleep outside at Philmont but nothing like sleeping under the stars and waking up and seeing where they are now, (unless I rolled over then I panic wondering what happened to the sky!) 13 nights in my sleeping bag this year and no tent yet!
2. I check my tents once a year and re-UV and waterproof them. Nikiwax and Granger both have great products for this. I just did four tents today and one yesterday. (The neighbors are now convinced I'm nuts. Especially the ones that washed their trucks the whole time I was washing tents, with a really dirty truck.)
This gives me the opportunity to check for holes (found 2) zipper problems (found 1) lines, (made sure all tent lines were reflective) and poles. (use the poles, just don't count them..) Also is a great time to remember how to set up a tent you haven't used in a while. Sort of embarrassing to put a rain fly on backwards, but better in the driveway then in a windstorm on a trip.
3. Roll/fold/stuff everything back up and make sure the outside of the bags are well labeled. (I don't want to talk about a boundary water trip with one tent and another set of poles...) I carry poles in a separate pole bag. They can be strapped on the outside of my pack and have a tendency to last longer because I see them. Also makes it easy to split the weight with someone else.
4. I drop my pack to my feet and grab the rain cover. I keep the rain cover real handy, on top and available without undoing much. I throw the rain cover off where I'm going to lean my pack. Keeps the pack off the ground and collects things that I drop or that fall out of the pack. Easier to not dust off clothing and spend 20 minutes looking for something small in the sand/leaves/pine needles..
5. I don't use a ground cloth. I spend 15 minutes on my hands and knees looking at where my tent will be pitched. I look for rocks, sticks, anything that will poke a hole in my tent floor. I also look for ants when I'm in the southwest. I tell everyone it is because I don't want to harm any part of nature. The real reason is the little suckers can bite hard and can get into any tent! I also look for things that by 2:00 am will smell like excrement, skunk cabbage in the east, etc. Bad smells can go through a tent floor but not out the netting at the top of the tent. I figure out which way is east and set my tent up with the door facing the east. I tell everyone so I can see the sunrise. The real reason is 90% of the storms out here come from the west.
6. I pull out my pad if it requires inflating and throw it in the tent. I grab my sleeping bag and throw it in near the pad along with my pillow. (Yes I carry a pillow!). I leave the sleeping bag in the bag. I only unroll it when I climb in to go to bed. Stuffed in a stuff sack the chances are zero that a bug, scorpion/snake will crawl in (I've seen it happen, the scorpion I mean) and less damage if someone dumps soup, spaghetti or dinner in general on my bag (seen that happen way too many times.)
Then I relax.
7. Before I crawl in the tent I reach in and tighten the valve on m pad. No use letting it lose all the air it gained by sitting on it as I get in. When I crawl in my tent I un-stuff my sleeping bag and throw it at the far end of the tent out of the way. It will inflate/puff up sufficiently ok. This keeps it out of the way of dirt, tent mates, etc. I get ready for bed, lay out my bag, grab my pillow and look at the stars. (Unless it is raining, then I growl and wonder where the rain fly is.)
If you want a great ground cloth, steal the shower curtain. It is heavy plastic that stops rocks. Easy to replace and you can cut them with scissors to fit. (Tell your spouse the shower curtain thief struck. He or she will know it's a Philmont thing..) Lay the shower curtain out in the driveway and hose it down. Take a brush and detergent (biodegradable) and scrub it down and hose it off. Let dry and set up your tent or map out the Philmont tent dimensions with a marker and cut 1 or 2" smaller all the way around.
I have no great double entendres regarding extra protection, sex and camping
like John did. I am in awe!
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