Backpacking Tent Groundcloths

Ground Cloths

Camp below North Peak Couloir

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!

Graham Ottley
Born and raised in the Midwest (Iowa & Illinois), I always held a fascination for the outdoors and mountain landscapes as some “distant place” on maps. That fascination continues today but I am fortunate to have now lived and worked in the mountains for 15+ years. My first job as a guide was leading sea-kayak trips in coastal Ketchikan Alaska. After that season, I attended undergrad in the Southeast (Montreat College) studying Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies and went on to pursue my MBA. I first visited the Yosemite area during a spring break climbing trip with some buddies. I can vividly recall driving in and being completely awestruck by the beauty of The Valley, well as all the great climbing : ) After college I worked as a Guide with Summit Adventure in Yosemite as well as internationally in the Ecuadorian Andes and mountains of Mexico. I enjoyed teaching outdoor education in Santa Cruz and Yosemite Valley during my off-seasons. I also worked with Outward Bound California leading youth trips and eventually worked as Program Director at their Midpines and Joshua Tree locations. In 2016, I transitioned to SYMG and appreciated the thoughtful approach to the work of guiding. I enjoy spending time with the great crew of guides that come here to work, live and play. Beyond work in the outdoors, I am a proud father of two children, Owen & Eleanor. I enjoy adventures with them and my wife Sarah not quite as far afield. While we still return regularly to visit family in the midwest, we are happy to call Southern Yosemite home.