6 Reasons I Love My Tyvek Footprint by Six Moon Designs

Alli "Moonbeam" McGranaghan

 

I have one particular backpacking item that accompanies me on every outdoor pursuit: my Tyvek Footprint by Six Moon Designs. I cherish this uncomplicated, lightweight, budget-friendly essential for numerous reasons, but I’ll highlight six of them for you. 

cowboy camping on a tyvek footprint in the upper sierra

1. The Holy Grail of Ground Cloths

My backpacking gear has seen well over 3,000 miles of trail, and my Tyvek footprint is absolutely my dirtiest piece of equipment, which is how I like it. It provides a clean, dry surface for sitting, napping, picnicking, or organizing gear any time of day.

gear spread in a field with the tyvek footprint acting as a sit pad.

I actually started my PCT thru-hike with an additional sit pad, but I quickly discovered it was an unnecessary item. I reached for my footprint instead.

I use my Tyvek a minimum of twice daily: for a midday break and when setting up camp. I am mindful to put the same side surface towards the Earth. And when it’s time to pack up, my dirty footprint returns to the easily-accessible exterior of my pack, away from my other gear. Better yet, I’ve also easily cleaned the dirty side when having to travel to New Zealand, where any potential incoming biohazards are taken very seriously. 

two dirty legs barefoot out stretched on a tyvek footprint on the groundThis photo captures my daily PCT routine of lunching and relaxing on my ground cloth, complete with the ritual of removing my socks and shoes. Despite the appearance of my soiled feet, the tarp is serving as protection against the ash of Lassen National Park.

2. Part of a Robust Sleep System

a tent in a snowy forestUtilizing my Tyvek footprint in snowy conditions of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Designed as a weatherproof exterior house wrap, Tyvek is renowned in the construction industry because it protects from outside elements, without trapping moisture, and enhances insulation performance. In wet or snowy backpacking conditions, maintaining warmth and dryness is crucial. Utilizing Tyvek as a water-resistant ground cloth strengthens your sleep system in several ways. It is designed to prevent moisture ingress and repel external elements, including excess moisture from the warmed earth or melted snow under you, maintaining dryness and comfort across varied conditions. 

My Six Moon Designs Tyvek Footprint has saved me in countless wet and cold situations proving its ability to shed rain, snow, and pooled water. I’ve used it to cowboy camp directly on snow, cowboy camp on frozen ground or in extremely cold temperatures, tent camp on snow, and tent camp in heavy storms which produce significantly wet ground conditions. Each and every time, I’ve remained comfortable, warm, and dry.

3. Magic Carpet

A Tyvek footprint can also serve as *basically* a magic carpet. With a blank canvas (for your adventures and your creativity alike), you can go almost anywhere. By penning a sign on a whim you can help yourself get to or from trail, as long as you can also catch a hitch, but a clever sign overrules a dinky thumb any day.

The Tyvek material is very paper-like, but is much stronger, so a sharpie works flawlessly on it. I’ve seen some incredible masterpieces drawn on a ground cloth. The surface is much more visible than writing on cardboard (which you also don’t always have on hand). It’s the perfect canvas for a game of tic-tac-toe, doodling, or documenting milestones along your journey.

 tyvek footprint with a tarot card "Ace of Cups" draw on it in the desert.Joe Pagoc’s (Big Spoon) photo is just one example of a hiker’s creativity on a Tyvek footprint. Illustrating the tarot card he drew before leaving for trail, it’s meaning served as a daily reminder: "Seek out ways to explore your consciousness, seek out paths that lead to your connections with Spirit" and "Allow the power of your emotions to guide you in a new direction.”

4. Simple Shelter

In a pinch, my ground cloth has served as a simple makeshift shelter. Whether providing brief relief as a sunshade or as a protection against rain, it has offered crucial assistance when needed. My fondest memory (in hindsight) of this usage was in the desert of the PCT. The day was a slog - cold, windy, and relentlessly raining without a tree or other form of shelter along the trail. To take a rest for lunch, my hiking partner and I huddled together, draping my ground cloth over our heads and backpacks as we squatted eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Was it glorious? No. But it did allow us to catch our breath and eat out of the rain. 

5. Protects from Sharp Objects

a yellow tent with a view of mountains behind it and the setting sun.

A picture of the view I was enjoying one evening along the PCT. Captured at a moment when I was blissfully unaware that soon, stubs of Manzanita bushes would tear through my Tyvek footprint.

Ultralight gear is often made with delicate materials. Sticks, roots, or sharp rocks can easily rip holes in your dearly loved expensive trail-home. On the other end of the spectrum, Tyvek is literally designed to perform in harsh, rugged, and extreme conditions while being cost effective. Typically, one would comb a tent site for rocks, sticks, or protruding objects for increased comfort and protection towards your tent floor. However, when you’re hiking double digit miles every day for months at a time, the need for immediate rest sometimes overtakes careful tent site inspection.

One evening in a burn area, I hastily prepared my sleeping quarters for the night. Confidently, I slapped my tarp down and pitched my tent. When I climbed in and sat on my pad I heard a "pop." I knew this wasn't a good sign but dozed off nonetheless. Upon inspection when packing up in the morning, I realized native Manzanita bushes were beginning to resurface in the burn area. Their thick, sharp branches had punctured two holes in my Tyvek tarp…but not my tent. I was relieved, and simply patched the holes with tenacious tape to prevent further tearing.

cowboy camping at dusk on a tyvek footprint

When cowboy camping, my Tyvek footprint is sometimes the only protection between the ground and my inflatable sleeping pad. 

6. A piece of "Home"

Big Agnes tent with a sunset behind it and mountains!

I like to think of my Tyvek as my "front porch," a welcome mat to my home away from home. Where I take off my shoes and place my gear. Where I slow down for a meal or catch a brief nap. Every time I unfold it, I smile and feel a sense of gratitude for all the places I’ve been. It has been through my highs and my lows, accompanying me every mile, outserving any other single piece of gear I own. Unwinding in the evening, preparing to indulge in rest is one of my favorite parts of the day when thru-hiking. When I lay down at the end of a long day on my footprint, I am filled with a sense of peace. I’m confident and comfortable on my small, dry haven, quick to shut my eyes.

With being under $20, the return on investment for this versatile singular piece of gear is remarkable. It’s pre-cut, lightweight design and multi-purpose functionality make it easy to justify for every trip, providing me with peace of mind, comfort, and enhanced happiness on the trail.

 

Alli is a freelance writer based in British Columbia, Canada. She humbly aspires to be a strong voice in the outdoor industry centered on inclusiveness for all bodies. Alli encourages all to be silly and simply take small steps towards their goals. Her wish is to spread awareness that you don't have to be an extreme athlete to have an extreme amount of fun. Aside from writing, she enjoys backpacking, hiking, snowboarding, trail running, and snuggling with her dog. Find Alli on Instagram, @bucketsofmoonbeams.

 

 

 

Tyvek Footprint by Six Moon Designs
Tyvek Footprint by Six Moon Designs

 

 

Trail talk

3 comments

Joe Haubenreich

Joe Haubenreich

Love my Tyvek ground cloth and Tenacious Tape! I noticed Tyvek footprints extending out past the edges of tents in the sixth and eighth photos. While rain didn’t appear likely for either of those camps, tucking the Tyvek edges under a tent’s drip-line might be a good habit to develop, even in dry weather.

Alli

Alli

I love that idea Jay!

Jay Bartlett

Jay Bartlett

Great story! I think it would also be fun to have other hikers sign it like a ‘trail yearbook’. :)

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