Bath Tub Floor, Photo Courtesy of BearPaw Wilderness Designs
Have you ever heard someone say the term "bathtub floor" and wondered what it meant? Someone asked me this question two weeks ago during my latest talk on Lightweight Backpacking. Simple question, but there's more to it than you might think.
What types of shelters have bathtub floors?
Most double walled camping tents, so called because they have an inner tent with bug netting and an outer rain fly, have a bathtub floor in the inner tent. In these tents, the waterproof fabric in the floor extends up the side tent walls for a few inches This is to prevent rain water that pools under your tent from leaking though the walls and swamping your gear. The sides of a bathtub floor are low enough that it'd probably be better to call them sandbox floors, but the term bathtub has stuck.
Bathtub Floor – Tarptent Squall 2
Bathtub floors are also commonly found in tarp tents like the ones manufacturers by Tarptent.com and Six Moon Designs. However, in these tents, the bathtub floor is a distinct component, like the one picture above, where there's a line of bug netting that attaches it to the exterior tent wall.
Some tarp manufactures also provide a bathtub floor as an optional component with their products. A good example is the classic Golite Shangri-La 1 tarp. BearPaw Wilderness Designs also sells separate bathtub floors that can be used with any floorless tarp shelter.
Should you always use a bathtub floor with a shelter?
No. Bathtub floors may be unnecessary if you have good campsite selection skills and you can pick where you pitch your shelter. For example, you want to avoid concave, dished out ground that has been compressed from having lots of people sleeping on it. If you sleep in a depression like this and it rains heavily enough, there is a good chance that rain water will overrun the sides of your bathtub floor and swamp your gear. Unfortunately, it's common to find these depressed areas at campground campsites which is probably why so many double-walled tents were given bathtub floors in the first place.
If you have the option of pitching your tent or tarp someplace else, you want to do it on a slightly rounded area that will drain easily and on a loose surface like dried leaves or forest duff where water can seep into the ground and not pool.
What if having a bathtub floor makes you feel safer at night?
When camping, psychological comfort is as important as physical comfort. If you feel more secure sleeping on a bathtub floor, then it makes perfect sense to camp with one.
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