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Mini-Whelan, or "How small is too Small?"

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    Mini-Whelan, or "How small is too Small?"

    Was prepping for my test trip last year, an realized that I did not have a tent of any description. I don't really want to borrow my parents' dome, and I don't want to put a ton of cash into something.

    I've been looking at tarp-tents, etc for a bit, and realize "Hey! I have about 13' of 60" 6oz. Dacron left over from the SOF Build! It shouldn't take long to do something with that!"

    (Many of my projects seem to start in a similar fashion. Go figure.)

    I figure something along the lines of a Whelan Lean, since soooo many people seem to love it. But, I only have so much fabric, and no time to order more. So it gets scaled down. Some minor accessories later, and I've learned the following:

    - Given Upholstery Thread and Denim Needles, a home sewing machine can handle multiple layers of Dacron just fine. Just go gentle.
    - Cheap Tulle from the Mall-Wart may make a decent Mosquito Block, but it is a pain to sew. Especially when you're trying to interface it w/said Dacron.
    - Said Tulle needs to have a border fabric on all edges to keep it under control. Preferably with zips/ties to hold it down, which sort of defeats the purpose of the Whelan's configurabillity options.
    - I'm bad a project estimation. (This I should know, but I was actually putting in grommets out in the field. That's pushing it a bit.)

    Field test taught the following:

    - Need good stakes! See This Thread/Post.
    - Dacron blocks wind very well! (It's sailcloth, so this should not be a surprise...)
    - Without good stakes, it's hard to get the flaps to overlap in a way that blocks most mosquitoes. (Wind was high enough that this was not a huge deal, but still.

    I think that this would have kept me dry in anything short of a monsoon, as long as the orientation was right, but... the space was limited.

    I didn't get rained on, but if there was more than a light sprinkle (Enough that I wanted to stay in camp) the plan was to supplement with a Flat/Rectangular tarp for loafing about.

    So, more experienced outdoors people: What do you look for when balancing cozy vs. room to do a little work in?

    About 8 feet long by maybe 6-7 feet deep. I have a nylon Whelen that I have used in the snow with a fire in front.
    I have a Baker tent made of canvas that has no floor and about 11 feet square. It is too big for canoe camping.

    If you are trying to sleep two people, then you might go a little deeper.
    Last edited by ppine; 05-23-2020, 09:30 AM.


      I would personally go with the size that Townsend Whelen came up with. I've had two, one made with 7 oz. cotton canvas of some sort, made for me by tent & awning shop in Columbia SC, when I was stationed near there at Sumter. I used the heck out of it, just the right size for a single camper, will sleep two easy enough, crowded with three. I gave it to a young friend, still in use in the high desert and mountain country North and West of Riverton Wyoming. Years latter I started craving another, Bothwell Voyaguer a member of this forum made a really nice one for me a few years ago, which is of lighter weight cotton. During bug season the Whelen tent needs a separate bug net that ties in to cover your bed roll. It really is a great tent and with a fire out front is very toasty in spring and fall weather. By selecting the correct species of firewood you can almost eliminate spark holes in the tent. A lot of good reading on Whelen tents on the inter-web.
      "All I had were a few flies tucked into the band of my hat and an a old beaten-up Heddon rod, that had been on many trips." Sigurd F. Olson


        I don't know anything about Whelan tents or their dimensions, but people have slept aground in all sorts of tiny tube tents and bivy sacks and aloft in hammocks. What you've made looks good to me. Put a tarp over it for extra protection. It's just a sleeping nook, not a living room.


          I guess I think differently about the size. I have been caught too many times in multi-day, non stop rains. I need a shelter I can carry easily, but can do some cooking and moving about in. Also, I have traveled the last 4 years with a 60 plus pound dog. For me a near perfect solution is a Cooke Custom Sewing lean 1 plus ( screen in front )

          it is 5 feet high, 7 feet wide and about 11 feet long, but really about 9feet Of length are useable. It weighs around 3 pounds and packs to the side of a sleeping bag packed.

          it looks like a baker lean tent. I would prefer a Lean2 Plus, same size but wider, but this is what I have and it has served myself and my dog Jake very well ... even in some tremendous storms.

          Do you have enough material for something this size?

          Last edited by Bob B.; 05-24-2020, 08:44 AM.


            Thanks for all the feedback so far!

            Sounds like this is a very.... personal... choice. I think my current size would work very well if I was only concerned with sleeping, but if I'm lazing about on a nasty day...

            Bob B. Wow... Cooke likes them large... I would need to get material if I were to do anything other than add trimmings to what I have, but that's not really an issue.

            I'm kind of liking the more solid feel of a heavier cloth. I'm sure the silnylon does it's job well, and is very light, just not sure It'd be for me as a primary tent...

            Also as a bit of a side point: has anyone group-tripped with one of these open-side things? I'm sure groups vary, but does the lack of a visual barrier lead to social awkwardness?