Whelen Tent....at last!

Joined
Jul 25, 2012
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838
For some time now I've been intrigued by the "Whelen Tent" from days of yore. I guess the big draw is the idea of being inside, out of the weather and still have the campfire to enjoy. By the way, my campfire is made in a very simple fire pan made from a cut down 5 gal. kerosene tin, some times with a Littlbug Sn. stove resting inside and sometimes just the open campfire confined in the pan. One way or another I've always got a large pot of water suspended over the fire, which acts to dampen sparks and defuse the heat directly above it.

When I'm thinking of shelter the first thing that comes to mind is Dan Cooke, he's willing to make a Whelen tent and was rapid answering my e-mail to him. The tent would be made of the same material that he uses on his wonderful tarps and given that I want to snug up to the fire, I decided it would be unwise on my part. Gosh, I like that guy though.

I checked out the Northwest Woodsman, his tents are canvas and interesting but not Whelens. I sent him some questions about his tents but received no answer.

Frost River carried a Whelen made from I believe it was seven ounce fire retardant canvas. I placed my order with them. The tent was defective and I returned it. Same exact problem happened to a guy over on Winter Trekking. I lost my money on the shipping both ways but did get it back on the tent.

Finally made a order with Tentsmiths for their Whelen. It's made from the standard tent canvas, I believe 10 ounce, so it is a little bit heavier, but super well made. Mine weighs in at fifteen pounds. No way around it: there it is, if weight is important to you this won't be for you.
But my stars do I love it!! Can't wait till spring!



The back wall is eight feet wide and my cot is six feet. I need to develop some tie out that come off the ridge and out to the side to take care of that "droop" , I'm still playing with how I pitch it.



I asked the Tentsmith folks to place some tie tabs on the back wall so I could pull the back wall out a little bit, they were very willing to do it. Really, you couldn't ask for nicer people. Never made me feel rushed or like I was small potatoes. I don't know how often I'll use those tie outs but it's nice to have them in place.

I'm still fiddling with the tent, trying different ways to putting it up. Many times the drawings and photos of this tent show a horizontal ridge pole that the ridge is lashed to; and that's dandy if you can find the poles when you're read to make camp. I though that I'd see if I could make internal poles without hurting the floor space too much. (and of course no damage to the tent!)



What you're looking at is the inside of the tent, right hand side, to your left and up is the front flap, to the right is the back wall of the tent. That flat board with the writing has two pegs that catch loops made in the tent to suspend bug netting. The board is all rounded off, so no sharp edges. The tent pole has a stub of a nail in it's upper end that lodges in the hole in the board. That hole by the word "right" didn't work so good, so I moved the hole over. Once in place the setup seems to be snug and firm. These poles are 5'3" tall, I'm going to try some taller ones just to see how I like it.




This is the set up I got to deal with the bugs. By and large every time I get a good look at a bug he's usually the worse for wear, so I don't have any idea what his size was before he meet his end. Will this mesh hold out little bugs? (the alive and well ones) I got this from REI and it said it's for two, my hope is Rowan (the pup) will calm down and sleep beside my cot. I hang it from two tie offs inside.



Memaquay and I have the same Therm-a-Rest cot and it has a bunch of slippery metal poles; I was worried that some might get lost so I placed them in two cotton sox and then I roll the thing up. I don't think overly much of these stuff bags that come with various gear, most times they are dark in color so I splash on something bright.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
Joined
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There you go stirring things up. Just when it starts to cool down here you go flaunting your innie ground cloth in front of every one. Glad you're excited about your new tent though. Have you camped with the cot yet or is it a new addition also? Looks like spring to me in the picture. Can't wait to hear how Rowan does in the canoe. From what I've heard so far she's smart like her owner. Maybe she'll doe just fine.
 
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Gosh Rob, just when I think I've reached the end of this old book of knowledge, you go and add on more chapters! I'd like to thank you for that. I've long admired the campfire (Baker) tents over the years, but shied away from buying one. I know of at least one good looking winter (smoking room) tent here on this site I admire as well. Hold it! There's one in Maine also. Anyway, I'd never heard of the Whelen tent design till now. The site http://tentsmiths.com is a real treat to explore. Thanks for that.
The 15 lbs doesn't sound like too much weight for comfortable base camping to me. As I was slowly scrolling down your photos, I was muttering to myself "Yeah, but what about mosquitoes?", and you'd thought of that too. I guess the greatest appeal for me with this design, is getting closer to the fire while under cover. Thanks for for the canvas eye candy; I'm looking forward to hearing about your further adjustments to this Whelen.
Daydream'n of canvas, sleep'n in nylon - Brad
 
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Warren, Manitoba
We trip with the MEC Wanderer 4 and it comes in at 11 pounds with both vestibules, so, 15 pounds for canvas isn't too bad at all.
 
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Jul 25, 2012
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838
Well, I've had Rowan (canoe dog!) out on the pond in the Old Town camper (royalex) breaking the ice up into small bits. She had fun till I accidentally splashed her pretty good then she wanted out. You know we here don't have much you'd regard as real winter; the dogs are very curious at ice on the pond. No thicker than the ice gets they can break through; four years ago I rescued the shelty who was just barely hanging on. Poor little guy was nearly a pupsicle. Had to pop him in a warm tub to get him working.
Even though the task didn't amount to a hill of beans, it sure felt good to feel the water under my paddle. Pretty soon......
Dave, I used that cot last summer a little bit, boy was it cush!

Best Wishes, Rob
 
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Feb 1, 2013
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That is a sweet looking tent! Sounds like an exercise in perseverance to get it too. I hope you can get your fire set up going and give is some pics, that would be the cat's behind!
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
I like the open front with the ability to add the bug net, the cot looks comfortable too. Is the tent waterproof? If you lived on the east coast you would be joining my friend Dennis and me as we camp this spring in our canvas tents in the ADK's. We both have nice dogs too. And wood canvas canoes, but all are welcome.

I'm looking forward to your trip reports in it. Thanks for sharing.
 
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Feb 1, 2013
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Ontario
Congrats on getting your Whelen shelter, Rob. Beautiful!

Looking forward to seeing you get some use out of it and hearing your feedback.

In the meantime, I found a website with some pics of another Whelen tarp user. It's from a chap over in Japan with a website called "Old Timer" who just might be your equivalent from the other side of the world...

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Aug 19, 2014
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toronto
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hello -- i'm new here, but not so much there -- looks like i picked the rainiest summer in a while, but since the end of may i've switched to a nylon whelen for my solo trips -- still trying to establish what it likes and what it doesn't like -- about 14 nights in so far, in algoqnuin and temagami, and a few good rain soaks -- i thought i'd like it, i underestimated by how much...i've always been an advocate of a bombproof/bug-proof self-supporting set up, generally a timberline outfitter...but there really is something to be said for being out there when you're out there -- funnily, just after i ordered this tent ( http://www.beckelcanvas.com/products_type.php?products_type_id=1) , a used canvas tentsmiths whelen showed up on kijiji, so now i have two...
 

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Joined
Jul 25, 2012
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838
Hi and Welcome Tump! That's one good looking tent! I see you've got the fire a little ways away from the tent, have you had any melted spots show up on the tent? That's the one reason that I decided to go with the canvas. I don't know anything about tent materials but I can't help but wishing for something like that Nomex that they make firefighters bunker gear from.

So far this summer's camping has been a bust, my faithful old dog (GSD) got on her last legs literally along with some messy problems with her back end. So I stayed with her till the end. She's sleeping now under her favorite tree. Hard, very hard.

I can't imagine life, let alone camping without a dog, so the new pup is a rough collie/farm collie. She's ten months now and looking good. Smart and funny, just the thing to pull me out of the dumps. Once September gets here we ought to be ready to go. Until she sobers down just a little bit we'll be in my Timberline (great minds think alike!) Don't want her escaping to go out and play with some porcupine. :eek::eek::eek:

By the way anyone: if your pup or dog tries to run through mesh screens, I think it's because they don't see it very well. I gently sewed on a big button in the line of her eyesight and we haven't had anymore accidents. ;)

Once again Tump, welcome and thanks for sharing those great photos of your camp! I think I see a pair of LL Bean boots in the foreground of one photo, Those sure are good boots.

Best Wishes, OM

(I used to sign out with "Rob" but now that we have several I've decided to go with "OM" plus it's easier to spell!)
 
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This is a canvas material called "Sunforger" (not fire retardant) is what I spec in all my primitive tents, It is the lightest canvas I know of and real waterproof and durable. I get my tents from Panther Primitives, but they don't make this style. I like yours better than a straight whelen . I sometimes set my 2 door wedge tent up in this style similar to yours.
Turtle
 
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OM,
I like this forum more and more because so many people here understand the old ways. I have a Whelen lean-to made out of coated nylon that weighs under 4 pounds. I have used it on x-c ski trips in winter with a fire in front and late fall canoeing trips. It is real luxury to have that fire going and be able to dry out the clothing. It works best in the woods with wind protection. The mosquito netting makes it an all year shelter. I like how you added the tie outs on the back side, as it helps make the room more useable. I sometimes set up the Whelen in the back yard in the cooler months and build a fire and look at the mountains. I have fond memories of watching snow storms roll in and play peekaboo with the full moon from the coziness of a down bag. The nylon version has a couple of burn holes that I repaired with regular rubber cement.

I also have a canvas Baker tent made by Panther Primitives that is the 9 foot model. It has a stove hole and I have used it on late fall fishing trips. It is made of Sunforger and it is warm and dry in wet weather. I have lowered the flap for wet weater, but usually I add some frost liner panels from an old tipi. Below about 25 degrees it seems drafty and not as a warm as say a wall tent. It is portable enough for canoeing however and a fun shelter to live in. I like the view and the room to move around. Bill Mason and Col Whelen knew what they were talking about.
 
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Appleton, Maine
I use a smaller wall tent canoe campng off season and I have enjoyed these recent posts, very informative and interesting to folks who are looking for something different. All across this Great land of ours, North and South, Thanks.
 
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BTW, OM mentioned the Bean Boots in Tump Lions post, two of my Favorites, Bean Boots and a Cold Handle frying pan for canoe trips.

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toronto
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no holes yet, it was a small fire, not real close to the tent, with the top flap barely extended -- bit of a gamble, but sure was nice, i expect to use the panther for wood-fired shoulder season paddling, but the tiny nylon thing is almost invisible in my pack, and dries fast in this wet...i have a stove-holed wall tent for the winter and longer base camps...but it's not much fun to set up or portage solo...i don't fry much these days, use cast-iron at my camp, but those cold-handles are hard to beat for tripping...screens are an issue with a large dog in a timberline -- he blew out both doors on my 4 and put a run in my 2...but they repair them close to here...my ex's timberline has bear tears in the screen, so i can't complain...bean boots, what to say...i find the taller the better, with wool-blend wader-socks is pretty unbeatable for just about anything...here's some temagami spruce bog from earlier this month....
 

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Oldie Moldy,
I really like your tent. Have you lit a fire under the overhang yet? I wondered if smoke gets caught up there? I have always like sleeping where I can see out. I fell in love with with ADK lean toos years ago partly for that reason. I often camp in a canvas diamond shelter with a fire underneath, but your tent is more space efficient.
Turtle
 
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Hi Turtle, Smoke will get caught in the overhang but that might be a plus if the bugs are bad! More seriously, a lot of the time if I tend the fire closely I can really cut down on any smoke, plus if I look for good dry wood that helps as well.
If you look at that first photo, on the far side of the tent you can see that the overhang can, if you wish be flipped up and over the back of the tent. Thus you'd not have a pocket to catch the smoke. Of course if you did that you would need to have it guyed from the ridge line and not the forward edge of the overhang.

Right now the tent is still stiff, pretty much like a pair of new work pants. I suspect that when I get the new beat off it things will be smoother to work with.

I guess I'm a little slow but I never realized how much heat is radiated off from a campfire and how little of it I actually used. Then I got to playing with a reflector oven and was surprised how well they work. Then I got this tent and it's kinda the same thing, heat being reflected. Of course and just as well, not to the same degree but I can sure feel the warmth. Along with the fire you're also sheltered from any wind as well as having the fire.

To my mind one of the things that makes this fire/tent combination work well is to have a fire pan to where you can move the fire about to where you want it.
I've lost somewhere my camera, hope it turns up, but I'll try to describe what my fire pan looks like.
You've seen 5 gallon steel kerosene or paint cans? Alright, stand it on end, cut the lid off, cut down one side to where you take about 40% of the circumference. What that leaves you is the bottom and an arc of pan that acts as wind shield and reflector. If you leave 1-2" lip on the cut out section it will act to hold in the hot coals. That's the basic idea anyway, I wish I could show you a photo but till the camera turns up this is the best I can do.

I wrap my pan in one of those trash compressor plastic bags to keep things clean and nestle it in one of my camping boxes. All my cooking stuff goes inside that. Easy-Peasy!

Best Wishes, OM
 
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This is my kind of group when it comes to outdoor shelters. Part of the genius of the Whalen design is the geometry. The back wall is slanted at the ideal angle to retain heat and the side panels really add a lot of warmth. Getting the fire the right distance from the lean-to opening takes some trial and error based on the conditions. I usually move the fire a little with a green stick after it is going awhile. Usually I bring it in a little closer. It is usually best for the big majority of the smoke not to get caught under the front flap.

I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner on a fire with Dutch Ovens for many years. The women cook in the house and the men cook outside. We have eaten buffalo meat for years. I used to build a large lean-to with tipi poles and canvas tarps near the cooking fire especially if my Dad or some other older guys were attending the festivities. I remember one year, Dad was sitting in a comfortable chair with sheepskin on it, drinking tea and looking at the beautiful mountains when he said, "I'm cold. Can we add some canvas?" It was probably around 35 degrees but there was a fresh breeze, and his circulation is not what it used to be. I added some canvas and several poles on both ends of the lean-to and it was amazing what a difference that made to be in the shelter and how much warmer it was.

If anyone here has not read any books by Col Townsend Whelen I can heartily recommend all of them.
 
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Aberdeen, MD
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I made one about 4 years ago from a 12x20 poly tarp from Tractor Supply (brown/green), a handful of brass grommets, and a roll of Gorilla Tape, with some 1/4" braided nylon line for tieouts where they're needed. Been using it as a windbreak a couple times a year at group campouts, and through the most of the weekends during the months of Jan-April here in LA in a semi-permanent campsite on my deer hunting lease. Love the design. Sets up quickly with 4 stakes and an overhead rope. Takes a little longer to set up on shears with an overhead pole.
 

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