The Hunters Lean-To
How To Make a "Whelen" Tent
by Steve Smith, 3/5/04
Early in the twentieth century, Colonel Townsend Whelen, noted hunter and outdoor writer, designed a tent he called the "hunter's lean-to". Colonel Whelen was a minimalist. He desired to be as close to his natural surroundings as was possible. He generally considered anything short of -20 degrees or severe bugs hardly worth using a shelter at all. Soon after its design in 1925, Abercrombie & Fitch manufactured the style and marketed it as the "Whelen Lean-to"; essentially a lean-to with side walls. Originally, this tent was made of a relatively specialized tarp. Today it can only be found in outdoor specialty shops for $150 - $300. Attached are plans that will help you to make your own Whelen lean-to. Made of .6 mil Visquene plastic sheeting, it is light and easy to pack. It also has the advantage of being heated by an open fire. In addition to being inexpensive to make, it is durable, spark resistant and can be patched using duct tape.
· 12' x 20 foot sheet of .6 mil clear poly film.
· 26 3/8 inch grommets
· Duct tape
· Tape measure
· Grommet tool
· Felt marker
Lay the plastic out flat on a smooth surface such as a patio or driveway. On the long side (20') measure seven foot (7') from the left corner to find the left starting corner. From the starting point, mark two squares; the first one six foot by two and a half foot (6' x 2 1/2'), and an adjoing square, six foot by eight foot (6' x 8') See figure 1.
From the left starting corner, measure to the left, six foot four inches (6' 4") then down five foot six inches (5' 6") and place a mark for the large left wing. From the right starting repeat the process to place a mark for the large right wing. This point should be approximately five foot (5') from a line drawn perpendicular to the bottom of the large square on either side. From the corners of the large square, measure to the wing marks. The bottom edge of the wings should be approximately eight foot (8') while the top edge of the wings should be approximately seven foot (7'). When you have located the proper location, mark the large wings. See figure 2.
From the left starting corner, measure to the left, three foot four inches (3' 4") then down one foot three inches (1' 3") and place a mark for the small left wing. From the right starting repeat the process to place a mark for the small right wing. This point should be approximately one foot three inches (1' 3") from a line drawn perpendicular to the bottom of the small square on either side. From the corners of the large square, measure to the wing marks. Both edges of the small wings should be approximately three foot six inches long (3' 6"). When you have located the proper location, mark the small wings. See figure 3.
Reinforce the edges all around with duct tape. Locate the grommet locations as indicated in figure 4. Add an additional layer of duct tape to reinforce the grommet location. Using a grommet tool install 3/8" grommets where indicated. Be sure and line up the grommets as indicated at location 1-2, 3-4 and A-B, C-D so that these flaps may be tied together if so desired. Two additional grommets may be place at E and F to provide a location for additional loops. This however will compromise the ability of the Whelen to turn water. See figure 4.
The Whelen may be pitched with a ridge pole or strung between two trees attached to loops attached to the ridge line of the tent. See top picture.