The Tent Commandments

More on tenting.

Tenting, I have come to find, is a unique and bizarre subculture here at Duke. It is a self-selected group of students who all have some combination of a zeal for Duke basketball, a tolerance for physical discomfort, a flexible schedule/blocks of free time, and enough of a sense of responsibility that they’re on time for their shifts and won’t let their group down by missing a tent check. Let me tell you, it’s intense.

I’d say the sense of responsibility and commitment to the group is the most important requirement. My boyfriend’s tent had two members who failed their entire group because they lacked that responsibility: both of them, on separate occasions, missed a tent check (meaning, they weren’t present to represent the group when the line monitors called a check during their shift). The consequence of missing two tent checks is that your entire group loses its place in line. So this particular group (12 people), after weeks of camping out, is now at the bottom of the wait list.

I would argue that the second most important requirement for tenting is tolerance for physical discomfort. The tenting rules (explained in detail on Duke’s website at allow grace for weather below 25 degrees Fahrenheit — which, let me remind you, is well below freezing. So K-ville tenters spend an unhealthy amount of time in very cold weather. Additionally, tent checks are usually called periodically throughout the night. The last time I slept out, there was a check every two hours. So I slept (on the cold ground, mind you) for less than five hours, in much-too-brief segments disjointed by that awful siren and the great trial of dragging myself out of my sleeping bag, out of the tent, into my boots, and to the center of camp to report to authority. Whenever I sleep out on weekends I wake up right at 7am, which is when the night shift ends, and return directly to my dorm room for a few hours of quality sleep. I have a theory that this entire thing is a conspiracy to trick Duke students into thinking their dorm beds are the most comfortable beds in the world. It totally works, I can tell you from experience.

The zeal for Duke basketball, I would say, is nonessential. Especially considering I am a enthusiastic and devoted tenter who completely lacks in zeal for Duke basketball. I conclude that basketball zeal can easily be replaced with a zeal for friends, which I have in plenty. I like the sense of community that comes with tenting. The people, not the game, is one of my main motivators for doing this.

And so far it has turned out to be a blast. Last night, for example, I was responsible for the 11pm-1am shift. The seniors in the group had gathered in the tent around 10pm to pregame before going out to a bar, and I expected them to leave about the time I got there. But instead of going out, everyone hung around for a solid three or four hours, and my shift was full of good company and conversation and laughter. Just another moment that makes me love being here.

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Note: The title of this post is inspired by the name of my tent group, The Tent Kommandments.


  1. Susan - February 5, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

    Hello. Where are you? It has been 4 days since last you blogged. It is disappointing when there is no leisure reading available!

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