How To Make A Dakota Fire Hole

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How To Make A Dakota Fire Hole
How To Make A Dakota Fire Hole. Photo – Wikipedia (PD)

For a true survivalist, preparing never stops. Always prepping, always researching for new survival techniques… this is part of my daily life. And while doing so, I realized I documented a lot on how to build a fire in the wilderness, how to start a fire without matches and other interesting things on the subject… but I only came across the Dakota fire hole just recently.

I found out about it from a fellow survivalist colleague at and then read more on the Internet and also watched some videos on how to make a Dakota fire hole. I just have to share it with you, too.

What is it exactly?

A Dakota fire hole – also known as a Dakota smokeless fire pit – is a simple fire building method, a tactic used by the Marine Corps, camping and scouting experts because of its many advantages. Some consider it an obscure fire building tradition of the Native Americans, but it’s really a very valuable wilderness survival aid that should get more attention.

There are several types of fire holes you can assemble in a variety of styles and functions, according to your wishes and needs. You can even purchase pre-made fire pits from the store these days.

How to make a Dakota fire hole?

This is how you make one in 3 easy steps:

Dig 2 holes in the ground –about 9 inches away from each other, about 12 inches in diameter and approximately 12 inches down.

Connect the holes to make an airway tunnel, in the shape of the letter “U”.

Light a fire (just like a regular campfire) at the original bottom of the tunnel.

Congratulations, you have your own Dakota fire hole!

Now let me elaborate a little on the matter:

First of all, this is how a Dakota fire hole looks like in real life (thank you for the image). If your final results resemble this image, then you got it right.

Dakota fire hole

And here are some drawn indications on how to build one from

How to build a Dakota fire hole

What tools do you need?

A small hand trowel or an army folding shovel is needed for digging the holes. You should have these in your BOB but if you find yourself in a situation where you have no tools at hand, a strong stick you find in the woods will work, too. By all means, if you have to, use your bare hands to dig.

You’ll also need a lighter or matches to start the fire (these are also essential items from your survival kit, so you should have no problem here). But in case you don’t have anything to light a fire with, read all about how to start a fire without matches.

Other tips:

• Avoid rocky, rooted and sandy grounds because you won’t be able to dig the correct shape for the Dakota fire hole

• Dig the first hole larger than the second one and extend its base to use it as the fire pit chamber and to provide room for firewood of all lengths

• The airflow tunnel should be positioned upwind from the fire pit chamber

• Build it near the base of a tree to help diffuse the smoke


You use less wood, but get more warmth and hotter fires (its structure combats heat loss); this is also great if you camp or need to stay in an area where not much firewood is available.

Very convenient for cooking – it’s designed as a platform with the fire below the surface so it easily supports cookware; also, water and food cooks faster.

Very manageable if it’s windy outside

Of great aid in a hostile situation – the fire throws less light and creates less smoke so it is harder to be detected by enemies, especially at night; you’ll sure want less visibility in case of an invasion.

I loved this simple method of lighting a long-lasting, strong fire in the middle of nowhere and I can’t wait to try it next time I go camping with my family. In the meanwhile, if some of you have tried to make a Dakota pit, share your ideas and tricks with us. We’d love to hear your opinions and experiences.

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  • By Leighton Taylor, March 7, 2014 @ 17:54

    Yes! The Dakota fire hole is absolutely great and really does consume less fuel and produce a good amount of warmth. Regarding the ground, it is definitely important, like Alec said, to make sure the soil not filled with rocks or roots, but the ground does need to be firm. Otherwise, the earth that connects the two holes will collapse. Another helpful tip is to make the big hole (where the fire will go) into more of a jug shape–a little wider at the bottom. This just makes it easier to be less precise in breaking up your firewood to a particular size.

  • By Pierre Desroches, March 7, 2014 @ 18:39

    It was the element that offered individuals a doing well side over untamed pets in the pre-historic times. It is important to discover out precisely just how to make fire in any sort of health condition and with really little resources.

  • By michael obrien, April 18, 2014 @ 02:28

    Great idea thanks mate must try it for myself cheers

  • By Dave Webster, May 23, 2014 @ 03:03

    If you are out in cold weather and will be sleeping in a lean-to shelter, these fire holes are great for heating rocks to place in the foot of your sleeping bag or blanket, to keep your feet toasty warm. Just be sure to cover the rock with clothing so it won’t burn your skin. With one of these fire pits and a pile of fist sized rocks, you can keep a couple of them heating all night for when the rocks in use cool off. In Revolutionary War times, the rocks were placed in skins. Today, bringing along a chamois would serve the same purpose.

  • By Jay Stew, January 21, 2015 @ 20:34

    Do NOT build this fire at the base of a tree! If the roots should catch fire, it can smolder underground for a LONG time without you even knowing it, and could eventually start an above ground forest fire.

  • By ChrisP, February 27, 2015 @ 23:17

    I wonder if something more permanent could be built, for more regular use at home. Something like a buried chimenea crossed with a rocket stove.

  • By Yvonne, April 19, 2015 @ 02:26

    It would be more helpful if you include a recommendation for the “jug shaped” fire hole because it helps to keep the smoke down for a stealth fire that can’t be seen by others at night. It is also easier to cook over.

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