HOW-TO: The Dakota Fire Hole

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

We’ve covered the basics of making a fire and we’ve covered how to create a safe fire pit, both for survival and camping situations. Today it’s time to step your skills up another level and learn about the Dakota Fire Pit, a way of making a fire to supercharge the heat, make it much more concealable, and much more efficient burn. This bushcraft fire trick is used by cultures all of the world, though no one is exactly sure of its origin.

The construction of the fire pit is simple enough. You dig a hole between a foot and a foot and a half deep wide enough to make a small teepee fire. Then you dig another hole next to it that connects to the bottom of the hole diagonally. This forms a tunnel that feeds air to the bottom of the fire acting as a sort of bellows and allowing the fire to maintain good airflow while essentially being underground.

The Upsides

  • This fire burns much hotter allowing it to convert fuel to heat much more efficiently.
  • This fire is perfect for cooking meals due to the heat and the fact you can put green saplings or a small grate over the hole to turn it into a sort of BBQ pit.
  • This fire is perfect for areas that are very windy. Being below ground prevents high winds from blowing your fire out and the the hole actually feeds wind into your fire.
  • Since your fire is essentially underground it’s much better to prevent being spotted if this is a consideration.
  • These consume less wood than a traditional fire so this is the perfect fire pit for areas where conserving fuel is a consideration.

The Downside

  • This pit takes much more time and effort to construct making it not the go-to in an extreme survival situation

When choosing the area that you want to build this in make sure to pick a spot that is conducive to digging without rocks or roots to be pull out or break. Another consideration is water level. These aren’t the best choice for swampland or sandy beaches. Anywhere that your hole will fill with water isn’t going to be an area that will work for this fire pit.

This is an indispensable skill to add to your fire building repertoire and one that everyone should practice and use.

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