Dakota Fire Hole: A Guide to Building and Using this Efficient Fire Pit

by Derrick | Last Updated: December 14, 2023

If you’re looking for a way to build an efficient, stealthy, and hot fire hole, the Dakota fire hole might be just what you need. The Dakota people have used this underground fire pit for centuries, and it’s still a popular method for cooking and keeping warm in the great outdoors.

The Dakota fire hole creates two holes connecting at the bottom. One hole is dug vertically, while the other is angled down to connect to the base of the first hole. When you light a fire in the vertical hole, air is drawn into the angled hole, providing the fire with the oxygen it needs to burn. Because the fire is underground, it’s protected from the wind, making it a great option for camping in windy conditions.

One of the biggest advantages of the Dakota fire hole is that it’s smokeless, making it ideal for stealth camping. The fire burns hot and uses little wood, so it’s also an efficient way to cook food and stay warm. Additionally, because the fire is underground, it can be used in areas where above-ground fires are prohibited. In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at how to build a Dakota fire hole and the advantages and disadvantages of this method.

Historical Context

The Dakota Fire Hole has its roots in the Native American tribes collectively known as the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, or the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Sioux Nations. These tribes were known for their hunting and survival skills, and the Dakota Fire Hole was a valuable tool in their arsenal.

The fire hole was used for cooking, warmth, and light, and was especially useful during hunting expeditions. It produced a low light signature, reduced smoke, and was easier to ignite under strong wind conditions, making it an ideal tactical fire for the United States military.

The Dakota Fire Hole was also an efficient way to burn fuel, producing hotter fires with less wood. This was especially important in areas where firewood was scarce or required a large amount of time and energy to forage.

Today, the Dakota Fire Hole is still used by survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts as a way to create easily concealed, highly efficient fires that burn clean, even in windy conditions. By digging a hole and using a simple ventilation system, you can create a fire that is both smokeless and efficient, making it an ideal choice for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

Construction of Dakota Fire Hole

To construct a Dakota fire hole, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Select a location: Find a flat surface that is free of vegetation and debris. Clear the area of any weeds, dead leaves, or rocks.
  2. Dig the fire hole: Dig two holes that are connected at the bottom. One hole should be vertical and the other should angle down to connect to the first hole’s base. The vertical hole should be about 1 foot in diameter and 1 foot deep. The angled hole should be about 2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter.
  3. Create a tunnel: Use a stick or other tool to connect the two holes at the bottom. The tunnel should be about 6 inches in diameter.
  4. Build the fire: Start a fire in the vertical hole. The tunnel will draw air from the angled hole, providing oxygen to the fire and making it burn hotter and more efficiently.
  5. Maintain the fire: Add wood to the fire as needed, but be careful not to smother it. Use small sticks and twigs to keep the fire burning hot and smokeless.

Remember to always be safe when building and maintaining a fire . Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergencies, and never leave a fire unattended.

Advantages of Dakota Fire Hole

A Dakota Fire Hole is a type of fire pit that has several advantages over other types of fires. Here are some of the benefits of using a Dakota Fire Hole:

Efficient Fuel Consumption

One of the most significant advantages of a Dakota Fire Hole is that it is incredibly efficient when it comes to fuel consumption. Because the fire is contained within a small hole, it requires much less fuel than a regular campfire. This means that you can use less wood to create a fire that burns hotter and longer.

Reduced Smoke Emission

Another advantage of a Dakota Fire Hole is that it produces very little smoke. When you light a regular campfire, the smoke can be a significant problem, especially if you are cooking food. However, with a Dakota Fire Hole, the smoke is minimal, and it is less likely to irritate your eyes or lungs.

Wind Resistance

A Dakota Fire Hole is designed to be wind-resistant. Because the fire is contained within a hole, it is less likely to be blown out by the wind. This means that you can create a fire even in windy conditions, which is not possible with a regular campfire.

Cooking Efficiency

Finally, a Dakota Fire Hole is an excellent option for cooking food. Because the fire burns hot and clean, it is ideal for cooking food quickly and efficiently. You can place a pot or pan directly on the top of the hole, or you can use a grill grate to cook meat or vegetables.

Overall, a Dakota Fire Hole is an excellent option for anyone who wants to create a hot, efficient, and smokeless fire. Whether you are camping, hiking, or just spending time outdoors, a Dakota Fire Hole is a great way to enjoy a fire without any of the drawbacks of a regular campfire.

Disadvantages of Dakota Fire Hole

Time Consuming Construction

One of the main disadvantages of the Dakota Fire Hole is that it can be very time-consuming to construct. Despite its simple design, the digging process can take a significant amount of time, especially if the soil is rocky or sandy. Additionally, you will need to carefully construct the fire chamber and airway to ensure that the fire burns efficiently and safely. This can be a challenging task, especially if you are not experienced in wilderness survival techniques.

Limited to Certain Locations

Another disadvantage of the Dakota Fire Hole is that it is limited to certain locations. The fire pit requires specific geological conditions to work effectively. If the soil is too sandy or there are lots of tree roots or rocks, you may not be able to dig a hole at all. This can be a significant problem if you are in an area where firewood is scarce or if you need to build a fire quickly to stay warm or cook food. Additionally, the Dakota Fire Hole may not be suitable for use in areas where there are high winds or other adverse weather conditions.

Overall, while the Dakota Fire Hole can be an effective way to build a fire in the wilderness, it is important to be aware of its limitations and disadvantages. If you are planning to use this method, be sure to carefully assess the conditions of your surroundings and take the time to construct the fire pit properly to ensure that it burns efficiently and safely.

Safety Precautions

When building a Dakota fire hole, there are some safety precautions that you must take to ensure that you and others around you are safe. Here are some things to keep in mind:


Choose a location that is safe and away from anything that could catch fire, such as dry grass or bushes. Avoid building the fire pit under low hanging branches or near anything that could fall on the fire.


When digging the fire pit and airshaft, make sure to use a tool that is appropriate for the job. Do not use your hands or any sharp objects that could cause injury. Be cautious of any rocks or roots that may be in the way.

Fire Starters

When starting the fire, use only approved fire starters such as matches or a lighter. Do not use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start the fire.


Always supervise the fire and keep a close eye on it at all times. Do not leave the fire unattended, even for a short period of time.

Extinguishing the Fire

Make sure to properly extinguish the fire before leaving the area. Pour water on the fire and stir the ashes until they are cool to the touch. Do not leave any hot coals or embers behind.

By following these safety precautions, you can ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience while building and using a Dakota fire hole.

Can You Use a Dakota Fire Hole In A Tent?

I would not recommend using a Dakota fire hole inside a tent.

Here are a few reasons why:

Fire safety risk – Having an open fire inside an enclosed tent poses a significant fire hazard. Tents are made of flammable materials that could easily catch fire if exposed to an open flame.

Smoke and fumes – A Dakota fire hole produces smoke and fumes that quickly fill the enclosed space of a tent, making it difficult to breathe and see. Tents are not designed to properly ventilate smoke.

Risk of burns – An open fire carries risks of burns from sparks, embers or contact with hot surfaces/coals. This risk is much greater in the confined space of a tent.

Potential damage – The heat from the fire could potentially damage or melt the tent fabric over time if used regularly inside. Tents are not rated for prolonged exposure to open flame/high heat.

Lack of oxygen – An open fire consumes available oxygen inside a tent, creating a risk of asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning without proper ventilation.

For safety reasons, it’s generally not advisable to have any open flame inside a tent. A Dakota fire hole would be better suited for outdoor use away from flammable structures or enclosures like tents. Portable stoves are a safer option for heating or cooking inside tents.


In summary, the Dakota fire hole is a simple yet effective technique for building a fire that is smokeless and hot. It is a great addition to your survival skills, especially when you need to keep a low profile or limited firewood available.

One of the main advantages of the Dakota fire hole is that it burns cleaner and requires less firewood than conventional fire methods. This means you can cook your food or boil water faster, making it an excellent option for camping or survival. Additionally, the efficiency of the burn creates less smoke, which means less visibility. This method is beneficial and manageable if windy compared to other methods.

To make a Dakota fire hole, you must dig two holes, one for the fire and another for the oxygen supply. You can use small twigs and pine cones to fuel the hole’s edges with rocks to support your pan or pot. The fire hole should be about one foot deep, with a diameter slightly smaller than your pan or pot at the top, that then widens at the bottom. The second hole should be approximately a foot away from the fire hole, not as big as the fire-containing hole. If you dig the hole at an angle, supplying the fire with oxygen will be easier.

The Dakota Fire Hole is an excellent survival tool that can help you in any situation. It is easy to use, efficient, and produces very little smoke. With some practice, you can master this technique and be well-prepared for any outdoor adventure or emergency.