Enjoy a Concealed Fire with a Dakota Fire Hole

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By now it's no secret that fires are a significant part of any survival plan for purposes such as keeping warm and cooking certain foods. Something else that is important when it comes to survival is the ability to go about your business and remain undetected. By nature, fires are vibrantly colored and produce a glow that can be seen from afar. Also highly visible is the smoke a fire creates. Since these two things can give away your position and therefore put you in jeopardy, why not eliminate both?

Burning a fire that cannot be seen may seem like a tall order but quite the opposite is true. If you use a technique known as a Dakota Fire Hole, you will be able to do just that. The Dakota Fire Hole works in such a way that the flame itself is concealed and the smoke created by the fire is dispersed, giving you a chance to create the fire you need while still keeping your position a secret.

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Photo: Survivalist Boards

In order to build a Dakota Fire Hole, there are a few things to consider. First of all, location is key. Placing your hole near a tree is advised to help diffuse what little smoke is produced but at the same time you want to avoid soil that is laden with roots as this can make digging difficult. It is also important to avoid soil that seeps water when dug into as this will ruin your fire. Once you've found a location and soil that meet these criteria, it is time to start digging.

A Dakota Fire Hole consists of two holes, one of which acts as a main chamber while the other is intended for air flow. The main chamber should be dug at a depth of about a foot wide and a couple of feet deep. The air flow chamber should be dug about a foot away and to the side of the main chamber from which the wind is blowing (upwind) in order to create a natural airflow between the two. This chamber will need to have a smaller opening that is about half the size of your main chamber. The airflow chamber also needs to angle downward to meet the main chamber at its base. Take care not to collapse the soil bridge between the two holes as you dig and keep in mind that measurements are flexible as long as you maintain the basic structure.

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Photo: American Networking to Survive

Once the holes have been dug, begin to place your kindling into the main chamber and light it. You can use the airflow chamber to blow air onto kindling to get the fire going while at the same time maintaining a safe enough distance to avoid burning your eyebrows off. Keep in mind, however, that the very design of this fire helps minimize kindling, so you may not need as much as you think. Start small and build as needed. After you get your fire is burning, place sticks across the top of the main chamber to create a cooking surface if needed. These should be living sticks as they will not create smoke and will instead help diffuse it.

Other than giving you the opportunity to remain undetected, a Dakota Fire Hole has other benefits as well. For starters, the design in which an airflow chamber is present feeds the fire in such a manner than it burns hotter and more efficiently with less fuel, creating less smoke. This design allows for faster cooking by concentrating the fire and heat in a restricted area, plus heavy winds cannot blow it out. Finally, when you're done, you can simply fill the holes back in, leaving no trace that your fire, or you yourself, were ever even there.

The Dakota Fire Hole has many benefits that make it a worthwhile option when on the move in the wilderness. It is important to keep in mind, however, that some soil will be tougher to dig into and will therefore require a good bit of effort. This is where a folding shovel in your BOB comes in handy as it will get you well on your way to enjoying a fire via Dakota Fire Hole in just a few minutes time.

Have you ever tried the Dakota Fire Hole method? Did you find that it adequately filled your fire needs while keeping your presence under wraps? Let us know in the comments!

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January 6, 2016  •  06:19 AM
Dakota Fire Holes are great in a survival situation but there is a drawback to them and all cooking fires. In case you haven't guessed, it is the smell. Either food cooking odors or the fire itself. Both can be a dead giveaway if your goal is concealment. Odors can drift on the wind for hundreds of yards. In some cases, farther. Not trying to be a purist here, simply stating a fact.

In Vietnam sneak and peek operatives as a general rule did not bathe before going out into the bush on operations. The odor of soaps, hair lotions, deodorants and after shave splashes to the face were dead give-aways to the Cong. Smoking was also discouraged while on a mission.

Concealment in a survival situation could be the difference between surviving and being discovered by someone who may want to do harm to you or your loved ones. It is better to eat cold food than warm food if the cooking may bring an unexpected and uninvited guest to your dinner. Just for what it's worth.

July 7, 2016  •  01:51 AM
used to make a teepee out of 12'-14' saplings and a huge tarp and would dig and air pipe/hole from the fire pit in the middle of the TP to the outside of the TP which got rid of the cold draft caused by having the fire in the TP. This would sleep 6-8 people somebody would always wake up to feed the fire every hour or so.
December 4, 2016  •  08:35 AM
Coolio! Thanks for this. I've always dug vent holes under the steel fire rings in our campgrounds. Incredible what difference in heat and efficiency that does.