One of the biggest ‘AHA’ moments I’ve had learning about survival is when I learned about the Dakota Fire Hole. If you’re at all interested in survival, you need to learn about this simple trick. It may very well save your life someday.
A Dakota Fire Hole is a must-learn thing to put in your head. Why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why.
Basically, a Dakota Fire Hole is a fire that is used for cooking when you have limited wood for fuel or want to keep a limited heat/fire/smoke signature. If you build it right, it burns wood more efficiently, requiring less wood for your use and making less smoke (which is essentially unburned crap going up in the air giving away your position or burning your girlfriend’s eyes making her not like your prepping lifestyle).
Here’s a quick graphic to explain how to make one:
The essential things you need to know about a Dakota Fire Hole is that it allows you to drop the fire down below the ground surface. Another advantage (provided you get the depth and dimensions optimal) is that it burns more efficiently than a normal fire will. That’s because it uses a similar effect to a rocket stove: an extremely efficient way to use fire to cook.
It’s not the end-all-be-all solution that should always be used though, as some sites will lead you to believe. It sucks for keeping you warm unless it’s in your cave or shelter and it won’t be as effective in keeping predators away. It doesn’t mask the smell of fire or whatever you’re cooking though so it has that as a positive or negative depending on if you’re the predator or the prey.
The concept is simple. All you need to do is dig a hole to put your wood into, and then dig another hole leading to that which will supply the air to the fire. The trick is to figure out how big of a secondary hole to dig and the dimensions of both holes. Too big and the air won’t flow fast enough but too small will choke the fire. You really need to practice this one.
Here’s a pretty good video showing an example of a Dakota Fire Hole:
If you go to a real survival school like my friend Travis has a the Northwest Survival School, you’ll learn that it’s not just about digging two holes and connecting them together. The proportions are pretty important to make the airflow work efficiently. It’s something that you really need to see in person though to get a gauge on it so I’m not gonna go into it here. That kind of math makes even my head hurt and you’re probably not gonna enjoy it anyway.
You should have a decent idea by now how to make your first one to star experimenting with (obviously you’re gonna experiment just as obvious as I shouldn’t have ended that sentence with a preposition) but if you want even more, check out The Dakota Fire Hole by Survivaltopics.com.
If you want a good book to explain this and several other ways to start a fire, check out Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual.
Basically, if you’re in a survival situation that either requires that you maintain a low profile or don’t have a lot of fuel to burn, the Dakota Fire Hole is pretty useful. But, just like most things that are really useful, you need to practice this one to get it right.
Keep in mind that you need to be able to start the fire though. I suggest keeping a disposable lighter in your bugout bag or EDC kit. Of course, you’d know this if you were actually doing the stuff you were pretending you were learning.