Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

How to make a datoka fire hole

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.

You’ll have to check to see if this is still available by the time you read this but check out the Everstrike MatchIt’s free right now.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. Joseph Taylor says

    Love these lessons, thanks for posting these. Great to learn new skills.

  2. graywolfsurvival says

    Thanx Joseph. Some things like this are really easy to do and either cheap or free so I figured I’d start posting several of these articles between my bigger ones.

  3. Survival Sherpa says

    Good read and tutorial!
    BTW, I added you to my Blogroll and Resources page.

    Keep doing the stuff,

  4. Alan Smith says

    This is a cool idea and will have to try it.
    I have a Hobo Stove that was made from an old thermos that will boil water in a Canteen cup in about 3 minutes.

  5. Hi!
    I am not living in country where weather is exactly hot or dry, but we had cases of underground fires that set whole forrest on fire… like there are some old roots under the ground that will keep slowly smoldering for few days until they finaly reach some air or some dry wood on the ground that will eventually start the fire again…
    Please beware of this…

  6. Andrea S Bergstrom says

    One place you should not use that method is in an old conifer (pine, spruce, fir) forest where the soil is made of years and years of pine needkes and other organic matter. The soul is peat-like and is not hard pcked the way clay, loam or sand is. With this kind of fire, you can easily light the forest soil on fire. Dumping the soil you dug out back in the hole might not smother the fire. In a dry year the resulting ground fire can burn underground for an area of square yards up to acres or more and down many feet deep. As it burns it will light tree roots on fire and given the large amount of very flammable resin/sap in conifer trees, you can end up starting a serious wildfire hours or even days after you have left your campsite. Such fires are very hard to put out because you have to actually dig into the soil to find and extinguish the remainig hot spots that contain embers and active fire ready to reignite the wildfire after the surface fire has been put out. In a pine forest, keep your fire above ground and put it out with water. Even with a surface campfire, check to be sure the soil is not burning. Be very careful.

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