What is a Dakota Fire Hole and How Do You Make It

What is a Dakota Fire Hole?

There are a lot of ways to build a fire and each of them has its own benefit however, one of the most popular technique is called a Dakota Fire Hole or Dakota Fire Pit. This is a fire building technique used by the Native Americans because not only does it help conceal their whereabouts but is also highly efficient.

The Dakota fire hole is probably more popular because of the stealth quality it offers. This is usually a fire pit that keeps one’s location hidden as it keeps the fire you have built out of sight. This ancient technique is done by constructing a fire completely underground with the use of two separate holes and a connecting tunnel.

If you plan on having a huge bonfire you can gather around and toast marshmallows in, then this type of fire pit is not for you. The fire in the Dakota fire hole is in the ground so the flames are not easily seen from ground level. Since it is underground, the fire will not be as big as you expect since there is not much oxygen for the combustion process.

How Does a Dakota Fire Hole Work?

In order for you to use the Dakota fire pit technique, you have to understand how it works. It starts with creating two holes on the ground and having a tunnel which connects both at the bottom. One hole is made vertically while the other is angled down to connect to the first hole’s base.

The air is drawn into the angled hole, supplying enough oxygen, as you make your fire in the vertical one. You use a handful of twigs and pine cones to fuel your fire without need for large or huge amount of firewood since there is a concentrated supply of air.

People use the hole with the fire to cook by putting rocks around the opening or the lip of your vertical hole which will create or set an ideal surface to put your pan or grate for cooking. Refueling is also quite easy since you just need to add more twigs down the pit to keep the flames burning and use a long stick to tend to the fire under the ground.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Dakota Fire Hole

A widely popular fire burning technique used for a long while does have a lot of pros but it is also not without disadvantages. So, before you embark on trying this fire pit or even begin to build one of your own, it is best to find out its pros and cons.


  • Efficiency – If you burn fire using the Dakota method you will require lesser wood or fuel to get a fire going and keep it burning. It works well with just minimum number of twigs and pine cones and requires little tending as well.
  • Concentrated Heat Source – The fire in a Dakota hole burns hotter because the design prevents the fire from dispersing as it would regularly do in a campfire, above the ground setting. This provides a more concentrated heat ideal for cooking food as well as boiling water while outdoors.
  • Wind Friendly – While building a campfire makes you wary of strong winds, the Dakota fire hole welcomes it. Firstly, enough wind source will provide more oxygen to fuel the flames. Secondly, high or strong gusts of wind will not put out the fire since it is hidden underground and away from direct contact that might put out the flames.
  • Less Smoke Production – The Dakota fire hole will not produce as much smoke than most campfire or fire building techniques there is. This makes it less irritating to the eyes, less smoke smell on clothes and things. It also helps if you plan on building a fire inside a shelter like a tent.


  • Location Dependent – It is not easily build in just any location. You cannot build a Dakota fire hole if the ground is too rocky or if there are too many tree roots underground since it can be difficult to dig.
  • Weather Dependent – As wind-friendly the Dakota fire pit is, trying to use the method when it is raining is impossible. You will not be able to make any fire as both chambers will be filled up with water.
  • Not Ideal for Warmth – The Dakota fire hole might be ideal for cooking because of the concentrated heat in the opening of the hole however, it is not efficient if you are building a fire to keep your body warm while sleeping outdoors.

How to Build a Dakota Fire Hole

Now that you know the benefits you can and you cannot get from a Dakota fire hole, you can now proceed to actually building one for yourself.

STEP 1: Identify its location

As mentioned above, location is important in trying to successfully build a Dakota Fire Hole. You cannot obviously build one if the surface cannot be dug through or if there are a lot of hindrances underground like roots and debris.

An ideal location is a flat surface with pliable ground which can effectively house or encase a small fire pit inside the hole. Once you find the perfect place to make your fire pit, clean out the debris around it like weeds, dead leaves as well as rocks.

Dig the fire hole

STEP 2: Dig the fire hole

When it comes to the size and how deep your hole in the ground should be, it will depend on how big you want the fire to be. If you have a deeper hole, it will contain the fire more and be even less visible from the surface. If you want to have a bigger fire then you will probably need to make a wider hole. Most people dig about a foot from the surface of the ground to start their Dakota fire pit.

Keep the size of your pots and pans in mind when you dig the fire hole since you do not want them falling into the hole, straight to the fire as you are cooking. Make sure you widen the diameter of your hole as you dig deeper. Your fire hole should have a diameter smaller than your pot but then widens at the bottom.

Dig the oxygen hole

STEP 3: Dig the oxygen hole

After you have dug the fire hole which will encase your fire, it is time to dig up the one which will be responsible for supplying oxygen to make your fire combust. Measuring about a foot away from the fire hole, dig the second hole. It does not have to be as wide as the fire hole, maybe around 8 inches in diameter.

Dig the oxygen supply hole at an angle so that it is easier to connect both holes later. This will also put you in a better digging position as you try and connect both holes with a tunnel. Your second hole should open to the wind so make sure you determine where the wind blows efficiently.

Connect both holes

STEP 4: Connect both holes

It is now time to get down on the ground and start digging a tunnel which will connect both holes. The connecting hole or tunnel should be about the size of your fist. Remember, this will be the place where oxygen will travel in order to reach the flame so make sure it is properly sized and shaped or else there will not enough air to fuel your fire properly.

Start your fire

STEP 5: Start your fire

Building a fire inside the Dakota hole is just like starting a fire in any campfire or fire pit. Start by burning small combustible material to start your fire. Gradually add your kindling to build a good sized and healthy fire. Once you have a stable fire, you can begin adding larger twigs or sticks that will burn slower and continue to provide you with enough heat to cook with.

Build your cooking surface

STEP 6: Build your cooking surface

Gather enough rocks which are similar in size and begin to line up the opening or the lip of your fire hole. Keep in mind your pots or pans’ dimension so that it sits on that bed of rocks evenly in order to cook effectively.

It is important that you provide enough twigs or small branches to feed into your fire if you plan on having it burn longer. Keep the oxygen hole debris free and clear of any blockage so it does not stop from supplying air to keep the combustion going.


Now, that you have successfully built your dakota fire pit, you can now genuinely enjoy the benefits of having built a Dakota Fire Hole! You can sit back, relax and enjoy a continues, discreet and less smokey fire pit without having to worry if the wind will extinguish it or not.

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