|Illustration by Robert L. Prince|
Native Americans used a Dakota fire hole to hide cooking fires from their enemies. Turns out that these small pits also consume less wood while burning hotter than open fires. Plus, they excel in windy conditions and provide a great platform for cooking. The fire hole works by drawing fresh air into the combustion chamber. Hot air rises from the hole creating a draft that draws air through the vent and into the base of the fire. The cycle is self-sustaining, and digging the vent on the upwind side of the fire hole helps suck up the breeze like the air scoop on the Bandit's Trans Am. Here's how to dig one.
- Dig the fire chamber away from tree roots. Excavate a pit 1 foot in diameter and 1 foot deep. Now widen the base of the chamber a few inches so it has a juglike shape. This lets you burn larger pieces of wood.
- Dig the air tunnel. Start a foot away from the edge of the chamber, on the upwind side, and carve out a mole-like tunnel 5 or 6 inches in diameter, angling down toward the base of the fire chamber.
- Build your fire in the chamber and top the hole with a grate or green saplings stout enough to hold a pot over the flames.
- Put out your fire. I'd be a bit more through than what is demonstrated below, though.
- Leave No Trace - Refill holes before you leave.