Stealth Fire: How to Build a Concealed Campfire, and Other Tricks to “Stay Invisible”

by | Dec 15, 2016 | Emergency Preparedness | 48 comments


On the run? Have you been labeled a target?

Maybe an operative for Russia because you didn’t support Hillary during the last election?

Perhaps you have been driven into bankruptcy and off your property, and must live off the land in some capacity. Perhaps you don’t want to draw looters or predatory opportunists to your camp.

In a worst case scenario, there could be martial law, or even a civil war in the country.

It is really difficult to know what could be coming down the road ahead, or how dark times may get. What if you can’t stay on the right side of the law in a future regime, despite having done nothing wrong?

Regardless of the situation, if you are surviving, escaping or simply trying to minimize your footprint while living off grid, you will probably still need fire or heat of some kind for cooking and for warmth. But that fire could give you away.

However, there’s a way that you can maximize the benefits of fire, man’s most basic technology, and remain low key and undetected in the surrounding area.

It is the Dakota Fire Pit technique – basic knowledge for many soldiers, and a good tip for survivalists and camping enthusiasts alike.

The Dakota Fire Hole – Stealth Fire

via WonderHowTo/Survival Training:


First off, the Dakota fire pit is the only option for staying tactical.  It’s the only campfire you can build where the flames remain invisible.  Also, the fire burns so hot that it reduces the smoke output, which is optimal for avoiding detection.

The fire remains hot and burns steadily because of the chimney and airway tunnel.  When the fire burns in the main pit it forces all of the hot air out the chimney, allowing no air in from that hole.  The resulting effect is that it creates a suction-like action that forces fresh air down the airway tunnel to the fire base, feeding the fire with plenty of oxygen.


The Dakota fire hole is also your best option to avoid detection from enemy personnel.  The flames are hidden below ground, and the fire burns hotter, producing less smoke for enemy eyes.An underground fireplace is the absolute best tactical option, especially at night— you never know if an insurgent might possess night vision capabilities.  Concealment is a soldier’s best friend (right next to his weapon).

This fire pit is not only for military personnel, but also for anyone looking to build a decent or concealed campfire. It’s great for any environment, jungle or desert, except maybe Antarctica or Alaska.

The Dakota fire hole is your best option when the enemy is close by, but it’s also good for areas near dense population. Locals always seem to pop up in the strangest places!

There are drawings and diagrams that show you how to construct this ingenious yet simple fire pit.

But it doesn’t seem to be of too much importance how perfectly it is proportioned… the basic design will accommodate even the crudest build of it, as long as it has a secondary tunneled-hole to feed the fire oxygen.


More generally, this important practice goes with the idea of laying low and camping in a “leave no trace, be no trace” fashion.

Blending in, going “grey” around other members of the public, and getting in, out and setting up camp without being noticed.

Secrets of Stealth Camping

Clearly, it is a mix of carefully-crafted technique, and the art of stealth.

Read more:

The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-by-Step Guide to Prepare You For Any Disaster

The Six Laws of Survival: Strategies For Beating the Worst Case Scenario

How To Survive Occupied America: “Red Dawn Just Started… And You’re In It”

Are You Prepared to Survive in the Wilderness Alone? “Natural Shelter, Blend In”

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    1. Genius

      And if you are using a tarp or small tent as cover, glue space blankets on the inside. This will help reduce heat signature. A layer of poly batting between the tarp and space blanket is optimum.

      • Red Leader

        I just got a SilverFire Rocker Stove and it is amazing how little smoke it produces. It is the latest generation Rocket Stove with secondary burn. Man does it put out the heat. I would say about 50% better than my StoveTech Rocket Stove.

        • The Deplorable Braveheart

          RL, I’ve never tried a silver fire or stovetech. I’ll look into those. I’ve got a Kelly Kettle Base Camp Model that only needs twigs, pine needles, leaves, etc.; nature’s fuel. Brings a full-size pan of water to boiling in only 3 minutes.

            • The Deplorable Braveheart

              RL, I looked at it on their website. Looks like a real winner, but my Kelly Kettle does everything that one will do and I only paid $79.95 for the Kelly.

              • Red Leader

                I have a Kelly Kettle and it heats water pretty good. My Rocket Stove will heat lots of water water faster with small wood. The other advantage of the Rocket Stove is that it will cook a larger pot of stew or soup or fry up a larger amount of food in a big fry pan more efficiently than any other wood burning device with almost no smoke at all.

        • Mountain Trekker

          Thirteen brick rocket stove, it just doesn’t get any better. Made mine with insulated fire bricks, even backpacked them in to a hidden —- this stove is great. and even leaves less of a signature than a Dakote fire pit. Just add one more brick or a flat rock, and when or if anyone or even a plane approaches just lay the rock over the flue and the fire is out. Trekker Out

        • Jacknife

          I have the Stove-Tec. I like it but it takes 18 minutes to boil a gallon of water. You can also make them out of cinder block and kind of customize it. I think I might try mountain trekkers way and get some fire brick. Seems optimal to me. As far as the Dakota hole, my boys and I always use that technique in the woods, more so because they’re better for cooking than a regular fire. As long as you have an air hole goin to th lower half of the fire hole you’ll be good. Ain’t nothin like a good hot fire to suit your needs in the woods.

          • Zeus

            If you really want to stay stealthy and invisible, use propane for heat and cooking, and skip the smoky camp fire all together. Or at least have it as a back up to a camp fire. Propane for cooking will last you 5-6 months per 15 Lb tank.

            However if you do use a camp fire, sure, use a Dakota Hole but do it under a good canopy of trees which will help disperse the smoke, instead of out there in the open for all to see on the horizon.

        • Bilge Pump McCoy

          I bought one last year but haven’t used it yet. I’m glad to hear this is working for you. It seems I made the right choice.

      • The Deplorable Braveheart

        B from CA, LOL! Sorry about that.

    2. anon

      What Happened?

      Quick change on the story that disappeared.

      • Genius


        SWFA Super Sniper scope (5 stars) 299.00 swfa . com
        Alcohol stove (ebay) 12.00
        SWFA scope rings (extremely heavy duty) 39.00
        5 gallon moonshine still (ebay) 170.00
        baofeng uv5r 2 way radios (ebay) 30.00 each
        foxfire books
        medical kit
        hand tools
        solar setup
        camping gear
        driveway alert
        security camera setup
        animal traps
        bomber hat
        freeze dried food
        water filter
        fire starter
        pellet gun
        pre loaded usb drive with anarchist cookbook and hundreds of survival documents (freedomslips . com)50.00
        Capsule filling machine with empty capsules
        Herbs to fill capsules
        Moonshine recipe book

        Just a few things I thought of, party on! 🙂

    3. B from CA

      Knowledge is the most important prep. Common sense, high IQ, flexibility, resourcefulness, character, bravery, the right balance of caution and adventurousness, all these things play a part in whether or not one survives.

      Other abilities that would help, an ability to make friends easily. Natural charisma has taken people through things that would destroy another. If you look odd, insecure, untrustworthy, the doors shut quickly. If you are on the run, the ability to communicate will be even more important than in an ordinary situation.

      Learning how and when to ask for what you need, and when to stay quiet can and will effect a person’s ability to survive.

      Tattoos are dumb, if you ask me. They identify you and are hard to hide in hot weather when people generally wear less. If you already have tattoos, I would start covering them. Most people are self absorbed and quickly forget.

      If you intend to go on the run in the woods. Have things that you can wear that would hide you, but be appropriate. A hat and sun glasses always helps. But not if your “friends” would recognize them. Wigs only help if they look real. A bad wig is a dead give away. Whether or not you change your face with make up and fake nose prosthetic, Plan ahead. A slender man can pass for a woman and a tall woman might be able to look like a dude. Not for everyone, but if you are on the run, something to consider. You might like it. Just kidding.

      This is all just talk. I’m not going anywhere. Merry Christmas.


      • buttcrackofdoom

        lots of great advise there, B…thanks for your contributions …i will add an old indian trick i use. when my sons and i go riding atv’s, or hiking, we take a bag of jolly ranchers along. they are a GREAT icebreaker(even if they are TERRIBLE for your teeth)!

      • Genius

        “Knowledge is the most important prep. Common sense, high IQ, flexibility, resourcefulness, character, bravery, the right balance of caution and adventurousness, all these things play a part in whether or not one survives.”

        So in other words, the mass majority of people are doomed.
        Great post B! I have no tattoos and fit the bill you described very well (but I refuse to be a tranny lol).

        Merry xmas.

      • Leonard

        Once saw an ad for a baseball cap that had a ponytail that hung out of the back. That, sunglasses and some Billybob Teeth might help to mask one’s identity…

    4. The Deplorable Braveheart

      Kevin2, no that’s not just talk. You made some really good points. Especially on the tattoos. There is supposedly a method for removing tattoos from human skin. If you’re going to be in the woods, better have some camo clothing. regular clothing is a dead giveaway when you’re trying to hide.

      • The Deplorable Braveheart

        B from CA, my apologies for calling you someone else. Still made some very good points.

      • B from CA

        Brave deplorable:

        Did you call me Kevin, shhhhh, you’ll blow my cover. Lol


        • buttcrackofdoom

          y’all be CAREFUL now, or you’ll be WWTI’s next target.

          • Jacknife

            WWTI changed his handle. It’s Zeus now, in case you didn’t know

            • Ketchupondemand

              Jacknife, I’m sure he knew. That guy has driven more people away from this site than we can possibly know. There are very few females left here.
              And he’s posted under how many screen names? This is his sandbox.

              • Jacknife

                Ketchup, you’re right I’m sure BH knew. I was actually sending a veiled message to WWTI that regardless of how much smarter than everyone he thinks he is, he ain’t fooling anyone.

              • buttcrackofdoom

                sorry, i don’t have that keeen sense of the obvious, and wasn’t paying attention…i DID see a couple posts from him that looked like trolling. thank you very much for watching out for me…..and U.S….

    5. swamp rat

      I hope that America never goes away but if it does have a plan that you can go with that is filled with things you know works. A excellent place to hide in the swamp is a huge hollow cypress tree if you can find one that’s dry inside. A patch of high ground in the swamps is my second choice to hide preferably close to the river. A few well hidden steel traps and fishing lines will quietly feed you. No matter how bad things get, never lose hope for better days ahead says the old swamp rat.

    6. PO'd Patriot

      Fire making, the most important factor in surviving while out in the brush. You’ll need it to boil your drinking water, to stay warm and to cook your food. It is also comforting but best to not stare into it as it’ll slow your eye focus up if you hear noise out in the dark beyond your camp. Learn to make tonteldoos for fire starting, as well as several methods to start your tinder. I have yet to master the friction method (bow and drill). Remember there is no such thing as cheating when making a fire. Bic lighter being the easiest.

      • PO'd Patriot

        The best steel strikers I’ve used. I use the snake design. They also sell pieces of chert(flint) as well. Quartz will also draw good sparks off of carbon steel strikers.

      • Genius

        I smoke so I always have a bic lol. A splash of shine and my trusty Bic and I’m warm and toasty 😛

        • Genius

          I carry an alcohol stove for emergencies. It emits NO smoke or smell and puts out a lot of heat. In a pinch (and it better be a big one) I can burn my liquid refreshments in it. The flame is nearly invisible and the fuel is dirt cheap. I could dig a pit but I don’t need to if I have my alco-stove. Whats in your flask lol?

          • PO'd Patriot

            Most times I carry Gentleman Jack in the ‘ol stainless flask. But when and if the rubber meets the road it’ll be “Clear” in it.

            • Plan twice, prep once

              If you are going to carry a flask when the SHTF, may I suggest it be pure grain alcohol. It will sterilize, it is a great solvent, it’s great fuel/fire starter accelerant and if diluted 2 parts water to one part alcohol it can be consumed. Pure it will burn your esophagus and stomach, so never drink it pure.

              Regarding alcoholic beverages, whine and beer can be helpful. In cultures where they drank wine or beer instead of water, it was very dilute. Wine and beer on the US market is too strong, but drink a beer with an equal amount of water or a two parts water to one part beer or wine and your body can take what’s useful out of the beer or wine without you becoming dehydrated or under the influence.

              If fresh water supplies are tight, mixing water with wine or beer can extend your fluid supply.

    7. Lone wolverine

      I like the welders striker with the three flints. The cup makes a good place to put tinder. And the handle makes it easy to put under fire lay. Other wise Blast match . Has the biggest flint.?

    8. KingKracker

      I don’t waste my time with bic lighters , magnesium , matches or any of that stuff any more.
      The little butane torches are the only way to go imo
      There are the bigger ones for soldering but the ones I like are the kind crack heads use to light their crack pipes can get at any smoke shop. They are refillable and have a locking switch so you don’t hav to hold the button down to keep them lit. In a pinch you could heat water or food or use for heat under a poncho. I have one right now that’s about 1 year old and electronic igniter still lights it first time every time.

      • Plan twice, prep once

        I absolutely agree. I have a couple of those little Harbor Freight butane torches. They are an awesome addition to a preppers kit and sell for about $15, use a 20% off coupon out of the newspaper or the back of many magazines. I light the grill and fires in the wind, as well as the candles on grandpa’s birthday cake.

        Trick to refilling butane lighters and torches. Put them in the freezer for an hour and then refill from a can of butane at room temp. The butain transfers and condenses nicely into a liquid in the item you are refilling. In fact I find, I sometimes overfill them and need to burn off the excess so it functions properly.

    9. The Deplorable Braveheart

      I’ve done a few Dakota Fire Pits in my time. The guy in the video was spot on about the entrenching tool for making one. It’s time-consuming to some degree, but worth the effort. Too bad I couldn’t stick a troll into it, LOL!

    10. smokey

      Don’t use wet fuel, and keep the fuel sizes small for hot and fast burning. Line the hole with stones to prevent the organic material in the soil from smoldering, the odor will carry a long ways, just follow the breeze to your location.

      • Genius

        I have a theory some of you might try. Keep a pot of water on top of your fire and the steam will absorb some of the smoke and diffuse some of the smell. Sounds plausible to me. What do you think?

        • Barn Cat

          The steam won’t do either one. It will just add to the visible smoke.

    11. KingKracker

      Build the fire hole at the top of a little hill so you can dig in to the side of the hill for the air hole
      Can open both ends of a couple of cans with a can opener to make a little pipe when laid end to end for the air tube

      • Mountain Trekker

        Dakota fire pits are great in many parts of the country, but not so good here in the “Rockies” if you know what I mean. I have built fires with different methods and failed with a few, but its hard to beat a BIC, I don’t smoke but I carry a Bic in my pocket at all times and have one in every coat, jacket and backpack. I encourage every outdoor person here in the mountains to carry one also, just can’t believe how many that won’t. Trekker Out

        • PO'd Patriot

          Same here MT always one-two on me, in the vehicles, back packs and a couple dozen for barter.

          • PO'd Patriot

            I also wrap Gorilla duct tape around the larger Bic lighters. Torn into thin strips and “nested up”, makes for a good fire starter.

            • Mountain Trekker

              PO’d Thanks for the tip on the duct tape, great idea, I’m definitly going to put some tape on my bics that I carry in my coats and packs. Sure would hate to be lost in the wilderness today, 8 inches of snow windy and drifting, calling for 18 inches,temp is 8 degrees any kind of fire feels good today. I must really be getting old cause this is the kind of weather I use to love to get out and challenge. Not today! Trekker Out

        • Ketchupondemand

          bics are very useful but a while back I lit a cigar with one, put it in my shirt pocket, then noticed a burning smell.
          Damn thing didn’t go out, burned a hole on the inside of the shirt pocket, but not the outside. So I still wear it!

    12. Enemy of the State

      want to keep smoke to a minimum

      dont burn wet shit .. properly dried and cured hard woods , once up to temperature dont give off much of a smoke signal
      also .. give the fire all the oxygen it needs to burn properly with the amount of fuel( wood) you have given it

      its cave man technology .. not rocket science

    13. Don_in_Odessa

      Burns so hot even a cheapo IR glass can see it?

    14. Bilge Pump McCoy

      I’ve never built one of these fire pits myself. But every summer I pick several new outdoor projects and then when I take the kids camping we try them out so we can learn from the experience. I just added this project to my ever expanding list.

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