How to Make a Firebed for Survival

Last Updated: February 21, 2023

What Is a Firebed?

A fire bed is a bed you create on a fireproof surface above a burned-out fire.

This basic survival technique has been used by many cultures during periods of cold weather when adequate insulation isn’t readily available. It remains one of the best ways to stay warm in the coldest weather.

Following the Tooferrate Rule (Two, Four, Eight), a survivalist can dig an eight-inch hole, create a two-hour fire, then set up a bed atop four inches of dirt.

How to Build a Survival Fire Bed?



Step One. Find a flat, dry area to set up your fire bed.

When you build your fire bed, try to build it in an area away from rocks that you may scar with the flames and smoke. Naturally, you want to do as little damage as possible with your experimentation. If you need to build the bed for a real survival situation, things change.

Build the bed under an overhanging rock, the rock above your head will absorb heat as well as the ground below. This will result in your sleeping between two heat sources.

Fire beds have been used in -10° F degree temperatures with only a piece of canvas as a cover.

Step Two. Gather your twigs, brush, and wood for your fire. Additionally, gather gravel or small rocks to use as a base for your eight-inch firepit. Lay your layer of rocks for additional heat, and start your fire using dry tinder, kindling, and larger pieces of wood.

For a fire bed, your fire ends up being about one foot tall, one foot wide, and six feet long. Your fire hole is eight inches deep.

Step Three. Once the hole is dug, line the inside with fist-sized rocks. These stones aren’t there to hold heat but to allow air to get to the fire for a hotter burn. Don’t tile the bottom. Place them about one inch apart. The tops of all of the rocks should be about the same height inside the hole.

Do not use any rock that may explode when heated. Stones taken from a stream bed may be soaked with water. When the water heats up and becomes steam you could be laying on nature’s explosives.

These can cause injury or scatter your fire to nearby flammable material. Rocks taken from the surface of the ground are probably acceptable even if the outside is wet.

Step Three. Once the hole has been lined with stones, start your fire. Burn the fire hot and spread the coals out evenly across the bottom of the pit. It is important that the coals be spread as the fire burns to avoid hot spots.

Make sure the fire is well-ventilated, as a lack of oxygen can cause the fire to go out. You can create air funnels on the sides of the holes. Fan them with branches to create airflow in the central area of your fire.

Dakota Fire Hole


Step Four. Once the fire is burning well, add some larger logs to the fire to create a bed of coals. These coals will provide long-lasting heat and can be used to cook food.

Burn with flames for about an hour and a half then let the fire die down. Keep smashing the coals with a walking stick or fire prod to make certain that the pit is covered evenly. After two hours or so have passed, cover the coals with dirt. Once the pit is covered there is almost no visible sign that you had a fire hole.

In milder weather, note the easiest way is to build a long fire on a flat piece of ground, burn it as a cooking/ heating fire for a couple of hours, and then just kick the coals into your next fire area. Then, you take dirt from the surrounding area and cover the old fire site. You’re aiming for four inches between you and anything that can set you on fire.

Additional (but not recommended) coverings can be:

  • Leather
  • Tarp
  • Plastic
  • Pine needles or brush

Step Five. Wait.

If heat comes out of the ground after 30 minutes, you need more dirt.

If the heat starts out after about 1 hour, you’ll be just about right for your night of replenishing sleep.

Step Six. Make your bedding.

When the area and timing are covered, use dead pine needles for a wonderful smell and moisture absorption. Sage leaves can be added for an even more pleasant smell if you’re been out in the wild without a shower for a while.

Lay down a piece of canvas and hunker down for the evening.

The heat will radiate up through the four-inch layer and provide you with warmth from the edge of the pit to a distance of about 18 inches from either side.

SAS Dakota Fire Hole

The Rule of Three

You can survive 3 hours without shelter.

Three days without water.

Three weeks without food.

How long can you survive without sleep?

Sleep is a survival tool. It keeps you alert better than coffee. Better than medicine, it keeps your body strong against sickness. Sleep is the difference between a clear mind that makes the right decisions and a dead one. Regardless of your occupation, when you’re in a survival situation, sleep is a precious resource.

Several studies have stressed the significance of sleep. Not enough sleep can cause major errors in judgment, impairing one’s ability to carry out even the most basic duties. Your digestive tract becomes less effective, resulting in subpar waste removal and nutritional absorption.

Long-term sleep deprivation makes a survivor more prone to despair, violent outbursts, and impaired judgment. In a situation when life and death are on the line, even the smallest error might have catastrophic consequences.

Survival Slumber: DIY Beds for Camp
Make sure you’re covered overhead.


  1. A lack of space or insulation between you and the ground causes faster heat loss. Direct contact with cold ground leeches warmth, causing your body to consume more energy to maintain a constant temperature. Most survival beds for cold climates are raised from the ground. In a dire survival scenario, the fire bed is a quick, temporary solution for day one. Day two should be focused on encapsulating your shelter to protect it further from the elements.
  2. It is important to note that a fire bed should be used with caution, as it can be dangerous if not handled properly.
  3. Never leave it unattended, and never leave enough airflow for the wind to fan your life-saving fire into an out-of-control wildfire.
  4. Check the overhead rock for any stalactites or overhanging, loose rock. These might break off. The heat from the fire can cause the rock to fracture and fall, crushing you instead of sheltering you.
  5. Likewise, don’t set your fire bed under rocks like limestone, in higher temperatures, these rocks may pop free and bullet toward you.
  6. The ground may give up a lot of moisture. If the ground is wet you should cover the bed with a waterproof material or let the moisture bake out.

If You’re in a Hurry — The “Butt” Hole

If it’s late in the day and you don’t have time for a proper shelter, this survival trick can be constructed in a pinch.

Step One. Find a sheltered spot close to a tree or a large rock. The center of a “V” where large rocks come together is ideal. Trees are less ideal because they generally offer less protection from wind and may suffer damage as a result of your endeavor to stay warm.

Step Two. Mark where the small of your back encounters the ground. Spread your hand wide and draw two parallel lines with your thumb and little finger, across the width of the bed where the small of your butt will be. The lines will be roughly the same width as your buttocks.

Step Three. Dig small depressions (about ½ inch deep) above and below these lines for your butt and back. When you lay down those cups will hold you centered on the bed and the raised area in the center will offer support for the small of your back.

Step Four. Sit with your back against the rock, knees up almost to your chest. Mark the ground directly below your knees and between your legs.

Step Five. Dig a hole the same diameter of your rear end and follow the Tooferate (2-hours, four inches of dirt, eight-inch hole) rule.

At this point the hole is basically just a campfire. After the fire has burned down and been covered with earth, put down a layer of pine needles, some bark, or small branches as a cushion/insulator seat. You can also use your pack, rope, or other gear for this purpose.

The Last Step. Sit against the rock, knees up, on the cushion. Drape your back, body, and feet with a poncho, a hide, some canvas, or a blanket to make a small tent that will channel the heat from the heated earth between your legs into your little shelter.

“Always Be Ready” Max

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