PCAP (and PCAP-NG) are standard formats for recording packets, which most tools which manipulate packets accept, including Tcpdump and Wireshark.

A kismetdb log can be converted to PCAP-NG, or Kismet can write the packet logs directly.

There are two main flavors of PCAP supported by Kismet:

  1. pcapppi

    pcapppi is the legacy PCAP format, which uses PPI packet headers. This version of the pcap log can only handle Wi-Fi packets, and manipulates the packet headers to fit the PPI standard (only one antenna signal value and other limitations). Generally the pcapng format should be used, but not all tools understand the new format.

  2. pcapng

    pcapng is the modern pcap standard supported by Wireshark, Tshark, and other tools.

    PCAP-NG allows for mixing packet types (such as Wi-Fi, BTLE, and Zigbee) as well as retaining the original capture interface (which datasource in Kismet saw the packet), the original headers (pure radiotap packet headers with more complete signal info, timestamps, etc). It also allows Kismet to log the packet without manipulation (such as header translation to PPI), allows for annotations, other data, and more.

    Whenever possible, the PCAP-NG log file will have richer content.

When to enable PCAP

Typically there is no need to enable both the kismet log type and the PCAP log types at the same time, since the PCAP log can be created using the kismetdb_to_pcap tool which is part of Kismet.

Log type




Rotating logs

As of kismet-2023-12-git, the pcapng log supports rotating the log file based on size. When enabled, a new pcapng log will be made once the existing log exceeds the specified size.


Log size is specified in megabytes. Logs are rotated when the size exceeds the configured maximum, and may be up to 4kb larger than the maximum specified size (in other words, if logging to a filesystem with a maximum file size, do not set the maximum pcapng log to the exact maximum as it may exceed the filesystem maximum by a small amount).

Logs are rotated so that no packets should be lost during the creation of the new log file.


Duplicate packets

Kismet can record duplicate packets when multiple datasources capture the same data. In some instances, keeping duplicate packets is desirable (such as remote captures used for device location), while in others, logging duplicates may be a waste of space.




Data packets

Kismet typically logs all types of packets. To discard data packets, retaining only management frames: