The most important tool in a prospectors arsenal is the gold pan. For hundreds, if not thousands of years, people have used gold pans to extract gold from rivers and streams. Pans have often been made of wood or metal, but the last 50 years or so plastic pans have taken over as the most popular choice. The four most common factors to consider when choosing a gold pan is material, size, color and last but not least, the user.
- Material: Modern gold pans are made of either plastic or metal. Metal pans were used during the gold rushes to recover millions worth of gold from the stream beds of California and Alaska. Even though the metal pans doubles as cookware, plastic pans has a lot going for them. They are lighter and still durable enough for years of gold panning, and thanks to them not being magnetic you can easily remove black sand from the pan using a magnet. A choice of color also makes it easier to see the gold. Both metal and plastic pans often have riffles that acts as a gold trap, but on the plastic ones they can be molded into any shape which makes them more effective in trapping the gold.
- Size: The most common sizes today ranges between 10-17 inches in diameter. The size determines both the pans portability and also how much material you can process with the pan at the same time. A 10" pan is the perfect backup pan and its smaller size makes it easy to bring with you whether you're hiking, camping, or just taking a walk. It is also a good size for kids or for people with smaller hands. 17" pans are big and when used right they allow you to process a lot of material in a day, but the large size makes it tiring to use it for a longer duration. 14" pans are just the right size for most people and that is the size that I would recommend for most people.
- Color: The most common colors for plastic pans are either blue, green or black. Those colors in particular makes it easy to see the small flakes of gold in the bottom of your pan. I recommend going with a blue or green pan instead of a black one because a black gold pan can make it hard to see the black sand during panning.
- The User: The most important factor to consider is the user. You must ask yourself why you are buying a gold pan. If it is for purely historic reasons then you should of course buy a metal pan. The truth is many prospectors prefer metal pans even today. If you are choosing a gold pan for your kid that happens to love the color black, then buy a black 10 inch gold pan even though a green pan might make it easier to spot the gold.
There you have it, the four most important factors in choosing a gold pan. The shape of the pan is not included as a factor because there is no good enough reason to buy a gold pan that is anything other than round. Now you can start looking for a gold pan to buy, which will set you back around $10-15.