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Tools you Need to Start Gold Prospecting

By Edited May 19, 2016 1 5

Tools you Need to Start Gold Prospecting

“There’s gold in them there hills!”  All 50 US states have had some amount of gold found in them at one time or another.  With the price of gold skyrocketing there has been a modern day gold rush to the old gold fields with new fortune seekers and new technology.  If you think that you know where to find gold the first thing that you’ll need to do is assemble a tool kit that will allow you to recover your treasure.  Below is a list of basic equipment that you will need to begin gold prospecting and a little bit about how to use each tool.

Tools to get Started Gold Prospecting:


A shovel is the most basic tool of the gold prospector.  Without it you won’t be moving much pay dirt.  You want a sturdy shovel that will hold up well to the rough and tumble life it will have digging through stream gravels and prying up small boulders.  You also want a shovel that is light and portable in likely event that  your prospecting takes you into remote areas.  On any prospecting trip you will most likely want to take a second digging tool in case you break your shovel otherwise you’ll just be heading back to town for a new shovel instead of finding gold.

Gold Pan:

The gold pan is the most important prospector’s tool.  Don’t skimp here.  There are many different styles, colors, and component materials.  Gold pan design even varies between country (the Russians use square pans and cone shaped pans are used in south-east Asia).  You can experiment with what works best for you.  Many times you may want to have two gold pans.  One large one pan for initial prospecting of a stream and a smaller pan that will allow you to more easily work concentrated material when you find a hot spot.

Gravel Classifier:

The classifier is an important piece of equipment that will make your panning easier and more efficient.  You can pan without classifying first, but material is easier to process if it is uniform in size.  The most common and convenient classifiers will fit in your pan or over the top of a five gallon bucket.

Snuffer Bottle

A snuffer bottle will allow you to recover the gold that you’ve found with greater ease.  Not all of the gold you find will be large nuggets.  In fact, the majority of placer gold is found as very fine grains and flakes.  A snuffer bottle will allow you to suck your gold out of the bottom of your pan.

Small Vials

Once you’ve panned your gold and sucked it up with your snuffer bottle you will need a place to store it.  It would be a shame to lose the gold that you’ve worked so hard to recover.  A small shatterproof vial is the perfect container to store your treasure.  Transparent vials are also a great way to show off your gold to friends and fellow prospectors.

Recommended Tools for the Experienced Prospector:

You can get a good start and be very successful with the tools listed above.  The following items, however, can make your prospecting much more productive.

Crevicing Tools:

If you have a good place to find gold you may want to check cracks in the exposed bedrock for trapped nuggets.  Tools such as pry bars and rock hammers can help you to access these locations.

Strong Magnet:

This tool can help you to separate black sands from gold at the bottom of your pan.  It won’t remove garnets and non-ferrous sands but it will make the separation process easier.

Recommended tools for the Advanced Gold Prospector:

Sluice Box:

A sluice box can help you to process gold bearing materials faster and more efficiently.  It is the next step up from a gold pan.  If you want help on how to properly set up and opperate a sluice box you can find it in the article: "How to Sluice for Gold

Metal Detector:

There are many types of metal detectors on the market.  Some are designed with the gold prospector specifically in mind.  They can range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.  Many are easy to use but experience comes with practice.  Some prospectors can wield these machines like surgical scalpels, pulling nuggets out of dry and difficult to prospect areas.


A dredge is a vacuum that sucks up streambed gravels from below the water line.  It is usually attached to a sluice box and can be operated by a diver or swimmer wearing snorkel gear.  This is an expensive piece of machinery and is recommended only for advanced prospectors.


A trammel is a classifier and sluice box all in one.  It is usually fed through the top and material is classified in a rotating drum.  Finer material passes through holes in the drum and is run through a sluice box.  Larger material is sorted out mechanically and disposed of.  This is often a rather expensive piece of equipment and usually is only used in semi-professional or industrial mining.

If you've already acquired your prospecting tools and are looking for information on how to gold pan or where to find gold you can find it in the article "How to Pan For Gold."

Recommended Starters Kit

Garrett Deluxe Gold Pan Kit
Amazon Price: $42.45 Buy Now
(price as of May 19, 2016)
If you're looking for a great starter's kit for gold prospecting I highly recommend the Deluxe Gold Pan Kit from Garret metal detectors. Garret has long been a leader in the treasure hunting industry and produces quality products. This basic kit has everything you need to get started with the exception of a shovel and a place to dig!


Feb 25, 2013 12:56pm
Hi--As a person that has written about gold panning, I really like your article as it ishighly informative especially to the new comer. Thus, 2 BIG thumbs from me and a rating. Good work!!!!
Feb 25, 2013 7:22pm
Thanks, Marlando! I appreciate the comment. I've been doing most of my prospecting in Wyoming, Colorado, and Virginia. How about you?
Feb 26, 2013 7:09am
Have been away from it for a few years now but you are working my old stomping grounds--except in Virginia. I've prospected rivers and streams in both Colorado and Wyoming--scuba dived some rivers too and did land prospecting in Colorado but without any success except for the great time hiking about and picking into sides of hills and so forth. Found lots of abandoned mines too and that was fun. Maybe I'll get back to it oneof these days but...at my age, that's probably more fantasy than anything else.
Feb 26, 2013 4:22pm
Sounds like you've got around a bit! If you'd like to meet up sometime this upcoming summer let me know. I've got a few spots.

Thanks again and cheers!
Feb 26, 2013 6:14pm
Thanks, very kind offer. As I say, I am too a little old for prospecting but keep me informed with your adventures.
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