How to Pan for Gold: Gold Panning Equipment Needed
With the price of gold soaring, this is a great time to try your hand at gold panning. You might be surprised to learn that gold is found throughout the United States, not just in Alaska or California. In fact there are opportunities for gold panning throughout the world.
I’m going to introduce you to some of the hot spots for gold panning in future posts, but first? First you need to know HOW to pan for gold!
Begin by getting some basic inexpensive equipment. If you’re on a tight budget, there is only one item you can’t do without, and that is a gold pan. However, your experience will be easier and more effective if you get the items I’m going to discuss here. In addition to the products outlined below, a pair of tweezers (to grab the small gold pieces or flakes from the pan) and a shovel can come in handy.
I recommend the Deluxe Gold Pan Kit ($42.45), which includes a 15” super-sluice pan, 14” prospector pan, 10” backpacker pan, classifier, gold guzzler bottle, 2 gold vials, tweezers, the How to Find Gold field guide by Charles Garrett and Roy Lagal, and The New Gold Panning Is Easy book and DVD. Their pans are lightweight, extremely durable, and are green to make it easier to see the gold.
Gold pans used to be made of metal and were really HEAVY to carry and use; although they did have two advantages. Many of the old prospectors used them to cook their meals on as well! And if it was accidentally dropped into a stream, it sank, so was easy to retrieve. (The new pans will just float away!)
Now the pans are made of heavy-duty, yet lightweight, plastic; and they have ridges (called riffles) which make it easier to separate the heavy stuff like gold and black sand from the lighter stuff like sand and rocks and roots. They are much easier to carry in a backpack or by hand than the old metal ones were.
Inflatable Seat Cushion
Whether you’re digging in the sand and rock or panning for gold in the stream, it’s a lot more comfortable and easier on your back if you bring along an inflatable cushion so you’re not bending over all day long. And I’ve found a wonderful and inexpensive one called the PocketSeat Inflatable Seat Cushion 9×13 Red. It’s only $5.95, is durable, is easy to inflate, and fits into your pocket, purse, or backpack.
Stainless Steel Trowel
Unless you want to dig up everything by hand to put into your gold pan, you’d better bring along a trowel. The Pro Digging Trowel is made of heavy-gauge stainless steel and has a lifetime guarantee. (Your aluminum garden trowel will never survive these conditions.) It weighs only one pound, has an easy-grip handle, and only costs $10.39.
Rock Hammer and Pick
Some of your best finds will be imbedded in hard soil and in, or under, rocks. Estwing has a new Rock Hammer Rock Pick Estwing Supreme Big Face Pointed Tip that is state-of-the-art, and a real bargain for $44.28. Its “shock reduction grip” reduces vibration up to 50%, and it only weighs two pounds.
A dirt scoop isn’t mandatory, but it will separate some of the heavy stuff you don’t want in advance of doing the actual panning, therefore saving you some time. It’s a scoop with slots to allow the smaller stuff to end up in the pan. Of course you’ll want to evaluate the large stuff before you discard it. Anyway, what I recommend is a heavy-duty kitty litter scoop! Seriously! Go to your local grocery store or pet store and pick up the one that looks the strongest and has the widest slots.
I hate to tell you but you won’t just be finding nice big gold nuggets when you pan for gold. You’ll also be finding FLAKES of gold, lots of them. That’s okay. It adds up. But sometimes the flakes stick to rocks. There are many times you’ll want to take a really close look before you can decide what’s worth saving.
I have located a good-quality “loupe” type of magnifying glass which folds compactly into its own case. It has a slotted end for a key chain or necklace chain. The great thing about the SE Illuminated Loupe with LED Light – 20X is that it has a built-in light source and offers 20X magnification, with a 21 mm diameter lens. The other great thing is that it’s only $11.99.
Plastic Storage Bottles and a Funnel
You need a place to safely store your flakes and nuggets. While some people think glass vials are best, I personally opt for anything that can’t be easily broken. That’s why I suggest you get Polystyrene Plastic Vials for Gold Nuggets that are 4” tall x 5/8” across, with a 7/8” wide opening. Also go to the local grocery or hardware store and pick up a plastic funnel which will fit comfortably in the vial. You don’t want to lose any of those gold flakes!
Lois De Lorenzo’s Gold Fever and the Art of Panning and Sluicing is only $6.95 and shares with you some tips and tricks.
As you will learn in Part Three of this three-part series, gold panning can be used to sample different areas. If you locate a place in the stream that seems to have a lot of gold, based on the things you dug up and then panned, you might want to take the next step and use a sluice which now can also be purchased in heavy-duty lightweight plastic and has ridges (riffles) like your gold pan does.
The sluice is placed in the stream, you put a LOT more in there than you could in a gold pan, and it works on a similar principle as the gold pan (which you’ll learn about in the next post). But your first step is panning for gold; sluicing is the next step if you find a great spot to pan for gold.