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Before you start prospecting, you need to acquire the basic gold digging gear and the know-how to use them. Developing good techniques takes time, but it’s part of the adventure. 

Basic Gold Digging Gear:

• Gold pan
• Shovel
• Sandbag
• Bucket (5 or 2 gallon)
• Sucker bottle
• Tweezers
• Gold bottle
• Crevicing gun (hand dredge)
• Miner’s pick
• Geologist’s pick
• Tablespoon, plastic scoop, garden trowel
• Dental picks and picks fashioned from metal skewers
• Portable sluice
• Backpack
• Wire stake construction flags
• GPS equipment
• Camera
• Notebook and pen/pencil

RELATED: A Novice’s Guide To Gold Mining And Prospecting

Gold Prospecting
“Just about every prospector has a different rule for concentrations. I want to find at least 10 to 20 colors in my pan sample.”

PANNING: Without doubt the gold prospector’s gold pan is one of the more important pieces of equipment a prospector needs. Be sure to get a model that suits you. A pan is essential for a variety of duties: sampling an area, processing concentrates out of a sluice and even the day-to-day extraction of gold. In the old days of mining, the steel pan was even used for cooking.

Cooking with your metal pan, though, is not recommended. If you contaminate your mining equipment with oil, it’s likely you’ll lose gold with fines riding the flotation of the oil right out of your pan, as it does so well out of sluices that haven’t been properly washed.

Not enough can be said about becoming good at using a gold pan. It’s the start of every sampling of an area, and often the end of many sluice cleanups. Master the rudimentary techniques of getting the large gravel out, working your way down to blondes, then black sand, and finally to the colors for easy removal with tweezers and a sucker bottle.

PORTABLE SLUICE: There are many available. One I’ve enjoyed using is a mini-sluice that Todd Osborn over at Bazooka Gold Trap designed and fabricates. It’s fast, simple and compact. I’ve also made my own out of 4-inch corrugated sewer pipe that rolls up and fits in a small daypack.

BACKPACK: Though designed for getting dropped into some very dangerous places, the Blackhawk Velocity X3 Jump Pack and the Titan Hydration Pack serve well on prospecting trips. You can carry pretty much everything you need inside in comfort and use the MOLLE system to attach anything else externally.

RELATED: 12 Bug Out Bags For Your Survival Gear List

NAVIGATION GOODS: A professional goes forth prepared. That means a good topographical map, camera, GPS and a notebook to record coordinates. If you are looking to stake a claim, you’ll need those coordinates to lay out the area you’ll be mining to file your claim. [Editor’s note: Mytopo.com is an excellent source for buying heavy duty maps (and digital ones) to bring along on your next outdoor adventure.]

Of late, I’ve found myself leaving my GPS and SLR camera at home,  simply bringing a portable solar charger for my Apple iPhone, and using the Spyglass application from Happy Magenta. Spyglass is such a multi-faceted piece of software. I’ve used it to teach range estimation and elevations to my long-range tactical shooting students, measure trees to cut for my log home business, and for navigating and recording my gold prospecting sites. There’s the added bonus of being able to take photos with your iPhone, which makes the use of an iPhone for much of your field research collection a no-brainer. Word of caution: If you plan to share your photos with friends via the internet and Facebook, make sure to remove the EXIF data, unless you want everyone who views your photos to be able to see exactly where it was taken.

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Winter 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.

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