The Right Gear for Gold Panning

You will need some equipment when you take your first gold prospecting trip, but you may not need much, especially if this is something you will do only occasionally. As you get more into the hobby, you may need to buy more equipment to suit your purposes, but until then, you should only get the items you cannot prospect without.

The necessary gold panning equipment for the beginning prospector is:

  • A Gold Pan – You can use something as simple as a nine inch pie pan for prospecting, but there are several size pans you can purchase as well. Instead of metal, they are usually made from hard plastic and range in prices from $8 up to about $30.00 for a beginning gold pan kit. The kit may contain two pans, a gold classifier, tweezers, gold bottles and a guide.
  • A Shovel – You will want a small, portable shovel that is easy to take hiking. A camping shovel should work well enough for your purposes.
  • A Snuffer Bottle – This is a bottle you use to remove the gold from your pan after you’ve been panning. You sucker the gold into the bottle and transfer it to a gold vial.
  • A Field Guide – Many guides give instructions on how to pan for gold to the beginner. They may also guide you on where you can and cannot pan, such as on National Park land, private lands, etc.

A more advanced prospector may use more advanced equipment in their quest to find gold. This is a serious hobby for some folks and they put a lot of time and money into their equipment to look for gold. Some of the gold panning gear they may use is:

  • Sieves – A sieve resembles a pan, but it is made from mesh to separate smaller, tiny particles from the larger ones. You can use a sieve with a pan to find gold nuggets or gold dust.
  • Gold Dredge – A dredge works like a gold pan, sieve or sluice box. They are all designed to separate the sand, debris, pebbles and sediment from the gold rock or nugget.
  • Sluice Box – This works like a pan does, but enables you to process much more from the waters. You scoop the sand, debris and rocks into a box and let it pass through the sections or riffles in order to find rocks or possible gold nuggets.


If you’re new to prospecting I would recommend buying a Gold Panning Kit like the one offered by Black Cat Mining. It’s got everything you need to get started and an instruction book on how to use all the strange little devices that are included.

If you’re serious about becoming a prospector you should look at the most modern gold panning equipment, because even a FEW extra grains of gold every day will quickly make up the cost of the best equipment.

Gold Panning Instructions

  • Shovel some river sand into your pan until the pan is a little less than ¾ full. If you fill it anymore than that you risk accidentally washing away pay dirt.
  • Remove the larger rocks and debris making sure that you do not accidentally throw away a GOLD nugget.
  • Place the pan underwater and let the contents get totally saturated. Much of the lightest material will float away right then and that is exactly what you want. If there are still any larger lumps of clay you should break them up with your hands.
  • Keep the pan underwater during this process. Greenhorns get worried about the material floating away, but remember the gold will not float away.
  • With the pan still underwater, vigorously begin sloshing the pan left to right. This forces the heavier material, gold if you are in the right spot, to the bottom of the pan and the lighter material up. Stop periodically and sweep the heavier material away with your fingers and repeat until this procedure until you reach the bottom of the pan.
  • It may take five or six times until you are left with a mass of black sand that hopefully is speckled with gold flakes. You can pick the flakes out right then or simply pour everything into a separate container for processing later, because picking out the gold flakes is a time consuming task that is often easier to do on a kitchen table in perfect light with a beer than squatting on a river bank.

Here’s a pretty good video that shows you the basics: