The time has finally come. You are about to go out on your very first gold adventure. What will you find? Are you ready for the trip?
Planning for a gold panning trip is very similar to planning for hiking. I will assume that you are planning a day trip.
The key to any successful trip is being ready for anything without being burdened by gear. I like to break my trip planning into 3 categories: the gold panning, safety, and comfort. The following list will show what I recommend bringing and why.
Gold Panning Equipment
A gold pan and a back up or new pan. I always have my trusty pan clipped to my pack, as I know it well. Before trying a new pan, I often use my standard pan first, so that I know what I can expect to find.
Toys for playing in the dirt include a shovel, a screen and a strong scoop. I call these toys for playing in the dirt because as a kid this is what I would have used and because I originally used my daughter’s sandbox screen for gold panning. She wasn’t too happy about it when she figured it out.
A pry bar. I was fortunate enough to find a pry bar with a tee handle that is the perfect length to double as a walking stick. This is very useful when crossing streams and climbing steep hills. Whenever possible, I try to find things that serve a dual purpose.
A vial or a snifter bottle for collecting gold that you find. Also tweezers and a magnifying glass can be helpful. Hopefully you will not need the glass to see your gold. However, it is often interesting to closely examine soil, minerals or findings.
Specialty tools. Depending upon where I am venturing I will often add an extra device such as a crevicing device. A crevicing device sucks material up from submerged cracks in the rocks in the river. Many people also like to have a periscope that can be as simple as a tube with plastic wrap on the bottom of it. This allows you to see what is on the bottom of the stream, and if you are lucky see a little glint of yellow.
Carry and use a hand sanitizer.
Have several sizes of bandages. Usually the worst you may get is a scrapped knuckle, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Know something about first aid. You will be walking on slippery rocks and other hazards. It benefits you to know how to treat a twisted or broken ankle.
Snake bite kit. A friend of mine almost stepped on a rattlesnake while we where panning. Fortunately it was young and did not strike.
A bell clipped to your belt. This will alert bears and other animals to your presence.
Basic survival gear. Any time you are venturing into the woods you should have the basics to survive at least one night. Band-aids, chocolate, water tablets, pain killers, fire starters and fishing hooks and line are a good start. There are many sardine can first aid kits available.
Make sure that some one knows where you are going and when you will be back.
Sunscreen and a sun hat. Heat stroke can be life threatening and a sun burn is no fun. Take a few moments to protect yourself.
High energy snacks. The first few times I went gold panning I was very surprised at how much work it was for muscles that I didn’t normally use. Having snacks like trail mix really help avoid becoming exhausted.
Water. Beer and other alcoholic beverages are relaxing, but they do dehydrate you. You must ensure that you drink water on a regular basis, especially if it is hot. Otherwise, you may become dehydrated. My rule of thumb is a small bottle of water every hour and if it is a hot day, I also jump in after drinking the water.
A small chair can save you much back pain. Gold panning involves a lot of crouching and kneeling. A small light chair, especially if you know you will be in one spot for a while, can really make things much more comfortable.
Good shoes or maybe sandals. You will be splashing in a river frequently and doing some climbing. Hiking shoes are great. Other people prefer rain boots. But my preference is Teva sandals — durable and comfortable with good grip for walking on wet and possibly slimy rocks.