How to Prospect: Gold Panning Edition February 28 2013

Prospecting is the perfect combination of hiking, the outdoors and a treasure hunt. Once you find that first gold nugget (or even that first gold flake) you’ll be hooked. But, while prospecting is a lot of fun, it isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Don’t plan on heading down to the river and scooping out piles of gold on your first trip. Learning how to prospect can take time and a little patience. An easy (and inexpensive) way to start prospecting for gold is to try your hand at gold panning.

If you’re ready to let gold fever strike, we’re ready to help. This beginner’s guide will walk you through the basics of gold panning from picking your supplies to finding your first piece of gold.

Gathering Your Supplies

You don’t need much to start panning for gold. In fact if you’re going for the bare minimum you can get by with just a gold pan (choose a green one) and your bare hands. However, to make things easier I recommend taking along a pair of tweezers (for picking up small flakes of gold), a small glass capped vial (to store any finds), a shovel, and a T-REIGN ProCase or gear tether to secure your expensive electronics from loss or damage.

Finding a Location

One of the most difficult parts of learning how to prospect is finding places where you can legally do so. Every state has different mining and prospecting laws, so you’ll need to do some research in advance. California has a few areas set aside for recreational gold panners as do many other states including Alaska (pdf), Montana, Colorado. Your local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office is a good place to start your search.


The actual gold panning process is pretty simple, but it can get wet and messy. Make sure your smartphone is safely stowed in your T-REIGN ProCase before you get started and any other expensive items like a GPS or camera is tethered to you.

Scoop up some dirt and gravel from the riverbed. Remove any big stones and then hold your pan in the water and slowly shake from side to side. This moves the heavy gold particles to the bottom. Occasionally tilt your pan slightly away from you and gently pull inward washing away excess sand and gravel. Repeat the shaking and rinsing process several times until the bottom of your pan contains only black sand (and hopefully some gold).

The black sand is called pay dirt and if you find it, you’re panning correctly. Easy identification of pay dirt is the reasoning behind the green pan. Once you hit pay dirt, look carefully for any pieces of gold. If you’re lucky enough to find some, pull it out and store it in a small water-filled vial.

There are many ways to prospect; keep coming back and we’ll teach you about some of the other methods too, but panning is one of the best ways to start learning how to find gold. So grab your gold pan and your T-REIGN retractable outdoor products and get started. You might just find a nugget, but even if you don’t you’ll still have a lot of fun.