- Digging tool with magnet.
Inexpensive: I use a "Groundbreaker's Mini Tiller" (about $6.00 at Eagle Hardware or Home Depot). Its like an 18-inch-long pick with a 2-inch flat blade on one end of the head and a 3-tine fork on the other. Weighs about 2 pounds. Drill a hole through the handle to string a leather thong or shoelace to hang it from your hand or pack. Drill another hole into the end of the handle and epoxy a cow magnet into it (a strong magnet about as big around as your little finger and 2 to 3 inches long; ask at any hardware store). Some folks prefer an army surplus type small folding shovel. The latest style has a shovel and a pick.
- A stiff flat-blade screwdriver for prying and scraping out cracks in bedrock.
- Good sunglasses. Get a pair with ultraviolet filtering if possible.
- Sun-shade hat. A wide brim or foreign legion type with neck shade is best.
Inexpensive: A half-mesh baseball cap with a handkerchief safety pinned around the back to cover the neck and ears.
- Sun screen. Find SPF 30 or better.
- Plastic miner's scoop or small plastic gold pan to hold target dirt when digging a target. There are also nice little plastic nugget trays for sale by prospecting retailers.
Inexpensive: A plastic one-cup measuring cup will do fine. Just don't let the wife catch you stealing it.
- A one-quart or -liter drinking water bottle. There's a nice one called "Polar Bottle" that's insulated and carries ice for most of the day. Its about $10.
Inexpensive: Buy a couple of one-liter bottles of soda or such. Then just refill them with water.
- Detector with headphones, plus battery packs, extra dry or rechargeable batteries, and 12-volt and/or 120-volt chargers if applicable.
- A small one- or two-grain test nugget to test your detector and to remind yourself exactly what gold sounds like. Get one from a nugget seller or your detector shop. Don't glue it to a poker chip as some suggest--that just ruins a perfectly good nugget. Swipe an inch of Velcro from Momma's sewing basket, put the nugget between the two pieces and/or put it in a small closeable plastic parts bag (get one in the loose small parts department at Eagle Hardware).
- A day pack to carry it all in. Wal-Mart, Target, K-mart, and other stores carry a nice one with an elasticized mesh pocket to carry the water bottle and a couple of zippered pockets for essentials.
Inexpensive: Borrow one from the kids for a couple of days. Another good alternative is a short-sleeved fishing vest with a lot of pockets.
- A roll of toilet paper. Stick 20 feet of it in your day pack now while you're thinking about it or, when you get out there and find you've forgotten to bring it, you can try using cactus.
- Something to carry nuggets in. You probably won't need a coffee can. A 35mm film canister works fine. If you find a nuggie larger than that, I'll be happy to carry it for you. Fuji film canisters can be cut down to better fit a pocket and the lid will still fit.
- Any necessary medications, antacids, aspirin, and/or other pain relievers, standard toiletries, etc.
- Reading material. It's a long trip down and back and it gets dark at 6:30 p.m.
Suggestions: Dig out any article on desert hunting in your old prospecting magazines, any books that apply to nugget hunting, the user's manual for your detector (it never hurts to refresh your memory). A pocket novel--even if you've read 'em all, bring 'em for others to read or for use instead of cactus.
- A web belt with some type of cloth or canvas trash container. Your detector shop has a nice one made by White for under $20.
Inexpensive: Home Depot has about a dozen different kinds of Carpenter's pockets to go on a web belt. I bought one that has a large pocket (for the inevitable metal trash, bullets, zip tops, etc.), four different-sized pockets for other storage, a Velcro closeable pocket for test and other nuggets, and a metal loop to hang your pick. I think it was about $10.
- A belt knife. Now would be a good time to put a good edge on it.
- A pair of knee pads. I only use one on my right knee. Split a pair with someone else or keep the extra one because the elastic will stretch out after a while. You can pick 'em up for between $5 to $14 at Home Depot. By the time you've knelt down in the rocks and dug your second or third target, you'll wish you had bought this item.
- A GOOD pair of hiking boots. Tennis shoes will do in a pinch, but you really should have the ankle protection from cactus needles and snake bites that a good pair of hiking boots provides. By the way, if you're going out to buy a pair of boots for metal detecting, be careful to get non-steel-toed boots, preferably with no metal eyelets. Otherwise, your detector is going to be giving you some of the weirdest disappearing noises you've ever heard!
- Paper plates and plasticware. Remember, non-cooks have to clean up and do the dishes.
- Food. Get together with your camper mates and decide what you want and chip in on some breakfasts and suppers, depending on refrigeration and cooking facilities. Easy stuff is macaroni and cheese, beans and franks, and burgers and macaroni salad--look around the deli at the super market. Don't forget coffee, filters, cream and sugar, ketchup, mustard, bread, and milk. Ask Mom for ideas. Maybe she'll make a potluck dish for you.
Nice to Have
- A topo map for the area in which you're hunting.
- A small pocket compass and/or a GPS receiver with spare batteries.
Or hunt with me: We can push a button on my GPS to mark our SUV or camper on the screen's map, then go wherever we want. When we're ready to go back, we just look at the screen and it'll show where we are, where the SUV is, a dotted line marking the path we've walked, and the distance and direction back line of sight--all to within about 50 feet. I got lost once on a five-hour hike in Utah. Never again!
- A cell phone and charger would also be nice to have along in case of emergency. One with a 12-volt auto adapter would be ideal.
- A plastic rain poncho.
- A small packable first aid kit.
- Insect repellent.
- A snake bite kit. Be watchful where you walk and never put your hands where you can't see in the desert, but DON'T spend a lot of sleepless nights worrying about dying of snake bite. With new antivenins, your chances of dying from a snake bite are much less likely than winning the lottery.
- A six-pack cooler in which to keep your lunch and a couple of cans of beverage cold in the SUV.
- A larger cooler to keep several day's worth of your personal food and beverages cold.
- Fixin's for lunches, beverages, and snacks while driving and for evenings, if you want them.
Light lunch ideas: Baby carrots, celery, one-serving packets of cheese, Lunchables (a commercial package with six crackers, six cracker-sized pieces of meat, six cracker-sized slices of cheese, and two cookies--they come with ham or turkey), granola bars, and jerky. Also bring a couple of closeable baggies (and reuse them).
- Ice for coolers.
Inexpensive: If you have an ice maker, start making extra ice a week before the trip.
- A sweatshirt, sweater, jacket, vest, etc.
- A wool cap and gloves for those possibly cold mornings or evenings.
- A camera. Don't miss the chance to get a picture of your biggest nugget find.
In Each Group's Sport Utility Vehicle
Keep the following in your group's SUV:
- A five-gallon water jug of water.
- A 12-volt tire pump.
- An automobile repair tool kit.
- A spare quart of oil.
- A tire-pressure gauge.
Suggestions: Check the air in your tires for recommended pressure, check your spare tire for air, check and fill all fluids in the vehicle, especially oil and antifreeze.