metal detecting vs gold panning

Gold Panning vs Metal Detecting! (7 Main Differences!)

gold panning vs metal detecting

Gold panning is often compared to other close activities! One of those is Metal Detecting …

… There are even beginners who want to start such a hunting activity, yet they are not sure whether they should go for gold panning or rather for metal detecting!

The good news is, both hobbies are just AMAZING and worthwhile for sure …

… However, in this Post I breakdown a deep comparison between both of them, so you can make the choice which one will suite you the most!

1. Needed Gear

The biggest difference between the gears needed for both gold panning and metal detecting is the cost!

The cost of metal detecting equipment and tools is significantly higher than those for gold panning. You can Check This Beginner Detector Price Here on Amazon to get an idea!

Tools for gold panning are quite inexpensive and very easy to come by as well. All you need to do to begin is get a simple gold pan (Check the Price Here on Amazon) and a shovel (Check the Price Here on Amazon).

Over time, you can also add a pick, tweezers, classifier screen, and some other prospecting equipment if you want. If you’re going to go the frugal way, you can save money and just buy pre-made gold panning tools that are available online.

Metal detecting, on the other hand, is not that cheap of an activity

… In addition to the detection machine, you might need other necessary tools such as headphones, pinpointers, trowel or differ, specialized shovel, a pouch, rechargeable batteries if the detector runs on them, a sand scoop, amongst others.

So, bottom line, if you’ve got a limited budget, then starting with panning for gold would be a better idea. Otherwise, metal detecting would make a bit more sense money wise.

2. Techniques involved

There is no doubt that if you want to get better and better at metal detecting or gold panning and actually start finding treasures, you need to understand and even master the techniques involved.

There are two common factors that you should keep in mind while gold panning:

  1. Get the dense gold particles to settle to the bottom of the pan. You can do this by vigorously shaking the sediment-water mixture.
  2. Decrease the amount of sediment in the pan in the first place by gently washing off the top layer of the material collected.

Many gold panners also work by practicing placing small pieces of metal such as small snips of copper wire in a little bit of sediment and then panning the copper.

While metal detecting, one of the techniques to master is how to swing your detector. All metal detectors have different processors.

Some are faster than others and able to process more ground. It is essential to understand that merely whipping your detector around a rapid pacer will not give you any results. This is why you need to know how to master your swing in order to get the best results.

While learning the techniques of gold, panning does not take much time, neither does learning metal detecting. The only thing to remember in both these activities is that as you become more experienced, you start developing an innate understanding of where you should be digging and where to move on.

3. Possible Targets

When you are metal detecting, the most common items you are likely to find are lost jewelry and coins. Trash items such as nails, soda cans, and bottle caps are usually the most popular items you find.

There is always an abundance of lost jewelry to be found, such as diamond earrings or rings, platinum rings, necklaces, silver bracelets, etc.

Sometimes, if you have a really good quality metal detector and you are able to detect further underground, you can find antique jewelry, pendants, medallions, and if you are fortunate, hidden treasure.

Obviously, the primary purpose of gold panning is to find gold, many a times, you also end up finding some other interesting items while panning.

Some of these include unusual rocks and fossils, other gems and minerals, lost jewelry, coins, etc. other precious gemstones and minerals are often a popular find because where there is gold, there is also likely to be additional precious metals.

Gold panners often report finding small sapphire beds, veins of quartz, and other fine minerals.

4. Locations

When you talk about gold panning, though, the most likely place to find gold is in streams and rivers. Land bordering rivers that run through gold mines or places where gold has been observed previously is also a likely spot for gold panning.

A flood in the water body also helps move and redistribute the fold. A flood helps rework the existing stream sediments and uncovers gold. Many people have been successful in finding treasures after a particularly heavy rainfall or a flood.

Mountains and hills can also be potential sites for gold panners — for example, the northern Black Hills in South Dakota, where placer gold was discovered in the 1870s.

Now, for metal detecting, areas that have a heavy footfall, places of historical activity, and sites that do not see a lot of other detectorists are going to be the most fruitful.

Some good locations for metal detecting include parks, the beach, sports stadiums, churches, battlefields, woodland, fields, camping sites, piers, racecourses, playgrounds, picnic grounds, stream beds, deserted towns, or houses, and many others.

5. Technology awareness

To operate a metal detector especially the newer ones you need to have a minimum of technology awareness. Terms like, sensitivity, discrimination, frequency, electrical conductivity and even software upgrades should be familiar for you …

… However, for gold panning, you can simply pick you your equipment and start prospecting by just being aware of the techniques involved.

6. Profit

Most people do not start metal detecting with plans of getting rich with their detectors. Even though you can still make some money with your detector if you take the time to research and locate good sites for hunting.

Planning your detecting strategy and identifying potentially profitable places can increase the chances of success.

The mentality for gold panning is different even for hobbyists! Indeed, you do it mostly to get gold that you can trade for money later on …

… In most cases, the amount of gold you find up is not enough to make you a lot of money. However, with a lot of hard work and again, research, you can get lucky to know which places to search at.

If you want to look for big gold, you will have to research and narrow down on a potential area.

7. Regulations

Even before stepping out of your home for either of these two activities, it is essential to know the laws of your place.

If you live in the US, then there are various laws that govern both activities.

Most of the land in the US is off-limits for gold prospecting. Most of the land is also privately owned by corporations or individuals, trusts, and institutions, and you cannot prospect on any of these lands without contacting the owner and getting explicit permission.

Gold panning without consent, especially on private property, can lead to an arrest on charges of theft, vandalism, or trespassing.

Some owners of mineral-bearing lands also allow you to prospect, but for a mining fee. They allow you to keep whatever you find if you pay them a price before starting. Some owners also base the fees on what you find on their land.

On federal, state, and local government land, gold prospecting can be allowed with explicit permission.

Usually these lands are preserved as a conservation area or state or national parks, but the agencies in charge sometimes do allow people to prospect for gold on their lands. However, you have to follow all the guidelines they prescribe.

Most states in the US allow metal detecting on private properties with prior permission from the owner. On government, state, or local land, you will need to get in touch with the agency in charge to determine the exact rules and regulations.

Final Thoughts …

Really hope this complete article has given you a clear idea on the main differences between the 2 activities … At the end of the day, either one of them would be a great one!

Why not doing them both?!

This could be even more fun and profitable!

Finally, if you are into metal detecting, I invite you to check this metal detector vs gold detector comparaison. Where I share the differences between the 2 machines so you won’t choose the won’t one in case you only want to focus on Gold!

About the Author

Carissa Harmer

Carissa is the huge metal detecting enthusiast that loves collecting coins. She is also highly interested in other treasure hunting activities like magnet fishing and gold prospecting/panning.