sluicing vs. metal detecting

Sluicing vs Metal detecting (7 Important Differences!)

sluicing vs metal detecting

Sluicing and metal detecting are two different activities that have some similarities and several differences!

I’ve noticed that some people don’t really realize the difference that’s why I’ve decided to address that.

In this article, I go a little bit deep in the differences between those 2 activities so you will have a good understanding on what makes each activity unique.


If we look at the number of fan clubs and community groups online and on various social media platforms, metal detecting seems to be a more popular hobby than sluicing.

One more thing that makes metal detecting more popular is the fact that there are many successful related Youtube Channels that have promoted this activity even more.

Used Equipment

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

The cost of metal detecting equipment and tools is significantly higher than the tools you need for gold sluicing.

Tools for sluicing are quite inexpensive (Check This Example) and very easy to come by as well. All you need to do to begin is get a simple gold pan and a shovel.

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 sluicing tools that are available online.

Metal detecting, on the other hand, is not a cheap activity. To begin you need to first purchase a metal detector (Learn how to choose the right equipment).

You will also need other tools and accessories such as:

While in terms of availability, both types of equipment are available easily and can be purchased online or in shops specializing in such items.

Technical knowledge

You need very few things to begin sluicing, and not much technical knowledge is required. You simply need to get the right gold panning set, and you are ready to start treasure hunting.

However, when it comes to metal detecting, you cannot find much success without understanding how a detector works. You need to have some technical know-how about the following:

  • Understanding how a search coil works
  • Knowledge about frequencies of the detector
  • Understanding ground mineralization and how it can affect the performance of your metal detector
  • Understanding how ground balance works and what happens in different types of ground conditions
  • How does the detector detect a target?
  • In what pattern to move your detector in order to increase the chances of finding something

Potential finds

When you are detecting, the most common items you are likely to find are:

  • Lost jewelry
  • Coins
  • Silver
  • Relics
  • Old ammunition
  • Trash items such as nails, soda cans, and bottle caps
  • As well as other finds

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.

Of course, the primary purpose of sluicing is to find gold, 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 sluicing enthusiasts often report finding small sapphire beds, veins of quartz, and other fine minerals.


Metal detecting is generally considered as a fun hobby rather than a means of making a lot of money. Though, of course, there have been instances when people have found a vast treasure or find, but these are very few.

Most people do not start this activity with plans of getting rich with their detectors. Even though this, not a very profitable hobby, but you can still make some money with a 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 same holds true for sluicing. In most cases, the amount of gold you find up is not sufficient 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.


It is possible to find buried treasure at any place while detecting. Regardless of whether you are searching for coins, jewelry, gold nuggets, or ancient relics, there are many places where you can explore.

However, if you put some time and plan out the search site, this increases the likelihood of finding something valuable.

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. (Check 50 Metal Detecting Locations)

When you talk about sluicing, 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 sluicing — for example, the northern Black Hills in South Dakota, where placer gold was discovered in the 1870s.


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 metal detecting and sluicing. 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 prospecting 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 Thought: How Fun are these hobbies?

Sluicing and metal detecting are fun activities done only by passionate enthusiasts who love the adventure involved

Both activities are fund for hobbyists because of the treasures you can find. While sluicing is simpler and you need very less technical knowledge for pursuing sluicing, it can be more physically demanding.

However, sluicing also rewards you with bigger treasures since the treasures you are looking for is gold.

On the other hand, metal detecting is more complicated and requires more gear to get started, which can rapidly increase the overall cost involved.

Hope that was helpful!

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.