How to Pick the Right Gold Pan

Best Gold Pan

Taking time to select the proper gold pan is often something that is overlooked by many beginning prospectors. This is probably due to the fact that they are relatively simple and inexpensive, and often times they are sold at camping supply stores that may only have one or two options to choose from anyways.

However, having the proper good gold pan can really have a big impact on your success as well as your overall enjoyment, so let’s take a look at some of your options.


Size (Diameter)


The first and probably most important consideration is the size. Pans come in various sizes from small 10” diameter pans up to 18” diameter pans. Often the initial reaction beginning prospectors have is to reach for the largest size, because it will process the most material. After all, that is what gold mining is all about right?

Sure, you want to process as much material as you can, but you also want it to be a pleasurable experience. For most people, a large 18” pan is just too big, because one you load it up with gravel it gets very heavy, and bending over a heavy gold pan will give you a sore back in no time.

The ideal sized is going vary depending on the person. A stout man who is 6’ 6” tall is going to be able to handle a larger gold pan than women or small kids.

A good rule of thumb for selecting a gold pan is to lay it on the inside of your arm at the elbow crease. You want a pan that extends roughly to the palm of your hand. If it extends past that toward your fingers, select the next size down.

By choosing the appropriate sized pan, you will save yourself a lot of backache. And besides, a gold pan is best used for sampling rather than large scale processing, so once you have located a bit of gold you will probably want to use a larger piece of equipment such as a sluice box or dredge.

Also Read: Safety While Prospecting in the Backcountry


Plastic or Metal?


The next decision to make is whether you want a plastic or metal gold pan. I personally feel that the benefits of a modern plastic gold pan far outweigh those of the metal pans.

First, they require no maintenance since they will never rust. If you are like most people and have a tendency to throw your equipment into a backpack or the toolbox of your pickup and forget about it for a few day, you will be glad that you went with a plastic pan. They are also colored, commonly black or green, which really helps make the gold stand out when you are panning.

Plastic pans often have built in riffles as well, which can help you retain fine gold that you may have lost with out them.

In addition to rusting, metal pans also have to be prepared before use to clean the factory oils off of the pan. Still, many people prefer a metal gold pan for nostalgic reasons, and as long as you prep them and care for them properly, they will work just fine for gold recovery.

good cheap gold pan


Other Handy Equipment


Once you have selected the proper gold pan, make sure that you have the right tools to go along with it such as a snuffer bottle, vial, tweezers, etc. This will make gold recovery much easier.

A serious prospector will probably want to upgrade to a sluice box or other larger piece of equipment, but the gold pan is still a trusted tool that every miner should have in their bag of tricks.

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