Good Equipment vs. Bad Equipment (Part 2)

Not all the mining gear and equipment out there for sale is good or even needed, for that matter. It all boils down to what works for you in the field and what brings the gold home. As I continue this series remember that I base my opinions on 40 year's worth of small-scale prospecting and mining experience. That doesn't mean I'm always right but it does mean I know my shit.

The Humble Gold Pan

I'd like to start here by addressing the most basic piece of gear in anyone's mining arsenal...the humble gold pan. I'm a stickler in this regard and I prefer Garrett "Gravity Trap" gold pans for a number of reasons, some of which I'll point out. I didn't start out using the "Gravity Trap" series of pans in my greenhorn days. Not knowing any better back then my first pan was one of the metal updated version of the same pans the old timers used back in the day. I bought that metal pan at a local hardware store, believe it or not. Just to prove how times have changed, take a trip to Lowes or Home Depot these days and see how many gold pans of any type they have for sale. Anyhoo, I respect the old timers and their resolve and capabilities but I'll tell you right here and now a metal gold pan may have character and may look good in a museum display, but using one is a total pain in the ass. They are terrible from an efficiency standpoint in my not-so-humble opinion and I don't suggest any of you use one. That said, let's see how many indignant e-mails/comments I receive after posting this opinion. There's bound to be a few from some diehards out there.

(Thanks, but I'll pass.)

Garrett Pans

In my "early" days I also used those black and blue-colored plastic gold pans with the narrow raised riffles along the inside of the pan. They're OK, but I don't prefer them. First of all, gold stands out better against green, especially a dark, forest green color. It's a proven physics color contrast thing, lest you doubt me. That's one reason I like Garrett pans. I also like the fact they have broader incised riffle "steps" on the inside of the pan, which are more effective at stopping gold...even the small stuff. "Gravity Traps" are constructed of durable, high-impact plastic and are light, easy to use, and efficient as hell. For sampling I use the bigger 15-inch ""Super Sluice" Garrett pan because it can handle more material quickly. For clean ups I tend to favor the 14-incher and I'll sometimes downsize from that to a 10-inch Garrett for final concentrate clean ups (providing I'm not using a fine gold recovery system).

 (My preference.)

Never Gone Wrong

Now let's get something straight right here and now. I am NOT a shill for the Garrett company and never have been. But I will say this. I've never gone wrong in 40 years with their gear or metal detectors. In fact I've pulled in tens of thousands of dollars worth of goodies with their machines and I've panned my fair share of gold with their pans. My first detector was a 1970s vintage Garrett beat frequency oscillator (BFO) machine and the very first hour (yep, you heard right) I used it I found a 14k woman's gold ring with some nice diamonds adorning it. I also scored boo-coo silver coins with that old BFO. Garrett metal detectors and gold pans have been my staple for longer than some of you out there have been on this earth. Now don't get me wrong. I like my Fisher "Gold Bug 2" and "Gold Bug" Pro machines too. My latest Garrett machine (as some of you already know) is an AT Pro.

 (My first Garrett machine....the trusty BFO.)

A Pointed Crock

My only beef with the Garrett company? Some years ago they put out a book titled Find an Ounce of Gold a Day. WTF??? A more pointed crock of fantasy driven crap or unadulterated dream merchant horseshit would be hard to find methinks. At the time that book came out I found it difficult to believe something like that was OK'd by Charles Garrett. But companies (whoever owns them) are there to make money, right? Despite that imminently misleading title (and it was that) it still wouldn't hurt some of you to know that the late Charles Garrett (the company's founder) was, in truth, a great person who went out of his way for many miners and treasure hunters and did more for us than any dozen corporate heads would ever do for the sweating masses in a lifetime. He started out as a young engineer in the early 1960s and built the Garrett company literally from scratch. He also mined and treasure hunted every step along the way. I respect his memory greatly and so should you.

Better "Mousetraps?"

I've digressed here somewhat but I'll have you know that I'm not a fan of the plethora of new "mousetraps" presented as gold pans these days. I'm not saying these ge-gaws don't work...they probably do. And I'm not naming names here (I've drawn some legal heat for that in the past) but some of these tools of the trade include "rocker" type designs as well as numerous "improvements" to the basic gold pan design. Again, I'm not against newness or change in mining gear as long as it is sensible, makes things easier in the field, and does better at grabbing the gold. But creating better mousetraps in this particular regard makes no real sense to me. The basic design of gold pans (including the bateas used in other parts of the world) came about for a reason. The round design works, to put it simply. Changing that configuration to a hexagon or rocker has no real value added in my mind other than 1) the designer/manufacturer sincerely seeks to improve on the basics, and/or 2) wants to turn a few bucks for his or her brainstorm. No slight intended to the well-meaning designers of these "innovations," but I'll stick with my Garrett "Gravity Traps."

(A better mousetrap?)

We'll mine this vein a bit more in my next post when I talk about other mining equipment.

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. can't be a tin pan miner with a plastic pan! Ha!!!

  2. True Gary, but I'm a contrarian to the last breath!


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