The subject of tools is a fun one for me since I sure do love having the right tool for the job and it makes everything easier.
This is by no means a required shopping list of things you need to go buy to get out and rockhound, but rather this my current set of tools I use. I have been refining this list over and over again to get it to be something that’s as close to perfect as I can get it for the kinds of rockhounding that we do.
Depending on what you’re doing you might want more than this, or you might not need any of this at all so make your own judgment on what you need. Hard rock mining, where you’re moving boulders and chiseling rocks, requires a lot more than walking a beach and picking up little agates.
I have tried to break it down into categories, but there is of course some overlap and this is by no means a be-all end-all list. Your exact situation will vary but I think this is pretty good starting point for most people.
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Minimum Pack Items:
The minimum items I keep in my pack for all outings are an Estwing Rock Hammer in a sheath and my little brown Klein Tools Pouch which has all kinds of helpful items that really come in handy when collecting rocks and minerals.
The items in the pouch are as follows:
Magnet on a string – I love having this with me as a way to test to see if rocks are magnetic or not. It’s pretty simple to make, simply glue a rare earth magnet to a string and now you can hang it near a rock to see if it has any kind of magnetic pull or not.
Ultra Violet Light – I have been carrying a 365NM light now for sometime and it really adds a lot to the hobby in my opinion. The light I have is the uvBeast V3 Light. It can really turn something boring into something amazing if its UV reactive.
Jewelers Eye Loupe – Having a loupe is awesome and holding in front of your lens on your phone’s camera means you can take some really nice close up photos of some really small minerals.
Some of the items that are kind of a no brainier in my opinion and really are worth their weight are some back up gloves, a small chisel for splitting rocks, a little wire brush for cleaning rocks up, two butter knives for splitting fine rocks and fossils, two screw drivers for poking and popping rocks out, a cheap 12″ prybar that can actually really move more than you might think, a Fiskars hand trowel for some light digging, and some large hobby tweezers for picking up little things like garnets out of sand.
Dedicated Mining Items:
These are the items that you might want depending on what it is you’re going for. If you know that you are going to be digging a big hole, rolling boulders, chiseling rocks, and really moving material then these are the things you will want to think about. Unless you’re driving right up to the site you plan on working at, you will need to be selective with what you take since you will not be packing all of this in.
Having a high quality shovel with the shorter D-handle is the best digger I have came across since most of the time will be digging in very rocky soils and not loose dirt. A bigger pry bar is very handy for breaking big rocks loose and moving them around. The smaller Estwing Gad Pry Bar is a great tool for those times where you want more prying power but need to save weight. The Estwing Geo Pick is such an amazing mover of dirt and rocks and the form factor of it is flawless. Finally, a 3lb Estwing Hand Sledge is necessary if you plan on doing hard rock mining along with a few chisels. I prefer a 1″ flat bladed and pointed one with the handguards. Both Dasco and Finder make good chisels.
Lets talk extra items that you can get to make life easier. Long ago I gave up on the hateful 5 gallon bucket; the plastic is too thin, the handles suck, and they make for an uncomfortable carry. Instead of that I have opted for a two gallon feed bucket from Little Giant (crazy overpriced on Amazon) that you can find at your local feed store and I add the garden hose handle. Those, along with a 7 gallon tote from Home Depot means you can fill up your bucket, which is a reasonable amount in my opinion, and dump it off in your tote back at your car or wagon and make another trip if needed.
Knee pads are nice addition when it comes to hard work mucking out a hole.
The safety vest has a few different uses. When hunting season comes around and you’re out rockhounding in the same places people are hunting this can keep you from getting shot and it was nicer than an orange hat which you might end up covering anyways with a hood. Also, when it comes to stopping at roadcut to collect material, throwing this on will both make you look official enough to prevent people stopping to ask if you need help and it will keep people from hitting you.
This here is the Gorilla Cart with a modified handle so that it comes off with just a pin for easy transportation. If you need to move a lot of rocks this is the way to do it, you can really load this thing up if need be. They say it’s rated for 600lbs but really 200lbs will likely be the most you will want to put in it and if you use the yellow bins stacked and strapped in you can also throw some of your other stuff in around them.
Times when things like this are most useful would be times in which you know you’re getting material, and you have a long distance to walk or you have a few big things you want to move back to your truck. A number of rockhounding locations that I can think of are now behind forest service gates which means over a 1 mile walk, which doesn’t sound like much until you have a ton of rock to bring back.