Rockhounding Tools for Beginners: A Get Started Guide

Rockhounding tools for beginners will depend heavily upon the type of rock/mineral/gem hunting or collecting they are currently or planning on engaging in.

In some cases, there are no rockhounding tools for beginners needed to collect beautiful agates and jaspers.

But if you are feeling like investing in some tools, here’s what we would recommend. We’ve included links directly to Amazon so that you can quickly examine the features and specs of each item.

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What Tools Do I Need For Rockhounding?

The tools you need depends upon the location of your hunt, and what kind of specimen you are hunting.

In the sections that follow, we will go through some of the most likely places you’ll be hounding and identify the likely tools/equipment you’ll want to have with you.

Here’s some additional information about where to find cool rocks.

Rockhounding on Beaches/Where Water Meets the Ocean

Many beaches around the world are great places to look for and find beautiful (and sometimes very valuable stones). Though it is not always permitted or legal to take said stones off the beach (or with you on the plane), it is still enjoyable to look for them.

In most cases, very little or no equipment is needed to hunt for stones on beaches. In general, we take a bucket or a bag.

But if you are collecting several different kinds of specimens, it can be good to take along some containers with lids to keep things separate, or even zip lock bags.

If you are collecting pieces that are particular soft or vulnerable to rubbing or banging into other rocks, consider wrapping the rocks in fabric or paper (not paper with dyes on it) before putting them in the bag.

But those who want to make this more of a regular hobby might look into investing into:

  • A Gold Panning Kit, as the kit comes with sifting plans to help you get rid of the sand and get a better look at the rocks you have picked up. This is especially ideal if you are looking for smaller pieces.
  • Sand Dipper Tool. This is collapsible pole with a small wire basket on the end. This tool will help you turn over items in the sand without bending down over and over again, reach out into the water to snag something without having to walk into the water yourself, and also to sift away the sand from an item.
  • Folding/Collapsible Shovel, a trowel, or even a garden spade can be really awesome in a gravel bar on the beach, especially if the gravel bar looks very picked over. You can do the work most casual beachcombers won’t, which is dig down a bit and turn the gravel over to see if you can unearth what others missed. We like the folding shovel better than a trowel because we don’t have to bend down quite as far, but can still throw it easily into the backpack or the car.

Rockhounding in Creeks/Rivers

Hunting for rocks along the edges of creeks and rivers, or even walking in the water, in some ways is pretty similar to beachcombing. You’ll find that the panning kit, sand dipper, and shovel would work for you in this environment just as well.

One thing I would recommend if you are planning on rock hunting in the creek or the river is to think about how the environment is different. The main thing that comes to mind for us is that the beach is usually pretty flat, while rivers and creeks sport and endless repertoire of sticks, stumps, rocks, boulders, moss, you name it.

In this environment, you are going to want to wear the right shoes, and do what you can to help yourself balance.

For water and weather that isn’t terrible, I prefer Keens like these, as they help prevent slipping but also protect the toes.

For water and weather that isn’t conducive to water sandals, I prefer knee high rubber boots like these.

As a result of the varied environment, unless you are on a flat gravel bar or beach, we don’t recommend that you use a bucket. Once you start putting rocks in the bucket, you will have a harder time balancing yourself. If you fall, you risk dumping the bucket and losing much of your hard work.

Instead, we like using a small day pack like this one, or even a round the waist lumbar pack like this one.

This will keep any weight you pick up centered. The waist pack is definitely easier to load up with small stones or rocks as you walk, but both of these packs can be worn on your front during the time that you are actively picking up specimens to keep.

If you are planning on walking through the water and your balance is a concern, consider a pair of trekking poles like these (and wear the straps over your wrists to avoid losing them in the water.

Another cool item to have in your pack is a Jewelers Magnifier to get a good look at the rocks that you’ve found.

Rockhounding in the Mountains/Woods

When you are hunting for specimens in the woods (away from the beaches and creeks where most of the rock spotting is not terribly difficult, the likelihood of you having to ‘work’ to get your desired rocks increases.

Some sites will have finds on the surface. But many popular rockhounding sites will require digging. Sometimes rockhounds will dig several feet down in order to look for their desired stone.

For this endeavor, we definitely recommend that you beef up on some of the more “traditional” rockhounding tools, such as:

  • Pry Bar (not too large if you are planning on hiking with it)
  • Set of protective gloves, as breaking up rocks can produce shards as sharp as glass, and tools will rub on your skin
  • Dust Mask, as there can be a lot of minerals mixed in with the dust that you are churning up that are pretty bad for you to breathe
  • Knee Pads, since you will be spending a lot of time in your knees and some of the rock pieces can he jagged and sharp

Some people like to have a sledge hammer, hoe, bricklayer’s hammer, spatulas, surgical knives, sieve, paintbrushes, screw drivers, other general garden tools, spray bottle and more.

Not every tool will be necessary in even situation, and you’ll learn over time what you need and what you don’t.

I think it goes without being said that you’ll need to use a pack of some kind to haul your tools in and out of the woods. You can us whatever backpack you have lying around the house, or you can invest in a backpack with an internal frame like this.

Rockhounding in Quarries/Caves/Walls

We wanted to set aside a special paragraph to discuss hunting for specimens in places that involves trying to take the specimen when it is encased in a lot of other material.

In general, this can involve a lot of hammering, smashing, or chipping away. You might be using a hammer and chisel, or you might be swinging a sledge hammer. In this situation, in addition to other suggested gear, you might consider:

In general, it is a really good idea to keep a watchful eye on the rocks above and around where you are chipping away to avoid pretty serious injury from falling rock.

Rockhounding Tools for Beginners Wrap Up

People are obsessed with having the right tool or the best tool but ultimately, how much money you invest in rockhounding tools doesn’t generally determine how well the trip goes.

You can use an expensive geologist’s pick or you can use the hammer out of your garage, and an old screwdriver from the local second hand store. Everyone’s tool list is different, and it does grow and change over time as you get deeper into the hobby.

Rockhounding isn’t something that you wait to start until you have tools. You just start!

Wrap Up

We’ve created an ultimate guide to gifts for rockhounds with helpful links directly to Amazon to make looking for and checking out potential gifts quick and review easy!

If you are looking to get started rockhounding, you could check our How To Go Rockhounding guide, our hub page for Where to Go Rockhounding, and our YesDirt Knowledge Vault.