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FREE Treasure Hunting Tips & Advise

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Basic treasure hunting equipment Making a sand sifter Making a floating wire basket Where to search

Treasure Hunting (Metal Detecting) is the perfect hobby for RVers.

People loose things, that is a fact. People scurry around camp and kick up dust, that is a fact. Add some rain and you have a buried treasure. Being an RVer you have a new source of treasure at each new location. Once you have acquired the equipment this is a FREE hobby that makes money.

While searching campsites I have found wedding rings, class rings, and more rings. I have found silver dollars from the 1800’s, coins from all over the planet, and tokens for just about everything. Some of the oldest coins were found at abandon campsites. Some of the foreign coins are found in remote fishing spots. Why?

Searching in the water at beaches I have found the strangest things that people take swimming. The watch I wear is one I found in the water near a popular swimming hole.

I have enjoyed this RV life style for over 35 years and during that time have come up with a lot of tips, hints and advice to pass along. Living the RV life has changed dramatically over the past 35 years. The basics are still the same, but boy have the tools and gadgets come a long way.

I have had my Tesoro metal detector years and still use it on a regular basis. While the newer metal detectors can tell you all about your treasure before you begin to dig, my old Tesoro metal detector suits me fine. I have spent 1,000s of hours finding the strangest things as well as nothing at all. Many of those hours are at campsites or points of interest.

Were ever you find people, you will find treasure. Here are some hints to help you find yours.

Basic Equipment You Will Need.

Basic treasure hunting equipment. Metal detector, plastic trowel, probe and collection bag. The best metal detector is one that is comfortable to use. [Top]

Interested in Geocaching?   How to select the right GPS for Geocaching.

Metal Detector:

You don’t need the fanciest metal detector on the market to find treasure if you have one now, go ahead and use it. The best metal detector is one that is comfortable to use; you will be spending thousands of hours using it.

If you are looking for a new one decide how you are going to use it before start shopping. Many metal detector have features you will never use so why pay more for them (do you really need a metal detector that will find a gold nugget the size of a pinhead?). Do your homework, see what is available and try it out for size. You will be spending 100s or 1,000s of hours with it so make sure you are comfortable with it.

Many people purchase a metal detector and get discouraged with it and give up immediately. Therefore look on Craig’s list or eBay for a like new used metal detector. If you have done your homework you know what you want and what they are worth.

Very Important: Know how to use your metal detector.
You can spend days searching for treasure and not find a thing if you do not know how to use your metal detector. Read and Thoroughly Understand the owner’s manual. Experiment with known objects in different environments to get the feel of your metal detector. Each outing you should take reference objects and adjust your metal detector for maximum efficiency. There is a fine line between trash and treasure and you don’t want to confuse the two.

Headphones are a must: Headphones allow you tell the difference between trash and treasure. Once you are familiar with your equipment you will be able to pinpoint your target using headphones.

Plastic Trowel:

One fine day I was searching a beach area in a drained reservoir when I noticed two well seasoned searchers watching me. I thought maybe I was encroaching on their territory. Eventually they walked over to me and asked why I was waving my trowel over the metal detector coils. I replied; “To see if the target is in the trowel”. Their reply; “Doesn’t that setting off the detector?” I said; “No I’m using a plastic trowel.”

They looked at each other like I had just invented sliced bread. I do some gardening and have known about plastic garden equipment for years. The first thing I purchase when I bought my Tesoro metal detector was a plastic trowel. It was obvious to me if you use a metal trowel you would have to dump out the contents to find any metal object. Waving the plastic trowel over the metal detector search coils will immediately alert you to any metal objects in the trowel. This is a real time saver.

The downside to using a plastic trowel is that they will wear down faster and need to be replaced every few YEARS.


Unfortunately not all search areas are easily dug up with a plastic trowel. Grassy areas and hard packed surfaces will take more energy and a different tool. I have used a screwdriver for so many years it can no longer be called a screwdriver.

The idea is to find a tool you are comfortable with that can get underneath your target without damaging it. In grassy areas, I insert the probe under the target and run the probe around the target removing a cone shaped piece of sod. If done correctly the target should be on the bottom of the sod and easily removed. Then I replace the sod and move on.

In some cases you may need to chip away at a hard surface. In this case take your time you don’t damage your prize.

Collection Bag:

Once you have found your target you will need a convenient and secure pace to collect them. There are a lot of lost coins out there and your pants pockets will fill up quickly. Besides you really don’t want a pants pocket full of muddy coins, do you? I use a utility belt with two large pockets in front, a hammer holder and a battery pouch.

One pocket is for the treasures I collect the other for the trash I collect. I believe that if I went to the trouble to dig up a bottle cap and have it in my hand I might as well put in the trash pocket and dump it later. I use the hammer holder to carry the trowel when not in use. The little handmade pouch carries an extra battery. There is nothing worse than being miles away from a fresh battery when you have found pay dirt.

Of course any real treasure goes in my pants pocket.

Specialized Tools for Unique Situations

Homemade sand sifter for treasure hunting beaches and loose soils.         Homemade floating wire basket for treasure hunting in water.     [Top]

Please note: When using any device that sifts or separates your over burden for your target you will loose small finds such as studded earrings and some chains.

Sand Sifter:

This is a tool I make from hardware store odds and ends. It is handy for sandy situations only as it lacks the cutting edge and leverage needed for more dense material. If you plan on doing a lot of beach searches a sand sifter will save you hours. Invest some time in making one of your own or purchase one.

This tool can also be used in water to a depth of your arm’s reach.

How to make a Sand Sifter

I built this sand sifter from parts found at my local hardware store. I wandered around the plumbing, siding and gardening departments until I found this setup. If you take the same walk through your hardware store you might find a better group of components. This sifter is made without any metal parts so that I can wave it over the metal detector search coils to determine if the target is in the sand sifter before I begin sifting. That saves a lot of time in the field.
  • 4 inch plastic “T” joint
  • 4 inch debris guard (I’m not sure what its called)
  • inch gutter mesh
  • 6 inch fiberglass trowel handle
  • Epoxy glue or fiberglass resin
  • Fiberglass cloth
  • Electric drill
  • 5/8” drill bit
  • Hacksaw
  • Drum sander for drill or belt sander or sandpaper.
  • Scissors
  • Something to mix the glue
  • Drill as many evenly spaced hole in the “T” joint as you can. Spacing is not critical and we’re not trying to win any contests. I have about 40 holes in mine.
  • Using the hack saw remove the base of the “T” so it looks like a splice joint (see photo).
  • Shape the ends of the handle to the contour of the “T” using a drum sander or sand paper to make a strong glue joint. To make the glue joint stronger, I used fiberglass cloth to even out any irregularities in the fit; any cloth will do the same.
  • Cut two pieces of fiberglass joint cloth if used.
  • Mix your epoxy or fiberglass resin.
  • Cover the debris guard with the gutter mesh and insert it into one end of the “T” with a dab of glue.
  • Glue the handle to the modified “T” using epoxy glue or fiberglass resin and your joint cloth.
  • Let the glue set before handling.
  • Bevel the scooping edge using a belt sander or sand paper. This will make it easier to dig. This edge will need to be sharpened from time to time.

Floating Wire Basket

Each year In Oregon the Army Corps of Engineers drain the reservoirs to prepare for the upcoming rains and spring snow melt. That gives the treasure hunter easy access to the swimming areas. As you can imagine the completion for the treasure is fierce. Each morning you will find searchers chest high in the water determined to be the first to search the new depth limit. This search method requires specialized equipment and techniques.

I have used this searched method for several years and it is very productive even if you are not there at first light. The things that people take into the water with them will astound you.
If dropped on land these items would be easily noticed and retrieved, but in water they are lost for you to find.

One year I designed and built a floating sieve which worked very well for me. I do not use that search method any longer and lack storage space in my 5th wheel; therefore I can not provide you with photos. A diagram will have to suffice. The technique is to locate the target with the metal detector, scoop it up in a small shovel, empty the contents in to the wire basket and let the water wash away and debris. Because you can’t be certain you retrieved the target you must recheck the area with your metal detector before moving on. In sandy areas your prize will be apparent almost immediately, but in clay or mud some work will be necessary to wash away the debris.

I found that tying a tether (a bit longer than the water’s depth) from the shovel to the basket works well. You can let go of both and the shovel anchors the float and the float marks the shovel’s location. I also tie the metal detector to my arm so I can use both hands without dropping the detector in the water.

Add chest waders and warm clothes and you are all set for an adventure.

How to make a Floating Wire Basket       View Image                      [Top]

  • Wheelbarrow inner tube
  • Metal fabric (wire mesh) inch (or smaller if desired)
  • Wire cage building clips
  • Nylon cord
  • Tin snips, wire cutter or heavy duty shears.
  • Crimping tool or pliers
  • Knife or scissors
  • Start buy purchasing a wheelbarrow tire inner tube.
  • Inflate the inner tube until it is taught but not over inflated.
  • Measure the inner circumference of the inner tube for the wire mesh. The basket should extend 8” to 10” beneath the inner tube when attached to the thickest portion of the “doughnut“.
  • Purchase enough ” wire mesh (or metal fabric) for the cylinder portion of the basket and the bottom. Purchase more than you need as you will use addition material in the construction.
  • Assemble the cylinder overlapping mesh a minimum of 2 squares. I used clips designed for building wire cages and a crimping tool.
  • Cut the bottom about 1 square larger than the basket (all the way around) and fold the excess up at a 90 degree angle.
  • Insert the bottom INTO the basket and secure it with clips. Inserting the bottom into the basket reduces the number of exposed sharp edges.
  • For safety purposes and to protect the inner tube and waders, smooth all sharp edges with a file.
  •  Attach the basket to the tube using 4 or more pieces of nylon cord. The cord should wrap around the top square of the basket (2 horizontal wires) and the tube. If you allow the basket to protrude above the thickest portion of the “doughnut” debris will collect between the basket and the inner tube.
  • Tie another cord to the inner tube for a tether and you are ready to go treasure hunting.

Where to Search     [Top]

The first thing to remember is that you are not the first treasure hunter to look in the obvious locations. Yes you will find something but usually recently lost items. I use to methods.
The first is just fooling around camp picking up a few coins and an occasional ring.
The second is serious business searching a remote swimming hole, abandoned homestead, logging camp or hunting shack.
Around Camp
  • Search the obvious areas around fire rings, picnic tables, gravel parking areas and tent locations.
  • The first thing a tent camper does is to sweep the ground pitching the tent. Be sure to check the perimeter of any tent site.
  • Look for trees that would make a great clothesline. People in a hurry to shed wet clothes don’t empty their pockets.
  • Many of the current campgrounds have been relocate a short distance from the original site. Look for clearings, flat areas, nearby hill tops and areas that the USFS may have found unsuitable for today’s use. That’s where the older coins are.
  • Look for remote sites accessible only by boat or long hikes. These sites are not frequented by casual hobby treasure hunters (remember spare batteries).
  • Don’t be afraid to get wet. Campers select campsites by the water so they can swim or cool off. That’s how jewelry gets lost.
  • Popular trails along lakes and rivers. Stop and check near the fishing holes.
Getting Serious
My metal detector equipment is permanently located behind the seat of my pickup truck. When traveling the backcountry unexpected treasure hunting opportunities always arise.

Abandon homesteads are very interesting. Years ago it was common to dump trash out a window so the sites are very trashy but with interesting stuff. Old coins are hard to come. You will need a lot of time and sift through a lot of trash, by but worth the effort if you collect older coins.

Fire rings are everywhere. Hunters use the same location for generations. These remote campsites are another good source for older coins. They can be trashy and expect to find a lot of shell casings.

Fundraisers are a great source. Churches and other groups have fundraisers with vendor booths. Any time you have an area where money is exchanged you have a source of lost coins. After one October fest event I found a cluster of small rings. Obviously the location of a jeweler’s booth. Also other rings were found in the eating areas. Some where quite deep and had been there for years.

So in your travels treat your self to BBQ at a fundraiser and return the next day to search the grounds. Ask for permission first. Tell them you will be digging but will replace the sod as you go.

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