How to Start: Rockhounding Gear and Resources
There’s something about picking up a beautiful rock that everyone can embrace. In childhood, it was simply an activity that you did. It needed no explanation and was as innate as swinging or running. While most people have given up cluttering their houses with mineral treasures, many of us still collect them. The adult hobby has gained so much internet popularity and sharability that we’ve even given it a title: Rockhounding. This is much more than collecting rocks, people. This is doing research, learning about what minerals grow together, and adventuring to a destination to take specimens from. In this article, I’ll go over the rockhounding gear, resources, and tools you’ll need to be a successful rockhounder.
How to Start Rockhounding
Where do you start? While it may not be the rule, I find that most starting in rockhounding enjoy rocks found near rivers and oceans. The common theme of water is alluring to rockhounders for multiple reasons. The first reason is that water and time creates smooth stones. The polish that water gives to stones is a natural process that can be replicated in your home with other rockhounding gear, like a rock tumbler. I’ll cover more later. Second, water attracts animals from all ages. Fossils like sharks teeth can be found near water sources depending on the area you’re exploring. Do some research about your local area to find more info on if you live near a fossil site. Water – it’s always a good place to look.
Rockhounding Resources to Start Finding the Good Stuff
But what if you’re just looking to see what’s out there near you? My favorite resource for rockhounding is MinDat. This site allows you to search by mineral, or location and provides maps of known mineral sites. Some minerals are more precious than others, but you can research interesting things around you. Near me, there was a copper mine that operated years ago. Azurite is a product of weathering copper ore deposits and has been known to be used by ancient Egyptians to smelt into copper.
Rockhounding Gear for the Beginner
Now that you know where to look, what gear do you need to start rockhounding? Here are a few essentials that you can grow your gear list from:
A good sturdy pack is necessary for collecting specimens, especially if you’re hiking to a destination. A cross-carry bag like a messenger bag is okay, but I prefer two straps to evenly displace the weight of my tools, water, and rocks as I hike back down a hillside. The one I linked is rubber-lined for extra protection and ease of cleaning.
A rock pick is an essential piece of rockhounding gear for those who are digging for minerals from a hard matrix (the material your mineral quarry sits in).
A set of rock chisels is also essential, and can be the difference between leaving your quarry where it sits, or taking it home.
Prepping your Specimens
Do you ever go into a gem store and find perfectly smooth stones of beautiful colors and wonder how they got so smooth? While I explained earlier that there are natural processes to get smooth stones, we can expedite what nature does with tools. One essential piece of rockhounding gear for someone starting out is a rock tumbler.
A rock tumbler allows you to take some of your finds and through the process of time and polishing media (powder grit used to polish stones), smooth your stones to a shine.
Finally, make sure to bring all of your essentials in your pack when exploring, like water, a first aid kit, and anything you would normally carry. For a day trip, I like to pack an ultralight hiking pack that I keep all of my essentials in.