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The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding

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We have all been there: realizing you are missing something not more than 5 minutes after you have embarked on a mineral hunt. Or what about that tool you randomly brought along on a hunt once and now you never leave home without it? Let me help you beef up your rockhounding toolkit with some must-haves for the average rockhound. 

Our rockhounding recommendations for backpacks, rock picks, hammers, shovels, brushes, and more all are carefully considered picks, weighing cost with quality, and durability with applicability. Some of these items are must-haves for any rockhounds, some are indispensable tools for specific rockhounding tasks.

Take a look at our carefully selected rockhounding toolkit and the recommendations we make for each item!

If you are interested in checking out the best rockhounding tools you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).

All Tools You Need for Rockhounding
All Tools You Need for Rockhounding

Backpack

A rockhounds backpack has some tall orders to attend to, much more than the average backpack. If you are like me, your backpack’s job is made much worse by the fact that examining rocks at home is easier and more productive than examining them in the field – so the load gets a little heavy sometimes. 

So other than the weight, what are the requirements of a quality rockhound backpack?

  • For starters, the material must be tear-resistant.

Rocks aren’t always smooth as river pebbles, and jutting edges can cut through some widely used fabrics easily. Rocks are not even the only sharp thing going in your backpack – the tools of the trade also require strong fabric to cart around. Therefore, the material structure is one of the main requirements. 

  • Another order of a rockhound’s backpack is the pockets.

There should be many, small and large, to help in compartmentalizing the finds. Not only is this helpful for you organized types who want to keep like-minerals in the same place, but it’s also geologically smart because it can keep softer stones from getting scratched or even pummeled by harder stones. 

With these two requirements in mind, take a look at the WUDON Waxed Canvas Leather Rucksack (Amazon link). While marketed as a high-end travel backpack, this bag has everything a rockhound needs for his searches. The durable leather will hold up better than most other materials, and the pocket options are fantastic. 

  • The other option which this backpack takes to another level is its strap technology.

The leather pocket straps are held by adjustable, heavy-duty buckles. The only thing to be aware of with a canvas leather backpack is weight.

This is not one of the string-tightened polyester bags you put your gym clothes in, it does have some weight to it. However, this is a property of the material and is made up for by the tear-proof nature of such material.

Backpacks are a necessity for rockhounds, and canvas is really a must if you carry around hammers, chisels, and rocks inside it. We like this Kemy for 3 reasons:

  1. Tear-proof material
  2. Wide, numerous, and durable pockets
  3. Flexible straps and latches

Geo/Paleo Rock Pick

If you don’t have a chisel, this item will change your life. If you do, you should check this Estwing beauty (Amazon link) out just so you have a backup option if yours is not performing the way you want it to. 

To step back a minute, a rockhound has 3 options when it comes to sharp tools on their hounding trips:

  1. A dual hammer-chisel
  2. A hammer and a separate set of chisels
  3. A rock pick

A dual hammer-chisel is great for the light traveling budget rockhound because it requires you only take one tool. The hammer and a separate set of chisels perform the best when accuracy is the most important – for example when you’re chiseling around a crystal to get it out of its host rock.

It does require a lot more weight, especially if you take more than one size of chisel around. The last option is what we are recommending here.

It is the most versatile of tools because it allows as much force as a hammer, but includes both a point and an edge to choose from, both good for different operations. 

The other advantage you’ll have when carrying a rock pick on your excursions is that it is made for one purpose only – breaking through rock.

This means that it can be truly designed for sturdiness and optimized for force. This Estwing rock pick exceeds in both of those categories. 

It’s forged in one piece – meaning that there are no connections that serve as weak points (maybe you’ve had your axe break on you before because of this).

That’s the main advantage of this rock pick, but it also includes a world-class grip that reduces the inevitable blisters from prolonged use. 

They also market their steel tempering process, used after the hammer is forged and before it cools into the end product.

This process makes the material harder in relation to its weight, which brings up the other aspect of this rock pick which makes it a great rockhounding tool.

It is made for rockhounding, meaning that its small, light design allows you to take it on hikes without much extra complaining (the main barrier to bringing extra metal tools).

So hopefully you see where having a rock pick can benefit you on your excursions. If you are curious about them, check out the reviews of this Estwing for more ideas and more raving about its design.

Geological Hammer

Estwing uses the same production method for the 13oz geological hammer (Amazon link) it produces for its rock pick. This hammer is also made for rockhounds, it is:

  • light
  • comfortable
  • extremely durable

But do you need a hammer? I use my hammer and rock pick equally often. Having a flat edge can be useful for splintering rock, especially if it is not in a wall or large rock structure.

In fact, this Estwing hammer drove me through some rhyolite to find some garnets on Ruby Mountain in Colorado. It’s easier to hit medium-sized loose stones with a flat edge because they have less of a tendency to roll away in that case. 

They have many other rockhounding uses. They are very good for breaking down rocks to tumble or otherwise use. Though they don’t provide much accuracy, the force and stability can make up for this in some tasks.

Most rockhounds recommend having both a hammer and a chisel so you can perform both functions on your searches.

TIP: Using your geological hammer for cutting rock can be a bit challenging sometimes. Find out how to cut rocks with a hammer and chisel in the article:


Step-by-Step: How to Cut Rocks with Hammer and Chisel


Handle Shovel

A handle shovel is not something every rockhound uses but is a life changer for anything more than passive-collecting. As they say, there is a tool for every job, and sometimes rock picks and hammers just are not the tool for digging deep in the dirt.

Shovels allow you to go past surface-level searching and into the depths of the earth. While not easy to take on every hike you take, this Mini Handle Shovel (Amazon link) does all it can to be compact and movement-friendly.  

It is a fact of life that most minerals are under the surface of the ground. Though it requires some skill and knowledge, there are ways to find pointers to such rocks. The only way to get to these minerals is to dig, and for that, you need a shovel.

We chose this shovel for rockhounds for one reason: it can be strapped to a backpack. While it won’t dig you an 8-foot trench very easily, it works well for digging small volumes of dirt and rocks and can be indispensable in a rockhounding trip.

All in all, it is 2 feet long and half a foot wide at the metal part. Finding a way to comfortable walk distances with this shovel is key, and depends on the backpack you take, but will be well worth it when it finds you a deposit.

Brushes

Brushes, on the other hand, are a key piece to every rockhounding toolkit. Their main requirement is that they are durable – other than that, most brushes are good enough to take dirt off of rocks. 

These Pro Grade paint brushes (Amazon link) are a great add-on to clip to your backpack or belt, well within reach for continued use.

It is much cleaner and more comfortable than using your hands, but also just more efficient. Do not overlook the importance of having some brushes along!

Plastic Organizer Box

Here is something to assist your collection of rocks and minerals. Every rockhound handles its finds differently, but the plastic organizer box is always a go-to if you do not already have a method.

It does make it easy to organize your minerals, but its real value to me is something not immediately obvious.

I know many rockhounds, and they all have different favorite parts of the process – the research, the hunt, the analyzing, and even the polishing. One thing that rockhounds are not always particularly great at though, is displaying.

This is a great shame though because finds should be admired and really enjoyed just as much as their search was. Therefore, this clear organizer box (Amazon link) is great as an easy way to display the fantastic finds you’ve achieved.

TIP: Have you ever thought about starting a rock collection? I bet you already found a lot of beautiful rocks! Check out this article about starting a rock collection and start your own one today!


How to Start Rock Collecting? Complete Guide for Beginners


Protective Gloves

Going back to the basics, a rockhound’s gloves are his/her closest companion. I think about gloves much like dogs. You may or may not want them, and you may even think you’re better off without them, but once you get them you never go without them again. 

Rockhound gloves should be very minimal. Our top rockhound gloves are the Ironclad Performance Fit Utility Work Gloves (Amazon link).

We did a glove rating article, and here is how they scored – if you’re curious how other gloves measured up in terms of rockhounding, check it out!

FeatureScore
Fit5 – Dexterous
Prolonged comfort4 – Proficient
Workability with small rocks5 – Superior
Workability with large rocks2 – Adequate
Machine WashableYes
Ironclad Performance Fit Utility Gloves Rockhounding Specs

Indeed the Ironclad gloves are fantastic for long rockhounding days and essentially function as finger extensions. They are breathable enough that your hands do not get suffocatingly hot, but they also protect the areas requiring it most.

This allows for dexterous working, especially with smaller specimens. Large rocks, on the other hand, may require heavier and harder gloves which allow less flexibility, trading it for more protection around other parts of the hand.

TIP: Are you interested in more detailed reviews of the best protective gloves for rockhounding? If so, check out the article below with a full review of the three best gloves:


3 Best Gloves for Rockhounding: Protect Your Hands


Safety Goggles

Safety goggles, like gloves, are required for working with rocks. If you think about the people who have a profession using hammers, chisels, rock picks, and shovels, you will realize that 99% of the people working these professions prefer to wear safety goggles.

Just because rockhounding is a hobby does not make it any safer for your eyes! That is why goggles are always recommended when using rock fracturing tools. 

Therefore, the goggles required by rockhounds should perform similarly to those used by professionals. They should mainly be invisible – in that they should be comfortable enough that prolonged wearing is encouraged, they should not fog up or provide strange reflections, and they should be easily adjustable and carriable.

For these reasons, the comfortable and efficient 3M Safety Glasses by Virtua CCS (Amazon link) are the favorite goggles for rockhounding. 

If you still aren’t sure about wearing goggles on your rockhounding trips, find the rockhounds in the reviews and read they’re more than convincing testimonials.

Headlamp

Take it from me, you’ll be glad you had this one along when the time comes. One incredible feature of minerals is that they always tend to form in cavities in the earth where they have room to grow.

In other words, the biggest crystals may grow in small caves, which are pretty tough to see in by yourself. 

While I’ll always be a proponent of having a headlamp in your backpack 24/7, rockhounding is one of those activities where they are extra helpful. 

This Black Diamond headlamp (Amazon link) will become your go-to for anything requiring portable light – camping, night hiking, and rockhounding.

It has an adjustable light output and makes very efficient use of its batteries, lasting longer than any other headlamp I have had.

First Aid Kit

Things happen, especially when you are delving into mountains and using tools with force.

First Aid Kits are one of those things that you need to make sure are pre-packed into your adventure backpack, because they’re only helpful in times that you will never expect, so it’s hard to remember to bring them every time. 

This FAO-442 first ait kit (Amazon link) has all the essentials for rockhounds. Pick it up, put it in one of your deepest backpack pockets, and hopefully you will never see it again! But if you need it, you know you have it.

Shoes and Protective Clothing

These are items which are extremely important but cannot be recommended by me because everyone will need different ones.

Definitely take the time to try on many products in your favorite outdoor store to find a durable and comfortable set though. It is well worth it.

BTW: Do you want to know more about rocks and minerals identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):

Rockhounding Tips

Now that you have your toolkit, I would love to walk you through some of the best tips from rockhounds of all kinds. 

  1. Plan your route to the T. 
  2. Research the best technique to find the specific minerals you are searching for.
  3. Always be aware of your surroundings.

There is a complete and detailed list of recommended rockhounding rules of thumb and tips here, check them out to better your game!

TIP: Looking for more rockhounding tips? I sum up the most useful rockhounding tips and safety tips in the article below so feel free to check it out:


PRO Tips for Beginner & Experienced Rockhounds + Safety Tips