You’ve read your books, gathered your info, checked your maps, and now it’s time to get dirty. But, wait! Your mate is not able to go with you, or you’re a lone wolf that likes to keep things simple and quiet and always goes alone. Here are some things to keep in mind when going metal detecting and relic hunting.
Always tell somebody (friend, relative) where you are going to metal detect.
It sounds silly but, in case something happens to you, and you don’t get home and you don’t answer your phone, people will know where to start searching for you. Today, because of all the technology around us, we have this false idea that nothing can happen to us but we forget that in nature things change in a flash. Although not likely to happen, it’s very simple to get struck by a lightning in summer rains storms. You see a great summer clear sky and think – man, what a great day to search for those roman coins. But around noon it rains and guess what – you have no rain jacket, your body temperature drops, shiwer sets in then hipotermia, now what? Things like this happen all the time in the mountains so why shouldn’t it happen in the fields or forests?
Take some minimal first-aid gear with you
Some gauze pads, sanitazing wipes, band-aids, surgical-tape, small bottle of sanitazing gel weight almous nothing and can be very helpfull in most situations. Loose socks can make some nasty rubs on your feet, something can get in your eyes or you can get a laceration from a tree limb or something. Why not be preppared and be able to take care of you? Custom-build it yourself or buy an allready made one, it doesn’t matter, have some kind of first aid ready for you or somebody else.
Get yourself heard
As loud as you try to shout, you can’t compete with a whisle. They’re cheap, small and light and good to have to signal you position in distress conditions. Some backpacks have them integrated in the sternum strap so, look for those for added safety.
Repair stuff on the go
When I was a kid I watched a lot of MacGyver and A-team and I learned about how much improvisation can change the odds in your favour. If you need the benefits of having a plier with you, than choose a basic multitool or heavy-duty one because, like the A-team, they’re packed with fire-power but they (usualy) are heavy to carry. A small army-knife is the best tool to have in your pocket all the time (like MacGyver) repair stuff or improvise in the field. You never know when you’ll need it, so why not have one. Aditional to this, have some Super glue, duct tape, epoxy, sky’s the limit.
Have some kind of rain protection, no matter the season. A small rain jacket or poncho will keep you warm in a windy day or if the temperature suddenly drops. Some of them have some eyelets that can be tied with some cord and you can use the cape as a tarp, sheltering you and a bubby from getting soaked. Or if you want to sleep outdors this can shelter you and your sleeping bag quite well.
There’s an old saying – “If your feet are cold, put on an extra hat”. I always have a watch cap with me because in windy or cold conditions is very usefull, and, if you don’t need it, you can store in it some sensible items like camera gear. On sunny days a boonie hat is the best item to wear because it provide sun protection to the back of your neck.
Eaven if in the last years it bacame a fashion item among hipsters and fashion victims, a shemag is a great piece of kit to carry. You can use it in tons of ways – from face protection to tying improvised slints to a a broken arm/leg, carry stuff in it etc.
Sunscreen and bug spray
In the sunny days always use some skin protection to prevent you from nasty sun burns. A spray sunscreen is better because the chance of leaking all over in your backpack are none. Also, in high brush, marsh conditions and forests use some kind of bug spray to prevent mosquito and tic bites.
Fully charge your cell phone
Sounds silly, but keep in mind that nowadays this could be your lifeline in most cases. Or, if you use your phone to record video of you diggind up relics, or if you know you will be in an area where the signal is bad and the battery will be spent in acquiring signal, you can easily take an external battery with you and charge your phone on the go. Talking about your phone, consider buying a protective case that will save it from some nasty scratches or drops.
Let there be light
A flashlight is good, but a head lamp is better. LED technology gives us lots of power and battery life, so always have some kind of light with you. You never know when you’ll find that sweet spot to loot and you dig until night comes and you have to get to you car by walking in the dark. Choose one that is weather sealed and for extra safety has a strobing mode. Like in marriage – test before you buy, if you’re not able to see your own shoe lacest, don’t take it home.
In some areas or time of year, mist is a frequent thing to expect. Eaven if you have some king of map navigation on your cell phone, never relly only on it. To preserve your phone’s cell life by not checking it every time, a printed map from Google Maps with marked locations on it can help be very usefull. The next level is to buy a topographic map and use it to go to the desired position by yourself by using a compass and/or GPS. This is a must in the mountains or hilly areas where the chances of geting lost are greater.
I sometimes carry a GPS with me, because this provides me the abillity to mark with great accuracy the positions in a long/lat system, and the sattelite signal is the best. Also, in case of danger, I can provide my exact location to the rescuers.
Everytime I’ve went metal detecting with my friends we started together and ended up stretching out position in all directions, and when we wanted to talk to each other, it was a real hussle to try and shout or get the phone and call each time. That’s why 2 way radios are a great piece of gear to have with you. Nowadays, you can get some great radios with lots of power for cheap, so consider gettins some comms. Some of them come with built in battery that can be charged only with the special charger, and some can use AA batteries that gives you greater flexibility. Keep in mind to check with your local restrictions about the max power they can transmit.
In the top lid of my backpack is a small molle pouch that I can move from the metal detecting pack to my bike pack when I go mountain biking. The size is quite small but provides lots of capabilities for different scenarios.
In case of first aid it’s not about not infecting someone’s wound with your dirty hands, it’s about your own protection, because if the victim has some kind of blood desease and you have a small open wound, you can get infected by the victim’s blood. Safety first no matter what and use Surgical gloves.
They are the best thing to have with you because big joints like knees, anckles or wrists can be easily strained. Even if you have a small discomfort, putting an elastic bandage supports the joint and prevents in some metter the pain from excalating.
Sterile gauze is perfect for wound dressing and absorbing blood. You shouldn’t care about the wound from being sterile but for it to be clean. To prevent extra junk from getting in the wound and infect it further more, place some gauze over, and roll some elastic bandage over it to keep it in place. Look for the non stick ones, when the blood coagulates the cotton ones stick and they’re a real pain to get off.
Athletic tape and different patch sizes
Are a must for small cuts or to prevent heel blisters. Have some.
Cotton swab pads
Can be used to clean up wounds or be lighed with the ligher to start a fire. They’re light and can be compessed to take a small space, take some because why not?
Have something to write
Small write in the rain notebook + pen and permanent marker because you never know when you need to leave a message to someone or write some important info.
Small headlamp and extra batteries
Nothing fancy, led powered for long burn hours.
Mints and candy
For extra throath comfort on cold days or extra energy boost.
Start a fire
Add a lighter and fire steel for when you need to start a fire to brew some tea, cook some sausages or stay warm.
Victorinox army knife
Has all kinds of usages, look for the small army-knifes with scissors, this way you have something to cut the athetic tape and banges.
I know that today marketing teach us not to repair our gear but to replace it with new one and throw things away , but in the field thread and needle still remains a must to have for fix a backpack, sew our pants so our junk doesn’t stick out etc.