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metal detecting safety tips

I love metal detecting, and while using a metal detector is not exactly a dangerous hobby, there are some things to take into consideration to make sure you stay safe while you are outdoors and digging for targets.

Today I wanted to share some basic tips to help you stay safe while outside metal detecting and prevent a lot of common problems metal detectorists can sometimes encounter.

Part of the fun is never knowing what you might find – but of course, that is also part of the risk associated while using a metal detector.

13 Things to Do to Stay Safe When Metal Detecting

Most of these safety guidelines are basic common sense. However, it is always a good reminder before you set out metal detecting to try to be as prepared as possible to make sure you have everything you might need, no matter what you might stumble across!

#1. Make Sure You Check the Weather

When you are metal detecting outside, the biggest risk for most is unpredictable weather conditions.

If it is warm and sunny, you will want to make sure you wear sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 35, and you may want to wear a hat, sunglasses, and light colored reflective clothing. This will help prevent serious sunburn problems later on!

On the flipside, you could encounter storms and rain. Thunderstorms can have dangerous lightning conditions – not exactly the ideal environment to be waving around electronic equipment!

Always check the weather forecast before you go metal detecting. Be aware of any possible storms that might pop up. Learning about potential weather warning signs while in the field can reduce your risk with unpredictable weather conditions.

This is especially important when metal detecting along bodies of water, as waves or riptides can cause dangerous conditions as well.

#2. Carry a Basic First Aid Kit With You

While you don’t necessarily need to carry a first aid kit with you for every step you are walking around, you should always keep one in your car or near the site where you are detecting.

You can get a lot of great basic first aid safety kits inexpensively, and most have anything you might need should you accidentally cut yourself while digging up targets. It’s not very common that these things would happen, but it’s never a bad idea to keep these things in the car.

I also carry a well-stocked first aid in my car with various over the counter items, such as Ibuprofen, Benadryl, antibiotic cream, etc. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any prescription medications you may be taking to ensure you aren’t at any risk of not being able to access them.

#3. Tell Someone Where You Are Going

It’s best to never metal detect alone, especially if you are going to remote areas. Even if you are going with a friend or group, it’s still a good idea to let someone else know where you are going and how long you plan to be there. This can be a friend, neighbor or family member.

While you may not think this tip is really all that important, if you are going somewhere and get lost or run into problems, it can be helpful for someone to know where they can look to find you and send help if need be.

A good buddy system is always helpful to ensure you are safe while metal detecting, and as a mom I always believe in safety first!

#4. Bring Food, Snacks, and Lots of Drinks

It’s also very important to make sure you stay hydrated while metal detecting. This is especially true if outside in hot weather conditions.

I usually keep a case of water in my car and keep some non-perishable snacks like energy bars as well. These things are handy to have no matter where you might be going – even when not metal detecting!

#5. Bring a Map and Compass

Don’t rely on GPS or your cell phone to tell you where you are and how to get somewhere. This is especially true when you are in more remote areas that do not have reliable cellular service.

While it might seem like cell phones are everywhere these days, there are a LOT of places where you cannot get service – even in pockets of different areas near major cities. {Such as about 10 minutes down the hill from our house!}

#6. Be Prepared for Insects

It doesn’t matter where you are metal detecting – the likelihood to encounter mosquitos, ticks and bees is possible anywhere. I’ve been attacked by mosquitos while at the beach, and when I am in the woods I always check for ticks afterwards.

The best guard against these things is a good high quality insect repellent that contains DEET. I usually use Deep Woods Off, and rarely have issues as long as I actually put the repellent on!

#7. Watch for Wildlife & Predators

There are a lot of areas where you may encounter everything from bears to poisonous snakes. These things can sneak up on you quickly, so it’s always important that you are always paying attention to your surroundings.

It’s all too easy to “get in the zone” while metal detecting, especially when wearing headphones, so always keep a look out for these things.

If you are concerned about snakes, you may want to look into getting a pair of snake guards. These are protective covers you can wear over your shoes and pants. Around 95% of venomous bites in the USA are below the half calf mark, so these can be well worth the investment.

You should also practice basic safety sense for avoiding critters and snakes – don’t reach blindly into spaces or holes and always pay attention to your surroundings.

It’s also helpful to learn how to identify the types of snakes that might be present at the location where you are metal detecting. has a lot of good pictures and resources for staying safe with snakes.

Bears are another common threat – and they can be encountered even in semi-suburban areas. has a good bit of info on staying safe for bears. If you are going to be in an area where bears may be present, be sure you know how to identify the types of bears and what to do when you see one. You may also want to invest in a bear fog horn.

#8. Yeah, Plants Can Be a Problem Too

poison ivy safety

While I’m pretty fortunate that I don’t get poison ivy very easily, most people are very sensitive to the plant. Know how to identify poison ivy and other poisonous plants so you do not get in contact with them.

You may also want to take into consideration things like briar bushes and thorns. These can be very hard to get out of clothes and can be painful if you get jabbed by some of these.

Always be on the look out for these types of plants when you are metal detecting!

#9. Only Hunt in Places You Have Permission to Do So

This is a basic metal detecting etiquette rule – but it’s also a VERY important safety rule.

You do not want to be hunting on property where someone may come out to harm you to see who you are and why you are metal detecting there.

While I like to believe the world is a safe and happy place, it is important you do not find yourself in a dangerous situation with strangers.

You also likely don’t want to have to deal with any law enforcement authorities or security guards either, since they too usually have guns.

ALWAYS make sure you have written permission from the owner, AND the owner and the owner’s neighbors know you will be there.

Sometimes overprotective and nosy neighbors can be an issue even when you do have the owner’s permission.

Getting permission to metal detect is always a good idea before you start!

 #10. Wear a Life Jacket While Metal Detecting Near or in Water

While most public swimming beaches are likely going to be okay to venture near the shoreline without a life jacket, some areas of lakes, rivers, and creeks can be unpredictable.

Rivers especially have very fast-moving water and a lot of hidden underwater hazards, such as rocks and caves. The Allegheny River where I live has many areas that look like they would be safe to wade out into, but these are actually very dangerous ledges that drop off without warning + you will quickly be dragged down the river with the current.

However, even a normally docile large lake can turn ugly fast if the wind picks up or the weather changes.

Always wear a life jacket when you will be in a river, creek or detecting very close along the shoreline. It’s a lot easier to accidentally trip and fall in than you might think!

And, don’t worry – there are a LOT of very comfortable and low-profile life jackets you can wear. I usually wear a Body Glove life jacket – super comfortable, lightweight, and lots of freedom to move easily. Ray has a fishermen’s life jacket that again is not bulky or uncomfortable – just an extra safety precaution – it even has pockets too!

#11. Optional: Bring Survival Gear

If you are venturing into any remote areas, you may also want to consider bringing some lightweight backpacking survival items.

For example, you might want to bring flint or matches, a pocket knife, a flashlight, or other handy gear for surviving in the woods. You can get an inexpensive survival kit that will start you off with the basics.

If you don’t already carry a pocket knife as one of your metal detecting tools, you definitely might want to consider one – They are great for pretty much everything. Not only is it handy for anything you might need outdoors while metal detecting, but it will also be immensely helpful if you find yourself out in the woods longer than expected.

I really like the Leatherman Multi-Tool – it’s small and compact but has pretty much anything you might need while you are out.

For us, we usually have all these things in our car most of the time anyways – we are always camping and outside!

#12. Don’t Metal Detect at Night

Night can pose several risks for metal detecting, and most metal detecting clubs agree with this rule: No metal detecting at night!

When you are in the dark, it can be very difficult to see potential risks that may harm you. Large holes can cause all sorts of issues, and you do not want to put you or someone else at unnecessary risk.

#13. Practice Good Hygiene Rules

You probably already do this – but wash your hands! While I do whole heartedly agree a little dirt never hurt anyone – some dirt you really could eat quite safely! But, unless you really know that dirt – sometimes the “dirt” you get into while metal detecting can be a hazard.

First off, there’s the risk of animal waste nearly anywhere you go, whether it’s from pets or wildlife. If you’ve ever been in a field where geese frequently hang out, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

It’s also worth noting, just because there’s always somebody who probably doesn’t know any better – be aware of where there may be septic tanks and their leach beds on the property.

There are other good reasons for always washing your hands after you metal detect:

  • Many metals are not healthy for you – lead, for example, which is very common in older artifacts and relics you might dig up.
  • Pesticides are often used to treat ball fields + grassy areas around parks.
  • You might have rubbed up against something like poison ivy or other plants while you were out.

Do you have any metal detecting safety tips you would like to share? What do you like to be prepared for when you go metal detecting? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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