Metal Detecting in the Rain

by Chad Eicher

Rain metal detecting

As a rule, humans prefer not to spend extended periods outside while it’s raining. We don’t like being wet, cold, or uncomfortable, all of which can result from getting drenched in a downpour.

However, wet ground and rainy conditions can be a blessing in disguise for avid detectorists. Indeed, if you have the opportunity to metal detect in the rain, you might be pleasantly surprised by the experience. All you have to do is take a few extra steps to prepare for the weather.

The next time rain “spoils” your plans to go treasure hunting, rethink the situation. With the right preparation, attitude, and equipment, you stand a chance to unearth your most exciting finds ever when you metal detect in the rain.

Metal Detecting While It’s Raining

One of the most significant benefits of metal detecting in the rain is that you’re more likely to have the place to yourself. A rainy day might be the perfect time to strike if you’ve been avoiding hunting in a promising area due to high foot traffic. Take advantage of the absence of other people to walk as slowly as possible, and be really thorough in covering the most interesting areas.

heavy raining

When planning to use your metal detector in the rain, you’ll want to ensure you remain as comfortable as possible. After all, you don’t want to have to cut your detecting session short due to inadequate preparation. Wear a highly rated raincoat, rain pants, and waterproof boots to keep yourself dry while you’re out.

In case you were wondering, no, an umbrella isn’t going to cut it. For one thing, you’ll be too encumbered to use your detector properly. For another, the metal in the umbrella will interfere with your tool’s sensors.

You should only use waterproof metal detectors while it’s raining. Check to make sure your detector can withstand prolonged exposure to moisture before embarking on your rainy day adventure. While you’re at it, get a pair of waterproof headphones to hear your device’s beeps over the sound of the rain. 

PRO TIP: You should also bring a waterproof backpack or dry bag to store snacks, extra socks, and whatever you happen to find. Don’t have a waterproof bag? Line your regular expedition pack with a trash bag.

If you hear thunder or see lightning while you’re out, it’s time to cut the detecting short. You don’t want to put yourself in danger. Head back to your car or a secure indoor location and wait out the storm.

Metal Detecting After Rain

Not everyone wants to metal detect in the rain, but you can still get some benefits of using a detector on the wet ground after the storm passes. This way, you won’t have to worry about piling on the rain gear, though you may still be better off using waterproof headphones and metal detectors just in case the weather doesn’t hold.

A possible advantage of metal detecting after rain is that if the storm was heavy enough, it might have washed away the top layer of soil. This means you’ll be able to reach a deeper layer than you would during or before the storm. Items ordinarily out of your detector’s range will be closer to the surface and possibly close enough to send signals.

Another thing to consider is that you’ll likely encounter more people than you would while it’s actively raining. This might make it more difficult for you to sweep the entire area you want to cover, particularly when exploring a popular or high-traffic location. However, people aren’t likely to want to hang out in an area if there’s a ton of mud around, so you may still have the place to yourself.

How to Use a Metal Detector in the Rain (Settings and Technique)

Before you metal detect in the rain, you should have a solid grasp of the ways in which active precipitation and wet earth will affect your equipment. This will help you avoid confusion and frustration and will also help you be prepared for things that could go wrong.

Garrett AT Gold waterproof

One of the major differences you will encounter when metal detecting after rain is the increased scope of the halo effect. A consequence of oxidizing metal, the halo effect describes a phenomenon by which the target of your hunt appears much larger than it actually is. 

This effect is increased when the earth is wet because the presence of water enhances the electromagnetic field. Unfortunately, once you break the surface of the soil with your shovel, the electromagnetic field will be scattered. The signal from your find will become much weaker and could even disappear entirely.

It is possible to somewhat counteract the halo effect by switching the settings on your detector and adopting techniques you might not need to rely on in dry conditions. If you’re determined to metal detect in the rain, these adjustments could save you a lot of trouble.

Settings

Because of the increased sensitivity due to the presence of moisture in the ground, you may be better off using a lower frequency when you metal detect in the rain. You should also reduce your discrimination setting to the lowest possible value without inundating your waterproof headphones with alerts.

Some waterproof metal detectors offer different presets for different types of soil. If you are lucky enough to have such a model, make sure you’ve experimented enough with each setting to have an idea of which will work best in the area you plan to search.

Technique

If you’re going to metal detect in the rain, slow is the name of the game. Keep your pace measured and deliberate to avoid slipping in mud. You want to avoid injury as well as unnecessary discomfort.

On the other hand, using a slow swinging speed may result in a muddied reading. While your walking speed should remain slow at all times, you may wish to vary your swinging speed to increase the likelihood of picking up objects that are buried deeper in the earth.

One of the best ways to avoid being thrown off by the halo effect is to make use of a pinpointer. This small but useful piece of gear can help you hone in on the location of your find once your metal detector has discovered it. A pinpointer isn’t powerful enough to completely replace a metal detector, but it can save you time and effort when it comes to digging up a small metal object in wet ground.

Metal Detecting: Wet vs. Dry Ground

wet ground

If you’ve never taken your detector in the rain before, be prepared for a totally different experience. Even if you’ve already covered this particular patch of ground before when it was dry, the search is likely to yield different results when it’s wet.

Of course, there are some environments where the ground is always wet, such as the beach or a river. If you plan to spend a lot of time searching these types of areas, you may wish to do some research into the best metal detector for wet and dry sand. Pulse induction detectors are usually your best bet.

Here are the pros and cons of metal detecting in wet ground vs dry.

Pros of Wet Ground

One of the major benefits of metal detecting after rain is that your detector may be able to pick up objects located deeper inside the earth. Studies have shown that electromagnetic waves can penetrate wet soil more deeply than dry soil. This is because wet soil is largely better at conducting electricity than dry soil.

It also takes less effort to dig in wet ground than dry, so you’ll have an easier time unearthing your finds. You might be able to get away with using a small trowel rather than carting around a big, heavy shovel.

A third benefit of using your detector on wet earth is that the top layer of soil has likely been washed away after a heavy storm. This means you’re already at an advantage over a dry day because you’re one layer deeper than you would ordinarily be. If you’ve already covered a particular area during a dry time, it might be worth returning when the ground is wet to see if you’re able to uncover anything that used to be buried deeper.

Cons of Wet Ground

Soggy, muddy earth is generally more difficult to traverse than dry ground. You’ll be at a greater risk of slipping and falling while metal detecting after rain, which can be extra dangerous when you’re holding such an unwieldy piece of equipment.

Of course, if your metal detector isn’t waterproof, you run the risk of damaging or breaking your equipment by using it on wet ground. Taking steps to protect your control box from moisture will help. However, the only way to ensure you won’t break your detector in the rain is by only using waterproof metal detectors in wet conditions.

Finally, the aforementioned halo effect can make it harder to dig up your finds when you metal detect in the rain. This is because the object you’re looking for is likely much smaller than it appears to your detector.

Frequently Asked Questions

If it’s never occurred to you before to metal detect in the rain, you may find yourself full of questions about the experience. Here are answers to common inquiries by detectorists about conducting searches in wet conditions. 

When is the best time to go metal detecting?

Detectorists who don’t mind rough weather may find metal detect in the rain enjoyable because there won’t be as many other people out and about. On the other hand, waiting for a time when the rain has stopped but the ground is still wet may provide the ideal mix of conditions for metal detecting.

Do metal detectors work better on wet ground?

While there haven’t been many official studies specifically focused on using a metal detector in the rain, anecdotal evidence from avid detectorists suggests that metal detectors do seem to work better when the ground is slightly wet. This may be because water improves the conductivity of the soil.

Can you metal detect over water?

It depends on the type of metal detector you have and the type of water you’re searching for. 

For instance, freshwater has little effect on the functionality of waterproof metal detectors, but salt water is a different story. An abundance of salt can drive detectors haywire if they aren’t specifically designed to be beach metal detectors.

If you plan on poking around in rivers for artifacts, coins, or placer deposits of silver and gold, you may want to invest in an underwater metal detector. These machines are more than just waterproof; they are actually designed to function beneath the surface of the water.

Why is gold mostly found in rivers?

Therefore, water is constantly in motion and is good at transporting rocks and minerals. Since gold is so heavy, it is often found in bends and other places where the water slows down enough for the gold to drop out of the current.

Do all rivers contain gold?

While many rivers, creeks, and other waterways contain tiny particles of gold, most are too small to be detected. The total amount of gold found in the world to date would fit inside a cube measuring 23 meters on each side. That should give an idea of the relative rarity of this elusive and highly sought element.

Do metal detectors work on wet sand?

Beach metal detectors are made with wet sand in mind. Most waterproof metal detectors have no problem functioning on wet sand. This comes in handy since most objects worth detecting on a beach can be found around the low tide line.

What is the best metal detector for wet sand?

Before embarking on a beach detecting adventure, you may wish to research the best metal detector for wet and dry sand. Any waterproof model will work, but if you’re specifically interested in beach metal detectors, you should look into purchasing a pulse induction (PI) model. PI detectors are particularly good at piercing through minerals such as salt, rocks, and black iron sand, making them ideal beach metal detectors.

How do I know if my metal detector is waterproof?

If you’re unsure whether your detector is waterproof, the best way to verify one way or another is to look up the model and manufacturer. You don’t want to make the mistake of using a non-waterproof detector in the rain.

You can also buy waterproofing materials for your detector, such as a cover for the control box. Proper rain covers should have a transparent side so that you still have a clear view of the screen.

Can you metal detect in the snow?

Yes, it is possible to detect metal in the snow. Depending on how deep the snowdrifts are and how sensitive your detector is, you may have a difficult time penetrating the earth beneath the snow layer. However, finding lost objects that have been dropped in piled-up snow can be a fun and useful activity.

Conclusion

Unlike many other hobbies, hunting for lost and discarded objects with your detector won’t necessarily be spoiled by rain. In fact, as long as you have the proper gear and mindset for the experience, you may even have your best day ever. Easy digging, empty hunting grounds and a deeper sensitivity for your detector are all great reasons to head out on a treasure hunt during a downpour.

In your time as a detectorist, you will undoubtedly have the opportunity to metal detect in the rain at one time or another. Prepare yourself ahead of time for the challenges associated with using a detector in wet weather, and you’ll have an easier time reaping the rewards.

➜ Best waterproof detectors

➜ Guide to choosing the best metal detector

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