Detecting in the Dark

Detecting in the Dark

Since the time changed a couple of weeks ago, it gets dark in central Tennessee just after 5:00pm.     So lately, if I want to get out and detect in the afternoon, I find myself detecting in the dark, especially if I’m on a good site where I’m finding stuff.  I admittedly have a hard time quitting.    “I’m not quitting until I find something.”   “I’m finding stuff, so I’m not quitting.”

There are many other situations where I have permission to detect that requires that I detect in the dark to take full advantage of the opportunity.   For example, often I find myself waiting for construction crews to leave so I am not in their way, or trying to detect a site thoroughly before concrete is poured or construction otherwise renders a site un-detectable.

My primary need for light is to avoid scratching a target with my digging tool.   If you are digging in the dark, it is very easy to plant your digger right in the middle of the hole, where you can easily damage a great find.   

A secondary important reason I need light to detect is to see the ground in front of me.  I’ve twisted my ankle badly more than once stepping in a hole or other obstacle while detecting after dark.

Another use for a light is to see what I’ve dug up.    This isn’t of utmost importance, of course.  You should have seen my wife’s expression one night when I was cleaning out my pouch and yelled “Wholly crap I can’t believe it.  I dug an Indian Cent!!!!”   When I dug it in the dark, I had just hit my hand with the pinpointer and put the entire handful of dirt into my pouch and moved on.

Interestingly, carrying a flashlight isn’t an option while metal detecting.  I’ve got my detector in one hand, and my digger in the other.  Here are my favorite light sources for metal detecting:

#1 Moonlight
I was digging in a backyard about 2 weeks ago after dark  Fortunately it was a clear night with a full moon.  Once your eyes adjust, a good moonlit night is almost as good as detecting during the day.

#2 Pinpointer Light
The Garrett ProPointer and the Minelab Pro-Find both have integrated lights which are reasonably bright.   Couple of problems are that they easily get blocked by clay or mud, and of course the pinpointer has to be on to use it.    

Confession time: You should see me hold my pinpointer in my teeth while I recover a find in the dark.  Yeah I know, right?

#3 Headlamp
The smartest light a detectorist can use is one of those LED lights that straps on your head.     The one pictured below is available on Amazon for like seven bucks.   I have several different kinds and always forget which on I have on.  Some have switches that slide to turn them on and off.  Some have knobs that turn.  Most have two or three different brightness levels, and some will change to red or blue light, which can be easier on your eyes depending on your preference.


#4 Smartphone Flashlight
My iPhone has a built in flashlight that can be accessed from the lock screen without unlocking the phone.    My understanding is that Android phone’s can do the same thing by downloading an app and granting proper permissions.  

I usually only use the phone as a flashlight when I have to.  I’ve forgotten my headlamp, or am detecting using the integrated Sunray probe on my e-Trac.

My phone is in an environmental case on it so I don’t ruin it.  I recommend you do the same if you need to use your phone as a flashlight in the dirt.

If you find yourself detecting in the dark, take advantage of innovative light sources to make your life easier.


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