Going into the field in search of rocks, minerals and fossils is a lot of fun. Here are some tips to make your experience even better.
Ask permission. Never hunt for fossils on private land without permission. If you are rock hunting on public land, be aware of the laws (local, state, federal, provincial, etc.) that may apply. Check with your state's geological survey for suggestions for good rock-hunting areas.
Take plenty of notes. Notes are very important to a rock collector. Document where you go and what you collect. This will help you identify your finds, make your collection more valuable, and make it easier to revisit a site later!
Watch where your step! When you go rock collecting there are a lot of things you could trip over (such as rocks!), so try not to twist an ankle. Avoid areas of overhanging rocks. If you turn over large rocks, keep an eye out for snakes, spiders and other bugaboos that may have been living underneath. Be careful out there!
Take only what you can display. It doesn't pay to have a basement or closet full of rocks. Just take enough samples to study and create a nice displayleave the rest for the next person to collect.
Contact museums and universities. While you are investigating the geologic past, consider the future too! If you find something rare and wondrous, contact a local museum or university. These materials could be very beneficial in adding to our knowledge of the geologic past.
Talk to other rock collectors! Most areas have are rock collecting clubs that sponsor shows and offer field trips to collecting sites. Not only will you greatly improve your chance of finding cool rocks, minerals and fossils, but you'll learn a lot more and make some good friends.
Notebook. It's always good to be able to jot down directions to your collecting sites, and record when you picked up new items for your collection. A detailed description of where you found an item can make it much more valuable.
Rock Hammer. What happens if you see an exquisite trilobite, shimmering in a heavenly shaft of blue light, but it's attached to a 14 ton boulder? You would have to choose between leaving the trilobite or loading the boulder into the car for the trip home. Now if you had a rock hammer, you could (oh so carefully) chip the fossil out of the boulder and go merrily on your way.
Chisel. Along with a rock hammer, a chisel will help you remove small specimens from a larger rock matrix.
Safety goggles. You must always wear safety goggles when using a chisel or rock hammer! Small bits of flying rock can easily damage your eyesso be careful! (Most geologists have old safety goggles with many scratches on them, from all the minute bits of flying rock.)
Paper. Bring along some old newspapers to carefully wrap any fragile specimens that you might find.
Lunch bags. After you wrap your newly collected piece in newspaper, place it in a brown paper bag and mark the bag with the date and collecting locality. That way, if you have to set aside your new items for a few weeks before cleaning and preparing them, you will know exactly where they come from.