The principal behind gold panning is really simple. Gold is heavy. Just about everything else is lighter. If you load a pie-pan shaped container with gold-bearing gravel and sand, proper agitation in water should cause the gold to sink to the bottom, while washing away the lighter stuff that rises to the top. Eventually, all that is left in your pan is the heaviest minerals, including (hopefully) some gold. It really is about that simple. Of course there is more to the story than that.
More photos and details can be found on my web site at http://www.mdpub.com/prospecting/
Step 1: Equipment Needed for Gold Paning
Start with the water-proof boots. Gold panning is done in the water, usually icy cold mountain streams. You'll want to keep your feet dry. Some nice warm socks (maybe a couple of pairs) also helps to keep your feet warm in that cold water.
The green thing is the gold pan. There are lots of different types of gold pans. They all work. so don't spend too much time obsessing over getting just the right kind of pan. I buy my gold pans on Ebay since there is nobody near me that stocks them, and it is usually the cheapest place to buy them.
Inside the gold pan is the sniffer bottle. It is used for sucking up little bits of gold out of your pan. More on that later.
The purple thing is a classifier, also known as a sieve or strainer. It is really optional, but I find it to be a great help. I'll talk about why later.
Next, you need some digging tools. A full-size pointed shovel will be real useful (remember what I said about this being hard work?). You'll also want a smaller spade and either an old screwdriver or some other skinny tool for cleaning out small cracks and crevasses in the rocks.
The small white plastic pail is used for collecting concentrates. You can use just about any sort of container for that. More on why this is important later.
Big five gallon buckets come in handy for lots of things. I usually carry several. You can pack a lot of the other equipment in them along with some water bottles and other supplies, and carry it all down to the creek. Once there, a bucket makes handy stool to sit on in the creek to do your panning and another serves to carry your paydirt from where you are digging it to where you are panning it.
Other nice to have accessories are gloves. A nice pair of rugged leather gloves to protect your hands from blisters while working the shovel and protect from cuts and scrapes while digging out cracks and crevasses with the smaller digging tools. Also a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands from the cold water while panning. Also, a pair of tweezers to pick the larger bits of gold "pickers" out of your gold pan, and a glass or plastic bottle to put them in will come in real handy.
Naturally you'll want to take all the usual stuff you would take for any outdoor adventure in the wilderness. Things like a first aide kit, warm clothes, drinking water, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, etc.