Metal Detecting At Night (The Ultimate Guide)

  • By: Admin
  • Date: January 29, 2024
  • Time to read: 12 min.

One area of metal detecting that is often overlooked is the different times of the day you can go out searching. Now most of us are familiar with detecting in the day, but what about metal detecting at night? What sort of challenges and issues do we need to be aware of before we head out into the night, detector in hand.
In this article we take a look at these challenges, the dangers involved, and also the different equipment you may need should you fancy a bit of nighttime detecting. Read on for more tips to help you when you go metal detecting at night

Our Guide And Tips For Metal Detecting At Night

Don’t Metal Detect Alone

Now I understand that a lot of us take up hobbies like metal detecting because we want some space, we like our own company and sometimes we just need to get away from people! That may be fine in the daylight hours, but should you decide to go metal detecting at night, this isn’t such a good idea for obvious reasons.

If you are going out metal detecting at night t, we suggest that you go as a couple or better still a group. If possible get your partner to accompany you, even if they don’t share your passion for metal detecting, it’s always a good idea to have a friendly face with you and also someone to hold your flashlight as you dig.

Detect When There Is A Full Moon

Detecting when there is a full moon is great for a few reasons. The obvious one being the natural light provided by the moon will make metal detecting at night a lot easier. You will be amazed how the light from an object over 380,000km away can light up a field or a beach. 

Another reason is that it will help your eyes adjust much more easily to the conditions, whereas if you have to rely on the artificial light from a torch or the backlight from your display, your eyes can have trouble adjusting as you look away from it.

And not only that there is something quite magical detecting under a clear starlit sky, with the light of the moon illuminating your way.

Get A Pinpointer That Has A Light Built In

Many pinpointers on the market today have a built-in LED  light and for this type of session, they are ideal for when you are metal detecting at night. You simply shine the light into the hole and it makes picking out your target in the dirt a hell of a lot easier at night. This feature is not only a great thing at night, but it is also helpful when detecting in woody areas or where there is shade, which cuts out most of the light.

Get Yourself A  Headlamp

Ok so they might not be the most attractive headgear you’ve ever worn, but a headlamp or head torch is an ideal addition to your metal detecting gear if you plan to go detecting at night. These are relatively inexpensive and the LED lights are so powerful you can sometimes think it is the daylight hours. Another thing with wearing a headlamp is that it lights up the area you are looking at, whether that be the ground around you or the controls of your machine. Even helping you avoid those low-hanging branches or other dangers that you may come across while metal detecting at night and all the time keeping both hands free for other things.

Get Yourself Some Glow Sticks

Glow sticks are small plastic tubes that contain glass vials that emit light after the stick is “cracked” This allows the two elements inside to mix. The byproduct of this is light without heat. It is always handy to have a few of these in your backpack as they can be useful for a few situations.

If you decide to carry out gridding on an area, they can show you the grid lines making it easier not to go over areas already checked.

You can leave them as markers on certain targets or just as a frame of reference to your position. Should you want to leave your backpack while metal detecting at night and you search a particular area, you can crack one of these and leave it by it, making the item or area easier to locate again later on. Or maybe save your location while you meet up with your search partner. These are very cheap and have so many uses you should give them a go.

Make Sure Your Cell Phone Is Fully Charged

This is good advice whether metal detecting at night or in the daylight hours. You should always have a fully charged cell phone with you at all times. Not only so people can contact you and vice versa, but also if you ever need assistance due to an injury or health issue. They also have handy things like Google Maps and other things which you can use when out and about. 

Get To Know Know The Area

One of the best things you can do before you start metal detecting at night in any area is research. So before daylight searches as well as gaining permission to search a particular spot you need to research the history and the history of its surroundings. All of this should be carried out before detecting at night but you also need to visit the site during the day. 

This will give you a better understanding of where to search and areas you may want to avoid because trust me, things can look a lot different in the dark and it is very easy to become disorientated. It is always helpful to have a plan before you search a brand new site and a daylight view can go a long way towards this. It is also a good idea to ask people who have detected there before, this can be a great resource of knowledge and guidance. 

So What Tools Do You Need To Go Metal Detecting At Night?

It is worth thinking about the accessories you will need when you go metal detecting at night. A lot of these are the same items that you will need for daytime searching, but extra thought needs to be given to them when you detect at night.


Many detectors you buy today have a built-in pinpointer, but I and many of my more experienced detectorist friends prefer a separate pinpointer. This is more important when detecting at night. Having a separate pinpointer will help you to dig close to where the target is located, enabling you to dig a much smaller hole, saving you energy and less time on your hands and knees.

 Many times when digging a target you can inadvertently remove the object in a lump of soil, but a quick scan with a handheld pinpointer can tell you of its exact location. And as we have already said ideally for metal detecting at night you need on with a built-in light.


These are a necessity when metal detecting at night. They can be the difference between finding a target and missing it completely. They will cut out all the ambient noise, whether from traffic or wildlife, and help you focus on the audio signals coming from your machine. As we know, some smaller or deeper targets can only give you the faintest signal, but with a good set of headphones, you are more likely to hear these than without.

I suggest you go for a wireless set when metal detecting at night, as it is easy to get into a tangle when there is very little light. These have improved over the last few years in terms of precision, response time, and battery life. There are some headsets on the market, especially for detectorists but if the jack plug is the correct size any wireless headphones will be suitable.

Trowel or Digger

Now when you find this treasure while you are metal detecting at night you will need something to dig it up with. This is one area where you shouldn’t just buy the cheapest one. These items are used when the target you have detected is only a few inches below the surface.

Many digging tools available today have the bonus of having a serrated edge to them and unlike gardening tools, these tend to be manufactured from stainless steel. I have found this valuable over the years and I believe many come as left-handed or right-handed depending on your needs. A quality Trowel or small digger will increase your finds and speed up your recovery, so it is worth investing in the best you can get.


For those harder to reach finds, you will need to get digging, so a dependable shovel is a must-have. You need to have a combination light enough so it can be easily carried, but be strong enough to get the job done.

Many times even though the soil is easy to get through when you start to dig, you will find the deeper you go the more solid it becomes. A good-quality shovel will make this much easier. Although shovels vary in the design you must be aware that as a detectorist we tend to dig differently from the gardener, with deep plugs and V-shaped holes, so the shape of the tool needs to accommodate this.

Many of the dedicated detecting shovels have narrower heads and some have a side serration to make our job a little easier. When detecting you will need a dependable, strong, and lightweight shovel to dig up your finds and you don’t want to be in the middle of a field at night with a bent shovel, so buy the best you can get. Amazon Link

Knee Pads

And finally, we come to an item that is often overlooked by many detectorists, knee pads. Many people have felt the pain of a hidden twig or spike or a sharp rock as they have dropped to their knees to dig up that valuable coin. This situation is bad enough in the daytime and even worse at night. 

There will be many more hazards and objects sitting there waiting to cause you an injury, so you need to be prepared. This is where a good set of knee pads comes in. Many detecting sessions have been cut short due to an injury to the knee and even if it doesn’t stop you from detecting, it can be a constant reminder when you need to start digging again. Check out the best knee pads for metal detecting HERE

Is It Better To Detect At Night Or In The Day?

Detecting at night has many benefits, especially for the novice detectorist. Many of us constantly stop during the day to chat with interested passers-by or people who are just curious as to how the detector works. This is avoided by searching at night. Fewer people around to bother you and disturb you as you detect. 

Many find it a lot more peaceful detecting at night as there tend to be fewer distractions, fewer inquisitive people, and less chance of getting sunburnt. It is also easier to focus on the task at hand. At night you tend to listen much more intently to the tones coming from your detector, so your sessions tend to be more productive.

Can It Be Dangerous Detecting At Night?

Obviously, metal detecting at night brings many challenges depending on the environment you find yourself in. As we have already said, the lack of light can bring its own dangers, due to the hazards that you may not see clearly. The dark can also cause you to become disorientated to your surroundings, this is where a daylight visit is important.

If you find yourself detecting near to the city or populated areas, drunks or rowdy crowds could be a problem. This is where detecting as a couple or a group is important. 

You should also be extremely careful if you decide to take your detector to the woods. This should be avoided at all costs. The woods can be a dangerous place at the best of times but at night time those dangers become magnified. You run a much bigger risk of being attacked by wild animals during the night than during the day, so you may want to ask yourself, is it worth the risk?

How To Adjust Your Vision When Detecting At Night

This is a very important point and one that is often overlooked by night-time detectorists. The human eye can take a long time to adjust to the darkness and reach the optimum level for low light conditions. The quickest gains in that adjustment tend to happen in the first ten minutes, reaching their maximum sensitivity in around 20 to 30 minutes. 

This process is known as ‘dark adaptation. This process can be even longer the older we get so we need to make allowances for this as well. Throw into the mix that we will be looking at a backlit screen and a headlight hole in the ground every few minutes and you can see how this can become a problem.

Take it slowly when you first get to a search site and allow your eyes to adjust naturally. It is also a good idea to take regular breaks, which will prevent vision fatigue and the resulting headaches. Also, try to use the smallest amount of artificial light possible as this will also help with the fluctuating adjustments your eyes need to make.

Do Metal Detectors Perform Better At Night Than In The Daytime?

There is no research that I can find, to show this either way. You will be more focused on the tones coming from your detector, mainly due to the lack of daytime noise. 

One area that you need to consider is any adjustments you need to make to your detector, which could be more difficult due to the lack of natural light. This is why you really need to know your detector and its settings.

Adjustments as always should be made depending on things like soil conditions and the items you want to discover rather than the light conditions.  

What Is Nighthawking?

Nighthawking is the illegal search and subsequent removal of items and antiquities from the ground with metal detectors, without permission of the landowners. No matter how the definition is worded, it is theft.

Nighthawks should not be confused with responsible detectorists, who follow strict guidelines and etiquette. But it is also very apparent that many law enforcement officers are either unwilling or unsure of how to proceed when they find the perpetrators. Recent surveys show that many police officials have little or no idea which laws can be used to prosecute the offenders. 

Why Nighthawking is a Bad Thing

Nighthawking is theft by the few of the heritage of the many. Regardless of the number of sites affected by this practice, our heritage is a finite resource, so you can see the long-term damage it can do.

Many times nighthawking is performed on land where permission to search an area has been refused. Another area of concern is nighttime detecting on sites of ancient monuments or areas where archaeological digs are taking place.

This isn’t a new problem, it has been around since the 1970s. The scale of the problem was not realized until around 2009 when a national survey carried out in the UK, by British Heritage revealed 240 sites were targeted between 195 and 2008.

The idea that these illegal treasure seekers are a lone man swinging a detector and shining a torch as they search is inaccurate. Many of these people travel long distances, many times in groups to their intended sites. They use camouflage and highly sophisticated equipment, some with night vision headsets. They do this because of the very nature of the sites they are searching; they know they could find something of very high value.

Worse than the trespass and the potential damage they do to historical pieces of land, is the theft of whatever they find and the loss of knowledge that that item could uncover.


I hope this article helps you should you decide to detect at night. Whether we detect in the daylight hours or when the sun goes down, each scenario presents us with problems, but if you do your research, check you have everything you need, and always put your safety first, you should be ok. Happy nighttime hunting!