Most, if not all, prospectors start with the common gold pan. This is really simple to use and helps teach the beginner the basic properties of gold. There are many other hand tools to choose from such as a sluicebox, rock pick, shovel, bucket, classifiers (screens the gold-bearing gravel down to size), sniper sticks, underwater viewing scopes and much more! A simple Google search of any of these tools listed will result in many webpages explaining the use of each tool.
This is where this hobby can begin to get expensive! Suction dredges (which are banned in California now btw, but we will get to this on another venting post one day!) can process a LOT of material and good gold can be found! They run off a pump and motor sitting on "pontoons" in the creek and basically the prospector uses a hose running from the pump to "vacuum" gold-bearing gravel from the bottom of the creek and it gets sent up to the surface and processed through the sluicebox mounted to the pontoons! Very nice gold grabbin' machine!
A high-banker is also a high production machine (thats if you are up to all the shoveling, bring a partner). It essentially works similar to a dredge except you are not sucking material up, you are shoveling it into the top of the sluice on the bank and the pump supplies the water to process the material. The advantage to this equipment vs. a suction dredge is being able to prospect in the winter because you do not have to get wet!