Waterproof Metal Detectors

Are Metal Detectors Waterproof? (Treasure Underwater!)

It seems like a lot of the spots I like to metal detect involve water.  Beaches, rivers and one of my favorite places canoe takeout’s.  A little alcohol and a tippy canoe result in lots of goodies spilled in the water.

You might be asking, are metal detectors waterproof?

Most modern metal detectors have a waterproof coil.  Unless the detector manufacture explicitly states that the control head (display) is waterproof assume that it isn’t.  Metal detectors are sold that are waterproof, but this is usually a sign of a higher quality machine.

Waterproof Coil vs Waterproof vs Submersible Explained

Waterproof Coil on Metal Detector
Waterproof Coil on Metal Detector

Waterproof Coil

A waterproof coil means that the round sensor can be submersed only.  With this type on unit, you must keep the control head dry.  I can just about guaranty that if you drop the unit in the water, it’s going to stop working.

If you’re wondering if your coil is waterproof the easiest thing to look at is the wire connection.  If the wire is connected directly to the coil and isn’t removable it is likely waterproof.

Waterproof Metal Detectors

A 100% waterproof detector is a sign of quality.  It takes more engineering to seal every seam and joint.  With rechargeable batteries becoming more popular, its become easier for manufactures to add a seal charging port vs a battery tray.

Waterproof detectors DO have limits though.   The typical depth that units are rated for is 10 feet.  Usually these machines will not have waterproof headphones or a vibration mode to be alerted to a find. 

nokta makro simplex +
Nokta Makro Simplex + image credit Kellyco

What I like about completely waterproof metal detectors is the durability and confidence to use the machine at a beach with sand and water.  I’ve stumbled and dropped my Nokta Makro Simplex in the water without worries.

Submersible Metal Detectors

Have you wondered where to treasure hunting where others haven’t?  I’ll give you a clue, add 10 feet of water plus diving gear and you’ll eliminate 98% of your competition.  This is what submersible metal detectors are built for. 

Usually, a submersible metal detector has four characteristics that will separate it from others:

  1. Old style twist knobs – it’s hard to adjust little buttons with diving gloves.
  2. Vibration built into unit – multiple feedback signals for finds
  3. Waterproof headphones – hearing a signal is our primary find feedback
  4. A depth rating – waterproof units are typically good to 10 feet, with a submersible metal detector expect 200 feet.

If you found this article your wanting to get wet metal detecting, let me show you how below:


What Type of Metal Detector is Best for Water?  (VLF or PI)

I’ve tried to explain what Very Low Frequency (VLF) and Pulse Induction (PI) technology is in a metal detector, but for watery conditions a PI machines are better than VLF. (Especially saltwater)

Pulse Induction sends an electronic current burst into the ground which excites the field generated around the target.  A good comparison is a radar tower sending a signal and measuring the change in the return signal.

This type of tech, improves the depth of detection and reduces the “noise” caused by eddy currents around objects.  Water, especially saltwater will create a magnetic field around a metallic object (a VLF weakness).  Those eddy currents create “hot rocks” and trashy signals.

Combining a PI machine with a double d coil adds a stepup in accuracy by narrowing the signal into a deeper penetrating current burst.

Pulse Induction Metal Detectors are going to cost more than VLF machines.  On average you should expect to pay $250 usd more than a great VLF maching

What Metal Detectors are Recommended for Getting Wet?

I’m going to break this up with the detectorist skill level in mind.  When a person is just starting out, it doesn’t make sense to go fully submersible.  Heck a bunch of skills are needed before you should don a wetsuit with a metal detector.

Waterproof Metal Detectors for the Beginner

Nokta Makro Simplex +

Hands down the best beginner metal detector on the market right now is the Nokta Makro Simplex +.  This machine is batting with the big boys in terms of value, ease of use and functions.

The Nokta Makro Simplex + (Shortcut link to Amazon) is 100% waterproof to 10 feet. Something that I love is the wireless headphones.  On my old Garrett 250 I was forever getting tangled in wires when kneeling down to dig.

Some more features I love about the Simplex +

  • Auto ground balancing – adjusts to ground variations
  • Audio and VIBRATIONAL signals.  Feeling the tone is another level of signal.
  • Simple mode selection: All, Park, Field and Beach
  • Adjustable from 25 in to 52 inches – great for packing away.
  • Screen is nice and bright, easy to read in sunlight

What don’t I love?

  • When it comes to saltwater, a PI detector is better.  The Simplex + is a VLF unit.

Metal Detecting Pro Tip: Look for a metal detector that has been in business for a while.  About 10 years ago the industry lost a bunch of manufactures.  Some proven brands are: Minelab, Garrett, Fisher, and Nokta Makro.

Minelab Equinox 800

If your committed to staying in the metal detecting game.  The “NOX 800” is a lifetime machine, it’s 100% waterproof to 10 feet with technology built in to target gold.  The Multi-IQ technology bridges the gap between single VLF machines and the sensitivity of a full PI machine.

MineLab Equinox 800
MineLab Equinox 800 credit KellyCo

Folks might not call this a beginner machine because of the price, but I’d say this is the type of machine you’ll end up with if you’re going to stay with this hobby. 

Metal Detecting Tip: If you’ve decided metal detecting IS going to be your hobby.  You could do what lots of folks do, which is buy 3 or 4 machines and then end up with a GOOD machine like an Equinox 800.

The NOX is easy and intuitive in operation.  I describe it as a set it and forget it.  With 4 primary modes and 2 settings within each mode.  In three clicks, you turn on, select mode and finally select a sensitivity.

What I love about the Minelab Equinox 800 <-short cut link for current prices on Amazon

  • Waterproof – I don’t even recommend machines that aren’t waterproof anymore.
  • Wireless headphones that react fast – this speeds up your sweeping speed.
  • Saltwater tuned – the frequency tech used excels for searching on beaches.
  • 50 segments in the TID range – lets you differentiate targets
  • Auto ground balancing – the 800 is a leader in this

What I’m MEH about

  • This metal detector isn’t cheap.  But it might be the only metal detector you live ever buy.

Serious Underwater Metal Detecting

These recommendations are for current divers looking to add a new dimension to the SCUBA experience and for folks taking beach detecting to the next level by adding snorkeling.

Nokta Makro PulseDive Scuba Detector

For a simple solution a smaller handheld unit like the Nokta Makro PulseDive Scuba Detector might be the answer.  When you’re diving or even snorkeling you want to keep things simple.  You’ll need a scoop of some kind and a detector.  Now your hands are full, the PulseDive is a combination metal detector that can switch between detecting and pinpointing with the added pointer coil.  

Nokta Makro PulseDive Scuba Detector
Nokta Makro PulseDive Scuba Detector

Cool Features

  • Submersible to 200 feet
  • PI technology
  • Has audio, vibration and light indicator for targets
  • Easy use, only a couple buttons

Minelab Excalibur II

I recently had a chance to rent a Minelab Excalibur II.  I recommend folks tryout machines by renting or even borrowing.  I even wrote up some of the best places to rent a metal detector – read it HERE.

I wasn’t sure at the time if I wanted to fully commit to SCUBA diving, but I knew I’d continue metal detecting.  It’s always fun to tryout another machine. 

To understand how the Excalibur would operate I turned the discrimination all the way up to see what kind of tones I’d get. Lots of strong tones with tiny targets that my other machines wouldn’t have pickup.  Lots of trash though.  After that I turned the discrimination off and realized that even with it off, I could still distinguish different types of targets.

Minelab Excalibur II
Minelab Excalibur II

Of the machines I’ve tried the multi-frequency technology seems to work best.  I’m not sure if this is because it’s tuned to water environments (beach and wet settings are all I tried it at)

I’ve read some negative stories about the Excalibur 800, but I didn’t experience any of them. The 10-inch coil worked especially well and my search yielded a handful of clad coins and a small ring in 5 feet of water.

Metal Detecting Tip: I believe the claims that this is the Best Underwater Metal Detector.  The Excalibur II is built solid, has an awesome battery life and is tunable for super sensitivity.

Features the Minelab Excalibur II I loved:

  • Engineered for saltwater environments, multi-frequency with highly adjustable controls.
  • Strong signals for gold rings, rings are lost all the time at the beach.  Rub oily sun screen on and zip – for they go.
  • Designed with underwater operation in mind.  Large knobs, waterproof headphones and wireless technology
  • Super easy to operate discrimination, just turn to the setting and eliminate the trash

What wasn’t the best

  • The Excalibur is heavy, weighing over 5 lbs.
  • Really works best in water environments (especially excels in saltwater)

4 Tips for Underwater Metal Detecting

1. Study the beach

Since you are limited to the low tides, as far as hunting, you only have about four hours of available search time. Which puts a little bit of pressure on.  But before you jump into the water, take a look around, and notice parts of the beach that have less sand than the rest. Quite often it will be the same in the water.

These areas are the best places to start. This is the technique we use and it works quite well, because usually it’s only a part of the beach that is producing the finds. If you don’t see an area, scan the beach with your detector fairly fast to find a spot that is producing and concentrate in that area.

Channel on Beach
Channel on Beach – great for metal detecting

2. Look for channels

Sometimes you’ll see channels, also known as cuts, in the water.  These areas will have heavier sand and small and pebbles. This indicates that some of the sand has moved and shifted. Once you start finding old coins, you’ll know you’re in the right spot and you can bet there is more there because they generally lay in these pockets.

Also, if you’re finding old coins, there is a good chance gold is nearby, but much deeper, so dig the veins of heavy sand and pebbles.  It’s like a natural sift holding heavy items. Be patient and concentrate on scanning the area from different directions.

3. When to go

If you are just a beginner at water hunting, summertime would be the best time to try it out. Many people are swimming and replenishing the the beaches, so there should be plenty of targets to find. Start at the most popular beach in your area. Try to detect early in the morning, because the water is usually calmer, or later in the evening after everyone starts to go home. If you haven’t found much, don’t panic, the sand could move with the next tide.

4. Practice

If this is your first time out, it might be a good idea to practice. Before you jump in, practice in ankle deep water first, so you can see the general area of your target.

A good water scoop is extremely important, and you need to know how to pinpoint your target, because when the water is murky and stirred up you might as well have a blindfold on. I noticed that after water hunting for several years, I didn’t need to use our pinpointing features on our land detectors anymore.

FAQs About Metal Detecting in Wet Conditions

Can Metal Detectors be Used in the Rain?

Unless your metal detector is 100% waterproof, I wouldn’t recommend using it in the rain.  A telltale sign of a fully waterproof metal detector is a sealed battery compartment.

Can I Use my Metal Detector in a River?

Yes, most modern metal detectors have waterproof coils.  Meaning the bottom unit can be submerged, have extreme caution about the control head.  Most beginner metal detectors DO NOT have a waterproof display.

Can I Make My Metal Detector Waterproof?

I wouldn’t recommend trying to “waterproof” a metal detector.  The manufactures of waterproof machines make design and function considerations for waterproofing.  Of note is that sound doesn’t travel well through water without a wired connection.


I’m frequently asked what machine I use and recommend. No doubt about it, for the beginner get the Nokta Makro Simplex + Kit it’s the best. 100% waterproof, wireless headphones and pinpointer. Check prices and reviews with quick links below.

The next thing you need is a great shovel, believe me when I say you’ll dig more knowing you can dig FASTER. Links below to the nearly bullet proof Lesche T- Handle Shovel

Metal Detecting and Beaches are a perfect match. Sunshine easy digging and lots of people means dropped coins and jewelry. To search a beach affectively you’ve GOT TO HAVE A SAND SCOOP. CKG Sand Scoops are heavy duty and able to use as a shovel.

If it’s time up UP YOUR GAME and get the industry standard metal detector. The Minelab Equinox 800 IS THE BEST. Okay it’s not cheap, but your finds are going to increase with this machine. Shortcut links for reviews and current prices.


David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.

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