Metal Detecting for Keys in Snow

Lost Keys In The Snow? Perfect Use for a Metal Detector

I lost my keys in the snow, and finding them was a considerable inconvenience. Using my hands for digging was near impossible since the frozen ground can be painful. Fortunately, I was able to find a helpful tool — a metal detector.

When using a metal detector in the snow to find lost keys, try to keep the detector as low to the ground as possible. Metal detectors work best when close to the object and snow can add distance the same way as dirt. Sweep slowly, parallel to the ground and even push snow with the detector coil to scan deeper.

A metal detector is a valuable device, but there are things to consider when using this method. Apart from detecting your lost keys, there are some things that you can do to prevent yourself from losing them.

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Nokta Ultra
Nokta Simplex ULTRA 👈 Awesome Machine!

When asked what I recommend, the 👉 Nokta Simplex Ultra stands out. Perfect for beginners, it’s waterproof, includes wireless headphones, and offers five functional modes, growing with your detecting skills.

Lesche T Handle Shovel picture
Lesche T Handle Shovel digs through everything

The next thing you need is a great shovel, believe me when I say you’ll dig more knowing you can dig FASTER. The nearly bullet proof Lesche T- Handle Shovel is the most comfortable heavy duty shovel I’ve ever used.

I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting
I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting

Metal Detecting and Beaches are a perfect match. To search a beach you’ve GOT TO HAVE A SAND SCOOP. CKG Sand Scoops are heavy duty and able to be used as a shovel.

Minelab Equinox 800 amazing Metal Detector
Minelab Equinox 800 amazing metal detector

If it’s time up UP YOUR GAME , 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.

I Lost My Keys In The Snow. Here’s How I Found Them

I was about to open my front door on a snowy evening when I suddenly could not find my keys. Considering the freezing temperature, I instantly panicked and lost my ability to think sensibly. 

Luckily, my good neighbor found me and helped me with my dilemma. What did we use? A metal detector. 

That said, the first step to finding your keys in the snow using a metal detector is not to panic. Freaking out will only make things worse as you will not be able to concentrate. If that happens, you may prolong the time that you are looking for your keys.

So, here’s what I did when I lost my keys in the snow:

1. Retrace your steps

Searching for keys with metal detector in snow
Searching for keys with metal detector in snow

The good thing about losing your keys in the snow is that you can retrace your steps. You may even retrieve your keys by following in your footsteps. 

Walk with a flashlight at hand and shine it along the way. Then look for the glimmer of metal reflecting at you as that glimmer will likely be your lost keys. 

However, this method is only possible when the snow is not thick or your keys are not buried deep. (source)

2. Get your metal detector

Shoveling the snow to find your keys is time-consuming? So when I lost my keys in the snow, a neighbor lent me her metal detector. But if you do not have someone to borrow the tool, you can always rent one in most metro areas.

Moreover, your metal detector needs a waterproof search coil if you cannot find a fully submersible one. Discrimination settings are also helpful so you can set up the tool to ignore certain metal types. Notably, the discrimination settings of a metal detector eliminate some types of targets. This way, the metal detector will only display audio or visual cues when it detects the target. 

Finding lost keys with metal detector
Finding lost keys with metal detector

Additionally, adjustable sensitivity can prevent other metals and minerals from interfering when you are searching. 

You also do not have to worry if you have never used a metal detector before. Modern metal detectors are easy to use, even for people who only have a basic understanding of their functions. (source)

3. Make sure that the search coil is parallel with the ground

If you are new to using metal detectors, you should remember to keep the search coil parallel with the ground. Hold your metal detector about half an inch from the surface. The coil should be above the ground, so do not be afraid to bury and swing it into the snow. 

Positioning the coil higher than half an inch above the ground will prevent the metal detector from finding your keys. Similarly, a non-parallel coil position will hinder your chances of finding your keys. 

4. Swing slowly

 It would be best if you swept the metal detector side to side continuously. The detector will not work well if you are not swinging it; thus, you will be wasting your time. Additionally, sweeping the tool too fast or too slowly will lessen the chances of finding your keys.

Metal Detecting Tip: A bunch of little things will build skills with a metal detector. I’ve compiled a list that continues to grow in this article. – Metal Detecting Tips and Tricks

The ideal moving speed for a metal detector is around three to four seconds. If you feel comfortable while moving your tool, then you are doing it correctly. 

Needless to say, the correct speed is the secret to how I used a metal detector when I lost my keys in the snow. (source)

5. Search in a grid pattern

Searching in a grid pattern maximized my chances when I lost my keys in the snow. So, if you have the same dilemma, imagine that there is a grid laid over the area where you are searching. 

Next, walk across one area while sweeping the detector from side to side in a tight figure 8 pattern. Then, walk in a straight pattern from one edge of the grid to another, noting that you should overlap your previous path by about 30%. 

While still imagining the grid lines, turn 180 degrees Celsius and search on a straight line from the opposite direction. Repeat the process until you have already searched the area where you suspect you lost your keys are. 

In my experience, when I lost my keys in the snow, I searched an entire area but came up empty-handed. If the same thing happens to you, search over that area again. However, do the process at a right angle to the grid lines that you have already searched across. 

That way, you will be able to sweep your metal detector across the entire search area. (source)

6. Hire a professional metal detector

I only found out that I could hire a professional metal detector when I lost my keys in the snow. So, if you are not sure about your metal detecting skills, you can opt to contact and hire a professional. But that is only possible if there is someone you can contact in your area. 

A professional metal detector will help you with the job. A pro may even find your lost keys a lot faster than you can. Additionally, you will not have to find a metal detector since professionals already have one when hiring them.

Setting The Sensitivity Of A Metal Detector

The sensitivity settings of my metal detector determined how fast it detected metals when I lost my keys in the snow. I found out that keeping the sensitivity of a metal detector at its highest is not always helpful. 

Metal Detecting Tip: Learning the intricacies of setting the sensitivity for a metal detector takes a little bit of time, BUT I’ve put together an article to make it easier. Read – What is sensitivity on a metal detector and how to set it.

The higher the sensitivity of a detector, the more likely it will catch unwanted responses. Such can be a radio signal in the area, or the ground is heavily mineralized. 

Moreover, sensitivity controls how far your device can penetrate the ground. Finding the right setting is going to take some experimenting. So, if your tool has an auto option, you may want to go ahead and try it. 

In my case, where I lost my keys in the snow, I did not need high sensitivity settings since they were not buried deeply. 

That said, you should go for the auto option of the metal detector when searching for your keys in the snow. Assuming that you are still a beginner in using the tool, manually setting the sensitivity may only lead to a new problem for you. (source)

How To Prevent Losing Your Keys In The Snow

Losing my keys was not only frustrating but also time-consuming. So at the end of the day, I learned that making sure that they will not get lost is better than looking for them. 

That said, here are the things I did after I lost my keys in the snow:

1. Add a tracker

Key trackers are coin-sized devices that you can attach to any item you do not want to lose. Attaching your keys to a tracker will help you find them if they get lost. To do that, you only need to download an app to your smartphone and use it to locate the keys via Bluetooth. You can even make the tracker flash or ring if you are already close to its vicinity. 

Metal Detecting Tip: Tile has become the go to brand for small trackers. Use your phone to find the tracker up to 200 feet away. Get current price and read thousands of positive reviews on Amazon with this link – Tile Bluetooth Tracker

2. Attach them to something

You can prevent losing your keys by locking them in your pants or bag. Such is similar to what most people do to their car keys.

Moreover, you can use a retractable lanyard to use the keys without removing them from their place. This way, you can ensure that you will not misplace them or drop them somewhere accidentally. 

3. Make the keys stand out

When l lost my keys in the snow, looking for them became more difficult as they were not eye-catching. So, what I did after finding them was that I hung a brightly-colored keychain. This way, I will find them easier in case I misplace them. 

You can even add a reflective patch to make your keys visible even during the night. 

4. Find a consistent spot for your keys

Always place your keys in the same location. This way, you will have a known spot if you cannot find them in your pocket. 

If you often place your keys in your bag, make sure that your bag is organized so it is easier to find your keys when you need them. Losing an item in an unorganized place is a lot easier. (source)

More Winter Metal Detecting Articles

I live in Michigan, so living with snow 5 months of the year is just part of life. Below are some articles that can help you on your “snowy” journey.

  • Heck is it even possible to metal detect in the winter? Find out in this article – Can you metal detect in the winter?
  • Learn the settings to scan deeper (needed for snow) Read – How to increase the depth of a metal detector (Adjustments Guide)
  • Ok you live in a snowy place – go South and search a beach in Florida, Texas and California

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.


  1. Akash Chaudhary, What’s The Best Way To Find Lost Car Key In Snow?,, November 10, 2021.
  2. Laura Peterson, Using Metal Detectors In Snow,, November 10, 2021.
  3. Penina Winisdatter, How Deep Do Most Metal Detectors Go?,, November 11, 2021.
  4. For The Newbies Or Others! How To Search When Detecting!,, November 11, 2021.
  5. Is Sensitivity’s Affect on Threshold Common ?,, November 11, 2021.
  6. Michael Kay, What Is The Best Solution For Not Forgetting Keys?,, November 11, 2021.
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