I had a nice fold up job, used a honda 2hp engine (hard to get now for reasonable rates). it was a puffer made of wood and canvas.
wore it out and built another one, same setup.
wore it out and built a steel framed one and put it on wheels. has a 3 hp briggs i got from Jackssmallengines.com. I use a 1/2 belt and swamp cooler pulleys. not exactly light, but still manageable.
puffers are pro and con rigs, but I feel that I get better recovery using it. My grizzly is 3/4" raised expanded metal (as opposed to 1/2" flat that most commercial prefabs use).
The riffle tray uses double knit about 3 layers thick, and reverse bevel riffles to catch the goods.
The thing I don't like about the setup is that the engine in right near the top of the grizzly and gets dirt shovelled onto it sometimes. though I think next time I will buy an engine with gear reduction, as that should allow better speed control. With the setup now, it's a clumsy idle that runs slower or faster depending on gasoline, air filter dirt, and heat or ambient temp.
I can run 6 yards a day and not kill myself, but of you want to run light, get an echo blower and a fan box of aluminum. besides these put up and take down easy.
If you want to figure out tools, the normal round and sqaure point shovel, railroad pick (wood handle), gravel rake, and a few pry bars, maybe even a sledge.
next step up would be a rototiller, 3/16" or thicker tines. beef up the transmission housing before taking it to the rockpile. I welded some rebar on the tines to help pick the rocks, after seeing some dude in meadview with the setup. Maybe you can find a good old craftsman or poulan tiller, if not, look at the special order catalog of Ace hardware- DR has a good stout tiller for about $4bills.
Another investment would be a gasoline vacuum cleaner (you can buy one or make one out of an echo blower and a 5-gallon bucket). There are kits, but I just bought mine prefabbed, and boy howdy, did I get nuggets the first time out!
You want your dirt to just trickle off the drywasher, as that will be the most efficient. AND have an adjustable gate on your grizzly hopper. Some fan rigs like the Keene electrostatics work better without the metered feed- throw a shovel full in and the static and heat of the keene blower will do its magic. You shouldn't be working so much that you are pulling a Chaplin at the Machine Works shift. shovel a bit, let the rig work while you lean on the shovel or take an occasional swig of cold beer or something.
6 cubic yards of dirt may sound like a lot, but for every hour, you are spending about 20 minutes piling the dirt or swinging a pick and working your shovel; 20-30 minutes feeding your drywasher, ten minutes cleaning out your concentrates, and ten minutes resting or goofing off. In the 20-30 minutes of feeding the goat, you're running about 1/2 of a yard, so your work load is about 6-8 hours, all told.
If you set up a recirc rig, using cutiff 55gal barrels as the catch and silt rigs, you'll be running anywhere from 1/4 cy to 1/3 cy per hour, depending on the clay makeup or sand component. The advantage here is when you shut off the trash pump, you'll actually see the clean(ed) gold sitting right there in the box. The disadvantage being that you'll have to muck out the silt barrels and recharge them with clean(er) water. If you plan to set something up, plan on obtaining 6 barrels- 2 for the contraption and plumbing, and 4 for hauling recharge water.
If you are getting gold with your drywasher, think about running the tailings through a recirc as a lot of gold get caught up inside of dirt or clay clods, and aren't easily broken up enough to allow peak recovery with a drywasher. This is true if you run across some typical arizona red dirt that is full of gypsum. Wherever you swing a pick in it, the impact streaks will be white. This type of dirt is all over the desert placers of Arizona, though it seems to be most prevalent in Joshua Tree areas. Swinging a pick in it is like working into something made of rubber as it is darn resilient. My recirc has a hopper that will hold a milk crate, allowing me to shake and agitate the soil and rock mix, while drenching the works with water. Once I am satisfied that anything of value has dropped into the hopper and sluice, I just pick it up and pitch the remaining contents.
Gold mining will get you and keep you in shape. with most detectorists, the exercise isn't so much the problem as the stamina of continually swinging a head and concentrating on the sounds. I don't know of too many detectorists that have a buzz and still get thier target. drywashers on the other hand, problably need a buzz to keep going and working the mexican backhoe (shovel)
(no offense to any mexicans out there. I could imagine that Mexicans gave us the refined shovel. They gave us the cowboy hats and cowboy boots, spurs, and lariat, maybe even many cowboy song formats. The drywasher is a mexican invention, and the best gold pans used in the motherlode came from the mexicans too. Dowsing, while not a Mexican invention, was a tool used by the Spaniards to locate key gold, silver, and copper deposits in the New World. The Mexicans did develop the way to convert silver sulphide to Silver Chloride (without that knowledge, the Comstock Lode wouldn't have played such a pivotal role in the Civil War), and about 1/3 of mining terminology has Mexican roots. So who knows, maybe I am living high on the hog, and when i come back to the next life, I will be living the life of a mexican laborer. I am certainly broken in on a few of their tricks, not the least of which is how to properly use a shovel to feed a drywasher.