Depending on your level of seriousness and the type and location of benchmarks you are going to seek, some equipment will be necessary if you're going to do any but the entry-level easy benchmarks. There are many benchmarks out there that don't require ANY equipment, all you have to do is read the directions from the station description, much like a letterbox. We'll assume that you have the very basic equipment, which are a GPS unit and a paper listing of the benchmark you seek. I'll attempt to group these things according to the physical attributes of the benchmarks and their location:
*** Entry level to Intermediate level equipment:
- GPS unit loaded with benchmark waypoints.
- PDA with benchmark station descriptions loaded.
- Digital camera to take photos of the benchmark. It doesn't have to be a fancy one, just one that will take clear close-up and landscape photos.
- Steel measuring tape: Minimum 25 feet long, and you'll probably wish you bought an additional 100 foot tape if you are not going to get a measuring wheel (below).
- Compass. Quick directions from reference objects can be obtained with a small compass hanging on a lanyard around your neck.
- Putty knife: Useful for scraping off crud and mud from benchmark disks. Use a plastic one only! A metal putty knife will place scrape marks on the softer benchmark disk. Plastic ones are also much cheaper. Get a couple of them as you'll probably break one or two in your eagerness to read the benchmark. The ones with a blade width of 1.5 - 2.0 inches work very well. If you get the bright yellow ones, they can be used to "mark" a buried benchmark location when you take your landscape photo of the area.
- Wiping cloths: If the plastic putty knife didn't do a good enough job, use a small cloth to wipe off the top of the benchmark. The small red shop rags work very well, are washable and re-useable. If you use a disposable heavy-duty paper towel, don't forget to take it back with you.
- Water Bottle: A small squeezable water bottle can assist in removing mud from the station disc. Don't over-do it, a small squirt should be all you need.
- Marking enhancements: Some benchmarks have faint markings, and some hunters wipe baby powder or cornstarch or chalk on the disk to highlight the disk markings so the camera will take better photos of it. A small piece of white or yellow or even fluorescent chalk rubbed over the markings and the excess removed with your rag makes even faint markings stand out nice for the photo. This won't be necessary on most benchmarks.
- Small magnet: Seldom needed, however they are cheap and don't take up much space. They are useful for verifying certain types of benchmarks, such as bronze squares and brass bolts.
- Note-taking devices: Used to record log notes at the scene of the benchmark, especially if you have to record more accurate coordinates or log description changes in the current station description attributes. The simplest is paper and pencil/pen. You could also use your PDA as well. Personal digital voice recorders are becoming very inexpensive now, if you want to keep track of yet another piece of electronic equipment.
*** Additional intermediate equipment, benchmarks along roadsides or in other hazardous areas:
- Proper safety equipment if you are going benchmark hunting in possibly unsafe areas, such as roadways and roadsides, near railroads, etc.
- High visibility vest: (Harbor Freight, $9) Can also use this for your CITO events.
- Hard hat: (Home Depot, Andersons, Menards, etc, $7 to $20). They come in white and yellow, the yellow being more visible in most conditions. Consider a vented hardhat for a couple of dollars more if you're going to be out in the summer sun.
- Eye protection if you're going to be in the brush
- Adequate footgear such as leather boots
- Leather work gloves: (Harbor Freight, often on sale for $1 a pair)
- Measuring device other than a tape: Tapes can be difficult to use on a roadway due to traffic, and are almost useless in the weeds next to the road. Recommended is a measuring wheel. The units with the larger wheel (12" or larger diameter) are much easier to use in the rough terrain you'll be in.
- Probe: The heavier metal probes about 36-48 inches long with the "T" handle work well. They push right through the sod. If you're going to be in areas where there are buried wires or cables, consider a 3/8 or 1/2 inch diameter fiberglass pole or wood dowel rod with a sharpened pointy end. While they may break if used too roughly, they don't conduct electricity.
- Shovel: Many benchmarks are buried just under the ground surface and itâ€™s a lot easier to uncover them with a shovel. Unless you need to get through some heavy sod, a flat straight-edged shovel with a short handle works well. BE VERY CAREFUL when exposing a buried benchmark, as they are usually made of a softer metal than the shovel. Leave the benchmark as you found it, including covering it back up when you are done..
*** Advanced equipment:
- Monument box tools: Used to remove the lid from a metal monument box . I've found that two pry bars with a screwdriver-like handle and with 45 degree bends at the business ends work well for many monument boxes. I prefer to use one small one (6-8 inches long) and one medium one (12-15 inches long). Work them together and those lids will come off. They are about an inch thick and are heavy. Watch your fingers! I really don't recommend that you expose yourself to traffic dangers by opening a monument box that is on or near the roadway. Further, you may present a hazard to others and if you cause a traffic crash by being out there in the middle of the road, plus you may expose yourself to financial ruin. There are a lot of other benchmarks out there that are much safer to find. See Identifying Benchmarks in the Benchmarking 201 -Locating and Logging file concerning benchmarks in monument boxes.
- Metal detector: These are very useful for locating smaller buried benchmarks, as well as the larger ones. Probes are great for locating buried benchmarks that present a large horizontal target, such as a survey disk on top of a concrete monument. However they are practically useless for locating metal rods that are one inch or less in diameter. This is where the metal detector earns its keep. No need to spend big bucks on one. A medium priced metal detector works very well for locating all but the very deepest buried benchmarks. While not absolutely necessary, a detector that can differentiate between the various metals can be a plus, as well as a feature to predict the depth of the object. Also useful when metal detecting is a wood, plastic, or fiberglass dowel a foot or so long that you can stick in the ground temporarily to mark a location.
- Get a Big Red Truck: OK, not very cost-effective if you don't already have one, however it works well. If you're driving a Big Red Truck and wearing the above recommended safety vest, hard hat, and work clothing, people will notice you, while paying very little attention to you. White, yellow, and blue trucks work also, as well as many vans and SUV's, as long as it looks like something a construction guy would use on the job.
Here is a good Groundspeak thread about the equipment various benchmark hunters carry with them: http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/index. ... pic=149609
Discussion about anything geocaching tech related! GPS Units, PDA's, Paperless Caching, etc. (For NWOGEO web issues, please use "Website Related Forums".)
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