Choosing survey gear to buy

Techniques, equipment and issues. Also visit the NSS Survey & Cartography Section.

Moderator: Moderators

Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby KeyserSoze » Jul 6, 2009 5:00 pm

I'm looking to buy a new set of survey gear but I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what to get since I'm new to surveying, and I am being careful about my choices since this stuff is expensive. My main concern is that most of the survey gear I've ever seen tends to be in bad condition, being full of dirt, with blurry numbers, discolored plastic, and the compass wheel not spinning as freely as it should. The Suunto set I have now is borrowed from my grotto and it has all of these problems; it's practically unusable, and the cost for repairs is almost as much as it is to buy a brand net set. I'd like to find something that won't end up like this.

Here is what I've been looking at. What would you buy? I could use any suggestions or comments.


Suunto tandem. I like this because it has a tripod mount; anybody ever tried using a tripod for cave surveying?
http://www.a1components.com/itemdisplayn.aspx?item=3458

Advantage tandem. I like this because it's cheap.
http://www.a1components.com/itemdisplayn.aspx?item=12119

A list of other compasses. Anybody ever used the Brunton brand? They have ones that are illuminated which seems really great, but I wonder if it's actually worth the extra money.
http://www.ascscientific.com/compass.html
This signature is really funny
User avatar
KeyserSoze
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 227
Joined: Nov 6, 2007 2:18 pm
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
NSS #: 61069
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Louisville Grotto
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby boogercaver71 » Jul 6, 2009 7:35 pm

I am being careful about my choices since this stuff is expensive. My main concern is that most of the survey gear I've ever seen tends to be in bad condition, being full of dirt, with blurry numbers, discolored plastic, and the compass wheel not spinning as freely as it should. The Suunto set I have now is borrowed from my grotto and it has all of these problems; it's practically unusable


You make some good observations about survey gear. Most of the gear we use for surveying, was not made for that purpose. Caves are wet, muddy, and humid for the most part, therefore, one must really make an effort to 1. protect the compass/clino at all cost. I have the Suunto Tandem. When I am not using it, it goes in the pouch and kept under my shirt/cave suit. 2. When I am surveying or moving thru a stream, it goes in a waterproof case. When I get them home, I take a toothbrush and clean it up with a mild soap solution. If you take these precautions, your equipment should last many years. I have found that Suunto holds up better than the Bruntons. Good luck, PS: Unless I was surveying in a large trunk passage, I wouldn't bother with the tripod. If you know how to use your equipment properly you can easily get reading to the nearest 1/2 degree which is more than adequate for what we do. :cavingrocks:
User avatar
boogercaver71
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Aug 18, 2007 3:24 pm
Location: SW Missouri
NSS #: 19471
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby rchrds » Jul 6, 2009 9:40 pm

x2 on the Tandem. I've gone through so much survey gear my basement looks like a survey museum. Stay away from the ones with the prisms on top- they get mud under the prism, making them completely useless, and you cant get it out. the removable eyepieces are a must, as you can get a lot of the muck out when you get out of the cave, or at camp. Have also been transitioning to a Disto A3 (with my new Disto X board!!) cant say enough about this piece of equipment. This type of equipment may soon revolutionize survey, but I do still prefer a tape stretched down the shot for my sketching. Enjoy- I love to survey- it really give me a purpose in the cave.

You will probably get some talk from the digital in cave folks- that is up and coming, but it will help you to experience the old fashioned way- get the basics down, and then you can see how far the digital side will really boost speed and accuracy.

Jason
User avatar
rchrds
Prolific Poster
 
Posts: 196
Joined: Sep 6, 2005 8:54 pm
Location: Fayetteville, NC
Name: Jason Richards
NSS #: 41539
Primary Grotto Affiliation: None at the moment
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby NZcaver » Jul 6, 2009 11:03 pm

Another vote for the Sunnto Tandem. :wtg:

rchrds wrote:Stay away from the ones with the prisms on top- they get mud under the prism, making them completely useless, and you cant get it out.

I have a couple of these Suunto Twin models also - they're the sister model to the Tandem. My ones have given me years of service, and still work fine. But then again, I haven't been grinding them in mud. They've mostly been used surveying in caves in the deserts of the southwest, and in Hawaii. I do try to protect my instruments as much as possible when caving. And for what it's worth, the Twin may have an advantage over the Tandem for *some* people. I know a couple of cavers with eyesight-related problems who find the Twin much easier to use. I realize they're probably the exception rather than the rule, but I figured it's worth mentioning.

KeyserSoze wrote:I'm looking to buy a new set of survey gear but I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what to get since I'm new to surveying, and I am being careful about my choices since this stuff is expensive.

Short version - if you have good eyes, go with a Tandem. And unless you have a burning desire to spend lots of money, it should be easy to find used ones. Check out eBay some time. Almost every satellite TV installer uses one of these, and once they move on to another career they usually sell them off. You should be able to pick up a near new one for $100 or less, but as always try to pick a seller who posts a thorough description, good photos and has a high feedback score. Buying used is another form of recycling, so it's good for the planet as well as your wallet. :wink:

PS if you really do want to buy new, that link you posted which shows the Tandem for $152 seems like a good price. But if you only want to spend $100 or less, I suggest a good used Tandem would be a better choice than buying one of the knockoff brands.

:compass:
User avatar
NZcaver
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 6356
Joined: Sep 7, 2005 2:05 am
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Name: Jansen
NSS #: 50665RL
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby KeyserSoze » Jul 7, 2009 12:27 am

Well it seems like the consensus is the for the Suunto tandem. Does that have the removable eyepiece that rchrds mentioned?

And just a random thought. Has anybody ever tried taping a white glow stick to their survey gear to avoid having to shine a flashlight on it each time? Or maybe there is a better technique? It seems like that would make things go a lot quicker if it actually worked.
This signature is really funny
User avatar
KeyserSoze
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 227
Joined: Nov 6, 2007 2:18 pm
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
NSS #: 61069
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Louisville Grotto
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby boogercaver71 » Jul 7, 2009 12:59 am

Since I use a Stenlight, I always take my helmet off and use a Photon light to light my tandem. The lead tape guy/gal places a colored Photon over target so I can sight target better. If you can afford it, I would also get a disto of some sort for right/lefts and ceiling heights. I could not afford a disto but found a Bosch at the CPO Bosch outlet store for 160.00 (new) :cave softly:
User avatar
boogercaver71
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Aug 18, 2007 3:24 pm
Location: SW Missouri
NSS #: 19471
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby NZcaver » Jul 7, 2009 1:55 am

KeyserSoze wrote:Well it seems like the consensus is the for the Suunto tandem. Does that have the removable eyepiece that rchrds mentioned?

And just a random thought. Has anybody ever tried taping a white glow stick to their survey gear to avoid having to shine a flashlight on it each time? Or maybe there is a better technique? It seems like that would make things go a lot quicker if it actually worked.

Yep, the Tandem has removable eyepieces. I once surveyed with a caver who had mini glowsticks attached to his Tandem. They kind-of work, but I find tilting my helmet back and using a mini LED light works best. Or holding the helmet in one hand and shining the headlamp at the instrument from a non-magnetic inducing distance.

And like boogercaver said, once you're set up with a compass/clino you'll probably be wanting a Disto too...
User avatar
NZcaver
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 6356
Joined: Sep 7, 2005 2:05 am
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Name: Jansen
NSS #: 50665RL
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby trogman » Jul 7, 2009 6:23 am

Those little glo-sticks work great-you can find them in the fishing gear dept. of Wally World or other similar stores. Be careful of ANY type of standard flashlight anywhere near your compass! It will affect your reading, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. Stenlights can be particularly bad, since they use a magnetic switch. Even the little keychain LED lights will throw off a compass if they get too close. Just thought I would mention that. It stinks when you get to the end of a survey session and suddenly discover that the little LED you've been using to light up your compass is affecting your readings!
Stephen Brewer (The Trogman) :helmet:
User avatar
trogman
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 997
Joined: May 2, 2008 8:35 am
Location: North Alabama
Name: Stephen Brewer
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Gadsden Grotto
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby HKalnitz » Jul 7, 2009 8:53 am

A neat tip the suunto rebuilder at Forestry supplies gave me:
When buying a Suunto (any type) off of EBAY get the serial number FIRST.
Suuntos have a warrenty period, and regardless of where you bought it, it is honored by Forestry supplies. If you buy one off of EBAY and it turns out that the guy is selling it becasue he dropped it from the roof and the clino is wanked, as long as it is under warrently, suunto will repair it. When our grotto bought one last year, we followed this tip.
I cannot remember the exact range of the warrenty, or how the serial numbers read out, I will get the info in a bit to post here, or maybe someone else remembers this
Howard
The NSS needs Cavers more then Cavers need the NSS
HKalnitz
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 75
Joined: Aug 18, 2006 2:04 pm
Name: Howard Kalnitz
NSS #: 20678
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Great Cincinnati Grotto
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby Jeff Bartlett » Jul 7, 2009 9:23 am

I wouldn't buy anything other than a Suunto, either the Tandem or the separate compass/clino units. They're the standard for a reason and will be welcome on any survey project.
"Although it pains me to say it, in this case Jeff is right. Plan accordingly." --Andy Armstrong
User avatar
Jeff Bartlett
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 948
Joined: Jun 29, 2007 12:19 am
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Name: Jeff Bartlett
NSS #: 59325
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Tennessee Cave Survey
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby Marlatt » Jul 8, 2009 1:29 pm

Despite the opinions to the contrary, I have been extremely happy with my Suunto Twin (with the prismatic sights on top). For years I had difficulty reading the dials on 'standard' Suuntos - old eyes, thick glasses, etc. - but the prismatic sights on the Twin more than compensate, and I'm really pleased with it. That said, by far the majority of my survey has been in relatively dry caves - but it has performed well for over 10 years without needing any more than an exterior cleaning.

(Is the Twin still being produced - a quick web search fails to turn it up?)

swm
Psalms 95.4 / Proverbs 25.2
User avatar
Marlatt
Prolific Poster
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Sep 5, 2005 9:38 am
Location: Colorado
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby Scott McCrea » Jul 8, 2009 2:01 pm

FYI, according to the owners manual, Suunto Tandems are waterproof. fwiw.
Scott McCrea
SWAYGO
User avatar
Scott McCrea
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 3198
Joined: Sep 5, 2005 3:07 pm
Location: Asheville, NC USA
NSS #: 40839RL
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Flittermouse Grotto
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby NZcaver » Jul 8, 2009 4:30 pm

Marlatt wrote:(Is the Twin still being produced - a quick web search fails to turn it up?)

I believe the Suunto Twin has been discontinued. I obtained mine from a friend, and later bought another new old-stock one off eBay as a spare.

Thank you for helping illustrate my earlier point that the Suunto Twin does have it's merits, especially for the eyesight-challenged. But for those with better eyesight, I find the compass scale on the Tandem seems to help with a slightly more detailed reading (about 1/2 degree versus a whole degree). I've also found I have to be careful switching between the Twin and the Tandem - one compass scale reads left-to-right, and the other reads the opposite way.

Here's some previous survey gear related topics:

Instruments while caving
Buying survey instruments
Disassembly of suunto instruments
Why can't they make a compass that's easy to read?

Tandem: Image Twin: Image
User avatar
NZcaver
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 6356
Joined: Sep 7, 2005 2:05 am
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Name: Jansen
NSS #: 50665RL
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby rchrds » Jul 10, 2009 6:26 am

Just to clarify- 99 percent of my caving involves water. Almost always associated with some mud. So I really abuse my instruments, or perhaps I should say that my wife really abuses my instruments, because I do the book, and she and anyone else we can find do the front/back sights. More than once we have canned a survey trip because the instruments became too waterlogged or fogged up to be useful. Some of that is managing where you put it- IE, don't store it close to your body (tossed inside your shirt), where it warms up, and then pull it out to use it and the lens fogs- no manner of wiping will help you. Best bet is to swish it in water and read fast. Though the manual says they are waterproof, neither the twin, nor the tandem, or any of the individual instruments are waterproof. It may not show up right away, but eventually water seeps between the plastic bezel and the aluminum housing, causing water to be between the removable sighting lens and the plastic bezel. If you have dry q-tips, you can remove the sight and dry it out, but eventually the water creeps back into that place, and you have to continue with this. I have heard numerous fixes for this, including things such as sealants on the crack between plastic and the Aluminum, but this is mostly worthless, and eventually will come off, and you will have the same problem. The issue is an engineering one- the bezels are press fit into the aluminum housing, and that is expected to keep water out. This might work for a while, but the aluminum and the plastic bezel expand and contract at different rates, and this can allow water to eventually seep in there. A better answer would be to devise a retention method that allowed an oring seal, rather than an interference fit seal. Then, they would truly be waterproof. I had originally purchased the twin (top lenses) in hopes that the lens itself was glued directly to the top of the bezel, and that there would be no space for water to get between the two. I was sorely disappointed. had it been constructed in this manner (a pressed on lens with a thin layer of epoxy) this would be the ultimate instrument, as it is indeed much easier to read accurately, and you could wipe mud off the front of the plastic lens with little worry of it fogging. I am sorry to say that despite their good accuracy and repeatability, the suunto instruments work well in most caving environments, but not all. When you get to places where you have to use plastic sheeting for your book instead of the standard soggynotes paper, the suuntos will provide a limited work window, and that is directly in relation to the ability of the survey team. Unfortunately, there is not at this time, anything better- until someone starts rebuilding Suuntos to a good wet-weather spec, that is the best thing out there.

On another note- if anyone finds 3,5 or 6 ring notebooks in the size used for "rite in the rain" or "dura-rite" looseleaf sheets, that have all stainless steel or plastic construction, please let me know- my binders last about 3 months before I have to replace them because of rust freezing them up.
User avatar
rchrds
Prolific Poster
 
Posts: 196
Joined: Sep 6, 2005 8:54 pm
Location: Fayetteville, NC
Name: Jason Richards
NSS #: 41539
Primary Grotto Affiliation: None at the moment
  

Re: Choosing survey gear to buy

Postby KeyserSoze » Jul 12, 2009 11:51 pm

What if you shrink wrapped the entire instrument in plastic? The plastic couldn't have any effect on the function of the compass or clino, could it? And as long as the plastic doesn't distort the view through the eye piece, then it seems like you would have an almost fool proof method of turning the Suunto into the perfect piece of cave surveying gear.

Is there a place where you can get things shrink wrapped without having to own a machine yourself? Maybe at Kinkos or something? I have a new Suunto coming in the mail so I will test out this idea and report back here.
This signature is really funny
User avatar
KeyserSoze
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 227
Joined: Nov 6, 2007 2:18 pm
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
NSS #: 61069
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Louisville Grotto
  

Next

Return to Survey and Cartography Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot]