Just as no two surveyors are alike, so too are no two surveyors’ personal toolkits. Surveyors have different environments, preferences and objectives. Below is a kind of “master list,” a basic general toolkit, if you will, for surveyors who work in the field, on the road, in the forest or with residential properties. We wouldn’t expect any one person to have a kit with all these tools in it, but perhaps these tools will generate some new ideas for you to carry. Still, we expect to get dozens of letters saying, “How could you possibly leave out ______________________?”

  • A/C adapter One straightforward form is basically a black box that plugs into a vehicle’s cigarette lighter (more aptly named Auxiliary DC Power Supply). The vehicle’s DC power is converted into regular 110 AC for powering battery chargers, computers, TVs—no, scratch TVs. Keep in mind that these AC devices can quickly drain a vehicle battery. Use with care.

  • Air compressor Lots of flats are good for a few more miles if air is available. Some Fix-a-Flat wouldn’t hurt, either.

  • Batteries, spare AAs, AAAs, C-cells and don’t forget the D-cells for those flashlights.

  • Binoculars Stick with inexpensive ones with 7x or 8x magnification.

  • Cables Here’s a tough one. The need for spare cables is hard to predict, but when they go bad, you’re probably out of business. A good solution to this need would be mighty welcome. A cable first-aid kit, maybe?

  • Compass A wise old salesman once said, “Might as well get the cheap one; they all just point north.” Actually, he was right. Still, there are some nice features available, like setting declination and being easy to read.

  • Cones The bright orange traffic variety. Great for safety, of course, but can also be used to save your parking place when you go to lunch (not advocated by OSHA).

  • Connectors, auto battery These can solve some of the problems from the cables entry above, as well as some battery needs. There are several configurations to power various devices, like say, a GPS receiver, from your vehicle battery.

  • Duct tape Hey, there’s a reason for all the lore and mystique. The stuff is handy, and it often provides just enough “fix” to get you through the day.

  • Field book An alternative we sometimes see is a tiny portable voice memo recorder.

  • Flagging Yes, you got into that thicket, but can you get out? (It’s much better than bread crumbs!)

  • Flashlight With fresh batteries, please.

  • GPS receiver, hand-held Now that S/A is off, these guys are super handy. Use them to find control stations or approximate locations for aerial target placement.

  • Gloves You don’t want to ruin your manicure, do you?

  • Hammer One useful type is a lightweight geologist’s hammer with a pick on one end. Very handy for looking for property pins without disturbing them. Also works for hammering things.

  • Level, hand If you always know where level is, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. Go ahead, cheat a little. Call it an “instrument.”

  • Maps Since this is a toolkit list, we don’t mean the plat map of a particular job; of course you’ll have that. We’re talking here about state, county and city maps, maybe a few quad sheets. And hey, make them current, OK? Especially the city ones. This is a good time to invest the $19.95 for a good book-type map.

  • Markers Write on whatever; identify points, etc. No graffiti, please.

  • Measuring tape The 33-foot automatic rewind kind is handy. We also favor a regular foldup carpenter’s rule, marked in tenths, of course. Handy to reach into inaccessible areas or even use as a leveling rod.

  • Nails Flagged 60-penny or larger make good, easily placed temporary points.

  • Paint, spray One can of violently florescent and one can of asphalt-colored for when you change your mind. See “no graffiti” above. Also, these should be those times when you don’t inhale.

  • Prism, right angle The fancy way to slap a 90.

  • Pruning shears Much quieter and more civilized (and with fewer trips to the minor emergency center) than machetes or saws, especially in residential areas. Tell the owner you’re “pruning” or “clipping” rather than “chopping.”

  • Reflector, bicycle-type With adhesive so you can stick it up at that hard-to-access place and leave it for getting a shot later.

  • Shovel, folding The olive-drab camping model comes to mind. Can also be configured as a hoe (with an “e”).

  • Telephone, wireless But please don’t talk on it while driving around me.


What’s in Your Toolbox?

When I was out in the field full-time I usually had a well-stocked toolbox. I usually had the following with me: swiss army knife, leatherman tool, crescent wrench, mini vise-grip pliers and black electrical tape. Last but not least, I had a credit card good at the nearest hardware store.

Bob Wilkinson, Indianapolis, Ind.

One item I’ve found particularly useful: an ordinary kitchen spoon. I use it to dig around the holes in the asphalt looking for section corners. Works better than a knife, and you don’t have to sharpen it.

Mark Deal, Edmond, Okla.

We always carry a can of black or brown spray paint in our truck to “erase” any mistakes we happen to make blazing trees or marking on asphalt.

Brad Wells, Tulsa, Okla.

If it is moving and you don’t want it to, duct tape it.

If it is stuck and you don’t want it to be, squirt it with WD-40!

Bill McComber, Lakewood, Colo.