Review - Survey Tapes

Fiberglass survey tapes and laser range finders

by Erin Lynch

Fettling a survey tape at -500m

In the course of two years of expeditions, the club has used a number of different survey tapes. They tend to need replacing about every three months. There are a number of different factors to take into account when chosing a survey tape.

  • Tape: strong, abrasion resistant
  • Numbering: durable, labeled in metric on both sides, with meter markings every 10 cm
  • Tip: easy to rethread; shaped to prevent twisting, but not accumulate mud when the tape is wound in
  • Tape attachment point: easy to access (no rivets), snaps down so tape doesn't accidentally fall off when wound out
  • Tape end: easy to grip, 0 point obvious, not catchy (bend down sharp points)
  • Casing: open, large enough to accomodate mud on the tape
  • Bearings: move freely, protected from grit
  • Handle: large enough to accomodate a carabiner
  • Length: 30m or 50m for China

Several survey tapes and a laser range finder which we've tested in China:

Lufkin 30m

30m Lufkin Hi-Vis 0.5 inch Tape: open reel, tape numbered in mm, cm, m on one side, meters marked every 10 cm, durable but tiny numbering, durable tape, doesn't reel in very well once end has snapped, difficult to rethread through tip, doesn't float

Available from Ben Meadows.

30m Fisco Ranger: open reel, tape numbered in cm, m on one side, meters marked every 10cm, crap numbering-- wore off almost immediately.

Keson 30m

30m Keson 0.5 inch Fiberglass Tape: open reel, tape numbered in cm, m on one side, meters marked every 100 cm, durable and big numbering, less durable tape-- tends to fail where it's been twisted, hard to distinguish between 6 and 8 on meter markers, easy to rethread once the end has snapped

Available from Ben Meadows.

Leica Disto Lite

Leica Disto Lite This laser range finder, has come down in price to 250 GBP recently, making it an attractive alternative to a traditional survey tape. The Disto Lite has 200m range under ideal conditions (much less off cave walls) and sub-centimeter accuracy. 50m survey legs are no problem using a survey book as a reflector.