Best way to compact gravel/sand sub-base?
That is - what's the best method for a short, small-boned woman without a lot of upper body strength?
I was part of a mass lay-off and I'm using my new free time to tackle all sorts of long delayed home improvement projects. In the past I built raised beds with landscape timbers and put in a french drain/regraded our side yard to redirect the water drainage from our garage and so I decided to tackle a new project to create a simple short walkway (roughly 3' x 11') with a 7' long, 2' high retaining wall along part of it. I'm really enjoying this project - even though I'm not very strong physically, I've excavated the site, dismantled & removed the previous cmu wall and, with a little brainpower, levers & rollers, removed the boulder from heck.
So, I'm now looking at compacting the base. It's not a huge area (about 30 sf) and I'm pondering the best way for me to get the base properly compacted. I have more time than money and would like to do this myself. I have a utility trailer but it doesn't have a ramp. As I understand it, I have two options:
Hand tamping: When using a hand tamper, does one go all over or do one spot at a time? How does one know when it's compacted enough? About how long does it take to hand tamp? Does one apply downward force or just drop it. Is there a optimum height to raise it before each drop?
Using a Plate Compactor: Would it be overkill for a 30 sf area? How hard is it to control one - is it a matter of brute strength or knowledge? How close can one get to structures (exterior walls) without risk of damage?
Are there any intermediate methods between using a hand tamper and a plate compactor?