I'm planning to pour a reinforced concrete pad and am looking for advice for how to compact the material underneath.
A plate compactor would work - but can I get by without one? For instance, if I tamp down the soil and later gravel with a 12' sledgehammer head, 4x4 post, or concrete block (etc.) would the results be acceptable?
We have rocky clay soil, over which will be a base layer of gravel, and then the reinforced concrete.
The soil is quite dry since this has been within the interior of the house for ~45 years.
The pad will be about 4x6 feet - not very large.
(I don't mind renting a compactor if that really is the best option but for a small project it seems worth considering alternates.)
EDIT: Clearly I was assuming that a plate compactor was like the gold standard and other choices might be acceptable but inferior. But one answer has questioned that and it may be an erroneous assumption.