I've used a variety of picker sticks since starting SUP Garbage Man in May 2019. You can call them "reacher grabbers", "reach extenders", "picker upper grabbers", "long handy mobility aids", and a whole lot of other names. I just prefer "picker" or "picker stick." Either way, the name doesn't matter. What matters is the size, length, weight, and toughness and which of those attributes you are willing to sacrifice for another. It's basically a trade-off game.
When I go out on the water I bring two picker sticks with me, a long one (48") and a regular-length, or 'short', one (32"). I primarily use the long picker stick while I'm afloat and picking trash out of the water around my board. Occasionally, I'll use the long one to reach items on shorelines when I can't safely step off of the board (rocks, logs, mud, etc.). Conversely, I use the short picker stick when I can get off of the board on a cluttered shoreline area like the ones on my Shoreline Collections Videos Page.
I didn't start out bringing two picker sticks. Like anything else, my picker stick preferences and choices evolved over time. Let's walk through the major changes.
The first question to answer is "why use a picker stick instead of some other device?" Well, that's easy. I used a picker stick because I already owned picker sticks for our road cleanups. Yes, I clean roads too and have even adopted a section a local roadway.
We bought the pickers from Costco years ago and have yet to see them come back in stock. I assume they never will but I still check anyway. The pickers aren't branded but they are very similar to the "Vive Reacher Grabber" found on Amazon.com. I like that these pickers are lightweight and have good grips on the claw. However, I've had the interior cable break on two or three of these pickers when I attempted to pick up a full water bottle or other heavy object.
After about two months as SUP Garbage Man I was wishing I had a longer picker stick. I found myself maneuvering excessively when trying to collect floating trash. I also was having difficulties reaching stuff up on rocky shorelines. When my dad saw the issues first hand he jokingly suggested I get a longer picker. That was when I caved and went to a local store to purchase one. I had seen that this store carried 48-inch picker sticks a while back so it wasn't long before I experienced the bliss of being able to reach more trash around my board without needing to paddle in as many circles. Like the first picker, this long picker was lightweight and also fragile. See Picker Problems below for more details.
I started SUP Garbage Man with the intention of collecting only floating trash. That was true until I paddled in a new area September 2019 and spotted a trash collection point. There was so much trash in this one spot I knew it would take me countless trips to make a noticeable difference. I used the long picker because that was all I had with me at the time. It did the job, but was cumbersome because it was longer than the distance between my hand and the ground. The next time I went out, I brought both sizes of picker sticks. The shorter picker stayed on the board until I made landfall somewhere. Once off the board I carry a basket or crate in one hand and the shorter picker in the other.
As I said earlier, the lightweight picker sticks tend to be a bit fragile. I've broken at least five one way or another. Not wanting to keep purchasing picker sticks, I decided to search for a sturdy alternative. I found so many online that looked promising but were either too heavy or too awkward to grip while on a SUP. I finally got a recommendation for the G4 DOT reacher. It was sturdy and lightweight but the gripper area was just a pair of rubber suction cups. It handled heavy items like a champ but had difficulties grabbing small pieces of trash like that plastic ring under plastic bottle caps. There was also an issue with the suction cup grips that I explain in Picker Problems below.
I usually take care of my possessions but accidents happen. Please don't consider this section a criticism or negative review of these pickers. I'm only telling these stories for completeness as all of these failures are my fault. As shown in the picture, there are three picker sticks with various "ailments." Starting at the top, the picker's handle is broken. It broke on a cold day in January when the temperature was 25 deg F / -4 deg C...yep, it was cold enough that the water in the picker frozen and prevented the gripper from closing. My squeeze was just too much for the frozen parts. This is why I now limit my sessions to 30 deg F / -1 deg C.
The second and third pickers have broken claws. The second picker broke easily when I leaned on it like the whole picker stick was a cane. Yep, dumb move on my part. The third picker is missing a gripper cup. The cup sheered off as I was working to remove water bottles from shoreline bushes. I wasn't a fan of how the cups snagged all types of objects before and this experience didn't help.