Written by Terry Smith

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UK’s best litter picker and grabber tools: heavy duty and rotating reviewed and compared

This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 6:01 am

Having people over for a barbecue always sounds like a fun idea and, with the help of some quality patio heaters, is something that can be enjoyed at pretty much any time of the year these days. The not-so-fun part is the next day, when you peel yourself off your pillow feeling a little worse for wear, open the curtains, and then see that your beautiful garden, the one you’ve spent endless hours on to make it the envy of your neighbours, has basically been turned into a dump 😀 I’ll be the first to admit it, and if you haven’t experienced that then fair play.

Litter pickers will save your back

Nobody really wants to be bending over or down on their knees, picking up all those paper plates, napkins, etc, etc. Especially if you suffer from a stiff back or other problems.This is why it’s always good to have one or two of the best litter pickers around to make things a lot easier. I say one or two because it’s always better to drag your partner or the kids into help 😀 After all, the king of grill shouldn’t have to do it all themselves right 🙂 ? And there are even models made specifically for kids to use – it’s worth taking a look at what you should know before buying a litter picker too. It’ll clear up some issues.

Below you can see our shortlist of the top litter pickers and grabber tools in the UK, and you can see our reviews of each product, simply by clicking on the name:

Best litter pickers – editor top picks:

Best overall litter picker: ZAYAD grabber tool – this has great balance and quality.
Best rotating litter picker: NRS Combi-Reacher – 360 degree rotation ideal to stop you leaning over so much
Best heavy duty litter picker: Helping Hand Ranger thanks to a simple and robust design this is what I would use myself
Best budget: EZPICK litter picker – foldable litter picker
Decent alternative option: Helping Hand Litter Picker Pro

If you’d like to know more about what a little picker is, and what to look out for when choosing the best of them, then carry on reading as we flow into our buyer’s guide.

What is a litter picker?

I’m sure you’ve all seen one of these tools before, probably being used by some council worker at the local park, or maybe someone clearing up after a concert.

Basically, litter pickers resemble a mechanical arm, with a long shaft that has a grip/handle at one end, and a claw at the other. When you squeeze the trigger, the claw closes to pick up whatever is between its talons, and when you release the trigger, the caws open again. It’s simple, effective, and can be used by pretty much anyone. Plus, it allows you to live out your childhood robot fantasies while getting the job done, whether that be Daleks, Jonny 5, or whatever.

My grandfather was wheelchair bound and he had an identical tool that he used for reaching things off the kitchen sides, and things like that. I don’t mind admitting that I was obsessed with it as a young kid, and would constantly be getting told off by my dad for attacking my brother with it.

After a while, I think he got bored of telling me to stop messing around with it, and instead would send me out into the garden to pick up stuff that’d blown in. You know what? I was completely happy to be out there for ages, and saw it as more of a game than a chore.

Years later, and now I get my kids doing the same, with me helping and supervising of course. It’s a great activity to do together, incorporating a bit of light exercise, fresh air and time away from screens, and I like to think it instills a sense of responsibility, as it did with me.

A litter picker works with a pull strong to close the gripper

What you should know before buying a litter picker too

Selecting the best litter picker isn’t that easy. Most models look almost identical as they follow the most practical design, and are quick to copy any innovations that other brands might come up with. What ever happened to originality?

So, why not just buy any of them? Well, they might all look the same at first glance, but they are certainly not all equal in terms of quality, materials, size, etc. So, to help you understand the main things to look out for, we’ve given some handy tips below.

I am generalising when I say the design is basically the same, but actually there are three main types- the double moving claws, single moving claws, and the tongs. All of them are great for picking up litter, but I’d say for lighting larger amounts, the tong type, like the robust Helping Hand Ranger are better, while the others are better for medium to very small objects.

Size and weight are very important

The very first things that you need to be aware of before clicking buy, is how long and heavy a particular litter grabber is, and how that compares to your own body.

Buying a model that is too long or too short will force you into an unnatural and uncomfortable posture, and this is going to be causing you some discomfort and possible aches and pains after using it for a while. I’m average height, but some of the smaller litter pickers cause me to stoop too much, so you don’t have to be a giant or a pigmy to be affected by this.

The same goes for the weight of a litter picker. You might want to buy something that is made from solid steel for the extra durability, but you have to consider how long you’ll be holding the tool for, and even an extra few hundred grams can make a difference over the space of a couple of hours.

The size of a litter picker will also affect how easy it is to store, and if you’re planning on using it away from the home, you need to think about transporting it. More compact, or folding models, such as our best overall pick the ZAYAD, or our budget choice from EZPICK will easily go in the boot of your car, but longer (90cm) litter pickers might be more difficult.

If you get the right weight and size for you just right, who knows? You might be able to wield it like these guys in the following clip:

Picking the right materials

When choosing the material for your litter picker, you need to consider three things. The first one is strength, the second is durability, and the third is heaviness.

The cheapest models will probably be made completely of plastic in order to keep the costs down. If the plastic used is thick ABS or polypropylene, then there might not be a problem with the strength and durability, but I would still say that it won’t last as long as good quality aluminium.

Aluminium is stronger than plastic, but only if it is high-quality such as aluminium alloy. As well as being strong and lightweight, it has anti-rust properties that make it an ideal material for outdoor tools, and the reason it is used in so many top products like the NRS Combi-Reacher, which only weighs 195 grams.

Often, to keep the price tag affordable, brands will combine aluminium with premium quality plastics on the handle and other parts to give you a good balance of affordability and longevity.

Can you ‘handle’ it?

We already explained that the claw on a litter pick is activated by squeezing the trigger that is located on the handle, but we didn’t explain that some triggers will be harder to squeeze than others, depending on the spring action inside.

Another thing that can affect how hard a trigger is to squeeze is the shape and size of the handle itself, and the size of your hands, of course. Ergonomically shaped handles like the ones found on EZPICK, are the thing to look for, and also check the comments and reviews for any info on how the trigger feels. It might not make much difference at first, but after an hour of use, your hands and forearms will certainly feel it.

The other side too this, is that some triggers might be very easy to use but at the expense of durability and longevity. This is not always the case, but it can happen that the spring used is lower quality, as is the plastic parts used for the trigger mechanism, and this leads to your litter picker turning into a litter pusher after not too long.

Then again, these tools aren’t; the most hi-tech or complicated and it is often easy to fix them yourself, as this video shows:

‘Claw’ your way to the top

The ‘business’ end of your litter picker is referred to as the claw, and is probably the part of the tool that will have the most features. Trust me, a well-designed litter picker claw is the difference between a leisurely stroll and clean up around the garden, and a frustrating, swear-word laced, rant as the ‘******* thing’ refuses to pick up the things you’re pointing it at!

Some of the better claw features to keep an eye out for are as follows-

  • Magnetic claws- Nothing makes picking up metal objects easier than the help of magnets. Often you don’t even have to ‘grab’ them as they’ll simply stick to the claws when you hover over the objects. I don’t have to tell you that there are often more than a few empty cans left on the ground after a large gathering in the garden, and having one of these makes clearing up so much easier.
  • Rotatable claws- Most modern litter pickers will feature a rotatable claw that will twist through 360 degrees, and a few of our top picks have this feature that allows you to get just the right angle for picking up whatever is on the floor. This might not sound like much of a time saver, but in real life usage, it really does make things much easier and quicker.
  • Larger opening- Some claws will open wider than others, and this is obviously a good thing if you often have larger debris and garbage to pick up. You might find that models with larger openings are a little bit harder on the hands via the trigger, but this isn’t always the case, and will depend on the model.
  1. Claw shape and grip material- If you look around on places like Amazon, you’ll see that there are some slight differences in the shape of the claws on some litter pickers. Often, this is just a cosmetic thing to distinguish the product from others, but sometimes it can be a practical design to help pick up smaller/ larger objects and things like that.

One thing that can make a difference is the material that is used for the grip on the claws. Hard plastic materials might be good for robustness but they aren’t ideal for gripping litter. This is why the best litter pickers often have some kind of coating like silicone, as well as textured surfaces to help keep a hold on the thing you’re trying to pick up. The thick rubber grip found on the Helping Hand Litter Picker Pro is a great example of this:

Thick rubber grip on a litter picker makes grabbing and holding much easier

Well, it’s time to see what we thought of our tip ‘picks’ (see what we did there?). We’ve spent a bit of hands-on time with each one, and we feel confident that we have chosen the best products your ‘claws’ on (ok, I’ll stop the puns now), so take a look for yourself.

Zayad’s 32 inch grabber tool is our choice for best overall product in this category. It was designed with people suffering from injuries and disabilities in mind, but the design and features make it an excellent litter picker for almost anyone to use.

I say almost anyone, as at around 81cm it is the perfect length for the majority of people, but both very tall, and shorter than average folks might not find it so fitting. This 32” length doesn’t affect how easily you can store or transport the litter grabber though. It’s foldable design makes sure that it is easy to find a spot in the cupboard or on a shelf for it.

Sometimes with folding litter pickers, you find that this particular feature makes the tool feel not quite as solid or strong as models that don’t, but Zayad have got it right with this product, and it even when picking up heavier items that way around 4-5lbs, it never felt like it couldn’t handle it.

It’s lightweight too, thanks to the aluminium alloy shaft, and would make a great gift for family members who are maybe getting on a bit, and would benefit from not having to deal with the aches and pains that come with holding heavier tools for long periods.

With a 10cm maximum opening width, you are a little limited to what kinds of litter you can pick up, but it should be enough for most home tasks. The angled tips of the claws, however, are excellent for picking up smaller items, and the rubberised coating won’t damage or scratch more fragile things like glasses, although smoother surfaced items are harder to grip, no matter what, and you’ll find that with any litter grabber.

Overall quality of the Zayad grabber tool is very good, the plastics are all thick and solid, and the trigger mechanism on the handle works smoothly, as does the rotating claw. The folding action is fairly simple, and everything slots together again without any problems, as it should be.

I’d say that, for the money, this is one of the best you’ll find. However, if you want a really heavy-duty grabber that will handle heavier objects and amplifies your natural grip force, you’ll have to spend a bit more on something else.

Pros

  • Foldable for easy storage and transportation
  • Claw design is good for picking up small to medium sized objects
  • Strong and sturdy and made from durable materials
  • Rubberised coating on the claws gives good grip without damaging more fragile things

Cons

  • The size of the objects you can grab and lift is limited, but still better than most litter pickers of the same type.

Weighing in at only 195g, the NRS combi-reacher has been made to help people with mobility problems achieve tasks that they might otherwise find difficult, and picking up litter from their gardens is definitely one of them.

There’s a lot to like about this NRS product. As well as being extremely lightweight and easy to use for long sessions, the 360-degree rotating claw has been well-designed and allows you to pick up very small items with ease.

If you want to grab large things, this probably isn’t the best option as only one side of the claw actually moves, but the same company has a combi-grabber tool on the same product page that has the same build quality, but with two moving sides.

It’s obvious to see that the tool was made to be accessible to a wide range of people, with a good sized-handle and a large trigger that can fit all four fingers on it at the same time. This makes it really easy to squeeze, even if you lack hand strength.

The handle and trigger feel solid, but I would have liked to have had some rubber grip on there somewhere as it felt a little bit slippery once my hands got a bit sweaty from working for a while. Having said that, a decent pair of gardening gloves would probably do the trick just as well.

The claw has a similar design to the ZAYAD model we just reviewed above, but in addition, this tool has magnetic tips that are so handy when grabbing cans and other metallic objects off the floor. Just think how many times you’ve dropped nails and screws and such in your shed, wouldn’t it be easier just to point this thing at them then bend down?

The magnets aren’t the strongest in the world though, and you are limited to lightweight metal objects, so don’t go thinking you can lift up an unopened tin of beans or something like that or you’ll be disappointed.

Pros

  • Aluminium construction is very lightweight at under 200g
  • 360-degree rotating claw with smooth action for changing the angle
  • Excellent for picking up smaller objects
  • Magnets on the claws for helping with metal objects

Cons

  • Magnets could be stronger, but they’re fine for small things like screws and nails.

Although not strictly a litter picker, and really designed as a health aid like the video below shows, it does nonetheless make a great litter picker

3. The Helping Hand Company LP3036IB Ranger MAX Straight Handle, Red/Silver, 35-Inch

Onto a different kind of litter picker now, with these 35-inch tongs from the Helping Hand company. This solid and hard-wearing tool is a better bet than the trigger-type pickers if you have more heavy-duty stuff to lift like clearing leaves out of your gutters and drains.

You do have to pay a little more for these Helping Hand Ranger Max tongs, but it isn’t really a lot more than most budget litter pickers, and the quality and durability you get for digging a little deeper in your pocket is more than worth it.

Everything about the Ranger Max screams solidity and robustness, from the sturdy metal shafts, right down to the thick rubber jaw ends. What’s more, when these rubber grabbers eventually wear down, they are easily replaceable, extending the life of this tool for years and years.

There are actually two versions of the Ranger Max, one that has a curved handle, and one with a straight handle. We only tested out the curved handle version, but it certainly impressed us. The handle makes it really easy to operate the jaws, and it is comfortable to hold too.

One thing we did notice was that there was a bit of sticking after using the tools for a while, but after a quick look online we got some good advice and just greased up the crossbar and it worked like new again.

This is a no-frills kind of litter picker. There are no magnetic tips, or extra things like a foldable shaft, but that also means that there’s less that can go wrong or deteriorate. Instead, the British based company has decided to go with delivering a solid, long-lasting tool, and that they have certainly done.

Pros

  • Excellent choice for more heavy-duty work like clearing gutters of leaves
  • Very solid and durable metal shafts
  • Two versions available to suit your preferences
  • Thick rubber jaw ends provide a lot of grip and are replaceable

Cons

  • You’ll need to grease up the crossbar with some Vaseline every now and again

Getting the right length of litter picker can mean the difference between feeling achy or fine after tidying up your garden, so it’s good to have a choice of small, medium, or large with this EZPICK tool (although at the time if writing only the medium and large were available).

The medium sized litter picker is 32” and about perfect for anyone between 5.5ft and 6ft. The large version is 40” and is only going to be comfortable to use if you’re much taller than average. They’re very competitively priced too, especially if you buy a twin pack and get the extra discount.

EZPIK 32″~80 cm Foldable Litter Picker comes in two pieces

Whatever size you go for, your EZPICK will be foldable and the design of this folding mechanism is a very robust one, using steel cable to keep the stability and structure of the tool strong when it is reassembled. Unfortunately, there is also a metal clip for this same purpose and that didn’t seem quite as durable to me, but only time will tell.

I found this litter picker to be nice and comfortable to hold in the hand. The ergonomically shaped handle and responsive trigger both being well designed and feeling natural to hold and operate.

I wasn’t so over the moon about the claw though. It’s not its design that is the problem, as that is perfectly fine, it’s the plastic that has been used. It just doesn’t seem to be particularly strong, and I know that this is a budget litter picker and these things are to be expected, but you will still have to be careful not to drop it or try to pick up something too heavy.

Other than that, there’s some great things about this tool. The rotating claw works well, the magnetic tips on the outside of the claw is always a welcome feature, and little things like the hanging hole on the handle for easy storage, or the free clip-on that could be used to hold a mini torch for nighttime use.

Pros

  • Low price tag and easily affordable
  • 360-degree Rotating claw for getting into awkward spaces
  • Magnetic tips on the outside of the claw
  • Ergonomically shaped handle and easy to press trigger

Cons

  • The plastic used for the claw could do with being thicker and stronger

Another cracking litter picker from the Helping Hand company here, only this time it’s their LP1133IB Litter Picker Pro model, that has a different design to their equally excellent Ranger Max tongs.

Can you remember when I was talking about my grandad’s grabbing tool earlier in this article? Well, the design of this is very much the same, featuring only one moving jaw part instead of two, like the EZPICK.

Personally, I find the single moving jaw litter grabbers sturdier and feel more confident picking up heavier objects with them. That is definitely the case here, and the combination of the solid metal top bar and curved and toothed rubber jaw piece, give you a nice solid hold on whatever you want to pick up. You will feel the weight on the end of the long arm though, so be prepared for that.

There’s a nice soft grip handle too, and the ergonomics of it make it sit comfortably yet firmly in the hand. The rigger action is smooth and not too hard to pull, but there is a space between it and the main handle, so people with arthritis in their fingers or other similar issues might not find it so easy.

The only thing I would suggest to improve the Litter Picker Pro is to change the nylon cord that works the claws to a steel one. Don’t get me wrong, the nylon used is thick and strong, but it will stretch eventually. However, you can adjust it easily enough to get the tension back.

I’d also like to state that this isn’t the litter picker to go to if you intend on picking up large quantities of stuff at the same time, such as leaves, as the design of the tool is ideally suited to gripping and lifting single objects.

Pros

  • Single moving jaw design feels sturdier
  • Soft grip and ergonomic handle feel nice in the hand
  • Smooth trigger and jaw action thanks to thick nylon cord
  • Overall build quality is very good

Pros

  • Not the best for picking up large quantities of litter at the same time


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

View all posts by Terry Smith

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