If you're taking your GoPro out on the water, sometimes you need something that combines flotation with extended reach. Here are some of the best…
Not all GoPro accessories work well in the water. Some are susceptible to water damage, particularly in saltwater. Some get waterlogged. And some simply don’t work in the water. So if you’re taking your GoPro into the water, it’s a good idea to make sure that your accessories are up to the task. That includes seemingly simple accessories like selfie sticks, poles, and handles.
One of the immediate challenges of shooting in water with GoPros is that they don’t float. If you’re in a pool that’s only 6 feet deep, that’s not much of a problem. But if you’re in deeper waters—perhaps surfing, body boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, Scuba diving, or boating—you don’t want your camera ending up on the bottom of the ocean, lake, or river. There are several different ways to make GoPros float, and I’ve covered some of them separately. What I’m focusing on here are GoPro float poles that give you flotation as well as extension. It’s worth noting that there are quite a few GoPro poles that are marketed as waterproof, but that doesn’t mean they float. I’m focusing here on the ones that provide buoyancy.
With the new HERO9 Black just released, GoPro is running a great deal on the previous model, the HERO8 Black. You can get it for $299.98, and that includes a 1-year subscription to GoPro as well as a 32GB SD card.
The subscription to GoPro gives you unlimited cloud storage, discounted no-questions-asked camera replacement, and up to 50% off GoPro accessories.
You can find the deal at GoPro.com.
Traditional bobber handles float, but they only give you about 6 inches of reach, at most. But what if you want some extra reach to get closer or a higher vantage point? Maybe you want to get closer to the underwater wildlife (and no, I’m definitely not condoning bothering the animals), or perhaps you want a higher vantage point for a different perspective than standard eye level.
Standard selfie sticks or poles give you much more reach, but they don’t float, and I’ve found from experience that they often quickly fill with water and become waterlogged.
But there are a few GoPro float pole options available that are designed specifically for the water, have flotation, and also include extensions to give some extra reach. Put another way: they’re floating selfie sticks. I’ve been trying out some of the best ones, and here’s what I’ve found.
My current pick of the GoPro float poles is the MicroJob Flow. It’s only a shade shorter than the others when fully extended, but when retracted it’s a much more compact package just like a traditional bobber handle.
It tackles the problem a bit differently than the others. Rather than having flotation through the length of the pole, all of the flotation is delivered from the air in the hollow, bulbous handle grip. A thin telescoping pole comes out of the center of it, with each section locked in place with a quick twist.
So it works perfectly well as a standard floaty handle. But the telescoping sections give you extra reach. In other words, you get both in one. Even better, it also works very well as a grip handle out of the water.
The telescoping sections are skinny, but they appear to be made of aluminum rather than plastic. While that does add a little extra weight, it makes a difference with stiffness, and I haven’t found any of the whipping movement you can get with some other thin telescoping sections.
Retracted length: 6.5 inches / 16.5 cm
Extended length: 23 inches / 58 cm
There are a couple of tricks I’ve come across to use it, though. Before packing it away, you’ll want to let the pole air dry while it’s extended. It’s easy for water to get trapped down in the handle section. And as with nearly all kinds of telescoping segments, you’ll want to try to do your best to avoid getting sand or grit jammed in there. I haven’t had it jam on me, but telescoping sections are nearly always prone jams.
One minor gripe I have is that it uses white in place of a high-visibility yellow, orange, or green. Most of the time, that’s not an issue, but it can matter if you’re trying to spot the float amongst brash ice or surf foam. There is a small orange tab on the end of the handle that’s used as the attachment point for the wrist strap, but I’d be even happier if all of the white areas were replaced with something brighter.
GoPole specializes in floating extension poles. They have several models, including the long Reach, which extends up to 40 inches, and the Reach Mini, which collapses down to 7 inches and out to 21 inches.
The one I’ve been using is the EVO, which falls in the middle and has an extension range from 14 inches to 24 inches.
The overall design of the GoPro EVO is much more like a traditional selfie stick. It doesn’t retract into as compact a package, but it does extend a bit further than the MicroJib Flow.
Its core consists of two transparent tubes, with one sliding into the other. They’re separated by an o-ring to keep the water out. At one end is a handgrip. At the other end is the camera mount point.
In many ways, this is much like a traditional selfie stick. A twist-lock in the middle locks the extension in place. The differences are that the locking mechanism is designed to keep water out. That means that the tubes themselves become the floatation by holding air. The second is that the tubes are transparent.
Retracted length: 24 inches / 61 cm
Extended length: 14 inches / 35.5 cm
It comes with a wrist strap that connects to the 1/4-20 (tripod) socket on the bottom of the handle. There’s also plastic clip designed for the GoPro Smart Remote that clips onto the bottom section (but is easier to bump off in the water than I’d like). The GoPro connection is fused onto the tip and not removable, so if you want to use the float pole with a camera or device that doesn’t use that style of attachment, you’ll need an adapter.
It works well, but there are a few areas where it fares poorly compared with the MicroJib Flow. For one, it’s quite a specialized piece of kit in the sense that it’s designed to be used in the water and makes less sense out of the water. When retracted, it’s still quite long—about 14 inches—which makes it less portable. And if you’re going to carry a full-size selfie stick, there are non-floating versions that can give you far more reach and that are made of more rugged materials that can put up with the inevitable bumps and knocks when traveling without causing cracks that are dealbreakers.
CamKix’s 2in1 Bobber and Pole is almost identical to the GoPole EVO. It’s another two-section, transparent selfie stick that looks very, very similar to the GoPole EVO. The extended length is the same, but it’s a bit longer when fully retracted, which isn’t going to be everyone’s preference. But there are a few design choices that make me prefer CamKix’s version over GoPole’s.
The first is that when fully extended, the joint between the sections is firmer with less wobble. In practice, that’s unlikely to make that much difference. But I’ll take a firmer hold over a wobblier one.
The second is that you can screw off the cap of the handle to expose the interior of the handle. You can use it as a water-sealed container for keys or other small items you want to keep dry.
The third is the 2in1 aspect that the product’s name refers to. You can unscrew the extension tubes entirely and, using an adapter that comes in the box, attach the camera directly to the handle section. That turns it into a handle grip. The method it uses to do this isn’t as convenient as the MicroJib Flow’s method—you’ll need the separate adapter and then have to do something with the float tubes—but it works and adds to the versatility. You then have a choice. By default, it will float just like a regular handle bobber. But if you need neutral buoyancy for Scuba diving, you can fill the compartment with water.
Retracted length: 6.7 inches / 17 cm
Extended length: 15.7 inches / 40 cm
It comes in high-visibility yellow or orange and includes a wrist strap (that doesn’t take up the tripod socket on the bottom of the handle as the GoPole version does) and a detachable remote cradle (which, again, bumps off too easily for my liking).
These are generally marketed as GoPro float poles, and the amount of buoyancy they have is geared towards most of the GoPro models1, but it’s possible to use them with other small waterproof cameras. You will, however, have to test the flotation with other cameras to make sure there’s enough buoyancy—something like the Olympus TG-6 would probably be too heavy, for instance.
If the action camera already uses the GoPro three-pronged attachment system, as cameras like those from Akaso and the DJI Osmo Action do, you’re all set. Just mount the camera and off you go. If your camera doesn’t use that system, you’ll need an adapter. The most common type would be a reverse GoPro tripod adapter that connects the GoPro attachment to a standard tripod thread.
These poles do float, but the flotation functionality is only to prevent the camera from sinking. Yes, I know that sounds a bit silly, but what I mean is that they’re not suitable as floating platforms for shooting. (Those types of floats do exist, such as this one.) That’s because the way these all float is by bobbing inverted in the water with only the tip of the handle sticking up above the water surface. The picture on the front of the box of the GoPole EVO is misleading in this respect, for instance—it doesn’t float in the way that image might be interpreted to show.
With the models where the extension tubes form the flotation, they need to be fully extended to be able to float heavier GoPro models such as the Fusion or potentially, a GoPro with exterior accessories attached. Extending the sections means that they can hold more air. The poles are designed to float without being extended when standard GoPro models are attached without exterior accessories fitted.
I’ll try to keep an eye out for new notable options that become available and try my best to test them and update here as necessary. There is one current model that I’m particularly interested in trying but haven’t yet had the chance–the Smatree Carbon Fiber floating pole.
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This post was last modified on March 25, 2020 9:41 am