I assumed that all collapsible hooks were, essentially, crap.
Not that they didn’t have their use; they could fit on or in a backpack and if the snake was still around after spending more time than necessary to un-collapse them, they could be used to move or pose a snake. But that’s about it. They can’t be used to flip anything much heavier than a palmetto, they can’t be used as a trekking pole, and chances are (both of mine did,) they’ll break within a couple of months so that they are either stuck in the open position, or will not lock at all. All in all my experiences with your run-of-the-mill collapsible hooks have been discouraging: I’d rather not bring one and improvise.
Then I saw one of these here John Zegel hooks. It was in South Carolina at the Savannah River Ecology Lab where I first saw them: fellow herpers Young Cage and his son Matt each had one and I checked them out, very impressed. It wasn’t until over a year later that I decided to order one for myself and give it a go. I ordered one and couldn’t wait to get it out in the field.
First off, it’s a little bit longer than the standard collapsible hooks on the market when collapsed at about 26”, but it also extends to quite a bit larger than your standard hook for a maximum length of 52”. For some, the above two foot length might be prohibitive for packing in a backpack (though it fits easily in most standard sized luggage for you globe-trotters out there,) the beautiful thing is that John custom makes every single hook as the orders come in: so you get what you want, and can easily explain exactly what you’re looking for.
I’ve managed to get this hook out into the field a couple of times now at my Palm Beach County herp survey site and have flipped a good number of boards and hiked a good number of miles with it at my side. For use with snakes, it works just as good as anything else on the market, but it really shines when flipping cover. Flipping such heavy boards and whatnot it worked beautifully: not only was I not worried about any breakage for this sturdy-as-can-be contraption, the hook is especially well formed for flipping, with a curved end and a groove to allow for a good, firm grip. Anyone who’s flipped with a normal hook knows what happens every now and again when you don’t get a good grip on the tin or board you’re flipping: usually a comment of “Well, there was something alive under it,” from friends followed by another attempt at flipping. With the hook shape and groove, you won’t be hearing those snotty comments from your friends again.
How about price? Well, you can get a lower quality hook for $35 – $50, shipped. Shortly thereafter you’ll likely have to get another lower quality hook for $35 – $50 shipped (especially if you’re as hard on equipment as me.) Although John’s prices are variable with every order (once again, he does all the work and customizes,) you can get the medium collapsible hook for a price in the mid $50. That’s a high quality hook. Customized. Chances are you’ll never have to replace it. Now, despite my affection for high quality herping gear, I’m a real cheapskate. Seriously. And in my cheapskate opinion, this hook is a very low price for an as-yet unbeatable quality – and if that quality is beat, it’ll probably be by another hook by John Zegel.