These Leki walking poles are a bit of a revelation, and after weeks of testing we reckon they offer one of the best blends of weight, locking mechanism on the market. Read on for our Leki Micro Vario Carbon review!
First up, the Leki Micro Vario Carbon are made of carbon fibre (there’s a clue in the name) and thusly jolly light, which is always high on the list of desirable specs. Total weight is 226 grams per pole, which is featherlight indeed.
However, the ski-pole-style mechanism is the real winner here. With a ‘speedlock 2’ lever-lock to adjust length, and probe-like wired lower sections that click into place, this has to be the quickest pole to deploy out there. Set the top slider to the desired length, pull out the lower sections until they click satisfyingly into place, and you’re done. It’s quick, effective and reliable.
Another benefit is that they break down very short indeed – 15 inches – which means they’ll fit inside any normal alpine or winter sac while you’re climbing, preventing the inevitable rope tangles that result with longer poles strapped to the outside of a sac.
Review continues after this competition.
While that’s arguably not the most important thing ever, the speed is noticeable – climbing with partners using competitor flicklocks and twistlocks made this clear. We’re talking seconds, but pull, click, and you’re ready. That simplicity is worth quite a bit, and it’s not at the expense of quality. Each carbon tube is topped and bottomed with a milled aluminium band, which not only looks the part but also looks like it’ll last well.
Once set using the top ‘Speedlock 2’, these didn’t slip, and testing them with an alpine-length but scottish-style descent proved their resilience. We’ve never really had ‘that’ many issues with even cheap twist lock poles slipping, if used carefully, but these Lekis are quick, robust and idiot proof. The tension of the Speedlock 2 is also adjustable via a small wheel on the side, even while wearing gloves, which is a nice touch, especially compared to other brands that need tools.
Another positive comes as a side benefit of the design itself, as each pole section is separate when broken down, so when wet post-use, these are automatically drying out when dumped in the car boot, whereas traditional aluminum twist locks are legendary for their ability to freeze up after being telescoped down and left wet. Leki has also designed minimalist hand straps without the customary padding, which is saves weight and has no impact on usability, with or without gloves. The pole handles are particularly comfortable too, the long foam cover extending down the pole giving a variety of grips over tricky terrain, and the rubber top encouraging a classic walking stick type grip as well as the standard pistol-type grip. Overall testers agreed they automatically used these poles with a wider range of grips than normal, which has to be a good thing.
That’s a lot of positives. The bad? Well, they’re not cheap. Purists will undoubtedly chunter about the benefits of aluminium vs carbon and bending vs shattering under extreme loads, but to be honest the shearing forces required for either are best avoided, and gently bent alu poles that subsequently won’t lock into place, but looked fine until you tried them on the hill are possibly the most annoying gear fail ever.
Overall, once you’re over the price these are really quite exceptional climbing poles, due to their stashable length and weight. They are also low-maintenance, which as anyone who’s spent happy hours dismantling their poles in a drying room will attest, is a good thing. We’re massive fans of the simple to operate, and these hit the spot. To get the same weight on a budget you’ll be looking at the aluminium Fitzan poles, which are perfectly usable, but need more looking after.
The only real problem we discovered is that if you have these, you’ll always be the person that’s geared up and ready to go first…