Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
$200, 1 lb./pair (without storage sack)
From a four-day trip backpacking the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park, and a seven-mile, 2,300-foot dayhike on the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park, to a rocky and often steep, 17-mile, 6,800-vertical-foot dayhike over the four summits of the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire, and an approximately 27-mile dayhike on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River Trail (and other dayhikes of up to 10 miles during a six-day rafting trip on the Middle Fork), the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles repeatedly demonstrated their usefulness and versatility.
These three-section, carbon-fiber poles lock together via an internal, Kevlar-reinforced tension cord, with a push-button release for collapsing them. But while other models of ultralight, three-section trekking poles come in a fixed length (different sizes, but non-adjustable), the SpeedLock below the handle on the Micro Vario allows for up to 20 centimeters/8 inches of length adjustment instantly—a unique and smart design detail.
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The Aergon Thermo foam grips have an unusually large head on them, enhancing comfort—even on days of hiking as much as 12 or 15 hours—especially when I held the poles by the top of the grip (for going downhill or frequently changing my grip in steep terrain). The lightweight wrist straps dry quickly when wet from sweat or rain. The poles are light enough to use for running trails (as I did with these poles on the Monoosnoc Ridge Trail in the wooded hills of central Massachusetts), but the lightweight carbon-fiber shafts were strong also enough to use to pitch a tent that requires trekking poles.
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I almost never dayhike or backpack without trekking poles, and I tend to favor ultralight models; but my complaints about some poles in that category are that I fear them bending under hard use, and they come in a fixed (non-adjustable) length. With the Micro Vario, Leki answers those concerns.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.