Trekking Poles
Leki Micro Vario Carbon Black Series
$250, 15 oz./pair (with trekking baskets)
One unisex size, adjustable
backcountry.com

List all the qualities you’d want in the perfect trekking poles and you may find yourself describing the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Black Series. From a three-day, 36-mile backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail to a steep, eight-mile, 5,200-vertical-foot dayhike of Idaho’s 12,662-foot Borah Peak and dayhikes of up to about nine miles along Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River during a six-day rafting and kayaking trip, these folding, adjustable, entirely carbon poles quickly became my go-to sticks for their versatility, stability, and packability, all while weighing per pair about as much as your rain jacket.

The Micro Vario Carbon Black is 100 percent carbon—not just partial-carbon construction—conferring that material’s advantage of high strength and low weight. Hiking with them in any terrain, whether with a daypack or full backpack, the poles have a comfortable grip and an easy swing and stand up to abuse, such as when I leaned hard on them on the steep, somewhat loose descent from Paintbrush Divide at nearly 11,000 feet in the Tetons, and bashed them on rocks scrambling the third-class Chickenout Ridge section of Borah Peak.


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The pole’s useable length range is 110cm to 130cm—not as wide-ranging as some poles, but similar to the range of many models. But more importantly, that adjustability range will suit most hikers, backpackers, and climbers, while weighing less than other highly durable poles that are not as compact when collapsed. 

The method of adjusting the length may not be intuitive for everyone, but it’s easy once you learn it. To assemble the pole and set the length, release the locking lever, extend the three sections until you hear the internal locking device click into place, set the desired length, and close the lever. If the adjustable top section slips at all, just spin the small dial on the lever—easily done with your fingers, requiring no tool—to tighten the lever’s tension. 

To fold them, release the locking lever and fully extend the top section until you hear the locking mechanism click again, releasing the tension on the internal cable and allowing you to fold the poles to a length of 40cm/16 inches—fitting in just about any luggage, even many carry-ons. Being an internal mechanism, the CLD (Core Locking Device) eliminates the potential for damage when locking mechanisms are located externally on a pole.

The anatomical Aergon Thermo Long Grips are easy to hold in the hand for many hours and extend down the shaft, and the lightweight but wide wrist straps also remain comfortable for hours and adjust intuitively in seconds.

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The Verdict

For backpackers, hikers, climbers, mountain runners and others who want top-performing poles, the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Black Series poles strike a rare combination of low weight, durability, packability, and ease of use when on the trail.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these links to purchase the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Black Series trekking poles at backcountry.com or Moosejaw.com.

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See my picks for “The Best Trekking Poles” and my stories “How to Choose Trekking Poles” and “10 Best Expert Tips for Hiking With Trekking Poles,” and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, ultralight backpacking gear, and hiking gear.

I almost never hike without poles. Read why in my “10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier.”

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Want to make your pack lighter and all of your backpacking trips more enjoyable? See my “10 Tricks for Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier” and “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.” If you don’t have a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read part of both stories for free, or download the e-guide versions of the 10 tricks here and the lightweight backpacking guide here without having a paid membership.

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza