The Micro Vario Carbon poles from Leki have a premium price tag – but are they worth it?
RRP: £144.95 (pair)
Weight: 229g (per pole)
The first thing that strikes you about these poles is their incredibly short length when packed – just 38cm. This is possible because what initially looks like a 3 section pole is actually 5 sections – there is a single speedlock adjustable section in the handle, and another hidden section that slides inside this. To assemble them you pull out the hidden section and then – as you straighten the pole sections held together by the shock cord – a metal stud pops out into place and the cord then holds all the 4 non-adjustable sections rigid. This is very quick and easy to do compared to extending a conventional pole, and I’ve found it’s great to have poles you can so easily stow out of the way inside your rucksack when heading onto scrambly ground.
At a weight of only 229g per pole, these really are supremely packable. I’ve used them everywhere in the last few months, from the extremely steep grass slopes on Foula to scrambles on Munros in Perthshire. What’s also become apparent over that time is the quality of the handle grips – they are so comfortable in the hand. In the past I have had a pair of very cheap own brand poles and although these worked well for the price, despite the obvious greater weight and bulk. It was, however, the handles really let them down – they felt clammy when new, and the rubber grip wore down very fast.
Reputedly, carbon poles can shatter, whereas aluminium poles can get bent, although in a couple of decades of pole use it’s always been the handles, length adjustment mechanisms and the tips that have worn out on poles I’ve owned (you can replace the tips). In my testing, these poles have supported my weight very well – I’m just over 6 foot and of average weight. Leki do recommend that ‘heavier people’ use classic 3 section poles rather than folding ones. Descending steep boggy ground I’ve felt a slight click a few times – but this was caused by the bog sucking the pole basket slight downwards and then the shock cord pulling them back taut – it has never threatened stability in any way.
For me the length range of these poles is perfect – I use them at 110cm uphill, and have never felt any need for anything longer than 130cm on steep descents, but I know that some other people of the same height tend to use their poles slightly longer than me. If you are one of these or are of heavier build, there is a Vario Carbon Strong version that is 10cm longer and uses slightly thicker diameter poles (at the expense of 37g extra weight); there’s also a Ladies version of the poles that are 10cm shorter, so there should be something to suit you.
So – are they worth the price? There’s no doubt that cheaper poles will do the job, but if you have the budget available and want poles that are lighter weight, supremely packable and comfortable in the hand, then my answer is a definite yes; these are the best poles I’ve owned.
Very light weight, especially for adjustable poles
Extremely small pack size
Very comfortable handles
Very stable including length adjustment mechanism
Length range of 110-130cm may not suit everyone
Not quite as strong as conventional 3 section poles
The cheapest price for these poles we could find online at the moment was on Amazon for £109.12.