GROUP TEST: Lightweight Compact Trekking Poles

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Walking poles montage, 4 kbIn search of a pole that's as small and light as possible for carrying in a climbing pack or holiday hold baggage, we compare five adjustable-length models at a range of budgets.

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 BobSlocum 11 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

A balanced and detailed review, thank you.
 Mark Stevenson 11 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I got a season and a half of hard Scottish Winter use out of my pair of Leki Carbon poles before I broke one through general incompetence (I slipped on ice, did a forward somersault and landed on flat on my back across one of them) which I have since replaced.

Fantastic bit of kit, but expensive and I was NOT impressed with Leki's customer service.

After breaking mine I was told that they were NOT REPAIRABLE although others have since reported better luck with repairs or replacements.

It would be fantastic if you could confirm with Leki exactly what the situation actually is with getting them repaired in the event of (non-warranty) damage.

Unless they now definitely offer a UK repair service and replacement parts (e.g. the bottom section which is easily swapped) then I would strongly recommend no-one even consider buying them. In terms of both environmental impact and cost, for a company to consider charging c.£140 for a pair and then not offer any ongoing support or even the ability to buy an individual pole as a replacement is really not acceptable.
 neuromancer 12 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Worth trying the karrimor carbon lite poles. 27 quid or something?
 Fraser 12 May 2017
In reply to neuromancer:

Similarly, I bought a pair of these poles from Decathlon a couple of years ago. Good value, well made and nice and light:
 kmhphoto 12 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

" but unless you're walking all the time on tarmac (in which case a pole is redundant)"

Why do you consider walking poles to be redundant on tarmac?
In reply to kmhphoto:

For me the main purposes of poles are for balance on rough ground, powering up steep hills and support/balance going down steep slopes. I guess you could use them for motoring along on a road much like you do on a path on the flat... but outside of nordic walking does anyone go out of their way to use poles on paved surfaces? For more than the occasional wee bit of road walking at the end of a hill day?
 kmhphoto 12 May 2017
In reply to Dan Bailey -

Thanks for clearing that up. I've been walking around Kensington with 60lbs on my back and found the poles to be a worthwhile purchase although the neighbours have been starting to worry about me.
 Simon Caldwell 12 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Out of interest, why did you only look at adjustable poles? I use fixed length poles (BD Z Carbon and have never missed being able to adjust the length) - if I want something shorter (eg for steep uphills or traversing) I just hole the pole part way down its length. I always used to use adjustable poles, and the adjustment widget was always the point of failure that eventually required replacement poles.
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

We decided it was too complicated:

Once you get onto fixed length poles then they've got to be the right length for each individual (give or take - as you say, you can move your hand up and down), so adjustable ones are clearly a bit more versatile in that your mate can use yours or whatever.
With fixed length you're more likely to need to move your hand up and down the pole, as you do (and which I personally prefer to do in any case). But for anyone who likes using straps this freedom isn't possible, and that does limit the range of the pole to the one length.
The same pole at different fixed lengths is going to weigh different amounts, making direct comparisons that bit harder.
Not all manufacturers offer a suitable collapsible fixed length model anyway.

We'd agree the widget or clip is a point of potential failure, but in our experience it doesn't happen that often. We'd probably be just as likely to snap a pole, in the long run!
 snowplc 12 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:
In terms of robustness I broke the camp carbon poles on the first use unfortunately. Coming downhill, my foot slipped, weight went on the pole and it snapped rather more easily than I hoped! I returned them and bought a pair of the Alpkit poles instead.
I like the Alpkit poles and while I agree that the handgrip system is a bit of a pain to get into, I find it comfortable once on.
The size is perfect and they slip into a sack easily once you get to the base of a climb. I recently used them for a three day Bothy trip around Cape Wrath and they were ideal.
Post edited at 20:55
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

My (I think) 23 year old Lekis are still going strong - with the original twist widget. Just did another week of ski mountaineering using them.
 PeterM 13 May 2017
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:
Good review. One thing, is that not the Leki Vario Carbon Strong that is in the product pic rather than the standard Vario Carbon? It looks like the standard version in the 'on the hill' pic but I can't be sure.
Post edited at 00:59
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

Hi Mark

We've followed this up, and here's what we have from Ardblair, UK distributor of LEKI:

“Poles broken out of warranty were initially an issue as there was no easy way to repair them. Ardblair acknowledges that it’s frustrating when expensive kit is broken out of warranty and you’re told nothing can be done so it was decided to split pairs of poles and offer a single replacement pole at a price. There’s good news on the horizon however. LEKI has now devised a special kit that distributors can use to repair the poles and replace sections. The kits aren’t quite finished but Ardblair is hoping to have them in the not too distant future. One thing to note though is that because the whole system is tensioned and the rope has to be cut, each pole can only be repaired once. It does however offer more than what has previously been available”.
 Mark Stevenson 15 May 2017
In reply to Dan Bailey -
Hi Dan,

Many thanks for following this up.

I'm glad to see that going forward things are going to be better and that Leki and Ardblair are acting on customer feedback and trying to resolve this issue.
 Emily_pipes 15 May 2017
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

I got a pair of the Leki Micro Vario poles last summer and, just like the UKC article describes, the button gave out on me in less than a year. As soon as you put weight on it, the pole collapsed because the top section of it forced the button in. I took the poles back to Tiso, where I'd bought them, and Tiso sent them to Leki.

I'm happy to report that Leki not only replaced the poles with no faff, they seem to have fixed the button issue. The button on the new ones has a groove and sticks out a bit more, so the top section of the pole should not be able to slide over the thing.

Otherwise, I love the poles. I've had carbon poles of various types over the years and never had any problems with the carbon itself breaking. Knock on wood.

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