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Leki Black Series FX Carbon Review

A versatile and comfortable pole for all-around use, but the price is hard to justify
leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review
The FX Carbon during testing on a fall hike. We like these poles a lot, but they're just not worth the price.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi
Price:  $260 List
Manufacturer:   Leki
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 1, 2022
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 17
  • Comfort - 20% 8.0
  • Weight - 20% 5.0
  • Versatility - 20% 9.0
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 7.0
  • Packed Size - 15% 7.0
  • Construction Quality - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

With a comfortable grip and versatility for most activities, the Leki Black Series FX Carbon is a solid performer in most of our testing metrics. It is easy to hold while hiking, has a great secondary grip, and has flawless wrist straps. It packs small, is versatile enough to be used for many activities beyond simple hikes, and has plenty of length adjustment. However, the weight is on the heavier side, and the price tag is astronomical. These poles are heavily featured and well-built, but they don't perform any better than other high-end poles on the market, most of which can be found for a lot less money. If you don't care about the price and simply want a great all-around pole, these will perform just fine, but if you want a better pole for less money, those options exist.
REASONS TO BUY
Versatile
Comfortable
Packs small
Adjustable
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Expensive
Editor's Note: The Black Series FX Carbon was added to our lineup for our fall update on November 1, 2022.

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Pros Versatile, comfortable, packs small, adjustableComfortable grip, locks securely, packs small, highly versatileComfortable grips, versatile, packable, relatively affordableLightweight, short collapsed length, durableDurable, comfortable grip, packs small
Cons Heavy, expensiveCarbon is less durable than aluminum, on the expensive sideDifficult locking mechanism, heavier than comparable polesNo length adjustability, average grip comfortHeavy, less versatile due to weight
Bottom Line A versatile and comfortable pole for all-around use, but the price is hard to justifyA simple, elegant, and well-built trekking pole with versatility for all usesBurly folding trekking poles with comfortable grips that are great for everything from hiking and backpacking to climbing and mountaineeringDurable with a short collapsed length, this is a fantastic value for a lightweight poleA highly affordable pair of poles with all of the features of more expensive models
Rating Categories Leki Black Series F... MSR DynaLock Ascent... Leki Jannu FX TA Black Diamond Dista... Trekology Trek-Z 2.0
Comfort (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
5.0
4.0
8.0
1
Versatility (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Locking and Adjustability (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
3.0
7.0
Packed Size (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
10.0
8.0
Construction Quality (10%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Specs Leki Black Series F... MSR DynaLock Ascent... Leki Jannu FX TA Black Diamond Dista... Trekology Trek-Z 2.0
Measured Weight (per pair) 16.5 oz 17 oz 19 oz 12.5 oz 26 oz
Shaft Material Carbon Carbon fiber Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Collapsed Length 15.5 in 14.25 in 15 in 13/14/16/17 in 15 in
Max Length 51 in 47 in 47 in 39/43/47/51 in 47 in
Pole Design Foldable Collapsible Foldable Foldable Foldable
Grip Material Cork Rubber, plastic, foam Aergon Cor-Tec EVA foam Foam
Locking Mechanism External Lever Lock DynaLock Speed Lock plus Speed Cone Deployment Lever lock
Baskets/Tip Attachments? Yes, Trekking Yes, winter and summer baskets Yes, trekking 2.0 basket Yes, rubber and carbide tips Yes, powder and trail baskets, boots, and narrow tips
Size Tested One size 100-120 cm One size 110 cm 100-120 cm

Our Analysis and Test Results

These are very nice poles. But for the price point, they're challenging to recommend over other comparable options in our lineup.

Performance Comparison


leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - testing the versatile fx carbon while approaching climbs with a...
Testing the versatile FX Carbon while approaching climbs with a heavy cragging pack.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Comfort


The FX Carbon features a contoured cork grip that fits nicely into the curves of the hand. The cork molds to the palm over time, making for an even more comfortable fit. The top of the handle is broad and rubberized, mostly comfortable to push down upon, and the silky wrist straps are painless even after long days on the trail. The secondary grip is made of foam and features a crossing pattern of grooves to provide better friction. Some users with small hands may find the grip a bit wide, but most of our testers didn't think it was a big deal. The top of the handle provides a wide platform for pushing down, and some testers found this component to be weirdly large.

leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - the fx carbon has a comfortable foam grip, though the large handle...
The FX Carbon has a comfortable foam grip, though the large handle top didn't appeal to a few of our testers.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Weight


At 16.5 ounces per pair, the FX Carbon is on the heavier side, but considering its impressive feature set, the weight is acceptable. The shaft sections are made of carbon, which saves weight, but the ends of each shaft are reinforced with aluminum collars where the most damage occurs. The highly-featured grip is heavy, but the lower shaft sections are light, which creates a pleasant swing weight, meaning the pole is easier to swing forward with each step. Still, these poles aren't light enough for mountain running or other weight-conscious activities.

leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - with a highly featured grip, it's not surprising that the fx carbon...
With a highly featured grip, it's not surprising that the FX Carbon (left) weighs more than other foldable aluminum poles.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Versatility


The FX Carbon is versatile enough for nearly every activity you could think of. For basic hikes and walks, these poles are comfortable and adjustable, and if the hike turns into a long-distance backpacking trip, the silky wrist straps and foam grip become even more important. They also fold into a small size for sections of easy trail or dirt roads or if the hike includes some scrambling. They are on the heavy side for approaching alpine climbs, but if the terrain is rugged enough and the climb is easy enough, these poles can reasonably be carried up the climb. You can even use these poles for winter backcountry use while snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, provided you can find some powder baskets, which aren't included. The only activities we wouldn't recommend these poles for are mountain running due to their heavy weight, and rugged, remote trekking, due to their more fragile carbon construction. But, these niche activities usually require specialized poles anyways, and no pole on the market can do both successfully.

leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - the fx carbon comes with removable mud baskets, but we found that we...
The FX Carbon comes with removable mud baskets, but we found that we could screw other brands' powder baskets onto these poles for mid-winter use.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Locking and Adjustability


The FX Carbon is a foldable pole with three shaft sections. The highest shaft section, which includes the grip, also features an extendable length controlled by a single lever lock. This extendable section allows 8 inches (20 centimeters) of length adjustment. This lever lock's tension can be adjusted by spinning a small plastic wheel with your fingers. The mechanism that locks the three shaft sections into place is located at the end of the adjustable length section. The user has to open the lever lock, pull the pole's extendable section to its longest length, and keep pulling until a spring-loaded lock clicks. At this point, the three sections are locked into place, and the user can slide the adjustable length section back down to the desired length. To collapse the pole, the lever lock is opened, and the pole is extended all the way and pulled even further until a click announces that the locking mechanism has been released. This locking mechanism is not intuitive at all, and our testers were regularly annoyed with the process. Still, the locking action is effective.

leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - to lock and unlock this foldable pole, the user has to extend the...
To lock and unlock this foldable pole, the user has to extend the pole to it's maximum length, then keep pulling to release a spring. It's not intuitive, but it does the job.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Packed Size


Folding down to 15.5 inches (40 centimeters), the FX Carbon packs relatively small but not as small as the most compact folding poles. We couldn't find a time when those other poles could fit into a small space that the FX Carbon couldn't, and most users won't notice the difference. These poles fold down small enough to fit into any pack. The grip has a higher volume than other similar models, taking up more space, but not by much.

leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - the fx carbon (bottom) folds almost as small as more minimalist...
The FX Carbon (bottom) folds almost as small as more minimalist poles, and most users won't notice the difference.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Construction Quality


Carbon is a strong yet fragile material for trekking pole construction. It is strongest when loaded vertically, as when being pushed down upon during creek crossings or when carrying heavy loads. It is weaker when bent side-to-side, and if the tip gets caught in soft dirt or in between rocks, the pole may snap as the user's motion pushes the top of the pole forward. We've broken carbon trekking poles this way before. Carbon can also lose its strength when chipped, which happens easily in rocky terrain. The FX Carbon is susceptible to these issues but tries to combat them by reinforcing the ends of each shaft section with an aluminum collar. This is helpful, but it can't provide enough protection for us to trust these poles in the most rugged and remote regions.

leki black series fx carbon trekking poles review - aluminum collars on each end of the carbon shaft sections reduce...
Aluminum collars on each end of the carbon shaft sections reduce damage in these exposed areas.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Should You Buy the Leki Black Series FX Carbon?


These poles perform well across the board and are a great choice for someone who wants a pole that can do most things well. That said, the price tag is almost unbelievable for a pair of trekking poles, especially when you consider that other poles on the market perform just as well as, and sometimes better than, the FX Carbon. If you love Leki's cork grip and won't accept an alternative, then this pole might be worth the price. Otherwise, we would choose another option instead.

What Other Trekking Poles Should You Consider?


If you want the same all-around performance that this pole provides but want to save some money, we recommend the top-rated MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon, which is similar to the FX Carbon. If you want a similar pole with even more durability, the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ is basically the same pole but with aluminum shaft sections. If you like carbon foldable poles but want to save weight for more technical applications like alpine climbing and mountain running, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z is for you. And if you want a foldable, featured trekking pole at a bargain price, the Trekology Trek-Z is the best value on the market.

Jeff Dobronyi
 
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