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Leki Carbonlite Review

Leki Carbonlite pole.
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Price:  $180 List
Pros:  Light weight, best foam grip in our review, compact for a telescoping pole, pretty durable for a carbon fiber pole
Cons:  Expensive, internal twist lock mechanism is just okay
Manufacturer:   Leki
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 30, 2014
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81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Locking Mechanism & Adjustability - 15% 7
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Packed Size - 15% 8
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 8

The Skinny

The Leki Carbonlite is a pretty sweet pole and is one of the lighter telescoping poles that features what is our favorite and likely the most comfortable grip of all the sub one pound poles in our review. Because the Carbonlite uses a traditional telescoping design it wasn't nearly as lightweight or as compact as several of the other modern, folding, "tent pole style" trekking poles we reviewed. Really one of the only things we didn't really love about the Carbonlite is the $180 price, and their SLS locking System, an internal twist lock closure mechanism. While this system might be a touch lighter and is less bulky, we thought it wasn't as easy to use and not quite as durable.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Leki Carbonlite pole.
Leki Carbonlite pole.

Comfort


This pole uses the AERGON Thermo Long Grip which was our Top Pick and the most comfortable of all foam grips and of any of the lighter sub 16 ounce poles we tested. We liked the Carbonlite's handle significantly better than Black Diamonds lighter foam grip that is used on the similarly weighted Distance poles. The Carbonlite just had vastly superior ergonomics in all aspects of its grip. It's handle is also by far the best among these lighter poles for "palmers" or folks who tend to use the pole with the top of the grip in their palm like a cane, rather than in the traditional way. The strap on the Carbonlite was also much nicer and easier to adjust compared with any of the lighter poles (weighing less than one pound) in our review.

Leki Carbonlite pole.
Leki Carbonlite pole.

Locking Mechanism


The Leki Carbonlite uses an internal expanding twist lock system that Leki calls the SLS (Super Lock System). While this system might be a little lighter and less bulky, we didn't like it as much as any of the other external lever lock style closing poles because it wasn't as easy to use nor was it as durable.

Weight


The Leki Carbonlite weighs in at 15 ounces, pretty light among trekking poles out there, and was the second lightest telescoping style trekking pole in our review. The Carbonlite is one ounce lighter than our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork and is near as durable.

Packability


The Leki Carbonlite breaks down to a minimum of 25" (63 cm) and extends to a maximum of 53" (135 cm). The 63 cm minimum length is better than average among traditional telescoping poles and only packed down .5 cm longer than our Editors' Choice, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. The Carbonlite will easily fit into most small luggage and onto the sides of most day packs. However if you desire a shorter more compact pole, similar in weight category, the folding "tent pole style" trekking poles get much shorter and are much more compact. If you like some of the same features and nice grip ergonomics of the Leki poles but want a more compact pole check out the Leki Micro Stick.

Durability


The Leki Carbonlite is pretty tough for a carbon fiber pole, likely near as durable as our award winning carbon fiber pole the Alpine Carbon Cork, but not as durable as nearly all of the aluminum poles we tested. Something cool that Leki does with this pole is they use synthetic tips that can flex up to 30°, reducing the chances of damage to the pole shaft itself if it gets hung up between rocks or punches into a creek. Like many other trekking poles in this review, the Carbonlite uses carbide tips. Carbide tips are easily the most durable and provide the best bite, rock or ice.

The Leki Quantum's Speedlock closure mechansim  this was our second favorite lever style system that we thought was nearly as good as Black Diamond's FlickLock.
The Leki Quantum's Speedlock closure mechansim, this was our second favorite lever style system that we thought was nearly as good as Black Diamond's FlickLock.

Versatility


Considering that this product is marketed as a lightweight carbon fiber pole we found it surprisingly versatile. Despite being Carbon Fiber we thought it was nearly as durable as several of its aluminum counterparts.

Bottom Line


These are sweet poles that are lightweight, versatile, surprisingly durable for carbon fiber and have the nicest and most comfortable handles among the lighter poles that weigh less than one pound. Why didn't they get an award? The twist lock, most of our testers agree, we wished it had one. They are also spendy, at $180 they are one of the most expensive poles we tested yet weren't necessarily the best overall, but the best in certain categories. So if you want the lightest pole you can get away with that still has awesome grip ergonomics, then this could be your pole but as we discussed earlier, they aren't as light or as compact as the more modern folding poles. They are also marginally less durable, more expensive and and don't have an external lever lock closure mechanism like our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork.


Ian Nicholson