Leki Makalu Lite Review
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Leki Makalu Lite
$99.55 at Amazon
$135.89 at Amazon
|$150 List||$104.89 at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
$42.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Huge length adjustability, highly durable, locking mechanisms can be tightened without a tool||Comfortable grip, locks securely, packs small, highly versatile||Comfortable grips, versatile, packable, relatively affordable||Lightweight, short collapsed length, durable||Durable, comfortable grip, packs small|
|Cons||Long collapsed length, not packable, heavy, limited versatility||Carbon is less durable than aluminum, on the expensive side||Difficult locking mechanism, heavier than comparable poles||No length adjustability, average grip comfort||Heavy, less versatile due to weight|
|Bottom Line||These poles are durable and adjustable, perfect for long treks in remote areas||A simple, elegant, and well-built trekking pole with versatility for all uses||Burly folding trekking poles with comfortable grips that are great for everything from hiking and backpacking to climbing and mountaineering||Durable with a short collapsed length, this is a fantastic value for a lightweight pole||A highly affordable pair of poles with all of the features of more expensive models|
|Rating Categories||Leki Makalu Lite||MSR DynaLock Ascent...||Leki Jannu FX TA||Black Diamond Dista...||Trekology Trek-Z 2.0|
|Locking and Adjustability (15%)|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Construction Quality (10%)|
|Specs||Leki Makalu Lite||MSR DynaLock Ascent...||Leki Jannu FX TA||Black Diamond Dista...||Trekology Trek-Z 2.0|
|Measured Weight (per pair)||16.5 oz||17.0 oz||19.0 oz||12.5 oz||26.0 oz|
|Shaft Material||Aluminum||Carbon fiber||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Collapsed Length||26 in||14.25 in||15 in||13/14/16/17 in||15 in|
|Max Length||53 in||47 in||47 in||39/43/47/51 in||47 in|
|Grip Material||Aergon Air Thermo||Rubber, plastic, foam||Aergon Cor-Tec||EVA foam||Foam|
|Locking Mechanism||Speed Lock plus||DynaLock||Speed Lock plus||Speed Cone Deployment||Lever lock|
|Baskets/Tip Attachments?||Yes, trekking 2.0 basket||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
Don't let the "lite" in the name of this pole fool you. While the weight of the Makalu Lite isn't overly heavy, this is a rugged and well-made pole with a lot of adjustability. If you're traveling into rough and varied terrain, this is your pole.
Leki's products often impress us with the comfort of their grips, and the Makalu Lite is no exception. The contoured foam handle is easy to hold, but we think there are better grips out there. The top of the handle is a little larger and flatter than previous versions of Leki's grips, and we like the older version better. A comfortable foam secondary grip with crossed grooves improves your hold if you are choking up on the pole.
The thick aluminum pole shafts don't absorb impacts on solid rock very well, and the top of the handle isn't the most comfortable to push down upon. The thin, silky wrist strap is still the most comfortable wrist strap on the market. Overall, these are relatively comfortable poles to use, but they come up just short of the top contenders on the market.
At 16.5 ounces per pair, the Makalu Lite isn't the lightest pole on the market, but it isn't the heaviest, either. Full aluminum construction, three telescoping shaft sections, and multiple lever locks generally aren't a recipe for lightweight performance, but somehow, these poles shave weight when it counts and fall squarely in the middle of the pack.
These poles use foam grips rather than cork grips. Foam is lighter than cork, but it doesn't mold to the contours of the hand over time. Also, the lever locks are plastic, which helps keep the weight down, but plastic lever locks are also a potential durability concern because if they get smashed on a rock in rugged terrain, the pole becomes useless. Finally, these poles have a heavy swing weight, which means much of the weight is centered towards the tip of the pole, noticeable when swinging the pole forward with each step.
Due to their heavy weight and large packed size, the Makalu Lite isn't a versatile pole. They can't be folded down and stowed inside a backpack, meaning they are useless for any trip where you might want to carry the poles for a while. They also weigh more than many other options, meaning they aren't a good choice for any endeavor where speed is desired.
Most users are looking for a sturdy, simple pole that is useful during hikes and walks. These poles are great for those activities since they can be extended to many lengths depending on the user's height, and they are comfortable and light enough to be pleasant on any hike. Weight-conscious users or technical athletes should look elsewhere for a more specialized pole, and anyone who thinks they might dabble in light-and-fast travel would be better off with a more versatile pole.
Locking and Adjustability
The Makalu Lite features a staggering 14 inches (35 centimeters) of length adjustability, meaning they can extend or compress for any activity or imagined use. They can also fit a variety of users with different heights, making them a good choice for families or for renting out to guests. The lever locks are easy to use and securely lock the shaft sections into place.
Most adjustable trekking poles on the market today have their length adjustment controlled by levers that flip open to allow the shaft sections to slide in and out, longer or shorter. Then the lever is snapped closed to clamp the shaft sections into place, fixing the length of the pole. These levers need to be tightened occasionally to ensure the correct amount of pressure is being used against them to provide a tight fit against the shaft sections. The Makalu Lite has a textured plastic knob that is easily turned with just the fingers, tightening or loosening the lever locks in the field without an additional tool. This is a great feature that we hope to see on every trekking pole in the future.
The Makalu Lite doesn't pack down small at all. As a three-section telescoping pole, the shaft sections fit inside of each other to compress. In its shortest orientation, this pole collapses down to 26 inches (65 centimeters). This is far too large to fit inside a backpack, and they stick out along the side of a pack if you try to strap them to the outside.
Packed size is important if you plan on stowing your poles for sections of running, scrambling, or climbing, but if you are planning on holding your poles the entire time, this metric isn't as important. Still, we find ourselves wanting to ditch our poles with some regularity, even on average hikes, and the ability to pack our poles into our packs is important to our test team. Not being able to be packed away limits the versatility of the Makalu.
With shafts made from durable aluminum and carbide tips, the Makalu Lite is built to last. This pole can handle anything you throw at it. From heavy loads across rough terrain to treacherous river crossings, these poles hold up to stress when you need them to. Aluminum can bend without breaking and chip without being compromised.
Under heavy loads, these poles bend a decent amount, which is actually a useful feature because they bend but don't break, then snap back into form when the weight is lifted. The lever locks are made of plastic, which creates a weak point, but it also saves weight compared to aluminum lever locks. For a pole made to trek to the ends of the earth, metal lever locks would be better, but we have confidence in these locks nonetheless. The foam grip can chip if not treated with care when laying the poles down onto rocky ground, but the weight savings are worth this minor durability sacrifice, in our opinion.
Should You Buy the Leki Makalu Lite?
These poles are pricey, but considering their excellent performance in heavy-duty trekking performance, we think they are worth the price. If you are venturing to far-off destinations where gear stores are few and far between, you need a pole that will last, and this is the right choice. If you don't need the rugged performance that these poles provide, there are plenty of other options out there at a lower price.
What Other Trekking Poles Should You Consider?
We like the MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon for most applications, from everyday hiking to lightweight backpacking to alpine climbing, though it doesn't have the durability of the Makalu Lite. If you want an even lighter pole but still want to retain some durability, the Black Diamond Distance Z is a great choice. And if you want good durability for long treks but still need a pole that can fold up and pack small, the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ is just what you need.
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