Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Great lever locks, very durable
Cons: Unrefined comfort, large packed size, heavy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Makalu Lite performs very well in the locking and durability categories due to its well-designed lever locks and telescoping aluminum construction. The pole doesn't pack down very small or boast a light weight, but for trekkers who need something that won't break, these sacrifices are acceptable. We do, however, wish they had a more comfortable grip material.
Leki makes an awesome grip contour design, which we appreciate on this pole. Other than that, it feels unrefined. The grip material looks like cork, and Leki claims that it is cork, but it feels more like hard rubber, meaning it gets slick with sweat and feels firm after long days of use. Leki has great foam and cork handles that we wished were included on this pole. However, for long harsh treks, the rubbery grip material might be more durable. There are no grip extensions, and the wrist strap is thin and soft, but not padded. In general, we were disappointed by the grip comfort on this pole.
The Makalu Lite weighs 17.3 ounces per pair, which is heavier than most poles on the market. However, in the heavy-duty category, this pair is relatively light. Aluminum shafts and solid-feeling grip material made us think this pair would weigh more than it does. Although this pole is heavier than most trekking pole options, those looking for a durable pole to take to the ends of the earth will be pleasantly surprised by the Makalu's weight.
Locking and Adjustability
This pole is designed to be highly adjustable and to lock down securely. A three-section telescoping design allows plenty of adjustable length between two sections, up to 14 inches (35cm). This ties for the most adjustable length of any pole in our review. The lever locks snap down tightly and can be adjusted on the fly by hand, no tool needed. Simple and genius.
We also love the easy wrist strap adjustment mechanism. Simply pull up on the wrist strap to unlock the system, pull out on the bottom flap to the correct length, and snap down the top button to lock it in place. This design is intuitive and can be done with one hand. Both the wrist strap and lever lock adjustments are easy to perform in the field without additional tools, which is great for trekking in developing nations that might not have outdoor equipment stores in every town.
The Makalu Lite doesn't pack down very small. The minimum telescoping length is 26.25 inches, which means these poles will stick out if you strap them to the side of most backpacks. They are meant to be carried in the hand, not on the pack, and they won't be useful for people who need a pole that can be stowed in a small backpack during a climb. It can even be a pain to fit them inside small pieces of luggage. That said, this sacrifice seems necessary for the pole to achieve its purpose, which is superior durability.
These poles are very durable due to their thick aluminum shaft construction. We banged the Makalu all over the place and leaned on them with heavy backpacks, and didn't get anything to break. We did note some bending compared to carbon fiber poles, but aluminum is meant to bend, which helps prevent snapping. The lever locks have plastic components but feel robust and strong. The grip material is durable to the extreme. These poles are meant to be taken to the ends of the earth.
The large packed size, heavier weight, and large grip make these poles less versatile than others in our review. These are clearly designed for heavier use with big backpacks across unforgiving terrain, day after day. As such, they aren't great for mountain running, ultralight backpacking, or approaching technical climbs. They are probably overkill for day hiking and shorter overnight trips, and for those average uses, we'd recommend lighter poles. They feature screw-off baskets and can be used with Leki's snow baskets for winter use and glacier trekking.
For the burly performance that this pole delivers, the Makalu Lite is relatively inexpensive. You'll have a hard time finding a stronger or more durable pole at a cheaper price. It isn't right for everyone, including probably the average day hiker, but for those who need a reliable workhorse for long journeys, this pole is a great value. It is much cheaper than the other heavy-duty trekking poles in our review.
The Leki Makalu Lite is designed to withstand the harshest treks and long-distance hikes you can find. We appreciate its durability, strength, and locking mechanisms for heavy-duty use. That said, it is overkill for the average day hiker. If you are headed to the ends of the earth, however, this is a good option.
— Jeff Dobronyi