The Leki Makalu Lite is a burly and heavy pole made for trekking and long-distance through-hiking. It locks securely with great lever locks that can be adjusted by hand on the trail. Thick aluminum shafts provide excellent stability and strength that won't give out when you need it most. For these performance attributes, weight and packed size are sacrificed, making these poles less versatile than other options. Still, if you are looking for a durable pole for extended treks, this is a great choice.
Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec Review
Cons: Unrefined comfort, don't pack small, 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 heavy 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 these poles had a more comfortable grip material.
Leki has 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.
At 17.3 ounces per pair, the Makalu Lite is indeed lighter than some other heavy-duty trekking poles in our review. This is surprising, given the heavy grip material and thick aluminum shafts. We expected this pole to be heavier because of its great performance in the durability metric. This weight seems to be the sweet spot between mass and durability.
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.
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.
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.
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, these poles 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 won't find a stronger or more one at a cheaper price. It isn't right for everyone, including 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 on earth. 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