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Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec Review

A heavy-duty trekking pole for long distance trips
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Price:  $120 List | $119.95 at REI
Pros:  Great lever locks, very durable
Cons:  Unrefined comfort, don't pack small, heavy
Manufacturer:   Leki
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 3, 2020
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 10
  • Comfort - 20% 4
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 9
  • Packed Size - 15% 4
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 5

Our Verdict

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.


Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


Testing the Makalua Lite on a hike in Wyoming.
Testing the Makalua Lite on a hike in Wyoming.

Comfort


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.

We found the Makalu's faux-cork grip to be firm and rubbery.
We found the Makalu's faux-cork grip to be firm and rubbery.

Weight


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.

The lever lock tightening dial is easy to adjust by hand.
The lever lock tightening dial is easy to adjust by hand.

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.

We loved the Makalu's simple wrist strap adjustment.
We loved the Makalu's simple wrist strap adjustment.

Packed Size


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.

The Makalu  far right  doesn't pack down as small as other poles in our review.
The Makalu, far right, doesn't pack down as small as other poles in our review.

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.

Solid aluminum shaft sections give the Makalu excellent strength and durability.
Solid aluminum shaft sections give the Makalu excellent strength and durability.

Versatility


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.

The small trekking baskets are removable and can be replaced by snow baskets.
The small trekking baskets are removable and can be replaced by snow baskets.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Hiking with the Leki Makalu Lite.
Hiking with the Leki Makalu Lite.


Jeff Dobronyi