Leki Micro Vario Carbon Review
Cons: Expensive, less durable than some aluminum models
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon performs well in most testing metrics. As a foldable carbon pole, it's light and packs down shorter than most options. Durability is our main concern, as with most carbon fiber poles, but we didn't find this to be a deal-breaker.
The Micro Vario Carbon is the most comfortable trekking pole we have ever tested. The foam grip is contoured perfectly to fit into the hands of hikers large and small. While we generally prefer cork grips, the handle on the Micro Vario is made of slightly stiffer foam than most other foam grips on the market. This provides all of the benefits of a foam grip (namely moisture absorption and a light weight) while also providing the support and custom moldability of a cork grip.
We never found ourselves wanting more out of Leki's Aergon foam grips. We also enjoyed the extended foam pads below each grip that allow users to choke down on the pole when traveling across hillsides or climbing steep slopes. This is a small embellishment, but it goes a long way.
The straps are made of thin material, which initially gave us pause, but the fabric is very soft and supple, almost silky. Other poles feature padded straps for comfort, which add weight, but we think that the thin, light straps of the Micro Vario Carbon are plenty comfortable. The carbon fiber shafts are thick and absorb much of the shock of the carbide tips striking rocks on the trail. Finally, the rounded top of the handle is very comfortable to push down, in case you feel like switching up hand positions while hiking.
At 16.4 ounces, the Micro Vario Carbon is an average weight for trekking poles. There are lighter options out there, but it's hard to find a lighter pole that also retains some length adjustment and durability.
These poles feature only one lever lock, carbon fiber shafts, and foam grips. All of these features help with saving weight, but we never found these compromises in materials or adjustability to impact the overall performance. In fact, we found the weight and materials of the Micro Vario Carbon to hit the perfect sweet spot. We took these poles on mountain runs and alpine climbs and never noticed the extra weight compared to the lightest options on the market. That said, elite users who need every edge they can get might notice the extra weight.
For shorter folks, some poles in our review have less shaft material and a shorter overall length, leading to weight savings. Users who don't want to carry around extra material every time they use this pole will appreciate the slightly lighter options designed for women. These "women's specific" poles only differ from unisex poles in that they are usually shorter and lighter, with contoured grips for smaller hands. The Micro Vario Carbon is available in both a men's and women's version.
Locking and Adjustability
The Micro Vario is a combination-style pole, meaning that it both folds down into short segments, and also includes one segment of telescoping length adjustment directly below the grip. This is our preferred pole design because it allows for a small packed size and a light weight, while also allowing the user to get the length just right. In this case, the folding pole components extend with a satisfying snap as they lock into place, and they collapse by pushing hard on an ergonomic, spring-loaded lever.
As for the telescoping length lock, Leki's lever lock tightening system is the best we've tested. It snaps into place securely, and is also adjustable by hand-screwing a plastic knob, meaning that you don't need to carry a separate tool or get out your screwdriver to make adjustments.
The wrist strap is also easily adjustable. Pulling upwards on the strap opens a plastic lever, which allows the length to be changed, even when the wrist is still in place inside the strap. Then, a thumb or the other hand is used to snap the plastic lever down into place. This mechanism is clean, easy to use, and intuitive. We were even able to change the strap lengths when wearing thick winter gloves. This strap adjustment is the best out of any manufacturer in our review.
The break-apart design of the Micro Vario Carbon makes it one of the more packable models in our lineup. It packs down to 15.7 inches, which is par for the course among the foldable poles, and much smaller than any of the telescoping poles.
This metric is very important to certain types of users. If you ever plan on carrying these poles on or in your pack, you'll appreciate a foldable pole. They disappear onto the side of any backpack and fit inside of most bags without taking up too much room. This is useful if you plan on doing any technical climbing, scrambling, or air travel.
The Micro Vario features a carbon construction and a break-apart design, making it quite durable, but not as durable as aluminum poles using the traditional telescoping design. The overlapping sections of telescoping poles add more rigidity than foldable designs, and aluminum is generally more durable than carbon fiber. That said, we appreciate the thickness of the Micro Vario's carbon shafts, which had no durability problems during our test period. Furthermore, when we tried to bend the poles from side to side, they seemed as strong as aluminum options.
Still, carbon fiber tends to chip and crack more easily than aluminum poles, so every pole design has to choose between more durability with aluminum construction and the lighter weight afforded by carbon construction. For users expecting heavy packs and rugged terrain, or for users traveling to remote parts of the world where new poles might be hard to come by, we'd recommend an even more durable pole. For everyone else, these poles should last a long time.
The Micro Vario Carbon is a great choice for hikers, trekkers, or backpackers due to its strength and comfort. We also recommend it for climbers and travelers, thanks to its packability. It comes with snow baskets, which makes it a good choice for mountaineers, snowshoers, or backcountry skiers or snowboarders. The foam grips are great for warm weather as well, as they wick moisture effectively.
The smooth, edgeless grip lets you rest your hand on top of the pole and push down comfortably when skinning uphill on skis or descending a steep trail. Only the most weight-conscious technical climbers and mountain runners will wish they chose a lighter pole.
The Micro Vario Carbon is one of the most expensive poles that we have ever tested, but it is also the most refined. It's excellent for an amazingly wide variety of uses, from short day hikes to long and demanding approaches for expeditions and alpine climbing. It has the best comfort, locking and adjustability, and performance-to-weight ratio among any of the poles in our review. In this case, you get what you pay for.
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon is a great all-around pole, excelling in every category. It only loses major points in the weight category, doing so to gain versatility and durability. It's expensive, but the features and balanced performance are worth the money, earning it our Editors' Choice award.
— Jeff Dobronyi