Leki Micro Vario Carbon Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, packs compactly, comfortable grip, easily disassembled
Cons: Expensive, may be 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 ranks at the top of the class in terms of comfort. We love Leki's contoured grip design, cut perfectly to accommodate the curves of the hand. This goes a long way, allowing hand muscles to relax and lightly hold the pole while hiking. Foam construction adds to the plush comfort. Holding these poles is effortless and pleasant, leading to better days on the trail.
Foam is great for absorbing sweat and saving weight, and while many other poles feature comfortable cork material in the grip, we feel like the cut of the Micro Vario is far superior to other options. 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.
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 performance of the poles. In fact, we found the weight and materials of the Micro Vario Carbon to hit the perfect sweet spot.
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
In this model, Leki combines a traditional telescoping extension feature with a modern foldable design, creating a pole that locks securely and is also somewhat adjustable. This is our preferred pole design, allowing for both reliable locking and enough adjustability to accommodate any use. The telescoping section fastens with a lever lock, which is also adjustable by hand.
Leki's lever lock tightening system is the best on the market. It's simple and requires no tools to adjust tension, making on-trail alterations easy. As a foldable pole, the Micro Vario Carbon uses a combination of the new ELD (External Locking Device) and a SpeedLock 2 mechanism, which allows the pole to break down very small and still retain 8 inches (20cm) of adjustment.
The straps adjust easily as well. First, you pull up on the strap to open a plastic lever. Then you pull out on the strap to adjust the length. When you're done, push down on the top of the pole grip to close the lever. We were able to change the straps' length even when wearing thick winter gloves. This strap adjustment is the best out of any manufacturer in the 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 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 or scrambling or international travel.
The Micro Vario features a carbon construction and a break-apart design, making it quite durable, but not as durable as a telescoping design like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. 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. This is something you need to consider as well before choosing what pole to buy.
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, like when you're skinning up on your 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 can be used in an amazingly wide variety of uses, excelling at every one, 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. As such, it is worth the money and offers reasonable value.
The 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 & Graham William