Leki Micro Vario Carbon Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon performs well in most testing metrics. As a foldable carbon pole, it packs down shorter than most options and is relatively lightweight. 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 fairly comfortable. The foam grip is heavily contoured to fit the shape of a hand, but multiple testers reported that the shape didn't mesh well with their exact hand size and that their hands were achy by the end of the day. We enjoy the extended foam pads below each grip that allows users to choke down on the pole when traveling across hillsides or climbing steep slopes. The straps are made of thin, silky fabric, which is comfortable on the wrist, and the rounded top of the handle is very comfortable when using the pole in a "cane" configuration. 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 few retain length adjustment capability and durability. These poles feature only one lever lock, carbon fiber shafts, and foam grips. All of these features help with saving weight, but the shafts feel heavy to swing forward, likely due to the metal reinforcements where shaft sections meet. Over time, users will notice this heavy swing 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.
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, 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. That said, users who prefer lightweight poles and poles with low swing weights should consider other options.
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. Our only gripe is that the release lever is slightly unintuitive and required explanation to new users.
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. Foldable poles disappear onto the side of any backpack and fit inside 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. We appreciate the thickness of the 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. These poles feature metal reinforcements on the ends of the carbon shaft sections, making them a durable choice compared to other foldable poles.
The Micro Vario Carbon is one of the most expensive poles that we have ever tested. It excels in a wide variety of uses, from short day hikes to long and demanding approaches for expeditions, but it is hard to justify spending so much on a pair of trekking poles when capable, less-expensive options exist.
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. But for the price, we expect a slightly lighter swing weight and a more comfortable grip.
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