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Leki Micro Vario Carbon Review

This pole made of lightweight carbon is our top-ranked trekking pole.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $200 List | $189.93 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, packs compactly, comfortable grip, easily disassembled
Cons:  Expensive, may be less durable than some aluminum models
Manufacturer:   Leki
By Graham Williams and Sibylle Hechtel  ⋅  May 8, 2019
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RANKED
#1 of 13
  • Comfort - 20% 10
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 10
  • Packed Size - 15% 9
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 10

Our Verdict

The Leki Micro Vario Carbon features carbon construction and a break-apart, tent pole-like design. These two features combine to make it one of the more durable and packable poles in our lineup, earning our coveted Editors' Choice award. The Aergon grip is one of the most comfortable options in the review, and the carbon fiber naturally absorbs shock. Such premium construction makes this pole one of the more expensive options we've reviewed. However, if you need a light, dependable pole, we highly recommend this option. It's a top choice for any extreme endeavors in the mountains — whether you're climbing in Patagonia, running ultras around Aconcagua, or hiking 14ers in California or Colorado.


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Pros Lightweight, packs compactly, comfortable grip, easily disassembledComfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, light, versatileComfortable, durable, great locking mechanismTough, comfortable, great locking, several tips and basketsLightweight, packs small, adjustable
Cons Expensive, may be less durable than some aluminum modelsExpensiveRelatively heavy, doesn't pack as small as othersNot as light or packable as other polesNot as strong, durable, or comfortable as other options
Bottom Line This pole made of lightweight carbon is our top-ranked trekking pole.This pole is the shortest to pack, is lightweight, the most comfortable, and easy to adjust.These poles are among the most durable tested. They are also comfortable, versatile, and easy to adjust.The Alpine Carbon Cork features durable construction, comfortable cork grips, and different tips and baskets.A lightweight pole that also allows some length adjustment.
Rating Categories Leki Micro Vario Carbon Women's Micro Vario Carbon Alpine Carbon Cork Alpine Carbon Cork Black Diamond Carbon FLZ
Comfort (20%)
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Weight (20%)
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Locking And Adjustability (15%)
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Specs Leki Micro Vario... Women's Micro... Alpine Carbon Cork Alpine Carbon Cork Black Diamond...
Measured Weight Per Pair (Ounces) 16.4 oz 16.0 oz 17.0 oz 17.0 oz 13.4 oz
Shaft Material Carbon Carbon Carbon Carbon Carbon
Min Length (inches) 15.5 in 15.5 in 23 in 24 in 13/15/17 in
Max Length (inches) 47 in 51 in 51 in 51 in 49.2 in
Pole Design Foldable Foldable Collapsible Collapsible Foldable
Grip Material Foam Foam Cork Cork Foam
Locking Mechanism Speed​​Lock 2 Speed​​Lock 2 External Lever Lock FlickLock Pro FlickLock
Shock absorbing? No No No No No
Baskets? Tip Attachments? Yes, tips and baskets Yes, tips and baskets Yes, rubber tips, trekking baskets, powder baskets Yes, carbide tips, trail baskets and snow baskets (sold separately) Yes, carbide tips, rubber tips, trail baskets and snow baskets (sold separately)

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Leki Micro Vario Carbon performs well in most testing metrics. As a carbon break-apart pole, it's light and packs down shorter than most poles. Durability was our main concern, as with most carbon fiber poles.

Performance Comparison


Hiking with the Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles in Colorado's Front Range.
Hiking with the Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles in Colorado's Front Range.

Comfort


The Micro Vario Carbon ranks at the top of the class in terms of comfort. We love Leki's contoured grips design, cut perfectly to accommodate the curves of the hand. This goes a long way, allowing our 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 felt like the cut of the grip was far superior to other options. The foam absorbs sweat and shaves weight, and 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.

We really like the Aergon grip and smooth  super comfortable "Skin" strap.
Leki Micro Vario shows the textured extension below the pole grip and the smooth edgeless grip top.


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, and we found that the thin, light straps of the Micro Vario Carbon were plenty comfortable. The carbon fiber shafts are thick and absorb much of the shock of the carbide tips striking rocks on the trail.

Leki Micro Vario pole shows the locking mechanism.
Leki Micro Vario pole shows the locking mechanism.

Locking and Adjustability


In this model, Leki combines a traditional telescoping extension feature with a modern tent- pole z-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 accomodate 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 break-apart style 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.

Shown here  the Micro Vario Carbon's pole grip open to show strap adjustment.
Shown here, the Micro Vario Carbon's pole grip open to show strap adjustment.

The straps adjust easily as well. First, you pull up on the strap to open the lever. Then you pull out on the strap to adjust the length. When you're done, push down on 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 the best out of any manufacturer in the review.

Weight


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 perfect sweet spot.

Leki Micro Vario Carbon comparison of women's and men's model. Men's is 10 cm longer.
Leki Micro Vario Carbon comparison of women's and men's model. Men's is 10 cm longer.

For shorter folks, some poles in our review have less shaft material and a shorter overall length, leading to weight savings. Those users won't want to carry around extra material every time they use this pole, and 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.

Packed Size


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 z-style 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 z-style pole. They'll disappear onto the side of any backpack, and will fit inside of most bags without taking up too much room. This is useful if you plan on doing any technical climbing or traveling.

Leki Micro Vario Carbon poles collapsed.
Leki Micro Vario Carbon poles collapsed.

Durability


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 the newer z-style designs, and aluminum is generally more durable than carbon fiber. That said, we appreciated 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.

Versatility


This pole 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's grip has a smooth  edgeless upper section and a knurled ridge below the hand.
The Micro Vario Carbon's grip has a smooth, edgeless upper section and a knurled ridge below the hand.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.


Graham Williams and Sibylle Hechtel