Leki Micro Vario Carbon Max Review
Cons: Heavy, some durability concerns
Our Analysis and Test Results
This pole excels in some categories and performs poorly in others. We liked the small packed size, very comfortable grip, and versatile features. We didn't like its heavy weight and questionable durability.
Leki is known for their comfortable grips and these poles uphold that reputation. Soft foam material is used in a well-contoured design that feels perfect in hand. The top of the grip is large and rounded, adding comfort when pushing down on the top of the pole when descending or skinning uphill on snow. The foam grip extends down the pole, enabling a comfortable and secure handhold when traversing loose and steep slopes. Thick carbon-fiber shafts absorb impacts, and a padded wrist strap distributes weight along the wrist joint. Overall, these poles are some of the most comfortable in our review.
At 21.1 ounces, these are the heaviest poles in our review. At first, we were surprised that a carbon fiber pole could be heavier than aluminum alternatives. Upon further scrutiny, we found that the pole sections feature heavy metal sheaths that provide more durability at the joints, and the grip, although made of foam, has a lot of material. The carbon shafts are thick, adding more weight. Although many hikers don't mind a few ounces here or there, over time, our arms got a little more tired from swinging these poles back and forth. The heavy weight of these pole is also a bummer, considering their small packed size. These poles would be perfect for technical objectives if they were a bit lighter.
Locking and Adjustability
The Micro Vario Carbon Max is relatively adjustable and features a great locking mechanism. This pole is a combination of the z-style tent-pole and the telescoping pole designs. The three-pole sections lock into place with a push-button when extended, and then an additional lever lock allows length adjustment. We prefer this type of pole design because it provides the best of both worlds: small packed size and some length adjustability. This pole features 8 inches (20cm) of length adjustment. The lever lock fees solid, and can be tightened by hand in the field.
These poles pack down about as small as any other pole in our review. We liked the packed size performance of all the z-style poles in our review. When folded, the Vario Max measures 16 inches (40cm) in length, which is easily short enough to fit inside a small day pack or on the outside of a large backpack. As a result, these poles can stow away for technical scrambling sections and will disappear into luggage.
Thick carbon-fiber shafts and metal sheaths at critical joints made us think these poles would be durable. However, over the course of the review, we noticed some flaws. First, the rubber cap on the top of the grips started to separate from the rest of the grip, and it was not easily snapped back down into place. Additionally, we snapped one pole in the middle of a shaft while taking these poles on a ski tour and gently beating them on the snow surface. While this flaw wasn't due to strict trekking and hiking use, it gave us pause. We wouldn't use these poles for off-trail and cross-country travel, or for treks to remote destinations where pole repair or replacement is not available.
These poles are useful for a wide variety of activities in the backcountry. They are most at home on the trail for day hikes and multi-day trips, and can also be used for long-distance hikes, or approaching and carrying over technical objectives. They come with powder baskets that make them useful for backcountry skiing and splitboarding. Because of their heavy weight, we don't recommend them to alpine climbers, and our durability concerns make us hesitant to recommend them for expeditions, rugged treks, or through-hikes.
These poles are among the most expensive that we tested. They perform very well in some metrics, but for the price, we think that you can find better poles for less money. We have some durability concerns that cause us to question the long-term value of these poles.
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon Max is a good pole for trail hiking and technical scrambling, due to its comfortable grip and small packed size. We wouldn't recommend them for technical climbers or heavy duty trekkers because of their heavy weight and durability concerns.
— Jeff Dobronyi