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Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon Review

This pole tops the charts by being comfortable, easy to adjust, wicked lightweight, and the shortest to pack
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $200 List | $160.85 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, light, versatile
Cons:  Expensive
Manufacturer:   Leki
By Mary Witlacil & Sibylle Hechtel  ⋅  May 4, 2020
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89
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 10
  • 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 Women's Micro Vario Carbon is among our favorite poles, and our first choice to take on alpine mountaineering trips because it collapses to such a small size. It rates the highest in comfort, with edgeless Aergon Thermo foam grips, grip extensions, and breathable "Skin Straps." With simple adjustability and versatility, the Micro Vario is among our top choices for any multi-day hike or trek and a clear winner of our Editors' Choice Award. The tent-pole style of shaft rapidly breaks down to only 16 inches, which easily fits into a daypack, and the stuff sack makes for no-fuss storage inside or outside a larger pack. Additionally, the carbon construction gives this pole great durability and shock absorption while keeping the weight low.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Women's Micro Vario Carbon excels in nearly all of our review metrics. These poles break-down into one of the shortest packable lengths of any poles we tested, which make it an excellent option for alpine climbing trips, mountaineering, or long trips on variable terrain. With ergonomically designed handles and grip extenders, the Aergon Thermo foam grips are among the most comfortable in our review suite. The Speed Lock 2 Adjustment system easily locks into place and breaks down with a simple press of a button, ensuring quick assembly and disassembly.

Performance Comparison


Hiking in Colorado's Front Range in spring using Women's Micro Vario Carbon poles.
Hiking in Colorado's Front Range in spring using Women's Micro Vario Carbon poles.

Comfort


The Micro Vario is easily the most comfortable women's trekking pole in our review. The shape of the Aergon Thermo long foam grip, with its smooth, contoured, and edgeless profile, fits well in bare hands. The strap easily adjusts by pulling up to loosen the adjusting wedge, which allows you to lengthen or shorten as needed. When done, you simply push the lever down to lock the strap back into place.


The breathable "skin" strap material is comfortable on bare skin, which is shocking because it is also one of the lightest straps we have ever used. The Micro Vario also features foam grip extensions below the main grip to choke down when traversing a side hill or hiking up steep trails. Our only complaint is that the "skin" straps can become easily twisted when you have to repeatedly remove the straps. Over time, we got used to this, so with a little practice, this minor problem will become easy to manage.

Women's Micro Vario Carbon pole grip and "skin" strap.
Women's Micro Vario Carbon pole grip and "skin" strap.

Weight


At 16 ounces, the Micro Vario is on the lighter end of the spectrum compared with the other poles in our test suite. This weight hits that sweet spot between ultra-light construction and durability, where the poles are light enough without sacrificing aspects of solid construction. Weight savings are achieved by using foam for the grip, carbon for the shafts, and including only one length adjustment mechanism.


Locking and Adjustability


The Micro Vario earns top marks in this metric for its ease of locking and adjustability. Leki's Speed Lock 2 Adjustment System with the new ELD (External Locking Device) is brilliantly designed for easy adjustability and break-down. The new ELD lever makes it easy to lock the segments into place when lengthening the pole, and there is only one length-adjustment point at the top of the pole, ensuring easy adjustability. The poles break down similarly to tent poles and command very little space in a pack. To break down the pole, simply push on the lever, and the pieces come apart.


We could easily adjust pole length even when wearing thick gloves. We really dig the fact that the Micro Vario has only one lever for length adjustment, rather than two adjustments and two separate length readings, as is the case with many other poles. In spite of only having one adjustment point, the Micro Vario has 8 inches (20cm) of adjustability — from 39 to 47 inches (100-120 cm) — which proved more than adequate for us. The one lever lock comes with a small thumbscrew with which you can loosen or tighten the tension. When hiking, we were able to hand-tighten the thumbscrews, not needing to carry a separate screwdriver.

Women's Micro Vario  ELD External Locking Device lever which quickly extends the poles to full length.
Women's Micro Vario ELD External Locking Device lever which quickly extends the poles to full length.

Packed Size


The women's Micro Vario Carbon packs down to only 15.5 inches (40cm) long. This is about the same length as other foldable or Z-style poles in our review. Foldable poles are by-far the most packable style of trekking poles, compared to telescoping poles.


The packed size of the Micro Vario is immensely useful for stowing the poles on the side of your pack, and the included stuff sack makes it easy to store everything inside of a backpack when not in use. We love this for how easy it is to move between hiking and scrambling when traversing over variable terrain and doing technical activities like talus hopping, technical scrambling, and alpine climbing. These poles also disappear easily into luggage during long-distance travel.

Women's Micro Vario - collapsed size is  a small fraction of the full pole size.
Women's Micro Vario - collapsed size is a small fraction of the full pole size.

Durability


Carbon fiber is inherently less durable than aluminum, but it is also much lighter and more shock-absorbing. That being said, other design features can also have a major impact on durability. For the weight, the innovative design of the Micro Vario lends to these poles being extremely durable.


The Micro Vario has thick carbon shafts that withstand cracking and snapping, and feature burly locking mechanisms that won't wear out or get destroyed very easily. If you do break your pole tips, however, they can be replaced with a universal carbide tip.

Women's Micro Vario with replaceable carbide tip and different baskets.
Women's Micro Vario with replaceable carbide tip and different baskets.

Versatility


Versatility is another category in which the Micro Vario Carbon earns top marks. These trekking poles are one of our top choices to take on a mountaineering trip or on alpine climbing adventures deep in the backcountry. Given that they are relatively lightweight and immanently packable, they're an ideal pole for approaches to technical alpine climbs.


These poles are our first choice to climb peaks in Colorado's Rocky Mountains or in the Sierra Nevada, both of which often require multi-day trips with long approaches, carrying heavy packs, and are followed by difficult rock or ice climbing. The baskets are interchangeable, with a regular trekking pole basket for trails and a snow basket for deep snow. In a pinch, you could even use these poles for ski touring. They are also a decent choice for heavy-duty backpacking or long-distance trekking, although a set of durable aluminum trekking poles might be our first choice for that.

The Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon pole showing the lower pole extension and the smooth  edgeless top of the grip.
The Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon pole showing the lower pole extension and the smooth, edgeless top of the grip.

Value


The age-old adage, you get what you pay for certainly rings true with the Micro Vario Carbon. These trekking poles are some of the more expensive poles out there, but we think they're worth it, hence our Editors' Choice Award designation. They are sufficiently lightweight and packable, extremely comfortable, and incredibly versatile. With these poles, you won't need to consider buying another pair for a long time. Many hikers could make do with a cheaper set, but if you can afford it, these are the best money can buy.

Conclusion


The Leki Micro Vario Carbon wins our Editors' Choice award for trekking poles in both the men's and the women's versions. The women's specific version is essentially the same — just a bit shorter and a little pinker. In some cases, you may want a more specialized pole that is lighter weight or more durable, but for most hiking, mountaineering, and alpine climbing trips, this pole is the cream of the crop.

Mary Witlacil & Sibylle Hechtel