Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon Review
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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 makes them 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.
Comfort is one of the many categories in which the Micro Vario poles excel. From the edgeless ergonomic grips to the ultra-breathable and shockingly comfortable "skin" straps, these poles proved to be the most comfortable in our test suite. To top it off, they are made from carbon, which is a shock-absorbing material designed to dampen vibrations from the trail.
Our reviewers were pleasantly surprised by how comfortably these poles handled. The shape of the Aergon Thermo long foam grip, with its smooth, contoured, and edgeless profile, fits well in bare hands and offers multiple positions for comfort on long trails or hard days. The rounded top of the grips are comfortable for palming on descents and the grip extension offers a lot of additional foam to grab when you need to move your hands down on the poles when headed up steep terrain. The "skin" straps are made of a lightweight, wicking fabric that is ultra-comfortable on the wrists, and didn't irritate our skin when we needed to release the grips while talus hopping or doing short bits of fourth class. Our only complaint is that these straps can become easily twisted when you have to repeatedly remove them. With practice and patience we figured out how to avoid this problem, so with some time, this minor problem becomes easy to manage.
At 16 ounces per pair, the Micro Vario poles are on the lighter end of the spectrum compared with others in our test suite. This weight hits that sweet spot between ultra-light construction and durability, where the poles are light enough without sacrificing solid construction.
Foldable poles will typically be lighter than their telescoping counterparts and carbon-fiber is lighter-weight than aluminum. Both of these features sacrifice some durability, but with the burliness of Leki's construction, these poles strike a balance between being fairly lightweight but still durable. In addition to shaving grams by having carbon-fiber shafts, the Micro Vario saves weight by using a hollow foam grip, lightweight "skin" straps, and including only one length-adjustment mechanism.
Locking and Adjustability
The Micro Vario earns top marks in this metric for its ease. 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, ensuring easy adjustability. They 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 that you can easily loosen or tighten without carrying additional tools into the backcountry. Our one minor complaint in this department is that the release lever is stiffer to engage for breaking down than other foldable poles tested in this review.
The women's Micro Vario Carbon packs down to only 15.5 inches (40cm) long, similar to other foldable or Z-style options. However, our reviewers noticed that they take up noticeably more space than other foldable poles in our review. Foldable poles are by-far the most packable style of trekking poles, compared to telescoping poles.
We loved being able to stow the Micro Vario poles in our pack for critter hangs or on the outside of a pack to move efficiently across technical terrain. These poles come with a stuff sack, which keeps them self-contained in your bag, though to save weight on long trips, you may decide to leave the stuff sack behind. They also proved ideal for transitioning between hiking and scrambling or alpine climbing, because you can easily break-them-down and stash them in your pack. Additionally, they disappear easily into luggage during long-distance travel.
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 and burly design of the Micro Vario lends to these poles being impressively durable.
Most recently we used and abused these poles on rough, steep, technical terrain, over two multi-day backpacking trips in the Eastern Sierra. Aside from some scratches and dings on the shafts, they remained unscathed. 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. For most uses, aside from expedition-style backpacking with a massive pack, these poles will be durable enough. That being said, if you depend on your poles to support your weight with an enormous or heavy pack on an expedition (multi-week trip) with variable terrain (think lots of steep boulder-hopping, etc.), then you may prefer telescoping aluminum poles, as these will withstand more weight and torsional pressure. If you break your pole tips they can be replaced with a universal carbide tip from Leki. If, after a season of heavy use, you lose or break your plastic baskets, these can also be replaced with trekking baskets.
The Micro Vario Carbon shines in the category of versatility. They are ideal for hikers, backpackers, alpine climbers, and trekkers. Whether you're headed deep into the backcountry for mountaineering, alpine climbing, or to log some serious miles on a backpacking trip, these poles are a worthy companion. Given their packability, modest weight, comfort, and durability, they are sure to impress a broad swath of backcountry fiends and international trekkers alike.
The Micro Vario are our top choice for peak-bagging and multi-day alpine climbing trips in Colorado's Rocky Mountains or in California's Sierra Nevada. In both mountain ranges, we put these poles to the limit on multi-day trips with long approaches over variable terrain while carrying heavy packs, followed by alpine rock 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, as the grips have enough purchase to comfortably push down while skinning uphill. For some folks, they will even prove sufficient for expedition-style backpacking, although aluminum telescoping poles might better accommodate carrying a beastly pack over highly technical terrain.
The age-old adage "you get what you pay for" certainly rings true with the Micro Vario Carbon. These trekking poles are among the more expensive trekking poles out there, but we think they're well worth it, hence our Editors' Choice Award designation. They are sufficiently lightweight and packable, extremely comfortable, incredibly versatile, and dang durable. With these poles, you shouldn't need to consider buying another pair for a long time. Many hikers and backcountry enthusiasts could make do with cheaper trekking poles, but if you can afford it, these are some of the best money can buy.
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