The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon Review

This pole is the shortest to pack, is lightweight, the most comfortable, and easy to adjust.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $200 List | $199.95 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, light, versatile
Cons:  Expensive
Manufacturer:   Leki
By Sibylle Hechtel ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2019
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93
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 18
  • Comfort - 20% 10
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 10
  • Packed Size - 15% 10
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon is among our favorite poles, and our first choice to take on an alpine mountaineering trip because it collapses to such a small size. It rates the highest in comfort, with its edgeless Aergon thermo foam grips and its breathable "Skin Strap." Its simple adjustability and versatility put it among our top choices for any multi-day hike or trek. The tent-pole type of shaft rapidly breaks down to only 16 inches, which easily fits into a daypack. The carbon construction gives it great durability while keeping the weight low.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon excels in most of the metrics we tested them against. They break apart to the shortest packable length of the poles we tested, making them a great pole for alpine climbing trips. We found the Aergon Thermo foam grip very comfortable, with the 'Skin' strap the most comfortable strap on the poles that we tested. The Speed Lock 2 Adjustment system, with its lever release, ensures 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 Leki Micro Vario ties for first place in the comfort metric. The shape of the Aergon Thermo long foam grip, with its smooth, edgeless profile, fits well in bare hands — both held normally, and also when your hand is on top of the pole grip, as when climbing on skis or when going down steep hills.


The strap easily adjusts by pulling up to loosen the adjusting wedge, which allows you to lengthen or shorten the strap as needed. When done, push the lever down to lock the strap in place. The breathable 'Skin' strap material is comfortable with bare skin, and is among the easiest straps to adjust, and the "skin" material makes it one of the lightest straps we've used.

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

Finally, the Leki Micro Vario also features foam grip extensions below the main grip to choke down on the grip when traversing a side hill or hiking up steep trails. We find the Leki grip extension easier to grasp than the grip extension on the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's, which is smooth, without ribbing or ridges. The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock grip extensions are the beefiest, with ridges that prevent one's hands from slipping, but they are among the heaviest of the poles we tested.

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.

Weight


At 16.4 ounces, the Leki Micro Vario is lighter than most other poles that we tested. The REI Flash Carbon - Women's weighs less at 13.2 ounces, but sacrifices on comfort and lacks a lower grip extension. The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork and the REI Traverse weigh a little more, at 17 ounces each. The REI Traverse also lacks a lower grip extension. The BD Alpine Carbon Cork, one of the best women's poles, has a lower grip extension that's shorter and less textured than the Leki grip extension.


Locking and Adjustability


The Leki Micro Vario pole (both men's and women's version) ranks in the top of the metric for locking and adjustability. We could adjust the pole length easily and quickly. Leki's Speed Lock 2 Adjustment System with the new ELD (External Locking Device), part of the break-apart, or folding pole design, similar to tent poles, allows you to quickly fold the pole down to only 16 inches long. The new ELD lever makes it easy to lock the segments into place when lengthening the pole. To break down the pole, simply push on the lever, and the pieces come apart.


We easily adjusted the pole length even while wearing thick gloves. We like the fact that it requires adjusting only one lever to one length reading, instead of two separate adjustments to two separate length readings, as in various other poles like the Cascade Mountain Tech and the Black Diamond Alpine Cork.

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.

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, and one doesn't need to carry a separate screwdriver.

Packed size


The Leki Women's Micro Vario Carbon packs down the smallest of the poles we tested, at only 16 inches long.


The next smallest packed poles that we tested were the Black Diamond Alpine, at 23 inches, and the REI Flash Carbon, also at 23 inches. That means the Lekis are a hefty 8 inches shorter than the next smallest poles, and makes this pole much easier to stash in a summit pack when climbing on technical terrain, or when ascending on a splitboard prior to boarding down.

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


The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's competes with the Leki Micro Vario in durability, since with the Black Diamond Alpine's interchangeable tech tips you can replace the carbide tip if it should break or wear out. The Leki tip can also be replaced, with a new tip available here.


The Leki shaft material comprises 100% carbon in all sections of the pole shafts. This results in a light pole, with an overall strong pole shaft that can withstand occasionally hitting rocks or other obstacles.

We've used a version of the Leki Micro Vario Carbon for many years to climb about 38 of Colorado's "14ers" — peaks over 14,000 feet tall. We've gotten the poles stuck between boulders, leaned on them with a heavy pack, fallen off an icy log crossing a creek with them, and they've never broken.

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

Versatility


The Leki Micro Vario would be among our first choices to take on a mountaineering or climbing trip. With their light weight and short packed length, they're an ideal pole for approaches to technical alpine climbs. They are our first choice of poles 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 deeper snow.


Best Applications


The Leki Micro Vario are ideal poles for rock or ice climbing, trail running, multi-day hiking trips, or through-hikes such as the John Muir Trail. One of our friends traveled to Nepal a few years ago, and one of her poles broke on the first day of her trek. We prefer a pole with fully replaceable parts (and always carry an extra tip) for trips to Nepal or other remote areas.

Value


At $200, the Leki Micro Vario is one of the more expensive poles, but it is still our first choice to take on approaches to technical climbs. With its short packed length, we use the poles on the approach hike, and then put them in our pack for the technical rock sections of the climb, and break them out again on the descent. Since we often take one route up the mountain and then descend down the backside, a pole that's easy to carry in your pack when climbing works best for ascents of the more technical peaks.

Conclusion


The Leki Micro Vario is a top choice for climbing and trekking poles.

We may prefer the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon in remote areas (such as the Himalaya) because of its aluminum pole shaft, which can be repaired by welding the pieces.


Sibylle Hechtel