Leki Condor Review
Cons: Awkward grip, doesn't pack very small, durability concerns
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Condor performed well overall, but some major design flaws prevented us from falling in love with it. The pick is great, but the grip design and weight are major drawbacks.
Ease of Use
The Condor features a smart design that holds up well to real-world use. As a ski pole, it has a fully-functioning powder basket and a two-section telescoping shaft design with effective lever locks. As an ice axe, it has a steel pick made by Grivel embedded in the grip. An easy-to-use plastic screw loosens by hand to deploy the pick, and the screw is tightened again to lock the pick into place. The screw can be turned easily by a gloved hand or thumb. The pick easily penetrated ice and firm snow in steep couloirs and had good purchase in all of our testing.
After a lot of use, we found that the major downside to the Condor's design is the grip. It effectively hides the pick, but the grip shape and material is not as easy to grip as other poles in the same category. The large plastic grip feels bulky and unwieldy, and wasn't something that we wanted to carry around for an entire tour. The strap is placed in a way that will prevent you from dropping the pole, but it won't allow you to push off the strap for extra leverage while skinning or skating across the flats.
Overall, the Condor is the lightest ski pole/ice axe hybrid. The pole with the pick weighs 16 ounces and the other, normal ski pole weighs eight ounces. However, other competitors in this niche field have removable pick design, allowing users to drop weight from the pole for the long skin up to the objective, attaching the pick only when needed. The result is that the Condor is the heaviest pole in the category any time the pick is not deployed. This became a big deal when testers took this pole on big missions in the Tetons where 7-8,000 vertical feet of climbing per day is the norm.
In our testing, the heavy pole grip with an unremovable pick was a major bummer on long climbs before the pick was needed. After a couple of hours, we definitely noticed the effort required to swing the heavy pole forward with each step.
The Condor held up well to our extensive testing period, but we are concerned with the amount of plastic used in the product. The entire pick grip is made of plastic, and the lever locking mechanisms are also made of plastic and feel a bit flimsy, compared with other models in the category. The foam grip didn't seem to wear down or chip at all during our testing.
One big downside is the plastic screw that tightens to fasten the pick in place.
Whether you want the pick deployed or stowed, a plastic screw cap must be tightened to lock the pick in place. This small piece of plastic could be chipped or cracked easily, causing an inability to control the pick. This is the Condor's biggest design flaw, in terms of durability.
The Condor does not pack down very small, compared to other competitors of its kind, and compared to other backcountry ski poles in general. The two-section telescoping design packs down to 39 inches (1 meter). This is too large to be stowed on a backpack or to be packed in a duffel. If you need packability, or you splitboard and anticipate stowing the pole on your pack, there are better options.
We were not big fans of the Condor's grip. The enclosed grip can be held even when wearing thick gloves or mittens, and a rubber insert around the inside of the grip helps with friction. However, the back of the grip is made of plastic and doesn't feel especially comfortable against the palm, nor is it particularly easy to hold. There are other grip designs out there, even in the ice axe hybrid category of ski poles.
The Condor is a decent value, considering that it includes a second pole without a pick to complete the pair. However, the bulky and heavy grip/pick component limits the versatility of this pole. You probably won't want to carry the extra weight around on a tour that doesn't require the use of an ice pick. If Leki used a removable pick design, then this product would be a great value. Instead, it is an average value, designed only for those who wish to eliminate the need to bring an ice axe for moderately steep and technical ski mountaineering missions.
The Leki Condor performed decently in our testing, though we think there are better options in the ski pole/ ice axe hybrid category.
— Jeff Dobronyi