|Rating:||8.3 / 10|
|Value for money||1.7 / 2|
|Comfort||1.6 / 2|
|Weight||1.6 / 2|
|Durability||1.7 / 2|
|Versatility||1.7 / 2|
This is the second pair of Leki trekking poles I have used and I don’t know if this is just a coincidence or not, but Leki seems to put a lot of thought into differentiating the poles in it’s range rather than just making minor changes.
Previously I tested the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite Poles which sit at the top of the range. Due to the unique ‘Cross Shark System Grip’ some hikers may find they aren’t willing to give them a try because they appear so quirky. In the case of the Leki Makalu FX Carbon Poles the grip system is the familiar strap system common to the majority of other brands on the market but with a lighter weight more breathable fabric that minimises sweating on the hands and wrists in all but the hottest weather. Apart from being lighter weight, these straps are similar to others I have used where once you’ve adjusted them, you’re gripping a short section of the material against the poles which helps to keep the length as you’ve set.
The hand grip system for these poles which Leki call their ‘Aergon Air Grip System’ is a rubberised material that is contoured to the hands without being left and right, and feels comfortable in the hands. The handles have an incline that is designed to support your wrist for optimal guidance and while that may be the case, it didn’t phase me one way or another.
Like many poles on the market the Makalu FX Carbon Poles also include an extension section of the grip below the normal hand grips for heading up steeper hills. I must admit I’m not a fan of this extra material feeling that it adds extra weight and feels awkward so I have never used this option on any poles once I have gone past the testing stage. Given these poles are adjustable between 110-130 cm, if I need to I’ll just shorten the poles when heading uphill for longer periods otherwise I just use the poles with the extra length created by the uphill slope.
These poles are carbon construction which has its pros and cons. Carbon poles are usually much lighter in weight and come in at 486 grams per pair compared to the non-carbon version which weighs 598 grams. The extra 112 grams doesn’t sound like a lot but you will definitely notice the weight and that’s the price you pay for carbon poles. Theoretically carbon poles aren’t as robust as metal poles but as someone who has used and owned both materials I have never had an issue with durability, even after 11 years, and only tend to replace them when something new and shiny comes along.
These poles are a three segment pole which means that when they are broken down, they are only 4o cm in length which makes them very packable. Pack companies like Osprey have what’s called a ‘stow on the go system’ which is designed to allow you to store your poles, theoretically without stopping to do so but this system doesn’t work with three section poles. I find if I’m not using them I will store them in the water bottle pockets on the side of the pack.
Deploying or folding your poles is very easy. All you need to do is plug the sections into each other and then pull the middle section which locks into place, either setting the final length before or after doing this. Collapsing them is just the reverse and you click on the locking mechanism (Core Lock) and they will collapse.
The section mechanism on these poles is what Leki calls ‘Speedlock’ which allows you to adjust your poles between 110-130 cm. This size range will suit larger hikers above approximately 175 cm in height. My wife Gill is 165 cm and found them just that little bit too long. As far as I can tell Leki doesn’t make a smaller version, but given the extensive range there are a number of smaller poles to suit shorter hikers.
One advantage of this pole is that the pole ‘baskets’ can be removed and replaced with a snow basket (extra purchase). If you never go anywhere near snow this won’t be a concern. I do have a dedicated set of poles that I use in snow conditions which is very rare. The replaceable tip on these poles is typical of just about any pole on the market. You do have the option of purchasing a rubberised tip if you are using these poles on urban streets.
For many people the main reason they avoid purchasing carbon poles is the price. These poles sell at AUD $440 RRP which will put a lot of people off but at the time of this review, there were some very good deals on offer. So unless you’re desperate for a set of poles keep an eye out for the reduced prices which make these poles very attractive option.
I used these poles during a variety of conditions over a distance of just under 100 km and found them to be a great pole but are they going to be my ‘go to’ option? In all honestly probably not because I have fallen in love with the range topping Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite Poles. The quirky hand grip system on that model is going to be divisive; hikers will love or hate that model. If that model isn’t for you, then the Leki Makalu FX Carbon Poles with the traditional strapping system are well worth looking at so long as the pole length works for you.
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AUD $439.99 RRP. These poles are often on sale so keep an eye out
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Poles extended for use
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Poles showing joint and connecting chord. In this state the poles are 4o cm in length and pack away into the smallest of packs or the into side water bottle pockets
Leki Makalu FX Carbon main handgrip and strap
Leki Makalu FX Carbon handgrip and strap showing extension grip going down the pole length. I have never used this extension section preferring to leave the pole length as I’ve set or I will shorten the poles if I’m doing a long uphill section
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Core Lock to deploy and collapse poles. Its very easy to collapse the poles with this system
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Speedlock to adjust pole length
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Speedlock to adjust pole length with measurements in both inches and centimetres
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Tip and basket
Leki Makalu FX Carbon removable baskets. If you are into snow sports you can purchase a 2″ (50 mm set of baskets)
This review was done with product provided by the Australian distributor of Leki