Spend some quality time in the backcountry, and you’ll appreciate a nice trekking pole. Whether you’re skiing, hiking, or trekking you’ll want a pole that’s durable, stable and light—enter the Leki Tour Stick Vario Carbon. This four-season pole can handle a powder day in the backcountry or talus-filled hike through the Rockies.
The pole uses a carbon upper with a high-strength aluminum lower to keep the poles lightweight, but add durability to the lower half of the pole, which sees the most wear-and-tear. Having the extra durability is especially valuable here in Colorado where most hikes above treeline involve a scree field, but it’s also nice to protect your poles from your sharp ski edges. For such a light pole, Leki didn’t skimp on comfort. The upper has an ergonomic foam hand grip which is an extended length for comfort—perfect for quickly adjusting hand placement on a steep trail. In addition to the comfortable hand grip, the Neoprene wrist strap is a soft, fleece-lined material and the Aergon Tour Thermo Mid top fits nicely in your palm for when you need to grab the top of the pole. The one slight disadvantage to the rounded top is that it’s difficult to use the top of the pole to flip your heel risers up while ski touring.
Another great feature is Leki’s Speed Lock 2 system. It’s very easy to adjust, even with gloves on. We only had one instance, early in testing, where the system slipped and needed to be tightened, and never had issues again. The poles are adjustable from 45″ to 53″.
The baskets are interchangeable, with a smaller and larger basket available from Leki. Throughout winter we used this basket provided and were pleased with its performance in the snow. The bottom of the pole uses Leki’s Flex Tip long to help with precision. The poles never felt flimsy and did a nice job of absorbing the shock.
The pole folds into three sections and uses a durable kevlar reinforced tension cord. It’s incredibly efficient to deploy or store the poles quickly. However, we didn’t find the folding poles to be as efficient for storing as we’d hoped. It’s nice that they break down small, and that the kevlar cord holds them together, but when you go to shove 5 pieces of gear into an already full bag, it’s not always easy. You can choose to store them in the bag Leki has provided, on the side of your pack, or loosely in your pack—none of which are quick. While the system is incredibly easy to use we really didn’t find any added value in having them fold into 3-pieces. The one exception is during traveling, when you need them to pack down small and have the time to store them away nicely.
The poles folding may not have won us over, but the rest of this pole certainly did. Not only did they hold up well all season in the backcountry, but they’re light and one of the most comfortable trekking poles we’ve tested.
Weight: 17.6 ounces (for the pair)
Best used for: 4-season hiking, backcountry skiing, backpacking