Leki Micro Tour Stick Vario; $199
510 grams per pair; carbon fiber uppers and aluminum lower section; adjustable
Online: Leki Micro Tour Stick Vario
Hiking poles are one of the best pieces of outdoors gear you can invest in (I explain my top five reasons to love hiking poles in an article for our sister publication Blue Ridge Outdoors). Along with boots, sunglasses and backpacks, hiking poles are one of those outdoors items where getting the best possible product is worth the investment.
In Colorado, poles should be ready for year-round duty. Finding a versatile pole that is lightweight, easy to adjust, tough enough to handle winter sports and sturdy enough to take along backpacking required several months of testing with real use in the field. From winter hut trips and backcountry skiing to arduous backpacking and 14er scrambling, the ultimate all-around pole had to perform in all the rugged conditions the Rocky Mountains can dish out. It is without hesitation we humbly bestow the title of Colorado’s best hiking pole to the Leki Micro Tour Stick Vario.
A quick overview on what won us over:
• Unlike most other ultra-light poles, the Lekis have a quick and easy height adjustment feature (as opposed to having a fixed, non adjustable length).
• The Tour Stick felt sturdy and strong in all conditions — even when ferrying a 70 lb backpack across boulder fields.
• Aluminum (rather than carbon fiber) lowers are a brilliant, real-world design improvement, as carbon fiber lowers are prone to cracking and splitting.
• Very easy to deploy and fold up in conditions where scrambling and hiking alternates.
• Versatile foam grips that encase the upper pole section — good for multiple hand positions.
• And finally — the bright color scheme made the poles easy to find in camping and winter situations.
The Perfect Colorado Pole
What makes the Micro Tour Stick stand out from other ultra-light poles is the addition of real-world improvements in the pole functionality. The Lekis are roughly 6 ozs heavier than their nearest rival, the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z Poles but the slight weight penalty (amounting to 0.3 pounds) is worth it. The Micro Tour Stick is a truly adjustable pole, an important feature when grinding up or scruffling down steep mountain terrain. Z Poles are non adjustable, which makes it tough to lend them to friends of various heights or to set them to deal with changing conditions such as deep snow and talus fields. The implementation of the tougher aluminum lower pole section (as opposed to carbon fiber in the Z Pole) is important in rocky, off-trail terrain where your poles will get twisted and torqued in all sorts of ways. Carbon fiber is tough but prone to cracking under stressful loads while the aluminum has a more rugged bend-but-don’t break philosophy. And perhaps most importantly, the Z Poles are not sturdy enough to use as winter ski poles while the Micro Tour Sticks worked well in all conditions.
In real world use, the Micro Tour Stick excelled in all areas. On day hikes, the poles never once slipped their height adjustments and the extended foam handgrips were perfect when changing hand placements for river crossings, descents or just to carry for a while. On summit hikes and scrambles (such as Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak), the poles were a cinch to fold up and pack away and added no noticeable pack weight on more difficult terrain. Backpacking is always the bane of ultra-light poles as they tend to get wobbly under a heavy load but the Lekis came through with flying colors — strong, sturdy and easy to trust. Oh, and about those colors — the brightly hued pole uppers were a plus when using poles around the campsite (we used one pole to mark where we hung our bear bag overhead).
In winter conditions, throwing on the wide-but-light baskets made the Lekis a snap to use for snowshoeing and cold weather hiking. The easy adjust system meant no futile twisting to change pole height and it can be done without taking your gloves off. Surprisingly, the poles also did extremely well in burly backcountry ski conditions, never buckling or feeling flimsy.
Mostly importantly, after six months of hard testing in the elements, the poles remain in excellent shape. The locking mechanisms are all solid and reliable and the molded foam grips show little sign of wear. It may also be noted that several of our testers who prefer cork handles (including myself) were pleased with the feeling of the foam handgrips.
The Leki Micro Tour Stick is ready for all that Colorado has to offer. Collapsible, lightweight and adjustable, the Lekis are as tough as they are versatile. By beefing up the sticks where they can most use it, the result is a pole that is ready for years of adventure that is equally content to be tucked away when the time calls.
For more information, please visit Leki Poles online.