There are many types of walking pole, many different designs, features, materials and weights, and they're not all created equal.
Until last year I was oblivious to the benefits of using poles (and if you still are, do some research, you'll want a pair!) and since last year I've been using a single Trespass aluminum walking pole which I picked up for about £10, and I was recently sent a pair of Leki's Carbon Titanium AS poles for review, which retail at £139.95.
So should you spend the extra on the Leki poles? I tested them to find out...
First of all the Carbon Titanium poles are made from an Aluminum upper section and two 100% Carbon lower sections. This gives a lightweight but durable pole and the carbon gives a much stiffer feel and nicer swing than similar poles made from aluminum.
The Carbon Titanium range all use Leki's Aergon grip giving fantastic comfort and grip. The grip has multiple positions to hold, including holding by the top for descending and holding the shaft for ascending. The Carbon Titanium also uses the Leki Skin Strap, a thin but comfortable webbing strap.
The difference between the Carbon Titanium Antishock and the standard Carbon Titanium is the Antishock system in the lower section of the pole. It uses a different locking system (SLS) to facilitate the Antishock system. The shock absorber reduces the stress put on your wrists - especially during descents - and provides greater comfort for long walks.
The poles come with the standard Trekking baskets fitted, although with a little bit of effort you can replace them with others. You have to unscrew the basket whilst pulling it off the end of the pole, it will eventually come off and you can replace it. It does take a bit of effort to get it started, but that's good as it means you shouldn't lose your baskets on the trail!
Ergonomics and Comfort
The Carbon Titanium Antishock is the hands down winner for the most comfortable pole I've ever used, the Aergon grip is soft and breathable and fits my hand perfectly. The Carbon Titanium has the grip extended down the shaft to allow a greater number of positions where the pole can comfortably be held.
The main section of the grip is Leki's Aergon grip, which is soft and comfortable with no edges or dimples in it, making it extremely comfortable with nowhere rubbing or creating hot-spots.
The same foam material is continued down the shaft but with substantial diamond checkering to aid grip. This is not necessary on the main grip as it is formed to shape, but it is really useful on the extended portion.
You can palm the pole (hold with the top of the pole in your palm), hold it normally, flip it around and hold it lower, hold it by the shaft, and everywhere in between.
|Lucky I had the straps... 30mph winds on the summit of Hen Mountain|
This was a big plus for me as I usually walk without straps on my poles, due to the common concern of falling and breaking your wrist. I've broken a wrist before (although not from poles) and it isn't a fun experience! Leki have solved this problem as if you fall and the strap comes under too much tension it will pop the cam open and release the strap. Great idea!
The locking system is a hybrid between the Leki SLS (Super Lock System- twist adjust) and the Speed Lock (lever adjust). Personally I prefer the ease of use of the Speed Lock, and the light weight of the twist lock but the pole requires both due to the Antishock system.
Both types are easy to use and the pole adjusts from 69cm to 135cm.
The SLS is apparently the worlds strongest locking system, however I had some initial problems with slipping but this was just because I'd been too hesitant to tighten it too much.
Don't be afraid to really tighten down the SLS, the poles can definitely handle it and when they're tightened adequately Leki say they are guaranteed to hold up to 140kg without slipping! I haven't had the Speed Lock slip yet and I've put a fair few kilometers on these poles.
|The Speed lock and SLS systems.|
(The SLS system looks worn but it's just because I got the poles wet and dirty and didn't clean them for the photo!)
So far the pole has been a whole lot more durable than the Tresspass one, there is minimal wear on the tip and the carbon is holding up really well. The grips have become a little more fluffy from use but this is to be expected from foam handled poles and only makes them more comfortable!
The Carbon Titanium uses the Flex Tip (short), meaning that if you smack the tip of the pole against a rock, tree root, etc it can bend up to 30° to protect the shaft of the pole from becoming bent or broken. This is important for the carbon as it won't bend, just break!
|The carbide insert at the end has suffered very little wear at all, and the plastic Flex Tip is holding up pretty well, too.|
The poles can be used for anything from a walk around the local forest park, to a multi-day hike into the middle of nowhere and they excel at both. The decently small pack size means the poles suit climbers and mountaineers who can tuck them away in their pack when they aren't needed.
|Enjoying a day walk in the Mournes, the Antishock system was fantastic on the descent!|
Since the poles adjust they are suitable for almost all, if not all, tents and tarps which require poles for setup. I have set up a tarp using only these poles and they worked very well. They are especially useful for opening up a porch on your tarp as the easy adjustment lets you open and close it as you wish. I have yet to try a tent which requires poles, but these should work perfectly.
|Using the poles to open one side of my tarp as a porch.|
Most of the time the pole will be in your hands and not on your pack so most of the time weight isn't a major issue, but for the times when they are on your pack I find that it's nice to have lightweight poles. Also, the reduced stress on the knees especially during descents will far outweigh the impact of carrying them!
The Carbon Titanium Antishock poles weigh 468g (per pair) which is marginally heavier than the non-Antishock version of the poles. I find that my ankles can take the few extra grams when they're on my rucksack but I'd rather not mess up my wrists! If you absolutely must go for the lightest weight, Leki offer the Carbonlite poles which weigh 416g per pair and don't have Antishock.
Materials and Construction
These poles just scream "HIGH QUALITY!" at you, and it's simply impossible to ignore it.
Every little thing is just perfectly formed; from the tip, to the locking systems, to the grip and the strap. Simple perfection.
The overall construction of the poles is to a very high standard and the quality of the Antishock system especially is absolutely flawless- a work of art!
|Poles? Nah, these things are works of art.|
- Great reputable manufacturer
- Antishock system to protect your wrists
- Security strap to prevent wrist injuries from a fall
- Extremely comfortable
- Two great locking systems
- Foam grip extends down shaft
- Pack down relatively small
- Multiple grip positions
- Extremely high quality
- Comfortable strap
- Fitted with Flex Tip short tips
- They look great!
Although these poles are expensive you certainly get what you pay for. They should last for years and have the backing of the largest specialty pole maker in the world - Leki. They're made of carbon to give them stiffness and light weight, they're ridiculously comfortable, and to top if off they look awesome!
So if you're asking should you get the Leki poles or the cheap ones from your local outdoors store? I'd say if you can afford them I would absolutely recommend Leki!
If the Antishock feature isn't for you there is a non-Antishock version of the poles, along with a large variety of other poles at Leki's website. (Link below)
|Gazing majestically into the distance... Or just wondering when the rain's coming!|
The Leki Carbon Titanium Antishock poles are available at Leki's website, here:
Thanks to Leki for the opportunity to review an awesome set of poles!
|Disclaimer: Leki provided me with the product free of charge in exchange for this review. This didn't alter my opinion of the product in any way.|
Review by Jake McConnell (part of HighballBlog.com outdoor athletes team who test and review outdoor gear).
Thanks for stopping by! Share this article with your friends.