Leki Makalu FX Carbon
- Instant deployment and storage
- Stay the same length during use
- Adjustable length compatible for most users
- Quality carrying bag
- Powder baskets sold separately ($9.99)
- No internal shock absorption (Makalu FX Carbon AS/anti-shock is available)
Trekking poles have come a long way since the days of using old ski poles. I’ll admit that I resisted them for a long time, just assuming that they were nothing but extra weight and expense. While I seldom use them on easy, family hikes, I find them indispensable on climbing approaches and mountain hiking.
While these poles aren't cheap, Leki has addressed the problem of weight and stowability all while making some fantastic poles with the Makalu FX Carbon poles.
These poles are designed for hikers who may need to switch from poles to ice axe often or anyone who needs to store their poles in a compact location, which could include travelers who have to fit them in airline baggage.
I used the Makalu FX Carbon poles on Mount Daniel in Washington state (7,960 ft. elevation) along with several steep local hikes with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain per mile. I also used them on a ski tour for poles, but unsurprisingly the trekking pole baskets buried themselves in the powder for lack of powder baskets. I really need to spend the $10 for powder baskets as the standard Trekking 2.0 ones are completely unsuited for snow.
Adjustability: 110-130cm covers most people. I am 5'10" and use 120-125cm most of the time.
Instead of adjusting them all the time and annoying your climbing partners (“hold on, I need to adjust my poles”) you can choke up or down on the Makalu poles and use different grips thanks to the extended foam grips and rubber tops on the handles.
The leashes are easy to adjust and lock up rock solid for when you switch from gloves to bare-handed use. The leashes unfortunately automatically come unlocked if you use them to lift the poles as I did while I was skiing uphill.
With many adjustable poles the length adjustment levers often slip and the poles get shorter as you walk but thankfully, this was never an issue with the Makalu poles. If it becomes an issue, users can tighten the locking cam levers without the need for tools to remedy the issue.
Weight: 508 grams/1 pound 1.9 ounce per pair
These poles are three ounces lighter than my Black Diamond Compactor poles, which aren’t nearly as durable. However, the BD Carbon Compactors are equal at 1 pound 2 ounces. The REI Flash Carbon Compact poles (12.9 oz) are five ounces lighter still if you are looking for a comparable, lighter option.
Durability: Compared to other folding poles I’ve tried (Black Diamond Compactor) the Makalu have not experienced the same locking mechanism failure and have a more rigid, tougher feel.
Features: With one motion the Makalu poles go from folded to locked open to the correct length. While your climbing partners fuss over adjusting their telescoping poles you’re already set to go. I’d say the Makalu FX Carbon poles are two to three times faster to deploy than telescoping styles.
The standard Trekking 2.0 baskets with offset threads are switchable to Leki powder baskets (snowflake, binding, or big mountain versions), but those have to be purchased separately. The attached baskets stayed on and retained their shape over rock and snow.
The version of the Makalu FX Carbon poles I tested do not contain any internal shock absorbers. However, Leki does offer a Makalu FX Carbon AS/anti-shock. Personally, I've found such systems to be unnecessary complications and added weight (the AS version weighs 534 grams per pair). Even without shocks I felt like the Makalu FX Carbon poles had a nice degree of dampening to them.
Comfort: The Aergon Air Thermo foam grips provide the perfect amount of cushion and warmth for bare hands. The material doesn’t absorb much water and I never had them get wet and frozen in my testing. I found them pleasant to hold. The rubber caps on the handles keep you from developing blisters on your palms on the downhill sections.
Cork versus foam: cork is fine, I guess, and Leki makes poles in cork as well, but I prefer foam for its durability, comfort, and weather resistance.
Best use: These higher-end poles, with their fantastic packability, are ideal for when ounces matter (air travel?) and you need to transfer between poles and an ice axe. If all you are doing is hiking with them I'd recommend you just get straight poles that don’t adjust and save even more weight.
I've used several telescoping and three-piece poles. I've been testing these poles over six months. I've used similar poles on alpine approaches as well as hikes with heavy packs.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Leki)
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Historic Range: $189.17-$229.95
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