Like all other types of gear, trekking poles continue to get lighter, more comfortable and easier to use. Leki’s Carbonlite Aergon poles are about 20 percent lighter than many of the company's other models, and they also have a very comfortable grip and a simple, no-fuss mechanism to adjust the length.
The SNEWS® team used the Carbonlite Aergon poles for day hikes and backcountry treks and found that there are many things about them that we liked, though we had one concern with the performance.
One of the most impressive things about the poles is the weight. Made of carbon fiber, they’re just 14.6 ounces a pair. As we descended steep and rocky trails, the poles seemed very nimble, allowing us to quickly and easily swing the poles into position. When we didn’t feel like walking with the poles, we could strap them to a backpack, and they added hardly any extra weight to our overall load.
Perhaps the best elements are the mechanisms to adjust the hand straps and the length of the poles. To adjust the size of the hand strap loop, you simply pull the nylon webbing upward, which flips up a tab located at the top of the handgrip. It requires a bit of tug, but it’s not difficult. This frees the webbing so that you can change the size of the hand strap loop. Once it's adjusted, you tug the webbing downward to snap the tab back in place. The whole process takes just seconds, and you can do it while wearing gloves.
Adjusting the telescoping poles is just as easy. Each pole has locking mechanisms at two points—one on the upper part of the pole, and one on the lower part. To unlock the mechanism, you just flip a lever sideways, which requires very little force. After sliding the pole sections to lengthen or shorten them, you flip the lever back into place, and it stays put. We really liked that you can manuever the lever while wearing gloves, and it takes less time and effort than adjusting poles that have a twist-lock device. It might seem like a simple thing, but you’ll really appreciate how easy it is to make the adjustments when you’re cold, tired or just want to change the pole length quickly before climbing or descending.
Another positive aspect of the poles is the handgrip, which is made of soft foam. It not only feels comfortable against bare hands, but it also has a ridge to support your trigger finger as well as a small platform to support the bottom of your hand. We found that these elements help us keep our grip when we applied force while climbing or descending.
We also like that the webbing of the hand strap is lined with a brushed material, so it won’t chafe or irritate the backs of bare hands.
The one thing that concerned us with these poles was the vibration we felt while using them. On a variety of surfaces—soft dirt, packed earth, rocks—the poles vibrated every time we planted them, and it was enough of a shiver that it was distracting. One tester said he got used to it over the course of long walks, but most said it was pretty annoying -- plus vibration radiating into the arms over time can cause pain or tendinities. The vibration occurred even when the poles were set to several diferent lengths. For our testers, his was clearly an issue, and you should try the poles before buying them to determine whether it’s acceptable.
Otherwise, we were impressed the design elements that make the poles more user-friendly than many models we’ve tested in the past. If Leki can address the vibration problem, and outfit a lightweight pole with the Carbonlite Aergon’s other clever features, it will mark a great step forward in trekking pole design.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $179.95
For more information: www.leki.com