Whenever we say "Super Makalu Cor-Tec PA AS," we find it hard to believe we're referring to a stick. Sounds more like an engine part on a space ship. But the fancy name just demonstrates how far trekking poles have come. Of course, some models of the Super Makalu have been on the market for years, but we wanted to put this new 2008 model through its paces. Turns out, this is a solid performer that's comfortable, durable and a no-brainer to use.
One of the great improvements in trekking poles has been the use of more resilient grip materials. This new Super Makalu has a great grip made with Cor-Tec, which blends natural cork and latex. It's soft, but proves more durable than pure cork because it won't absorb sweat and degrade. Also, the grip is designed to prevent your palms from becoming sweaty. A portion of the handle has a hollow core and a series of slits where the palm rests. Basically, this allows heat and moisture from the palm to escape, and we were able to keep a firm grasp during long walks in warm temperatures. In addition, the grip is angled forward at 15 degrees to allow your wrist to rest at a comfortable, more ergonomic angle. Plus, you can brace your fingertips on subtle edges on the side of the grip for greater control.
The Super Makalu's wrist strap represents another step forward in pole design. No more struggling to thread bulky nylon through narrow slots. Just flip up a tab atop the handle to unlock and adjust the strap loop. Couldn’t be simpler. And the brushed fleece on the inner surface of the strap prevented rough webbing from rubbing the backs of our hands.
Another issue Leki has addressed over the past few years is the locking mechanism on its poles. This model has what the company calls an “Easy Locking System,” which applies torque gradually so you won't over-tighten the pole sections nor will you find yourself struggling to loosen them.
As for the weight of these poles, they are on the heavier end of the spectrum for Leki, but hey, they're still only 21 ounces a pair. These things still swing with the greatest of ease. And they proved to be super stable, even when adjusted to the maximum length (145 cm).
One difference with this new Super Makalu is that you can't turn off or adjust the spring mechanism it calls the “Soft Antishock System.” Is this a drawback? Well, not necessarily. We found that the poles have just the right level of spring resistance – not too soft and not too stiff. Some people prefer to dial down or turn off spring action when ascending, but when we use poles that do have adjustable shocks, we tend to put them on the medium setting and use this for all applications. In rolling terrain, with frequent ascents and descents, it can be bothersome to continually make adjustments.
Overall, this pole is designed very well, and each feature serves a useful purpose. This a good choice for hikers and backpackers, especially those not concerned with having an adjustable shock system.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $140