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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > LEKI Khumbus AERGON Speedlock Poles > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Leki Khumbu Aergon Trekking Poles
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: April 16, 2010
Field Report: June 11, 2010
Long Term Report: September 13, 2010
Leki Khumbu Trekking Poles, Image courtesy of Leki
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
The packaging for these poles does not offer much in the way of a description but most folks know what trekking poles are. However, I only became aware of the adjustable kind myself at the tender age of about 30 so it is possible someone might not be familiar with them. What sets the Khumbu (and many similar trekking poles) apart from a stick picked up along the trail or even a carved walking stick is mainly the adjustability of the pole length. In other words, I won't be stuck with one length with these poles. This can be handy when the terrain changes because longer poles are helpful when going down steep places and shorter poles are needed for climbing. It also means that the poles can be used for other purposes, like for example, part of the support structure for a shelter. In fact, many ultralight tents and tarps achieve a big weight savings by incorporating trekking poles in the design.
But back to the Khumbu's. There is quite a bit of information on Leki poles in general on their FAQ page and on the "Fix it on the spot" link which opens a pdf document. But basically, the Khumbu trekking poles are basic poles. The grips are not angled and they are not anti-shock. The length of the poles is determined by sliding the middle and bottom sections to a certain mark on the poles and locking the SpeedLock down. These marks are in centimeters and if both are set to the same mark this gives the total length of the poles. They come with the performance basket which is the standard basket to help prevent them from sinking too far into soft ground. The basket can be replaced if it becomes worn, or replaced with the Snowflake basket for using them on snow. The packaging indicates they are of the Super Strong Series. The website lists the following as key features.
* AERGON-Soft Grip
* SpeedLock Locking System
* Interchangeable Basket System
* Carbide Flextip
* Weight: 19.4 oz/pair, Length: 70-145 cm
WARRANTY: All Leki branded trekking poles are covered by a lifetime warranty against shaft breakage. Warranty does not cover wear and tear from normal use or damage from abuse.
I have used trekking poles for several years now, but mine have always been the twist type, so the SpeedLock System is new to me. But after examining it, it is not really any different than the locking mechanism (called a quick release) that holds a bike tire on, the only difference being, this one is made of plastic. And after trying it out on a short hike I am already impressed with how easy it is to change the length of these poles, as it literally takes just a few seconds to change.
The other thing that jumped out at me is the color of the poles. The top section is white (with black lettering). The lower two sections are unpainted aluminum except for the length markings. Anyways, while I'm not all that enamored with the white color, I can see a benefit when leaving camp because they should be easy to spot. I have left my poles on more than one occasion after striking camp or after a rest stop.
Leki says never use any lubricant on the trekking poles. They don't say why, but I can easily see that this could cause them to collapse down unexpectedly which could lead to injury. I was surprised to see Leki recommends taking the poles apart to clean. I always thought that since the 145 cm reading has "stop max" printed on it that it would damage the poles to go past this mark. So I was a little hesitant to take a section apart. But I did and it was no problem to put it right back together. Now this part of the FAQ section makes sense; "The best way to clean them internally is with our cleaning system, available as an accessory. It contains special sized wire brushes to remove any loose dirt and debris and get the interior of your pole clean and clear of built up oxidation that is naturally occurring over the years of use." Here is one pole broken down into the three sections. This is also the recommended way to carry them on airlines.
Leki Khumbu trekking poles in cleaning or airline travel mode
Setting/Adjusting the poles for use
The first order of business is to set the hand grip straps to fit around my wrist. I like mine firm but not real tight. I consider the proper setting of the straps to be where I can almost let go of the poles and they still stay pretty much in the correct position. They came just a little tight for my liking so I needed to pull on the part that goes back into the loop which will let the strap out (loosen). To tighten just pull on the free end. Also, keep in mind that to use the straps correctly, my hands need to go in from the bottom. If placed in from the top the straps will not hold my hands like they are supposed to. I mention this because I remember when a friend let me try his trekking poles. I had never used anything like them and I placed my hands in from the top. For a few minutes I was wondering what good the straps were. Then my friend showed me how to place my hand in the strap. Ahhhh, they felt much better this way!
Once the grip straps are set, each pole length will need to be adjusted. The general rule of thumb is to set the poles to where the forearm is parallel with the ground when gripping the pole. The middle and bottom sections of each pole have marks in centimeters so that once a setting is determined, it is easy to remember. For example, I have both sections of mine set at 115 cm (just over 45 in) for hiking on level ground. If I need change the length for different terrain or perhaps using the poles for setting up a shelter, it will be easy to remember that 115 cm (45 cm) is my normal setting. Also, keep in mind that the numbers on each section are correct for the total length of the pole, but only if they are set at the same mark. I could set one section at one length and the other at another but it would mean one section was unnecessarily long which to me would be weaker. An example would be adjusting it to the 120 cm and 110 cm marks, but to me the section set at the 120 cm mark would be weaker. The 110 cm section might be stronger than the 115 cm section, but just like a chain, the strength of the poles will be determined by the weakest part. However, for just changing the length for a climb or descent I will not bother the change both sections as I won't be increasing or decreasing the length that much. In fact I've already experimented on a short hike to the hollow and I found I liked just changing the upper section. For the hike down, I extended this section to the 120 cm mark, and for the hike back up, I moved it to the 110 cm mark.
Usage so far
As I just mentioned, I tried out the poles on a short 2 mile (3 km) hike down to the creek behind my house. I had not made it across my yard before noticing one of the poles was getting shorter. I stopped and noticed the bottom section had collapsed down below the 110 cm mark. I pulled it back out to the 115 cm mark and before closing the SpeedLock I tightened the adjustment screw just a little. It's a good thing it is easy to turn while the Speedlock is loose, but the key is, the screw needs to be tight enough that the poles won't collapse when using them, but loose enough that it is easy to adjust them when the SpeedLock is not engaged.
This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in approximately two months for my Field Report to see how the Khumbu poles are doing. I would also like to thank BackpackGearTest and Leki for letting me test these trekking poles.
I have used the poles on 3 overnighters so far. The first was on April the 23rd on a hike in Tennessee on The Fiery Gizzard. The high was 81 F (27 C) with a low of 63 F (17 C). This trip was 9.2 miles (15 km) and was on slightly steeper trails than I normally encounter but the elevation and elevation changes were similar. The trip was planned for two nights but bad weather caused the trip to be cut to one night. The next 2 overnighters were in the woods near my home. The one on May the 17th saw a high of 77 F (25 C) and a low of 59 F (15 C). The next trip was on June the 4th and saw a high of 84 F (29 C) and a low of 66 F (19 C). I hiked about 4 miles (6 km) total on each trip. The warmest conditions encountered was on July the 11th. This was on a dayhike down to the creek and up the other side, then back down and up again headed home. This was for some exercise, and covered about 5 miles 8 km) at a pretty brisk pace. It was 94 F (34 C) when I left the house at 1 PM and 96 F (36 C) by the time I got back home at 3:30 PM. I have used the poles on several other similar hikes but I usually left the house at around 5 PM to miss the worst of the heat.
Performance on the Trail
I'll start by saying that my use of the poles has been pretty much uneventful. I mentioned a pole section slipping before getting them adjusted properly, but I did have one section on one of the poles slip again. I'm not sure if this was the same one that slipped the first day but regardless, it happened about a week later while I was out on one of my exercise hikes as I was headed back up the mountain. I was on a steep section and pulling pretty hard on the poles when the lower section of the pole in my right hand slipped just a little. It didn't cause me to loose my balance but it did feel funny when it slipped. I opened the SpeedLock and tightened the screw a little more before re-setting the pole back to the proper length and continued on my way. I have not had any more occurrences of either pole slipping and this includes leaning really hard on them with a 31 lb (14 kg) pack while on some real steep terrain during the hike on The Fiery Gizzard trail.
I have found the poles to be extremely beneficial going down steep sections of trail. I could do without them on the climbs, but since I have them I do use them and feel they help a little, but my knees really appreciate the extra support they offer when headed downhill. I also like having them when crossing small streams, especially when the rocks were wet or it was deep enough I had to walk in ankle deep water.
using the Leki Khumbu crossing a creek
An additional benefit when using the poles is being able to flick limbs and overgrowth along the trail out of the way. I think it lessens the chance of getting a tick on my legs. It also helps keep my legs and shoes drier when the limbs or brush are real wet. Of course there have been places that were so overgrown that it was not practical to move everything aside but even then, I found it great to be able to bend briers back out of the way.
I have been lucky so far this summer in that I have not run across any snakes right on the trail. The few I have seen have been well off the trail or on rocks etc at the creek, but nowhere near where I would be walking. However, I always hate to step across a big log without knowing what is on the other side. I have used my poles several times to tap across a log to scare any possible snakes away, or if a rattlesnake, to get it to let me know it is there. However, spider webs have been extremely thick this year, or at least they seem worse than I remember from previous summers, maybe because we have had a lot of rain. Anyways, I have used the poles countless times to knock down a web. Unfortunately, my eye-site is not what it used to be and I probably walked into as many as I spotted in time. "Watch out! There's one dead ahead!!!"
One of many spider webs encounter while hiking
I guess I should conclude with a few comments about the SpeedLock. I have not really needed to adjust the poles many times, but when I did, they are much easier to adjust then the twist-lock mechanism I am familiar with. I kept the poles at the same length for my up and downhill travel but there were a few occasions when I had to cross a stream on a log and needed the poles let out quite aways. And as stated previously, once I got the tension set properly, the poles have been rock solid as far as not collapsing unexpectedly.
This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in approximately two months for my Long Term Report to see how the Khumbu poles are doing. I would also like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Leki for letting me test these trekking poles.
Testing Locations and Conditions
My testing location have been the trails near home here in Northeast Alabama during this final phase of testing. My trips included an overnight hike of 4 miles (6 km) as well as several day-hikes of similar distance. The low on the overnight hike was a pleasant 67 F (19 C). It did get rather hot the last month and a half but I still managed at least one hike a week down to the holler. In fact, the entire month of July and most of August saw temperatures at or above 100 F (38 C). And as previously, I usually waited until late in the afternoon to do any hiking. I did not experience any rain during my hikes. Below is a photo I took right before heading out for a late afternoon hike.
typical hiking conditions for the past couple of months
Long Term Test Results
The Leki Khumbu trekking poles have continued to serve me well during my hikes over these past couple of months. I don't know exactly how many miles I have hiked using the poles but I know I used them with a certain pair of boots for around 80 miles (129 km). And since I had the poles a few weeks prier to getting the boots I'm pretty sure I used them for another 20 or so miles (32 km) so I estimate I have used them for at least 100 miles (161 km) total. I will say that as hot as it has been, I did not hike in the mid-day heat. Even waiting until late in the afternoon was not much better, but at least the sun was low and I felt better. I did notice that the grips would get rather wet after hiking a few miles but they really never felt slick in my hands. This was surprising because the grip on my bikes handle bars does get slippery when I sweat a lot.
I did adjust the length of the poles on a few hikes. I like having the ability to change the length of the poles to match the terrain. I did need them let out all the way a couple of times as I crossed a log across the creek. And even when let out all the way they are pretty solid feeling. Other than down around the creek the trails have been very dry recently, and while not as slick as earlier this spring and summer, they still are steep in places and the poles gave me good support. I actually like using them most when descending as the seem to make it easier on my knees.
The spider webs have abated somewhat but I still used the poles to knock them aside several times. One thing I have not mentioned is that having hiking poles could be handy if attacked. I hike in pretty safe places but in the past I have stumble across whiskey stills and marijuana patches. I've also ran across packs of wild dogs before. Anyways, none of these occasions have presented themselves during the test period but having the poles ready at hand was reassuring.
I know 100 miles (161 km) is not many miles, but I fell that the Liki Khumbu trekking poles are very durable and sturdy poles. The SpeedLock has functioned flawlessly once I got it tightened down properly and adjusting the length of the poles couldn't be easier. The grips and retaining strap are very comfortable and worked remarkably well even when my hands got all sweaty. There are lighter trekking poles, but for me, these are just fine. In fact, they give me a bit more confidence when I put most of my weight on them.
This concludes my testing of the Leki Khumbu trekking poles. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and Leki for letting me test them.
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Read more gear reviews by Coy Ray Starnes
Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > LEKI Khumbus AERGON Speedlock Poles > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
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