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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > LEKI Khumbus AERGON Speedlock Poles > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

LEKI Khumbu AERGON Speedlock 

Trekking Poles

Initial Report - Apr 19 '01
Field Report - July 13 '10
Long Term Report -  Sep 14 '10

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.net
Age: 42
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89.40 kg)
Torso: 19"(48 cm)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the higher peaks in Washington, Oregon, and California. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. My current pack is around 30 lbs (14 kg), not including consumables.

Product Information

Manufacturer:

LEKI inc.

Year of Manufacture:

2010

Manufacturer’s Website:

www.leki.com

MSRP:

$US 99.95 /pr
 Weight: Listed: 19.4 oz (550 g)
Measured 21.2 oz (600 g)

Length:

70-145 cm (27.5 - 57 in)

LEKI Khumbu trekking poles
Images courtesy of LEKI inc

Product Description:

The Khumbu AERGON poles are part of LEKI's  "Mountain Trec" series of poles designed to be stronger than their other poles for 'High-performance' and 'high-altitude' use. The poles are white with the handles, straps, details, and components in black. 

Initial Report


The white & black color blends in well with the snowThe first thing I noticed upon receiving the poles was their white color. The color is bright, distinctive, and would not normally be my first choice. However after having them for a few hours, the initial shock has diminished and they are actually growing on me. If nothing else these should be quite visible on the trail, and except for snow, should be quite easy to spot on the ground and/or leaning against a tree.

I inspected the poles and found no obvious signs of flaws or defects. The handles are described as “Soft Grip” but while they are smooth and fit my hands comfortably, ‘soft’ is not how I would describe them. The plastic seems quite firm and solid with no give that I could detect. The straps seem comfortable, and the section that goes against my hands seems smooth and appears to be unlikely to cause chafing or blisters. To adjust the straps I simply pull up on one end of the strap and a section of the pole handle pivots to allow the strap to be tightened or loosened. Then when the strap is pulled down it becomes locked in place again. This seems quite easy to operate and initial tests show the strap to lock firmly, unlikely to slip. I really like the ability to quickly adjust the straps (such as when I take off my gloves), while still being confidant they will not come loose at an inopportune moment.

The poles are adjusted by two ‘SpeedLock’ mechanisms. These operate similar to the latches used to hold the wheels in place on some bikes. To unlock simply flick the red leaver out away from the pole, and flick it back firmly into place to relock. In adjusting the poles I found the middle section to slide easily and lock firmly into place. The lower section of each pole seems to be more difficult to slide, this may loosen with use. The lower two sections have matching marks (in 5 cm [2 in] increments) for setting the length of the poles. To set the length adjust each section to the desired length (e.g. 120 cm & 120 cm would result in a 120 cm [47 in] pole)  In my initial tests I adjusted the poles to my normal length (120 cm / 47 in) using the measurements stenciled on the pole sections, and put most of my weight on the poles. I found I had to tighten the lock for the lower section of one of the poles to prevent it from slipping when I applied weight. This was accomplished by simply releasing the lock and turning the adjustment screw about a turn. After that, the locks seemed to perform quite well and I found them easy to operate.

Speed Lock Detail imageThe poles came with removable ‘performance’ baskets to help prevent them from sinking into soft ground. These are easily removed by pushing them down towards the tips and turning. There are threads on the poles allowing the baskets to be screwed on/off, but these threads end short, so that when in place the baskets can rotate somewhat freely without damaging the threads (I like this detail). Since I expect to use these poles for at least some snow travel I purchased the optional snow baskets, these are larger than the performance baskets for use in even softer material such as snow, mud, or sand. I found replacing the baskets quite simple and intuitive.

The poles are tipped with what is described as Carbide Flextip’s. LEKI describes these as follows: “The flexible tip can bend up to 30 without damaging the pole shafts. The use of Carbide provides optimal grip on rock and ice surfaces.” This is of great interest to me as I constantly worry about breaking off the tips of my older poles. I tried to bend the tips with my hands to see how flexible they are, but could not. According to the glossary on the LEKI web site the tips are replaceable (this could be nice should I manage to break one). Something I found interesting is the shape of the carbide tips. Most poles I have seen/used have a textured end to them so they grip hard surfaces such as rock. The LEKI tips have a cone shape indentation in them resulting in a round sharp edge. This looks and feels like it should provide good grip, but I can’t help wondering how quickly these edges will wear down and become smooth. Since it took years for me to wear down the tips of my old poles, I suspect I am unlikely to resolve this during the 4 month timeframe of this test. But I will be keeping an eye on this.

LEKI offers a lifetime warranty against breakage of their aluminum shafts, this covers only the shaft. They have a page on their website that explains the warranty as well as a Warranty Request/Return Authorization form to be filled out for warranty requests.

The poles do not include any sort of shock absorption. While this seems like it could be a negative, I have found I actually prefer to not have shock absorbers’ in my trekking poles. I have found that when using the poles for vaulting over obstacles (mud, water, etc) the shock absorbers provide less stability. This also applies for times when I need to quickly plant a pole to recover balance; I find a firm pole with no give works far better. I have yet to find conditions when the shock absorbers have helped and as such normally operate my old poles with the shocks disabled. Not having a feature I don’t use should save a bit of weight and reduce the complexity of the poles (e.g. one less thing to break).

Overall these look to be well made. The shape and size of the handle fit comfortably in my hands, and the straps are comfortable. The speed lock seems to be a quick and simple way to allow me to adjust the poles as needed.

Likes

Dislikes

Speed locks easy to operate and seem strong

The color took a bit of getting used to (this may become a ‘like’ later)

Grips fit my hands well and feel comfortable

The grips are hard and have no cushioning

Wrist straps easy to adjust and comfortable (my favorite part of the poles)
Baskets easy to take off / put on
Tips are replaceable

Field Report

Field Report - July 13 '10
Usage:Leaning against a tree while snow camping
  • Snowshoe (day trip) to Deer Lake – Hard packed snow at the bottom & deep wet snow near the lake
  • 1 overnight snow camping trip White Pass Ski area (I show shoed up the ski runs)
  • 3 day Ecology camp (3 days at a camp ground with day hikes exploring and learning about the Dry Falls area)
  • 3 Day hikes Cowiche canyon with my daughters
  • 2 Day Hikes Umptanum Creek with my daughters
  • 1 solo day hike Umptanum Creek
  • Climbing Mt Adams 2 days

These poles are solid, and the speed locks work great.
My initial usage of the poles was for snowshoeing, where the strength of the locks was put to the test. In the uneven terrain and variable snow conditions (from packed hard as ice to moderately deep soft snow) I put most of my weight on the poles to prevent falls, when getting up after falling, and especially when descending the steep ski runs.

For my day hikes I varied things up by using only 1 pole for some of the trips. My solo trip was kind of a speed hike where I tried to maintain a brisk pace, in doing so planted the poles with force for each step. On one of the Umptanum hikes we used a log to cross the stream. Normally I would leave my poles at their normal length and use them as best I can for support, but here the speed locks came in handy. I quickly extended the poles to their full length there by making the stream crossing easier and safer. After crossing, I was able to quickly adjust them back to my preferred length and continue on my way. On this feature alone, I have demoted my old trusty poles to my “extra gear” inventory.Stream Crossing

During two of the day hikes we experienced some heavy rain (also a bit of hail on one). I found the handgrips function just as well wet as they do dry. In switching between using heavy gloves, thin glove liners, and bare hands, I had to adjust the wrist straps. I found them quite easy to adjust, and once set do not seem to slip at all. The wrist straps are also comfortable and do not seem to rub or scratch. I found the rounded tops of the grips to work very well when I wanted a bit more length, such as when going downhill, or to give my hands a rest by varying my grip.

Swapping out the baskets on the poles has been quite easy. During my snow camping trip, when I was looking for a suitable location for a snow cave I was able to quickly remove the snow basket from one pole, extend it to its full length, and use it as a probe to determine snow depth and look for hidden obstacles (rocks, logs, etc). Then while digging my shelter, I shortened the pole and used it as a depth gage, and then finally to open and maintain air holes (it snowed the entire trip) in the top of my shelter.

I found the carbide tips bite well into logs and hard packed earth, as well as getting good grip on both wet and dry rock.

About the only problem I encountered was when attempting to set the lower section of one of the poles to the 110 cm marking. This is just below where the lower section of the pole begins to taper, and as such, I had to tighten the speed lock a bit to get it to lock the pole firmly in place.

While the poles (especially the trekking baskets and tips) are dirty, I don’t see any significant signs of use or wear. Despite some aggressive use on quite a bit of basalt rock, the carbide tips don’t show any real indications of wear.Rain

I found instructions on replacing the pole tips should they become damaged. Removal of the tips seemed rather easy and so I tried it. It worked fine. While I had the tip off of one of my poles I slipped my SticPic camera mount (a product I reviewed in the past) onto the pole. Normally the SticPic is attached to the camera and then slipped over the pole tip for use in taking self-portraits. My main concern with it was that I might lose it. By being able to slip it onto the aluminum section of the pole there is no risk of losing it, and it is handy any time I need to use it.

I don’t have anything to add to the previously mentioned list of “Likes” but I do want to remove the two “Dislikes”. The color of the poles has grown on me and I find them quite easy to spot when lying on the ground or against a tree. Despite no cushioning, the handgrips have been quite comfortable. In fact, I think the stiff grips along with no shock absorbers provide a firmer feel when planting the poles.

Long Term Report

Long Term Report - Sep 14 '10
Usage :
Mt St Helen’s 2 days
Day hike Little Si (1576’ / 480 m peak just East of Seattle Washington)

Mt St HellensSince the last report I used the poles for our annual climb up Mt St Helen’s. The route starts off on dirt in the trees, breaks out on to boulders and broken rocks, then for much of the climb we were in snow. On the way down I collapsed one of the poles, removed the snow basket, and used it as a brake for the glacade down. During this trip I snagged the pole tips in rocks a few times and it was nice to not have to worry about breaking them, and knowing that even if I did managed to break the tips they are replaceable.
On my way back from dropping my sister-in-law off at the airport I took the opportunity to hike up Little Si. The route is about 5 mi / 8 km with a 1200’ / 365 m elevation gain. Since I had been driving for over 4 hrs I was a bit stiff, and the first part of the trail is rather steep, so I took my time going up. The view from the top and a light snack had me energized and so I descended at a very fast clip (running the less steep sections). I gave these poles a beating on the way down, both when pushing to keep up my speed and planting them hard to slow my pace when I felt out of control. As I have come to expect they held up well, and despite some warm temperatures (90 F / 32 C) and a bit of humidity, the grips were comfortable and my hands did not slip when they got sweaty. At the end of the hike I did notice that one pole was a bit shorter than the other and so the lock must have slipped a bit. Since I had the poles fully collapsed to fit in the trunk and set their length before I started, it must have happened while on the trail but I have no idea when.

During my use, these poles have been exposed to quite a bit of dirt, volcanic ash, dust, and moisture. I have made no attempt to clean them, but despite all the dirt that must be in them, there seems to be no problem with adjusting the poles.

Aside from some dirt and a few scratches in the paint, the poles are showing no signs of wear. The hand grips and carbide tips are holding up as well, if not better, than expected.

In conclusion, I really like these poles. And despite the locks slipping a few times, they seem quite study and durable. The grips are more comfortable than I had originally expected and the wrist straps are comfortable as well as easily adjusted. Removing the baskets is easy and I don’t think they can come off accidentally (unlike another set of poles I own where I have lost 3 baskets). The poles have a few scratches in the paint, but this is from rough handling and no fault of the product. I fully intend to continue using these as my primary poles for the foreseeable future, and would recommend them to anyone in the market for lightweight poles that are also strong and durable.


This concludes my review. I would like to thank the folks at LEKI inc, and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these poles.

 



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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > LEKI Khumbus AERGON Speedlock Poles > Test Report by David Wilkes



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