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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > LEKI Khumbus AERGON Speedlock Poles > Test Report by Ralph Ditton
Leki Khumbu Aergon Trekking Poles
Test Report Series by Ralph Ditton
Initial Report: 8th May, 2010
Field Report: 30th June, 2010
Long Term Report: 12th September, 2010
Leki Khumbu Trekking Poles (Courtesy of Leki)
My playgrounds are the Bibbulmun Track, the Coastal Plain Trail and Cape to Cape Track. I aim to become a sectional end-to-end walker of the Bibbulmun Track. I am nearly there as it is 964 km (603 mi) long. My pack weight including food and water tends to hover around 18 kg (40 lb) but I am trying to get lighter. My trips range from overnighters to six days duration.
I have only ever used trekking poles once before on a five day hike and they were borrowed from a friend.
Those poles had an internal locking system and quite frankly, they were very difficult to adjust back to where the shafts should be for my needs when they partially telescoped back into its mate when I put weight on them when rock hopping.
What really impressed me straight away when I opened up the box was the red coloured external locking system. They just leapt out at me.
Whilst still in its hang tag I extended the shafts and locked them with a flick of the lever. Very impressed. Mind you, I have not put any weight on them yet to see if the shaft want to telescope back into its mate.
poles on hang tag
None of this twisting to try and lock a shaft into place, especially in a sandy environment like I was in before where the sand stuck to the pole sections and the joints.
The poles looked exactly like as they appear on the website. (See photo above).
In the little book that came with the poles titled "Technology Rules" mention is made on page 4 of a lock-down release tab to secure the comfort strap.
As an experiment I cautiously tried to open up the tab and failed. In the end I had to use a bit of force to pop it open and I was then easily able to adjust the strap.
Locking it back down was very easy.
I have had no difficulty in setting up the poles for my body build. The middle pole has markings in centimetres and I have locked it at the 125 cm (49 in) mark.
There are no markings on the bottom pole. I have just adjusted the bottom pole out as far as it will go and that is 25.5 cm (10 in).
Comparing the two poles, I noticed that the speedlocks on the poles opened up to the right. This means that whatever pole I use in my left hand, the speedlock is next to my leg and my worry is that my trousers could catch on the lever and open it up when on difficult terrain.
I can rotate the middle shaft so that the speedlock is on the outside but I cannot do it to the top pole section because of the handle grip.
This in effect makes them theoretically both right handed poles
I am a bit mystified as to why my measurement of the poles, when fully extended, being short 14.5 cm (5.7 in) compared to the manufacturer's listed measurement.
I measured the poles from the carbide tip to the top of the handles and that was extending the middle pole as far as it would go.
The middle pole has a marking of "Stop Max 145 cm" and I went 45 mm (1.7 in) past it to get the maximum length.
Not that the missing 14.5 cm (5.7 in) will worry me as I will not need it.
The soft rubber grip feels good in my hands as do the straps around my wrist.
I had a look around the web site and there is a FAQ applicable for trekking poles. It covers "Changing your Leki baskets, Trekking Pole Height adjustment, Sizing of the Wanderfreund, How to replace the Autostrap and Removing your Universal Carbide Flextip".
This is very handy especially the height adjustment and changing the carbide flextip.
There is one very pleasing aspect that I really appreciated. These poles were not made in China, but in Europe, where quality control is of a very high standard and there has been German engineering on the speedlocks. That gets a big tick of approval.
Being very new to trekking poles I still had an expectation that they would be heavy and clunky going by ones that I have seen other people use.
These poles are not overly heavy but they have a diameter of 18 mm (0.7 in) in the top pole section making them solid in my opinion.
According to the manufacturer, these poles are part of the "Mountain Trek" stable that are designed for high performance at high altitude and great for heavier pack weight.
The packing case/hang tag has four languages on the reverse describing the Speedlock System. They are German, English, French and Italian.
Opening up the front flap there is a little generic instruction booklet glued to the inside cover. Again this is in the four languages as mentioned above.
It covers topics along with diagrams such as Length Adjustment, for the Speed Lock and Super Lock systems, not to extend the poles up to the Stopmax, care of poles and security advice.
This is where the name "Aergon" comes from. It is a combination of air and ergonomics technology that shaped this handle grip. It has a soft grip and is made out of soft rubber. The top of the handle is dimpled which feels good in the palm of my hand.
It also has an integrated security strap with a pop-up tab for buckle-less adjustability. I made mention of this above.
The strap has a wicking lining which feels like felt and is stitched to a webbing strap. It is designed to make the strap more breathable.
The manufacturer states that the edges of the strap are softer but does not state what they are softer of. To me the edges of the webbing feel stiff.
The back of the handle that fits into my palm has three holes going through the moulding. I suspect that it is designed to help alleviate any palm sweating that may occur and to reduce a little bit of weight.
The pole is made up of three sections, two of which are adjustable.
Even when the lock is closed on the bottom pole and it is fully telescoped inside the middle pole section, I can still pull the bottom section 13.5 cm (5.3 in) before I encounter any resistance from the locking system.
I can see this as having the potential for the bottom pole to extend by itself when retracted and being carried on my backpack.
The bottom pole is tapered ranging from 10 mm (0.39 in) to 13.5 mm (0.5 in).
The middle section is not tapered and has a diameter of 15 mm (0.59 in).
On it there are measurements ranging from 110 cm to 145 cm in 5 cm increments. I did cover some of this in my Initial Impression.
The final section has the handle attached and is white in colour with the manufacturer's name and model name on it.
External Locking System
Each pole has two external locks. One each for the bottom and middle pole section.
To operate the lock is very easy.
When I want to unlock and adjust the pole, I push the red leaver outwards to open , slide the pole section to my chosen spot and then flick the red lever closed. This locks the pole into place, except the narrow part of the bottom pole section.
The red lever is hinged on the end of a screw that squeezes and holds the polyamide clamp into place on the pole.
There is a notch on the end of the transparent head of the screw for a screwdriver to fit to make adjustments.
The lock system is a fibreglass reinforced polyamide that allegedly resists stretching.
Universal Carbide Flextip
The manufacturer claims that the tip can flex up to 30° without damaging the pole shafts.
The carbide tip is concave which is designed to give optimal grip on rock and ice surfaces. Well, we do not get ice but we have plenty of granite that I walk on so it will get a good workout.
Topping the Flexitip unit is a Performance Basket that prevents the pole from sinking into soft ground. It is reasonably soft and I can flex it with my fingers easily.
There is a circular notch on the edge of each of the baskets. No explanation is given. I would hazard a guess and say that it assists in breaking the surface tension when lifting the pole when the basket is used on sloppy ground.
Speedlocks very easy to operate.
Able to adjust wrist straps.
The graduations on the middle shaft.
Not made in China.
Handle grips feel comfortable.
Shafts slide up and down easily with a slight pressure applied.
Unable to lock bottom shaft in a fully closed up position.
Appear to be two right handed poles.
30th June, 2010
My first outing was to Mt. Cooke.
Initially the day walk was on a very rough vehicle track that climbed gradually from the base of the mountain that was at an elevation of 340 m (1,115 ft).
I used the poles on this section and I must admit that I was very rusty in using them. My only other experience in using poles was last October over a 6 day period doing the Cape to Cape Track walk.
I had to get back into the swing of things by concentrating on my hand movements with the poles, preventing myself from slipping over on the bauxite pea gravel when I came upon a slight decline. So it was a very quick learning curve juggling the above for the first few kilometres (mile).
At the blazed tree BZ 77 over 1, I collapsed the poles and attached them to my day pack as I was leading the group off track for a while through thick scrub and the poles would have been a hindrance in that stuff.
Upon intersecting the Bibbulmun Track I then took the poles off my pack, adjusted them to my height, i.e. my forearm was parallel to the ground, snapped the locks closed and off I went.
Very soon I was leading the group up the exposed granite rock face. Fortunately it was dry and the temperature was about 14 C (57 F).
The pole tips certainly made a noise as they were placed on the rock with each step I took and they did not slip or skid off the rock when I put pressure on the poles to help me up the rock face.
At lunch time I examined the pole tips and found no wear or damage to the rims. This pleased me as the tips had been gripping onto granite for a few hours. Mt. Cooke is basically a granite outcrop with some thin layers of soil in places.
poles on my backpack
The next trip was to Boyagin Rock which was a car based camp. The camp was for three days and we did day walks out from the base carrying day packs that weighed around 5 kg (11 lb) initially. That included food and water.
The club has a policy of a minimum of 2 litres of water that must be carried at the start of a walk.
I used the poles on every occasion.
The country that I used them on was a mix of dirt vehicle tracks, wandoo tree off track country and granite outcrops.
Elevation ranged from roughly 100 m to 400 m (328 ft to 1,312 ft). It was undulating country.
The day time temperature, whilst walking was around 17 C (63 F).
The poles worked very well on the dirt vehicle tracks and when negotiating the granite outcrops. I was able to push down on the poles for the push off to gather momentum and keep up a steady rhythm.
When climbing the granite monolith, Boyagin Rock, the poles performed very well. No collapsed section and very little skid when I pushed down on the poles to get to the top.
on top of Boyagin Rock
Conversely, when going down, the poles helped to maintain balance on the slippery patches that was wet.
going down Boyagin Rock
Where the poles were of limited value was in the wandoo country with the scattered undergrowth that was scratchy, whip thin and wanted to trip me up.
I ended up carrying the poles like a rifle at "shoulder arms" due to pole etiquette of not poking the walker behind me.
The poles were very good at pushing and holding aside the "Prickly Moses and Parrot" bushes, allowing me to pass through without too many pricks and scratches from them.
On two occasions, the bottom section collapsed on one pole when I pushed down on the poles when walking up an incline.
As we stopped frequently and I put the poles down, I no doubt switched the poles around from hand to hand, so I have no way of knowing at this stage if it is just one pole or both poles collapsing.
What I will do is mark one pole with a bit of duct tape for identification and see if it happens again.
The other thing that occurred to me was that the middle speed lock had somehow twisted around so that the red lever was against my leg.
On one occasion it caught against my gaiter and it popped open. Fortunately, I was not putting any downward pressure on the pole as we were on flat open ground and I was just striding in unison with the poles.
That is something that I have to keep an eye on. I must make sure that the red lever faces away from my legs.
My last two outings were on Introductory Walks with my bushwalking club. I was assisting the leader to take novices out into the bush as we were walking partly on and off track.
For these outings I only used one pole as an experiment because with two poles in off-track country, I found that they were more of a hindrance than a help. They were getting caught up in the vegetation.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much benefit I gained from just using the one pole.
Having the other hand free meant that I was able to easily detach the pole from catching vegetation, push aside prickly bushes with the pole and give me balance when hopping over fallen trees and negotiating rough ground.
The last aspect was very much appreciated. I placed the pole in front of me just a bit to the right to steady me when descending rocks and pebbly ground. I am right handed and carried the pole in my right hand.
I did swap hands with the pole but I always came back to my right hand.
Only once the pole was of no use. My left foot caught a tree root whilst at the same time I was using the pole to push aside a scratchy bush when I executed a face plant. Just my pride was hurt much to the mirth of some of the group who saw it.
On my last outing there was one occasion where I thought that I would break the pole. I placed it between rocks as I was rock hopping on a slope and my foot slipped on the wet moss growing on the rock.
This caused my weight to bear down on the pole and because of the slipping I was going sideways in the direction of the pole and down the hill.
The middle section bowed out away from me. I was looking at this thinking whilst still slipping sideways, "It's going to break and I'm going to tumble down the hill".
Lo and behold, my thigh came up hard against the top section of the pole and stopped me and it did not break.
At a rough guess, I would say that it arched out about 10 degrees from the plain.
During the Field Report stage I have used the poles over 6 days and for four of those days I used two poles as the vegetation allowed for that. On the other two days I used just one pole from a management point of view due to the thick vegetation that I encountered off track. The majority of my walking is off track and quite frankly, two poles in thick vegetation hinders the pleasure of operating the two poles as they get caught up in the shrubbery. One is a lot easier to operate and I still get the balance requirements when log and rock hopping and it is a great help in pushing aside the prickly stuff.
To date, no damage has been visited upon the poles and I am very pleasantly surprised that the paint work is not scratched from the scratchy bushes.
Date: 12th September, 2010
Long Term Report
During this phase I was able to use the poles on two outings totaling three days.
The first outing was over three mountains and a rock, namely Mt. Cuthbert, Mt.Vincent, Mt. Randall and Sullivan Rock, all granite monoliths in the Darling Range south of Perth. Elevation ranged from 300 metres to 500 metres (984 ft to 1,640 ft) with the average temperature around 15 C (59 F).
The second outing was an overnight camp at Prickly Bark on the Coastal Plain Trail. Elevation ranged from sea level to 80 metres (262 ft). Daytime temperature ranged between 10 C to 14 C (50 F to 57 F) with some rain.
I led a day walk over the three mountains and rock showing a group of prospective club members what sort of bushwalking activities that we do.
On the approach over Sullivan Rock to the mountains I was able to get a rhythm up using the poles on the track. This stopped when I began ascending the first mountain. It became a matter of looking where to place the poles to push myself up the twisting, rock hopping and at times, straddling small washouts.
At no time during the ascents and descents did the poles telescope back inside one another. The locks worked very well.
I led the group off track from Mt. Randall and I only used one pole due to the tangly vegetation. This pole, was held in my right hand as I am right handed.
Sometimes I used it to push aside prickly vegetation, break away cobwebs that were in front of me and tap on fallen logs before stepping over them to make sure that no reptile was ready to greet me.
Despite the treatment dished out to the pole being used in this manner, the paint work on the pole is in remarkably good condition. There are a few small nicks and scratches but I have to look hard to spot them.
The middle and bottom sections show no damage at all bearing in mind that they are plain anodized aluminium shafts.
My last trip was over two days walking on sandy soil where each foot sank about 5 cm (2 in) with each step before the rain came.
In this type of terrain I found that the poles did help with me not becoming as fatigued as I would have normally done. Prior to using these poles and on one trip last year, I have never used poles when walking with a pack.
Coastal Plain Trail
My pack weight for this trip was around 15 kilograms (33 lb).
heading to Prickly Bark
On the second day after the rain, my boots only sank in a very short distance as the sandy soil was nice and compacted from the rain and walking with the poles was delightful.
Although I was never able to lock the bottom pole section when it was telescoped into the middle pole, it never slid out when attached to my day pack.
I have used these poles on a lot of granite monoliths and outcrops because that is the predominate type of country close to where I live and walk.
The carbide flex tips show no sign of wear at all which surprised me.
Wear does show up on the shaft that contains the carbide flex tip because this part tends to bury itself into the soil and gets caught between rocks.
The Performance Baskets show a little wear on the "teeth". They have developed a furry look about them but the baskets are not in any way compromised.
I will continue to use the poles on my bush walks and even as a pole to push aside prickly vegetation.
Thank you to Leki and BackPackGearTest for allowing me to test this product.
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