Gear Review: LEKI Khumbu Aergon Trekking Poles

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The poles and I out for a stroll on the AT this weekend.
My foray into the world of trekking poles was prompted by RMI Expeditions and the gear list I received for my Mount Rainier Summit for Someone climb last summer. I'd never used them before, nor considered them an essential piece of gear. Though I had trouble with the poles I chose initially, they became incredibly useful with a little help from one of our expert guides. I was glad to have them on the descent when my leg muscles started rebelling!

I chose LEKI after hearing and reading good things about the company. Of the four poles LEKI offers for mountain trekking, three are listed above $100. I wanted something reasonably priced, durable, easy to use and without the anti-shock feature. I find the noise created by anti-shock trekking poles nearly unbearable and invasive on the trail, like nails on a chalkboard.

Just by virtue of my price limitations and anti-anti-shock preference, I'd narrowed the field to three LEKI models - the Khumbu Aergon, Corklite Aergon, and Cressida Aergon. The Corkline Aergon grips were too stiff; I preferred the softer grips on the Khumbu Aergon. The Cressida Aergon only extend up to 125 cm (48"). Even though I'm 5'9" and the 48" extension would have been enough, I wanted flexibility in case the poles needed to become tent poles, or hold up tarps.

All three feature LEKI's Speedlock locking system, hailed as one of the strongest in the world. The levers are easy to use with gloves on, operating a bit like the quick release lever on bike tires. The Khumbu Aergon, though 3-4 oz. heavier than the other two pairs, were under the $100 mark, and that was the final piece that tipped the scale.

Locked vs unlocked, lower portion compressed.
The poles and I made it on to the trail a few times before Rainier. The lower portion of the poles never seemed to stay locked, which surprised me after I'd read so much about how innovative the Speedlock system was. I'd put weight on them and feel the lower portion slide all the way up.

Frustrated, I took them to Rainier anyway hoping to rent a pair if I couldn't get mine to work. One of my guides told me it's a common issue with trekking poles in general. She helped me make them usable by extending the top portion as far as it would go, locking it, and leaving the bottom compressed. The top lock stayed put and I didn't have to worry about the lower one sliding around. It worked and they felt sturdy enough, but the poles lost 6-8" of length flexibility.

I'd never heard of, or read reviews from, anyone with that issue and of course, that makes me think it's got something to do with the user! I'm hoping I'll get them to stay locked with a little fiddling. I found the poles themselves a valuable addition to my collection of gear. I've taken them out once or twice since, and regretted leaving them at home for our Ricketts Glen adventure.They won't have a place on day hikes for me, but I expect they'll come with me on backpacking trips this summer.

The bottom line: The grips are comfortable, the poles are sturdy, and the Speedlock system is easy to use. For my height and purposes, they're still functional with the lower portion compressed, but of course ideally, the entire pole would function properly. All that being said, I'm not sure I'd buy these again. If anyone has any suggestions about how to get the lower lock to stay put, I'd love to hear them!

I bought these trekking poles with my own hard-earned cash, and as always, the opinions expressed here are my own. If you're a trekking pole aficionado, what are your favorites?

11 comments :

Laurel said...

Looks like Leki has gone with a new locking system, good for them because everyone I know who's used the old Lekis has had problems with them. The old system was called Twistlock -- you twist them like a screw to lock and unlock. Works fine on a snow free trail, but when using them on snow with powder baskets (which is when I want to use them), you end up putting a twist on them every time you plant them. So one side collapses and one side gets stuck! The fix is to switch poles from left to right occasionally, but I finally got sick of doing this and bought Black Diamond poles. Those have never loosened or gotten stuck on me, or on anyone else on a trip I've been on.

That said, this was with the old system and I haven't seen anyone with the new system yet since it hasn't been around for long (possibly why you haven't heard of anyone else having the same problem, too).

Bob Mosher said...

So...this may be a stupid question (I'm known for them) but did you get the women's specific version? The women's version has a minimum height of approx. 5" smaller than the men's/unisex version.

Great review, thanks for posting!

Lizzy said...

Second the BD poles. We have a couple pairs we've picked up from REI used gear sales and haven't had problems with any of them. They are awesome for approaches with camping + climbing gear (Hulk, Clyde Minaret, etc.), and Luke has used his for skiing a couple of times (with the addition of powder baskets) without any collapsing issues.

Katie said...

Hi Bob! No stupid questions. I didn't look at the women's specific poles for that precise reason - they were all shorter than the unisex versions. Though I wouldn't need to fully extend them while walking, I've seen trekking poles double as tent poles and wanted more flexibility. Thanks for your kind words!

Luke said...

Lizzy is right on. She has the BD Spire Elliptic and I either have an old version of the Spire or the Contour which is circular. The bottom never slips because it is collapsible but not adjustable on our models. The older version of the "Auto-Lock Binary" was a bit hard to compact but the newer poles break down easily. The top doesn't slip with BD's FlickLock system on both sets of poles. I really like them for overnight climbing trips. Really helps keep the weight of my knees on the down hills.

Katie said...

Thanks so much, Luke and Lizzy! The Speedlock locking system seemed so easy to use, but I'd rather go with a system that's a bit harder to use with gloves that works. The models you both have look great. If I decide to replace mine, I know who to talk to :)

rockiesgirl said...

Walking with poles seems to work better for some than others. I use mine all the time for hikes with elevation gain. I tried getting my mom to use them once - no such luck. She couldn't get the hang of it.

The pair that I use are Komperdell's and they twist shut. If you're not putting a lot of weight on them (I'm pretty small) they work fine but when my husband uses them they untwist. My husband got the locking ones like your Leki's as he finds them sturdier. I've never tried the Leki's but I can attest that the BD poles are pretty bomber. They've never loosened while hiking.

Hope you figure yours out! It does suck buying something that doesn't work properly for you.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for the great review! Mine, after 7 years, are starting to breakdown on me. They are also Komperdells and for my first pair, they were great. But the Twist and Lock system is starting to fail, especially since I put my poles through a lot of abuse AND when I give them to people to teach them the virtues of trekking poles. :)

I've seen these flip-lock systems and can't wait to try them out. Thanks!

Bob Mosher said...

So...this may be a stupid question (I'm known for them) but did you get the women's specific version? The women's version has a minimum height of approx. 5" smaller than the men's/unisex version.

Great review, thanks for posting!

A Land said...

Great Review. I'm looking at buying these poles myself and came across another review that noted the same problem with the poles shortening.
Apparently there is an adjustment screw that can be tightened while the speedlock is unlocked.
http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Trekking%20Poles/Poles/LEKI%20Khumbus%20AERGON%20Speedlock%20Poles/Test%20Report%20by%20Coy%20Ray%20Starnes/

Mathew Ediger said...

me and my wife also have had these poles and were quite dissapointed. being used more for ski touring, the bottom portion never staying locked was quite frustrating for me because i'm a little taller. we ended up getting a couple sets of the black diamond flick lock poles. they have been great!