The use of trekking poles in Britain has grown significantly in recent years. Perhaps it is the influence of our Continental neighbours who seem to have adopted them much more readily than we have at home. The research for this review was conducted by someone who does not normally use poles. They were used in pairs in a variety of walking conditions from normal well maintained paths to very rough terrain in high mountain areas. In addition they were used for steep ascents and descents and for river crossings.
Two different models of Leki Poles were tested. The first impression was they were both Quality products. Beautifully constructed and lightweight, they proved to be an invaluable accessory over all types of ground. Each pole comes with an instruction booklet and you are advised to read this carefully before taking them on a walk. The most important aspect is the length of the poles. This is determined by the height from the ground to your elbow and should be adjusted according to whether you are on level ground, ascending or descending.
Super Makalu Poles - these have a 15° Positive Angle Shaft, which benefitted the walker as the rake on the grips added to the handling comfort. The springing (which is adjustable) was wonderful, reducing impact and wrist strain to a minimum. The CorTec grip was superb offering even greater impact absorption.
Makalu Antishock Poles - Without some of the refinements of its more expensive cousins, these poles performed well adding to the considerable reputation that Leki have built up for themselves. Standards of construction appeared to be identical to the Super Makalu Poles and the reviewer has no hesitation in recommending them for all types of walking.
The benefit over rough terrain was more noticeable than on easy, level territory. However the distance of test was much less in the latter category and over long hikes I am sure the benefits would have been more noticeable especially with a heavy pack.
Ascents and descents are the two specific areas where poles provide major benefits. Steady climbs seem much easier as you have the benefit of using your upper body muscles for extra power, which is transmitted through the poles. During descents it was easier to maintain balance and over a particularly nasty section of rough mountainside you were able to continue at a far greater speed than would have otherwise been possible.
River crossings were another area where the poles provided an advantage with the extra pair of legs making it much easier to keep your feet dry!
Were there any negatives? None really. The only annoyance for someone not usually walking with poles was when crossing stiles. However this is trivial when compared to the substantial benefits.
Why use in pairs? A single pole does help but is more comparable to walking stick. Initially a pair of poles takes some getting used to but, after a while, the benefits of balance soon become evident as you get into a rhythm.
Do the Super Makalu Poles warrant the extra cost? Yes is the simple answer especially if you spend a lot of time walking. Over the lifetime of the poles you will probably save your body considerable amounts of wear and tear. There will also be a noticeable reduction in fatigue especially when carrying a heavy pack.
Reading through the technical information supplied I noticed that a number of alternative "baskets" can be attached to the "sharp" end of the poles. Those reviewed all had the Trekking Basket (as illustrated) and these were perfectly adequate for the routes covered. However a set of Snowflake Baskets look ideal for the softer ground often encountered on British hills.
Model - Super Makalu - Model 2038-00 RATING
Model - Makalu Antishock - Model 2031-00 RATING
Review date - 3rd February 2002 - Reviewed by LJ and KS
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