How far things have come since the day when a simple stick served the job of balancing you on your hike through the woods. Today's poles are so wonderfully handy. They take the load off your knees on downhills, can be used to shoo snakes off the trail if you don't have patience for them to slither off, and can even be used to pitch a tent!
The latest innovations from LEKI with its trekking poles are subtle, but nevertheless welcome.
The biggest innovation you'll see when the 2010 poles hit the retail stores in March are the "Speedlocks" the company has added to these sturdy poles. If you're familiar with LEKI's products, you know then that you've previously adjusted the length of the poles by twisting the lower section to loosen an internal fitting. Twist the pole one way, it loosened the internal lock and allowed you to lengthen or shorten the pole, depending on the user's needs. Then you twisted it back the other way to lock in place.
Well, one problem with this set-up was that if you twisted the pole too far, it detached from the internal lock and you could actually pull the whole thing apart. Another problem was if your stronger significant other was the last to use the poles and twisted them closed so tightly that you needed a vice-grips to unlock them (Of course, you each should have your own set!). And then, of course, there was the problem of not tightening the internal lock enough and so when you planted the pole and, in an off-balance moment, placed most of your weight on it, it would shorten unexpectedly.
That brings us to the Speedlock, a handy, external locking mechanism that opens and closes pretty much with one finger. It's so simple, one wonders what took it so long to get to market? Out of the box, these poles are designed to bear 176 pounds without the lock failing. The one downside to this lock is that the engineers at LEKI haven't yet settled one an internal anti-shock system to go along with it. While some folks don't like this internal shock-absorber, I found it wonderful on downhills.
When the 2010 models hit the stores, there will be five different Speedlock models: the Mountain Trek Khumbu AERGON (19.4 ounces/pair, $99.95 MSRP); the Carbonlite AERGON (12.8 ounces/pair, $179.95); the Thermolite AERGON XL (14 ounces/pair, $139.95); the Corklite AERGON (16.6 ounces/pair, $119), and; the Cressida AERGON (15.8 ounces/pair, $119.95), a women's pole that's slightly shorter and with a slightly smaller grip than the others. All are fitted with the Carbide Flextip that not only provide great traction on rock but can bend up to 30 degrees without damaging the shaft.