Size and Weight
The most immediate difference I noticed after exchanging my old poles for the Micro Varios is just how micro they are! With a collapsed length of just 15 inches, they were nearly two inches shorter than the REI poles, but being fully aluminum they are able to be much skinnier without sacrificing strength. This leads to them being between one half and one third the size of the REI poles as a bundle, when broken down. In fact, they break down to about the same size as Michole’s Women’s Black Diamond distance FLZ adjustable poles, which are a bit shorter and are known for being extremely packable. And at just 18.3 ounces, they are only about 3 ounces heavier than the carbon poles from REI. As for adjustability, the Micro Varios can be used from 110 to 130 cm.
Comfort and Usability
The Micro Varios boast a cork grip, something usually reserved for poles above their price point. The grip is definitely smaller than the REI poles, but they are very ergonomic and even in my fairly large hands, they are quite comfortable. Furthermore, they have a wonderfully designed rubber pommel on the top of the grips, and a foam grip under the actual grip. When using an ice axe and crampons, I like to keep a trekking pole in my off hand. In these situations, I never wear the wrist strap on my pole, so that I can easily discard it if I need that hand for a self-arrest. Descending steep snow and ice in this way, the pommel is a godsend, allowing me to constantly get the few extra inches I need, to use the pole as a cane, providing great reach for a third or fourth point of contact. When I am using the wrist straps, they are extremely comfortable, and quite easy to adjust. In fact, the wrist straps were a key feature, along with the cork handles, that set these poles apart from the Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles, when choosing my replacements.
Break Down and Assembly
The Micro Varios use a very effective tensioning cord, with a beefy rubberized coating to keep the poles together, a huge upgrade from my old REI poles. The “Speedlock 2” system used to adjust the length is another bonus. It allows you to tighten or loosen the locking mechanism with a hand, even a gloved one. This is a huge bonus compared to most adjustable poles, which typically require a coin, knife, or some type of tool to adjust the tension on the locking mechanism.
Assembling and breaking down the poles is also, quick, simple, and efficient, using metal button that locks into place after extending the upper section of the poles. This in turn locks the lower sections. No more fumbling around screwing sections together, only to have them come unscrewed a few miles later! When it is time to stow the poles, simply push the button, and the poles collapse.
Leki Micro Vario Poles Break Down. Notice the red levers for adjustable length, the coating on the cord, and the adjustable wrist straps.
All in all the Micro Varios are a great set of poles. While average in weight among their most closely related competitors, they proved above average at virtually everything else. Their packability is second to none, their locking systems are easy to operate and adjust, and never came apart, even when used in snow, ice, and mud. Their comfort also sets them apart from other poles in their price range, with cork grips, a great pommel for caning down hills, and a long foam grip under the grip to choke up on the pole for violent inclines. A plush wrist strap only adds to this advantage, setting them apart from the Black Diamond distance FLZ poles, in particular.
I would definitely recommend these poles to anyone in the market for a pair of folding, adjustable poles. I have put them through enough rigors already to make me confident that they will not need replacing for quite sometime, but I strongly suspect that when the day comes to retire these poles, I will replace them with another pair of the same.