This three-piece folding carbon fiber pole is a top-end model from Leki. There’s a lot to like about it and it’s a great piece of equipment that packs in a lot of Leki’s latest comfort enhancing tech.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Very compact when folded
- Replacement parts are available
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Limited range adjustment
The Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS is just about as high end as walking poles get. It’s packed with Leki’s technology to improve comfort whilst hiking and it beautifully made and finished. These poles are expensive, but they could easily stand up to a lifetime of use and the availability of spare parts from Leki means that even if the worst happens, the pole can likely live on to see another day. We are assessing this pole alongside the largely identical Cressida FX Carbon AS, which is marketed as a ‘ladies’ version of this pole. In practice, they are essentially the same, but the Cressida has a slightly shorter minimum and maximum extension, which, gender aside, would make it a more suitable choice than this for those with smaller frames.
Compare to Similar Products
- Leki Cressida FX Carbon AS Lady
- Leki Black Series FX Carbon
- MSR DynaLock Ascent Foldable Carbon Backcountry Trekking Poles
- Check out our guide to the 12 Best Trekking Poles of 2023
Analysis and Test Results
The Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS is a top-end folding Pole from a well-respected brand. This carbon fiber poles packs in a lot of Leki’s latest technology to help improve comfort including an Anti Shock damper near the tip and Aergon Air shock-absorbing grips. We’ve been very impressed by these poles, and their fit and finish and general sense of quality is beyond question. Coupled with the easy availability of spare parts from Leki should something get broken or worn in use, we have no doubt that these will last a very long time. Leki also offers the Cressida FX Carbon AS. This is essentially the same pole as the Makalu, but with its slightly shorter maximum length, it’s marketed as a women’s pole. The Cressida is just as good a choice as the Makalu if you need the shorter length, but, importantly, at retail, the Makalu can be purchased for less than the Cressida, so unless you specifically need the shorter length the Cressida offers (or are particularly taken by its different color scheme – which we’ve got to admit does look good!) then we think the Makalu is still the better buy. They may not be the cheapest option, or the lightest either, but as an all-round option, we think it’s hard to beat these Makalus and, as such, we have awarded them our Editor’s Choice in this round up.
The Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS sits near the top of Leki’s range of trekking poles and is the top model in the Makalu family of poles. It can be a bit tricky to get your head around the naming conventions as there’s a lot of seemingly similar models. To some up, briefly, though, the ‘FX’ means that this is a folding pole – Makalus without the FX badge are telescopic – and ‘AS’ means ‘Anti Shock’ and relates to an extra shock absorber built into the lower shaft just above the basket. It’s possible to purchase the Makalu FX without the AS function – it saves a small amount of money and about 24g/0.8oz of weight. As its name suggests, the Makalu is also largely made of carbon fiber, with aluminum reinforcement in places to aid durability. Carbon is well regarded as having a bit more ‘give’ relative to aluminum which will help dampen shocks when hiking. On top of all of this, the Makalu also features Leki’s latest Aergon Air grips, which are designed to improve comfort. It’s difficult to assess how the individual features of the Makalu add up to improve comfort, but we can say that this is an exceptionally comfortable pole to hike with
Weighing in at 534g/1lb 3oz, the Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS sits in the middle of the products in this round up in terms of weight. There are lighter options available for sure, and you can even make the Makalu a bit lighter if you choose to buy the variant without the AS ‘anti shock’ dampener or, if you don’t need the full length this pole offers, buy buying the shorter and lighter but otherwise largely identical Cressida FX Carbon AS. However, in real terms, none of the poles in this round up are particularly heavy-weight and unless you absolutely have to have the lightest gear possible, we think the Makalu’s comfort features are worth the small weight penalty.
The Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS makes extensive use of carbon fiber – as it’s name suggests – but it also makes use of aluminum fittings to help improve strength and durability. Relative to aluminum, carbon fiber is generally a bit lighter and has a bit more ‘give’, so it absorbs impact from vibration rather than transmitting it up the shaft of the pole to your wrists. On the downside, it’s more expensive and if damaged it may chip or crack whereas aluminum is more likely to bend.
At 40cm/15.7in when folded, the Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS has one of the shorter folded lengths of the poles in this round up. There are a few that fold up shorter, but not by much. Interestingly, the Makalu has exactly the same folded length as the Leki Cressida FX Carbon AS. These are basically the same poles, but the Cressida is 10cm/4in shorter at both its minimum and maximum extension.
Pole Adjustment Mechanism
This is a folding hiking pole. The three main sections of the pole are connected by a strong cable. They loosely connect together and then you pull out a telescopic section until it clicks to tension the pole and you can press in on a spring button to release it all again. It took us a moment to work out the mechanism at first, but it’s then very simple. Beyond this, there’s a single telescopic section to control the extended length between 110cm/43in and 130cm/51in. This has Leki’s flip-lock closure with a captive adjustment nut (the ‘captive’ part means you can’t fully unscrew the nut so you can’t lose it!). It’s a very personal choice, but we tend to prefer flip locks over twist locks, even if we sometimes do catch a finger in them, and the fact that the adjustment lock allow you to adjust tension on the lock without the need for tools is also a bonus.
The Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS comes fitted with Leki’s 45mm/1.8in soft plastic Trekking Basket. This can easily be removed or replaced with a wide range of optional baskets Leki supply, but it’s also secured firmly enough that we don’t think you need to worry about accidentally losing it.
Grip Ergonomics and Material
As with many of Leki’s most recent poles, the Makalu FX Carbon AS comes with what Leki calls ‘Aergon Air’ ergonomic handgrips. These are Leki’s latest design and feature a range of technologies factored to help the user’s comfort. The main grip material is high density foam. Its tricky to assess how much the grip adds to the comfort of the pole, but as mentioned above, we think this is a comfortable pole to hike with.
At the time of writing, the Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS costs $239.95/£169.38. It isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t the most expensive pole we’ve assessed. It’s a great quality piece of kit and could easily last a lifetime of use, so with this in mind, we don’t think the cost is unreasonable. Interestingly, whilst they have the same recommended price, the Makalu can sometimes be bought at retail for a noticeably less than the otherwise identical Cressida FX Carbon AS. We’re sure the price difference is driven by market forces and demand, but depending on how you look at it, and unless you absolutely need the shorter extended length of the Cressida, if the Makalu is available for less, it makes this pole a more attractive purchase than it’s largely identical sibling. It’s also worth mentioning that Leki offer replacement parts for their poles and these are widely available from outdoor retailers. They are also committed to supplying spares for older models. This can greatly extend the life of their products and we think it really adds to their value proposition.
This is a fantastic piece of kit and we think it would be tough not to be impressed by the Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS. For those on a budget, or those who need more adjustment range or the absolute lightest product, there are probably better alternatives, but the Makalu isn’t trying to be the best in any of these areas. What it does offer is a great all-round package and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
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