The Leki Sherpas are rock-solid, three-section telescopic aluminum poles intended for mountaineering and use in harsh conditions. There are lighter and more compact options, but none the less we think these are great poles and have been using this model’s predecessor ourselves for a number of years.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Rock-solid build
- Most versatile in round up in terms of length adjustment
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- The least compact poles in our round-up when folded
The Sherpa family is Leki’s range targeted at mountaineers and those setting out on demanding expeditions. There are several models in the Sherpa family and the model we’re looking at here – the ‘Standard’ Sherpa is a telescopic three-section aluminum pole. These are rock-solid hiking poles, designed to not let you down in the harshest of conditions. These poles are not the lightest and they are also the least compact pole when folded in our round up, but light weight and compact size are not the reason you’d buy these poles. For those who’s adventures take them far off the beaten track and into very extreme conditions, these poles are hard to beat and, should they sustain damage, Leki spare parts are widely available ensuring your poles can quickly be brought back into service. We’ve been using a previous model of the Sherpa for a number of years and can vouch for its bomb-proof reliability.
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Analysis and Test Results
The Sherpa is a rock-solid three-section telescopic aluminum pole from Leki, one of the big names in hiking poles. It’s targeted at those venturing into the high mountains and deep snow. It’s far from the lightest pole in this review and also has the longest folded length of all the poles we’ve assessed. However, it makes up for this with its extra-rugged build and wide range of length adjustment. If you’re planning on using your poles in deep snow, or on steep descents, extending them beyond what you normally do can increase comfort and stability and the wide adjustment range of the Sherpas can really help out here. We have used a previous version of this pole, the Sherpa XL for many years in pretty much every condition you can imagine, and have relied on them to lever us across difficult terrain whilst carrying heavy packs and have found them to be superb pieces of equipment. The current Sherpa model we’ve assessed here builds on the previous model with improved grips and flip lock mechanisms which now feature a captive adjustment nut (so there’s no worry of losing this piece). These might not be the lightest or most compact option, but we don’t find their weight or size ungainly and we’re perfectly happy to carry these on less intensive hikes too. With the easy availability of replacement parts should something go wrong (and apart from one time when our error led to the damage of a flip lock, nothing has gone wrong or worn out), we think these poles could last a lifetime. We have no hesitation is recommending these poles.
The Leki Sherpa is adjustable between 110cm/43in and 145cm/57in. At full extension, it’s the longest pole in our round up by 5cm/2in. That extra length makes these a great choice if your very tall, but beyond that, it’s also very hand if you’re venturing out into deep snow or on a steep descent. These poles are also rock-solid and, if the leg locks are correctly tensioned, they can support a lot of weight: if you regularly find yourself crossing rough terrain with a very heavy pack or if you need to put more of your body weight onto the poles to aid your mobility, then the strength of these poles is a real boon to their comfort. Other than the grip, these poles don’t feature any specific shock absorbing tech. Whilst some may see that as a negative, we don’t think it’s a bad thing when you’re relying on these poles to stabilize you and your pack’s full weight on a mountain. The lack of ‘springiness’ means you get good tactile feedback, so you can be more certain that the poles tip has good purchase on the terrain.
The Leki Sherpa weigh in at 572g/1lb 4oz for a pair. That’s definitely at the heavier end of the products we’ve assessed in this round up. However, the Sherpa’s main selling point is its ruggedized design, intended for use in harsh conditions and the lowest weight is not it’s priority.
These poles have aluminum shafts and whilst carbon fiber is a more lightweight material, aluminum makes perfect sense for these poles and their intended use: Carbon fiber – or, more specifically, the epoxy that bonds the fibers – can become brittle in extreme cold conditions (note, though, that we are talking about very extreme cold – the kind you might find in the arctic or at very high altitude) and if it breaks, it can shatter. Aluminum, by contrast, will bend before it breaks so, in extreme cold, or in situations where the poles might be subject to very rough handling, it’s a better choice of material, despite the weight penalty and aluminum poles remain the favorite choice for those heading off on tough expeditions.
There’s no two ways about it: the Sherpa is not compact when folded. At 70cm/27.5in, it’s got the largest folded size of any pole in this round up. However, the poles still fit neatly alongside a medium or large backpack. The main reason for buying these poles is their rigidity, strength and longer than usual length – and we think that the longer folded length is an acceptable trade-off for the strengths these poles offer.
Pole Adjustment Mechanism
The Leki Sherpa uses flip locks on its three telescoping sections to adjust length. It’s a personal choice, but we generally prefer flip-locks to twist locks as they are less prone to jamming with grit and have a more positive ‘feel’ to the closure – which is handy when making adjustments with very cold hands – even if we do sometimes catch our fingers in the locks. The flip locks on the Leki Sherpa also feature a small knurled adjustment nut so you can fine tune locking tension without any tools – you’ll need to use your finger nail. Leki have improved the design of their flip locks and call the current version the ‘Speed Lock 2’ – the headline improvement as far as we’re concerned is that the adjustment nut is now captive – that means it’ can’t be fully unscrewed so there’s no risk of losing it. In practice, this wasn’t as big a problem as it seemed on the previous flip lock (by the time the nut was loose enough to be at risk of falling off, the lock wouldn’t be able to hold an extended pole section in place, so you could easily spot this problem well in advance), but none the less, it’s great to see this extra level of security in the new design. Aside from the locking mechanism, the Sherpa Standard has an extended length range of 110cm/43in to 145cm/57in – giving it the largest range of any pole in our round up. That range and extra bit of length is helpful if you’re wearing big mountaineering boots or using the poles in deep snow – all intended use scenarios for this pole. Length scales are marked on the leg sections, so, if you know your optimum pole length you can quickly set it.
The Leki Sherpa is supplied with Leki’s 45mm/1.8in Trekking Basket 2.0, made from soft plastic. It also comes with rubber covers for its carbide-tipped points. Both the basket and tip cover are held firmly in place by friction, but they can both easily be removed or replaced. If you’re planning on heading out into he snow, it would make sense to swap out the Trekking Baskets for wider Snow Baskets (Leki offer the 95mm Big Mountain Tour Basket as an option). Snow baskets can actually be left in place year-round without any issues.
Grip Ergonomics and Material
Like many of Leki’s latest poles, the Sherpa uses what they call ‘Aergon Air’ grips – This is their latest development of the ergonomic grip padded with high density foam. The Aergon Air grips feature a number of traits which Leki claim improve comfort, from a hollow core, to finely tuned geometry on the ergonomic surfaces to encourage a more natural holding angle. It’s difficult to assess any of these claims objectively, but in use, the poles feel very comfortable and we have no qualms with their comfort at all.
At the time of writing, the Leki Sherpa costs $159.95 or £108.96. Whilst there are certainly cheaper options out there, the poles are also very keenly priced when compared to some of the others we have assessed. Leki are absolutely a premium brand when it comes to hiking poles and we think the price of the Sherpa is very reasonable for the quality of pole you get.
The Leki Sherpa are tough, strong and well though out hiking poles. We have personally used a previous version of these poles (the Sherpa XL – now discontinued, but identical to these in most key stats) for several years and in a range of very harsh conditions and we can vouch for this pole’s strength and dependability. Early on, we accidentally damaged one of our poles (we extended a leg section beyond the safe stop causing one of the locks to break). We were able to source a replacement part from Leki very easily and the pole was back in service in a matter of days. There are lighter and more compact options available, but we think that these poles are none the less a great choice and could easily last a lifetime.
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