If going fast and light is your thing, Leki’s telescopic Cross Trail Lite Carbon poles are just the ticket, with features to please both summit bagging hikers and ridge-hopping skyrunners
Lightweight carbon composite shaft
Suitable for running and hiking
Carbon not as durable as aluminum
Telescopic design heavier than similar collapsible poles
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Leki Cross Trail Lite Carbon: First Impressions
I’m gonna lay my cards on the table here: not too long ago, I was sceptical about trekking poles. As someone who has always enjoyed the freedom of a minimal approach to hiking, they seemed like an extra I could do without.
I was the kind of guy who’d take as small a daypack as possible and, unless it was winter, you’d always see me in a pair of the best hiking shoes rather than heftier hiking boots. With poles, my prejudice wasn’t based on actually giving them a go, but on a desire to be as light as possible. What I didn’t realise is that featherlight poles, like Leki’s Cross Trail Lite Carbons, make any outdoor adventure feel so much breezier. In recent years, it’s fair to say that I’ve been converted, especially when carrying a heavy load.
So, where do the Cross Trails sit on the pole spectrum? Well, they’re on the light side, but they’re not as light as some dedicated running poles. However, they’re definitely less weighty than a lot of hiking poles, placing them somewhere between and meaning they’re suitable for both walking and running. One look at the grip confirms this impression, with an ergonomic faux cork foam handle along with the kind of glove-style strap complete with breathable mesh that's typically seen on running poles.
List price (per pair): $199.95 / £159.99
Weight (per pair): 426g / 15oz
Packed-down length: 65cm
Operational length: 100-135cm
Compatibility: Hiking, trekking, backpacking, trail running
Their low weight comes thanks to a carbon shaft rather than the aluminum found in many premium hiking pairs. The Cross Trails are telescopic poles, which means their three segments slide into each other, rather than folding up like a collapsible model. The sections are locked into place using Leki’s Speedlock 2 plus clamps.
On the trails: hiking
The best poles are the ones you forget your carrying and this was certainly the case with the Cross Trails. It was only when, a couple of hours into a hike, I’d consider how fresh my legs were feeling that I’d suddenly give them the credit they’re due. Even with sweaty hands, the handle is comfortable, and the mesh strap allows evaporation to take place.
Adjusting the length for ascent and descent was quick and easy and I found the tip always made a secure contact with the terrain, without gripping it too much.
On the trails: running
Their low weight makes the Cross Trails a good option for running. I tested them on a seven-hour, fast-paced traverse of Dartmoor National Park and despite carrying them the entire time, my arms never got tired. I’ve tackled similar distances before without poles and can safely say I had more juice left in the legs at the end of this outing, despite not being quite as fit as on previous runs. This could only be down to the Cross Trails taking the weight off my legs during ascents and descents.
The grip was comfortable throughout, with the faux cork clearly soaking in some of my sweat. The strap meant that I could loosen my grip on the handle when not using, but still carrying, the poles.
A fast transition between extended and retracted is key for competitive runs. While the Cross Trails do transition fairly quickly, adjusting the four clamps takes more time than a collapsible pair would. I’d say collapsible poles would be preferable for minimal faff during races.
Fit and length
Whether you’re diminutive or a giant, the Cross Trails should be able to cater for you, as they extend to an operational length of anything from 100cm to 135cm. As a guide, 100 cm should be suitable for anyone over 5 feet in height, while 135cm will just about cater for basketballers and soccer goalkeepers. As a guide, the tip of the pole should just touch the ground with your arms bent at your elbow at a right angle.
The poles were easy to adjust to my required height and the clamps held it all securely in place.
Only time will tell how the Cross Trails will fare in the long term, though lightweight carbon poles are admittedly less durable than their heavier, aluminium counterparts. If you’re after something to last you for years and years, an aluminium pair like Cascade’s Mountain Tech poles may suit. However, for a versatile, lightweight pair, it’s hard to beat the Cross Trails. They've already tackled a hefty amount of terrain without visible wear.
Here’s where I tested the Leki Cross Trail Lite Carbon poles
As poles designed to suit both hikers and runners, I naturally wanted to test them out in both scenarios.
Firstly, I set out on what was a first for me: a hillwalk with my 3-month-year-old daughter strapped to my chest in her Ergobaby. Along with my wife and father, we hiked up a couple of Wainwright fells in the Lake District National Park. With plenty of extra weight than I’d usually be carrying, it was the perfect environment to put the poles through their paces.
For my running test, I (rather predictably) decided to leave the baby at home and set out with a couple of friends on a suitably strenuous 30-mile run across the length of Dartmoor National Park. Taking a “hike the uphills, run the downhills approach”, it was an ideal long day out to test the Cross Trails’ mettle.
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Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com