A short review of a few months’ experience with Khumbu and Cressida trekking poles from LEKI.
Despite having been a hiker for more years than I care to – or could possibly – calculate, I have never used trekking poles. To be honest, I’ve never quite seen the need to get a pair. But reading about the benefits of trekking poles on other hiking blogs made me wonder if I was missing something that would make my hiking easier and/or more comfortable. So I contacted Frederike, Marketing Manager of TCK Sports Group, which distributes (among other brands and products) LEKI trekking poles in the Benelux. In return for an honest review she sent a pair of Khumbu poles for me, and Cressida poles for Liz.
Khumbu trekking poles
I first used my poles on my 12 km hike along the River Helle and to Lake Eupen. At first I felt a bit self-conscious with my shiny new sticks. It also took a few kilometers before I could get into a comfortable hiking rhythm. Should I be synchronizing the use of the poles with every footstep? Every other step? Randomly? In other words, do I use them to quickly “pitter-patter” along with me every footstep? With this rhythm I felt as my arms were moving unnaturally rapidly. Or do I take much longer “strides” with the poles, reaching out and pushing off every alternate stride? What I eventually worked out was somewhere in between the two extremes. Using each pole every third step. This seemed to me to be the most natural and most comfortable rhythm. So much so that I was soon able to forget that I was using them. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were indeed helping me to walk a little faster, a little more upright, and a little more comfortably.
I realized the biggest advantage though when I came to the first steep hill on the route. Now I could really use them to push off and give me extra lift. I reduced the rhythm so that the sticks were taking smaller steps, but by increasing the downwards pressure on them I found I was walking uphill quicker than I would have been without the sticks.
Going downhill on what was quite a wet and muddy path, the sticks provided much-needed support and preventing me from slipping. Also, a short stretch of the route was downhill on loose stones. If I didn’t have the sticks I would have been treading very carefully and balancing with my arms out horizontally. With the sticks, I had the feeling that I had two extra legs to support and balance me, and keep me from slipping.
Using the poles meant that I did have to make other adjustments to my hiking behavior though. This was because I didn’t have my hands free. Quite often when I am hiking, I have a camera around my neck. If I want to photograph a view or point of interest, it’s a matter of quickly stopping, lifting the camera, and shooting. With the sticks it’s much more of a fuss. Stopping, finding somewhere to rest the poles, or leaning them against me while I take the picture, but then the poles fall to the floor … It wasn’t easy.
Also, when I’m hiking I often like to hold my Garmin GPS in my left hand. I actually wrap the strap around my left wrist and cradle the device in my palm. This makes it incredibly fast and easy to check the route. When I want to take a photo, I simply “drop” the Garmin (which is still held by the wrist) and I have both hands free to hold and operate the camera. Using the sticks meant I had to find another solution for my GPS. This could be around the neck, or in a pocket – so in other words less immediately accessible. However, this is just something I had to get used to. If anyone has worked out any clever way of hiking with two trekking poles, a GPS device and a camera … please let me know!
Cressida trekking poles
As her fitness center has been closed due to COVID for most of the past year, Liz goes for a walk every day and so has actually used her poles more than I’ve used mine. She also had never used trekking poles before and was initially apprehensive as to their value. However, she very quickly got used to them and now takes one pole with her on all her walks.
“I find that my Cressida really helps my balance and equilibrium, especially when walking over rough ground. It gives me a sense of security on muddy ground too. I feel I’ve got extra support that will prevent me from slipping over. The pole is extremely light, so when I’m not using the pole – for example when walking along a road or pavement – it’s easy to carry.”
She did have a couple of less positive remarks. “I don’t use the hand-strap; it gets in the way a little. And when walking on stony ground or a road I don’t like the grating metallic noise that the metal tip makes on the hard ground.”
I mentioned the metallic clicking sound to Frederike who said that LEKI have the solution! She kindly sent over two packs of them. These are rubber tips that fix firmly to the end of the trekking poles. Liz is delighted with them as they totally eliminate the noise. Of course, you miss the grip that the sharp point provides when ascending or descending hills, but for local walks on flat ground, roads, pavements and canal paths, they are perfect.
LEKI trekking poles: tech specs
The product blurb says that Khumbu and Cressida poles offer the whole range of features:
- Comfortable AERGON CorTec grips: yes, we both find the hand grips very comfortable. They fit the hand easily. We both don’t use the straps. Frederike pointed out that the Cressida that she recommended for Liz have grips in a compact design for smaller hands.
- Speed Lock+ adjustment system for hassle-free pole length adjustment: yes, it’s an easy way to adjust the length of the poles that seems to work well. Each of the extendable portions has length markings, enabling you to get both poles exactly the same length. The Khumbu poles extend from 110 cm to 145 cm; the Cressida poles from 90 cm to 125 cm.
- Lightweight, D27 high-strength aluminium shafts: yes, we find them very light weight but strong. Although we’ve only used them for a few months they show no sign of wear. The Khumbu poles weight 270 g; the Cressida poles 220 g.
We are both extremely pleased with our LEKI trekking poles. They improve our hiking experience, and we thoroughly recommend LEKI’s Khumbu and Cressida models. Thanks to Frederike and TCK Sports Group for providing us with these lovely poles to review.
Where to buy
If you are interested in them are are living in Benelux, you can buy them online directly from Amazon.nl by following these links: Khumbu and Cressida. And for the rubber pads to put on the bottom of the poles, go here.