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.
They sound helpful.
In the winter, or walking in places that I know have slippery clay and shale, etc. I’ll take one walking pole, similar to these but by Komperdell, and it’s a big help. It took a while to get used to having something in my hand all the time, but by the 3rd walk, I didn’t even notice it. The ones you’ve tested are are bit more expensive than what I’ve used, but Leki is always one of the top-rated on the hiking sites.
Hi Robert, yes I am heading towards taking one rather than two. Frees up the hands more, or at least one of them.
I’ve often wondered if poles would be useful when we’re walking. When we were at Carnarvon Gorge there were times when we were crossing the creek where I thought one would have been very handy to help with balance on the stepping stones.
Might be worth trying some out Carol. What I didn’t mention in my post, but is applicable to all trekking poles, is that they are easy to minimize in length and attach to your backpack for when you don’t need them. And then you can get one out, extend it and use it when necessary.
That’s what I’m thinking. Handy when you need it.
Another advantage using poles is that you avoid thick fingers as you use your arms and shoulders, thereby massaging your back. I do use the straps as they facilitate making pictures (pocket camera on the hipbelt). Grts
Thanks for this additional benefit Guido, that makes sense.
Hi, I recently bought the leki cressida, I’m coming from a basic wooden hiking pole, so yes I used to have a free hand to take photo with phone or my rugged camera (tg-3)
I use the straps, it took a bit to find the right position and regulation but with that I can drop the pole and free my hand easily and quickly, without worrying for my pole. Also when I need to store them temporary (es in a cheque or using a ropeway, I simply collapse them and hold to my backpack with a carabiner, whiutout removing it. Again simple and quick 🙂
For your GPS k suggest to fix a pouch on one shoulder straps, I did this for my smartphone buying one from aliexpress, yes is’ a pouch but in the perfect reach and protect the device from falling hurting and sun, I’m very satisfied for this solution so I want to share it.
There also one thing that is a real upgrade for me: the possibility to make easy adjustment to the pole length, at the first it seems a stupid thing to do, I tried it and I feel immediately the difference simply increasing only one section when desheding on a steep rocky track. (I hope everytjing is clear)