TRAIL TESTED: Leki Cristallo Trekking Poles

text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather

A Little History

I’ve been hiking in and around Colorado—some other states too—for a while now. Hiking isn’t my day job, at least not yet, but it’s something I daydream about. I don’t believe I would take all this time to hike, camp and photograph, if I didn’t enjoy almost every minute of it. Can you “binge” hike? Kind of like watching every episode of “Stranger Things” on Netflix, but more healthy. That's something I should look into.

Over the years, I’ve found two things will make the trek outside much more enjoyable.

  • Comfortable boots
  • Good fitting backpack

Boots and a pack will get you through any short hike…but there is one more item I would like you to consider.

Resistance Is Futile

I’ve wanted trekking poles for a very, very long time. Frankly, cost would be the only reason I’d never used them—until last year. Good trekking poles aren’t cheap. Actually, almost all gear or equipment for hiking/camping is pricey—why do I pick such expensive hobbys?

Plus, did I need them? Would traipsing about in the woods—with two “special” sticks—make my hikes any better? Also, do they make me look old…yes, I know, it’s called vanity.

The turning point came when I saw a group of twenty-somethings all hiking with trekking poles. Boy, did they look happy. Well, if they’re using them, I guess I should try them out too.

There is a ton of things to consider with trekking poles:

  • Weight
  • Build material
  • Min/Max height adjustable
  • Cost

In May 2016, I took the plunge and bought my first pair: Leki Cristallo Trekking Poles

I wanted something that wasn’t dirt-cheap, but also didn’t break the bank. That way (if I found them to be rubbish) it wouldn’t feel as bad if I didn’t use them.

I didn’t want to look like a dork, flailing my arms all over the place, so I watched this video. Confident I had the basics down, I planned my initial test run was on my Seven Bridges hike. It was love at first hike!

Keep Or Toss

The impact was immediate. I'd hoped they would improve my balance and speed, but was it all mental build-up? Whatever it was, it worked. I completed my hike feeling fresh and not exhausted. Did the poles make that big a difference? For me, the answer was assuredly “yes”.

Without the poles, I will constantly look down at my feet…afraid I'm going to trip over a rock or an unseen branch. Now, I felt I could keep my head up, eyes forward, and view what was around me…not only right in front of my feet.

My posture, stride length, pace all improved. I was a new person on the trail. Ok, that is a lot of praise for two aluminum sticks, but I do enjoy having them.

I’ve used them on almost all my hikes since that day and I always regret it if I don’t bring them. They’re easy to adjust (for uphill or downhill). They’re lightweight, compact, and they've saved me from slipping/falling several times. Well worth the purchase, and I now consider them a must-have on my hikes. I will definitely keep the poles.

The Long And The Short Of It

Usually, when you do a review, you find one or two issues that bother you. Call it a breaking-in period. I haven't had a bad experience yet. Maybe if I’d tried other poles first I could compare between them, but I’ve got nothing negative to say.

If you're on-the-fence when it comes to trekking poles, at least give them a try. I can’t guaranty you'll be as over-the-moon excited as I am, but I think you'll find them to be a useful tool on most hikes.