Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles Review

Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles Review

My Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles Review details a cross trail pole of the highest quality.  I hope you find it useful. 

From skiing to trekking to cross trail use, Leki are market leaders in producing innovative high quality poles featuring cutting edge design and materials.  My Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles review focuses on their latest ultralight offering.  The Peak Mountaineering team have been using it for a variety of activities and here is our low down on this high performance model.


The MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles feature a 3 section 100% carbon construction that opens and closes using an avalanche probe style system. By this I mean the sections are internally connected with a cord that pulls the pole pieces together.  The poles then get locked into place using Leki’s new Core Lock Device (CLD).  This will be described in more detail later. 

Core Lock Device
Core Lock Device


The top section features a sliding section giving length adjustability between 110 and 130 cms.  The handle of the MCT 12’s is equipped with a cork feel grip that is constructed from a durable and dense foam material.  There is also an extension section that offering various holding positions.  The grips feature Leki’s Cross Shark grip pattern which aids both grip and ventilation.      

The MCT 12’s incorporate the well proven Leki Trigger Shark system.  This combines a highly breathable mesh strap with a quick release clip in/out mechanism.  The poles close down to a compact 42 cms and weigh 200 grams per pole.  They come equipped with compact baskets and a lightweight storage bag.

Trigger Shark System
Trigger Shark System

In Use

Who and what are they for?

The first thing to consider is who and what are these poles for? Leki say their ‘cross trail range caters for a lifestyle rather than an activity.’ They completed 18 months of research to conclude that this category of customer likes to wear fast and light clothing but has limited time to go into the mountains. They want to hike at a pace at which they feel comfortable and their adventures are focussed on enjoyment, dynamism and speed.

I would consider the MCT’s to be the ideal companion for hill goers who use poles for off road running or for hillwalkers who want a sleek and easily packable pole system. Infact, they will do just about everything you might want to use poles for. The only exception for me would be for use under deeper snow cover. In this case I don’t think the small baskets will cope very well.

Like all Leki products I’ve used, the MCT 12’s exude quality.  The styling is superb and the construction finish is impeccable.  Even the packaging is impressive.  The poles arrive in a neat box which opens to reveal a neatly laid out product.

Subtle but stylish

The poles are coloured white with black and orange detailing.  They are reasonably subtle and certainly stylish.  Leki always seem to get the styling right.  The contrasting cork look grips and high tech mesh of the leash strap finish the overall appearance of a cool looking product well designed for the job.

When you pick up one of the poles you’ll notice it is very light.  200 grams is great for a well featured pole. Infact they came out slightly lighter than that on our digital scales (see photo above). Each pole is also very compact.  The folded pole length of 42cms is very impressive for a pole that will extend to 130cms and the thin profile tubing makes them sleek and very easy to either carry folded or pack away.  

Quick deployment

Deploying the MCT 12 Vario Carbons is quick and simple.  Hold the top section and drop the lower sections so the pole sits straight.  Then simply pull the sections together and the poles will click into place.  It takes only a few seconds.  

Part of the reason for this speed is Leki’s new Core Lock Device.  I haven’t seen this before, but all my uses of it so far have proved it to be a superb system.  I’ve no idea what technical workings allow it to function, but all you need to do it pull the top sliding section against the handle section and it clicks into place.  Simply pull again and it releases. Once locked it feels extremely secure.

Core lock device

I’m not sure how complicated the mechanism that facilitates the CLD is, but the only thing I wondered was whether there would be any chance of fixing this if it failed.  I think, from what I can see at least, the answer to that is no.  Having said that, I’ve also not seeing any reason to think it will fail.

The only other thing I wonder is whether this mechanism might be prone to freezing up.  I haven’t used it in conditions that would allow me to check that yet and so don’t know the answer.  But so far at least,  the mechanism works superbly and it offers a sleek and low profile system.  Once locked,  the sections feel extremely tightly held in place.  I’ve always relished Leki’s ingenuity and this is another great addition.

Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles
Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles

Once it is all locked together you can slide the top section over the narrower section to adjust the length.  Having 20cms of adjustment makes it simple to alter the length to match your height.  It also makes it very easy to adjust the length to match the terrain.  For one example, I regularly make my poles longer for descent as I need to be able to reach the pole further if the ground is dropping away. 

Cross Shark Pattern

The cork feel handle grip is both grippy and extremely comfortable.  This is partly due to the sculpted handle shape and also due to the feel and texture of the grip itself.  Leki have added what they call a Cross Shark pattern to the handle.  This aids grip but maybe also allows for some free flow of air in the gaps behind the pattern.  It looks very cool too.  

Leki have also extended the pole sleeving grip down the shaft to allow for a variety of hand positions.  I find it very useful to lower my hands when crossing steeper ground.  It also works well when you have set the pole length to match one terrain type and temporarily the terrain changes but it isn’t worth resetting the pole length.

Trigger Shark system    

As mentioned earlier in this Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon poles review, the poles feature Leki’s Trigger Shark system.  This allows the hand to be completely detached from the pole within a second or two.  To do this a small stiff cord loop on the hand leash simply locks down into a hook integrated into the handle.  To release you simply push a button at the top of the pole and the locking mechanism on the hook retracts. The leash can then easily be unhooked.

I have now used the trigger system on several models of Leki poles and have always found it to be superb.  Absolutely superb.  It gives the best of every world.  The supportive leash allows you to put power through your hand when needed.  It offers the support you need when descending steeper ground but you can release your hand in a couple of seconds.  

Pole Basket
Pole Basket

Flawless performance

Also, as the wrist loop stays on the hand at all times, you can also use the poles without the leashes at any point if preferred.  This is something I prefer if on on very precarious or scrambling ground.  It also means you can leave the leashes off the poles completely if that suits the type of terrain you are traversing.  The trigger system has worked flawlessly on these poles on every occasion and I highly recommend it.

The leashes supplied with the MCT 12 Vario Carbons are designed to be comfortable and highly breathable.  Leki have used a lightly padded material with mesh material that works very well.  They secure around the hand with a velcro closure that works very effectively.

Tiny baskets

Tiny baskets are supplied with the poles.  They work well enough in most circumstances but do bear in mind they will sink easily into snow or, as I’ve found recently,  waterlogged peat bogs!  

In terms of durability the MCT 12’s have held up to everything I’ve thrown at them so far.  This isn’t a long term review, but they certainly seem like they will stand up to many adventures. I’ve had several pairs of carbon poles in the past and they offer great strength for their low weight.  I think, if you care for them, that these poles will be faithful companions for many years.


Like all the previous Leki products I have used, my Leki MCT 12 Vario Carbon Poles review reveals a superbly designed and engineered multi-activity pole system. The extremely light weight and comfortable wrist attachment system make them a delight to use. This is complemented by their compact design and user friendly features. Finally, innovations like the Core Lock Device and the broad range of adjustability make them a joy to use.

At a retail price of £185 the MCT 12’s are clearly a premium product, but for this you are getting all this innovation and a product that will be a valued companion for many adventures. There are also some cheaper variants in the 4 model MCT range. All in all, I see every reason why these poles were a winner in the ‘Outstanding Outdoor’ category at ISPO 2019.

Full details on the MCT 12’s are available on the Leki website here. We’ve also added a top tip about trekking pole pack storage which might be useful for you. The MCT 12’s would work perfectly for this and you can find it here.