Our LEKI Spitfire Vario 3D Poles Review explores a stylish freeride pole featuring the evolutionary Trigger 3D leash system. Please read on to find out more.
Leki are an industry leader in pole manufacture and offer options for just about every outdoor activity where poles are of use. We have been proud to work with them for many years and have used a wide selection of their models. This has included poles for skiing and ski touring, hillwalking, mountaineering and running. We have linked to a selection of our reviews of their products below.
Some Leki models also feature their innovative Trigger leash system. This is a system combining a mechanism on the pole grip with an attachment point on the leash. It allows efficient and rapid attachment and release of the wrist leash. Recently, Leki evolved the Trigger system with their Trigger 3D variant and we were really keen to test it out. Please read on to find out more in our LEKI Spitfire Vario 3D Poles Review.
To Strap Or Not?
Before diving into our Leki Spitfire 3D Vario Poles Review, we wanted to consider the pros and cons of using straps. Although most ski poles still come with straps in some form, the question of whether to use straps or not is sure to draw a variety of opinions.
There are times where attaching yourself to you poles may be of benefit. For ski touring it may help to drive your movement through your arms and upper body. Having leashes in this situation also helps you push through the poles without over gripping. Similarly, for Nordic skiing, leashes help provide propulsion. Of course, having leashes might also stop you losing your poles in deep powder or if you lose grip of them midway through a steep section.
On the flip side, staying attached to your pole may at times be more dangerous than being separated from them. This could be if you are skiing through terrain with trees and may get entrapped or encounter a tree well. It could also mean a more awkward fall that may cause damage to the hand or wrist. Certainly, in avalanche terrain being able to throw your poles clear may be safer and minimise injury or help as a location marker. It is a topic that will split opinion amongst skiers.
Most poles still come with leashes. They are there if you are using them, but if not they will usually be flapping around as you ski. The obvious solution would be a leash that attaches but, for safety, will release itself when needed. Is this what the Leki Trigger system can offer? Let’s explore this in relation to this Leki Spitfire 3D Vario Poles Review.
Leki describe the Spitfire Vario 3D as ‘the perfect companion for demanding descents.’ The poles are a straight shaft design featuring 16mm cylindrical upper tubing with a 14mm lower section. The pole sections are made from HTS 6.5 aluminium. They have a steel tip (Leki call this their Flex Tip).
Vario or Fixed Length
We tested the vario version which has an adjustable upper pole section allowing infinite adjustment between 110 and 140 cms. Leki also offer the Spitfire 3D in a variety of fixed lengths from 95 to 135 cms (in 5 cm steps).
Grip & Trigger 3D System
The Spitfire Vario 3D comes with Leki’s Trigger 3D ProG grip. This is a contoured grip topped with the Trigger 3D cap. We will explore the Trigger 3D system in more detail later, but it combines a clip and lock mechanism on the poles with a loop on the strap (or a compatible Leki glove like the Rubic 3D gloves tested here). This makes it quick and easy for the user to connect and disconnect from the pole. The 3D system is an evolution of Leki’s Trigger S system and offers, say Leki, 4 times more expansion to offer a 220 degree release range.
The Spitfires ship with the Leki Trigger 3D Frame Strap Mesh. Leki say this is wider and more comfortable than previous leashes.
Both Leki’s Big Mountain and Cobra Alpine baskets are provided with the poles. The Cobra Alpine is a smaller basket that would suit harder snow packs (pisted slopes) and the Big Mountain baskets should excel in softer snow conditions (off piste).
The Spitfire 3D Varios cost £114.95 and weigh 289 grams. The colour combo is described as Denim Blue, Aegean Blue and Mustard Yellow.
No matter how well a product performs, when we walk into a shop to choose that gear item, human nature is that we will be drawn to the appearance of the product ahead of other considerations. So, looks do matter! On that note, let’s consider the styling of the Spitfire’s first. Well, we really like them. The colour combo is a mixture of what Leki call denim and aegean blues with elements of mustard yellow. It works really well. The poles are also really well coordinated with the baskets and leashes following the same scheme. The only contrast is the red catch of the Trigger 3D system. Nice job on the styling Leki.
The Spitfire Vario 3D comes with Leki’s Trigger 3D ProG grip. Of course, a big part of exploring this is the Trigger 3D system, but this will be discussed later in the review. The grip itself is nicely shaped and very comfortable in the hand. Even with the Trigger 3D system, the shape of the cap is also comfortable to put your hand on top if needed. We often like to do this in various situations. For example, when reaching the pole down to steady a descent.
Trigger 3D System
The trigger system is very well tried and tested. We have been using variations of it for years and really rate it for snow sports activities. Leki describe the 3D mechanism as an evolution of the previous incarnations. Inevitably, an evolution like this times time, testing and resource. It is great that companies like Leki keep striving to push the boundaries with new design development.
The 3D is a significant evolution. You soon got used to it, but to engage the previous version required you needed to slot the connector loop straight down into the catching mechanism on the pole grip. To release you pressed the button and drew the leash loop straight up. The Trigger 3D version, in contrast, allows 4 times more expansion to offer a 220 degree release range.
The upshot is that it much easier to remove your leash from the grip. Really noticeably easier. If you are used to the old system you will immediately see the benefit. If you are new to the Trigger system you will just become aware that it is very easy to remove the leash loop. We think it is a really significant improvement.
This improvement is also shown in the safety benefits of the 3D system. The Trigger system has always allowed for the leash (or compatible glove) to disconnect when pulled hard, but now they can disconnect through a much greater range of angles. It is extremely efficient. The video below has a really good demonstration of this disconnect system in action.
Leashes & Gloves
The Spitfire Vario 3D’s ship with the Leki Trigger 3D Frame Strap Mesh leash. This is very comfortable and has a simple velcro adjustment to allow it to fit over gloves or mittens. The leash is definitely beefier than some previous versions we have used, but that extra width adds comfort and it is a pleasure to use. Infact, once installed on your gloves you won’t even notice it. The alternative is to use a Leki Trigger system compatible glove and we have recently tested the Rubic 3D gloves which work perfectly with the Trigger 3D poles. Please check out that review here.
Adjustable vs Fixed Length Poles?
Whether to choose adjustable or fixed length depends on various factors. Having some adjustability can be really useful and we often adjust the length according to terrain. The downsides may be that there are more elements that can fail. You also need to be sure to dry inside the pole after use otherwise the pole sections may fuse together over time. It also adds slightly to the weight.
But here we are reviewing the adjustable version and it is extremely simple to adjust. You just click open the Speed Lock Plus external clamping system and slide the pole height to any length through a 30cm range. This is plenty of adjustment for any situation I can imagine and I feel the benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages.
The Vario section locks with Leki’s TÜV Süd certified Speed Lock Plus external clamping system. TÜV Süd is a testing and certification for products. Details on this testing system are available here. The Speed Lock Plus works easily with gloves on and we’ve had no problem at all with them slipping. They are also very low profile. If you skiing through woods there if negligible chance they will catch on branches.
The Spitfire’s are provided with 2 types of basket. The first is a smaller sized basket which works well in very hard snow. They also provide a pair of their Big Mountain baskets. These work well in deeper snow or for touring. The Big Mountains features a short edge for adjusting bindings and a long edge for scraping icy ski skins or clearing snow from ski bases. This is the basket we use most of the time.
A lot of this review has inevitably focused on the benefits of the Trigger 3D system, but this clever mechanism means nothing if the poles themselves aren’t up to a tough skiing life. That isn’t a concern. The build of the poles, the security of the Speed Lock Plus and the chunky pole diameter make them very sturdy. we are sure they will keep bouncing back no matter what you throw at them (within reason!).
Our LEKI Spitfire Vario 3D Poles Review details a high spec pair of poles that will excel for freeride skiers. They are extremely well designed to strike the balance between toughness and performance. They are also beautifully constructed. The Spitfire Vario 3D’s also benefit from the Leki Trigger 3D system. This is an exciting evolution of the well proven standard Leki Trigger S system and offers definite performance and safety benefits.
These poles will suit you if you stay on piste, but are also ideal for anyone getting more off the beaten track. They will even work for some touring action. They are a very versatile pole and, no matter what the use, they will always give you that benefit of the Trigger 3D system. Full details are available on the Leki website here. The video below also gives a great explanation of the Trigger 3D system.
We have worked with Leki for many years and have reviewed a selection of their products. Alongside this LEKI Spitfire Vario 3D Poles review, please also have a look at our review of the MCT Vario Carbon’s here. Our review of their Makalu FX Carbon is also here and the Sherpa FX Carbon is here. We also have a broad range of other product reviews and all are available on our reviews page here.