MSR’s Backcountry trekking pole line bears their usual hallmarks; robust construction and functional well thought out design. There are three models: DynaLock™ Trail Poles, DynaLock™ Explore Poles and the DynaLock™ Ascent Poles. The first two models are aluminium telescopic two and three section poles respectively and the later a folding three section carbon fibre pole. It is the top of the line DynaLock™ Ascent Poles that we have had on review.
Trekking poles have become pretty much ubiquitous in the hills these days, originally the preserve of continental hikers they were quickly adopted by mountaineers keen to save their knees when descending with heavy packs and more recently trail runners looking for additional support and possibly better biomechanics when climbing.
The common denominator between all of the MSR poles is their unique DynaLock™ system. This is a robust, aluminium flip lever which can be tension adjusted by a metal thumbwheel without any need for tools. I’ve used flip lever lock poles from a few manufacturers now and would always choose them over the internal twist lock systems that have a tendency to freeze or jam and become unworkable in harsh conditions. I’ve never had a flip lock jam but I have had them loose tension so they no longer lock which usually involves getting the Swiss Army knife out or using an ice tool pick (and trashing the screw) to re tension. With the Dynalock™ system there is no such issue, the thumbwheel is simplicity itself to adjust though a little tricky with big gloves on. In the case of the Ascent Poles the DynaLock™ lever is only used to lock the length adjustment the poles themselves lock together tent pole style with a small button making them super compact to stash in your sac when not in use.
The pole material itself is a Kevlar reinforced Carbon Fibre which produces a very rigid and tough pole. The tube wall is thicker than any other carbon poles I’ve used and together with the height adjustment this makes for a pole which is a bit weightier than poles aimed at fastpackers and runners but produces a pole that is perfect for alpinists and climbers. When you’re walking up into Coire na Ciste early season with that big mixed rack in your pack on soft snow lying over the rubble beneath this is the pole you want. I’ve always used lightweight runner’s poles and a few times have flexed them alarmingly (not broken one yet but it feels only like a matter of time!). The MSR Ascent Poles are rock solid and have become my climbing/mountaineering pole of choice. Though a little heavier they are just as compact and break down into three sections for easy storage (the top section actually comprises three part so that you can adjust length via the DynaLock™). There is a comfortable EVA foam grip which extend lower down the shaft so you can adjust your grip whilst traversing or ascending steep terrain. There is a little gap that between the two grip sections that puzzled me till I worked out it allows you to store the mini velcro straps for fastening the poles together in transit – I still managed to misplace mine so not quite idiot proof but a nice idea! Being adjustable you can also adjust the pole length for ascent and descent if you so choose – just make sure you choose Small 100-120cm or Large 120-140cm according to your needs. MSR also supply two sets of baskets a mini ‘summer’ version and a wider winter snow basket which also includes a catch to lift the Televator on MSR snow shoes. The baskets are a simple press fit but you may find a little steam from a kettle will soften and ease the process of swapping them – wear your dry tooling gloves so you don’t singe your fingers on the hot nylon!
I’ve used the Dynalock™ Ascent Poles for summer alpine approaches, autumn hill walking and Scottish winter walk-ins and they have proved faultless. The extra rigidity is immediately apparent whereas the slight weight penalty is unnoticeable. These are obviously new poles so comparing them to my existing poles that have been abused for four years is perhaps unfair but I particularly noticed how much smoother they were to break down and assemble – something that is very welcome with chilly fingers at the end of the day. I’ve left the straps on for now and they are comfortable and easy to adjust but I’ll probably remove them as I personally prefer to go strapless – I know it is less efficient in terms of power transfer but it cuts down on faff. Overall they have been faultless and although the weight may discount them from the ultra runner’s arsenal they are a pretty much perfect choice for the winter climber, trekker or alpinist – especially if you want adjustable length.
- Easy to adjust and maintain
- Comes with two baskets
- Heavier than ‘trail running’ poles
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!