We think these folding poles from MSR are a great choice – combining great specifications with tough build and clever design elements.
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Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Solid build
- Lightweight when considered alongside its maximum extension
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Longer than average collapsed length
The name is certainly a mouth-full, but the DynaLock Ascent Foldable Carbon Backcountry Trekking Poles from MSR certainly impress. In terms of specification, use of high-tech material and clever design, they tick all the right boxes. The poles are available in two lengths and we’ve concentrated on the longer version which gives a longer than average maximum length when compared to other foldable poles. This could well be a critical feature for some buyers and not just if you’re tall, but also if you regularly use the poles extended that bit more than usual – in deep snow or on steep descents.
Compare to Similar Products
- Leki Sherpa
- Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
- Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS
- Related: 12 Best Trekking Poles of 2023
Analysis and Test Results
MSR have a tremendous reputation for making great quality outdoors gear, though many of us many not immediately associate them with hiking poles. Whilst other brands dominate that hiking pole market, these DynaLock Ascent Carbon poles are well worth a look, in our opinion, as MSR have brought a very interesting product to the table. Put simply, these folding poles offer a great combination of solid build, clever design, light weight and relative compactness when stowed. All of these great features do come with a high price, but if your budget can accommodate them, we think these poles are an excellent choice.
The MSR DynaLock Ascent poles make extensive use of carbon fiber which does a great job of absorbing impact vibrations from the trail. The high-density foam ergonomic hand grips will also play their part in dampening some vibrations. For taller hikers, or those who need to extend their poles that bit more, the long version of this pole (which we’ve considered here) also offers a longer than average maximum extension of 140cm/55in which could make a real difference in comfort for certain buyers.
These poles from MSR are offered in two different lengths and we’ve chosen to look at the long version – this is simply because it offers a longer extended length than you typically see on folding poles. Obviously, this extra length means the poles contain more material, but what’s remarkable about these is that despite this, they still tip the scales at 500g/1lb 1.6oz for a pair – making them lighter than a number of the shorter folding poles we’ve assessed. Whilst we’ve looked at lighter poles too, these also offer much shorter maximum extension than these MSR poles, so, for their size, these poles are very light indeed making them a fantastic option not just for taller hikers, but also for those who might need to set up their poles longer than normal (for instance, if you regularly undertake steep descents or snowshoe in deep snow).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the MSR DynaLock Ascent Foldable Carbon Backcountry Trekking Poles use carbon fiber as their main material. MSR say their carbon fiber is reinforced with DuPont’s proprietary Kevlar material – that’s the same material typically used in bullet-proof jackets and to protect spacecraft from impact damage by orbital debris. They don’t publish any figures on how much this improves the properties of the carbon fiber, but it’s certainly a material that’s well known for its strength. Kevlar-reinforced or not, Carbon fiber has become the go-to material for high end hiking poles in recent years. It’s lighter than aluminum, though it could be argued it’s also less resilient, MSR’s marketing targets these poles at mountaineers and those undertaking extreme winter sports – so they clearly have faith in its strength.
The MSR DynaLock Ascent poles utilize a three-section folding design, so you can expect them to pack down to a more compact length than a more conventional telescopic pole. This product is available in two lengths, and we are concentrating on the long version here. These poles fold down to 44.5cm/17.5in and, whilst that’s still a good bit shorter than a telescopic pole (which typically pack down to around 62cm/24in or there abouts) it’s actually the longest packed length for any folding pole in our round up. However, we don’t think that this is going to be a deal-breaker for most buyers: the fact is that packed poles get in the way when they stick above the top of your backpack and snag in foliage etc. It’s unlikely that these folding MSR poles will protrude high enough above most packs to cause this problem.
Pole Adjustment Mechanism
The MSR DynaLock Ascent is a three-section folding design and in broad terms its adjustment mechanism is identical to what you’ll find in most other folding poles: The three sections are joined with a strong cable. To assemble the pole, you loosely connect the sections and then pull out a fixed length telescopic section, which secures in place with a spring-loaded stud. This tensions the pole and makes it rigid enough to walk with. After this, you can adjust the length with another telescopic section. This adjustable section has a marked scale to aid quick setup and also makes use of a flip lock. The MSR flip lock has a clever design that incorporates the tensioning nut into the lever, and any tensioning can be done tool-free on the trail.
The MSR DynaLock Ascent is provided with both smaller summer and wider winter baskets. The wider snow baskets feature a cutout sections to help the poles sections stay parallel when collapsed and, in a definite nod to MSR’s experience of producing a wide portfolio of outdoor gear, also feature a small hooked section to help you engage and release the heel lifts on your snow shoes (MSR also suggest you can do this with the front edge of the hand grip). As you’d expect, these poles also have a hardened metal tip.
Grip Ergonomics and Material
The MSR DynaLock Ascent poles are fitted with ergonomic high density foam grips and wide wrist straps. The grip extends down the shaft to give an extended surface for use on steep ascents. This extended grip area isn’t as long as on some competitors, but we don’t think it’s unusually or unworkably short either, so we don’t see this as a problem. The shaped upper front edge of the grip is also ever so slightly hooked and MSR suggest that you can use this to engage or lower the heel lifts on your snow shoes. If you do a lot of snow shoeing, you’ll know that this can be a fiddly and awkward process if you need to crouch down and trying to navigate lifts into place using a pole tip is far from ideal either, so, with this in mind, we think it’s good to see this attention to detail in the design.
At the time of writing, the MSR DynaLock Ascent carbon poles cost $169.95 in the US and £189.99 in the UK. These are certainly premium hiking poles and whilst they’re not the most expensive that we’ve assessed, they are definitely priced at the higher end of the market. MSR are undoubtedly a premium brand with a well-regarded reputation for making excellent quality, innovative and hardy products and it’s fair to say that these poles don’t let the brand down. That high ticket prices buys clever design and dependability. MSR build their products for maintenance and you can be sure that should something wear out or get broken, that they will be able to offer spares or a repair service.
MSR may not be a brand that springs to most hiker’s minds when they think of the hiking pole market dominated by Leki and Black Diamond, but, by the same token, the brand will need no introduction to many as they have a fantastic reputation for making high quality, durable gear. The DynaLock Ascent Foldable Carbon Backcountry Trekking Poles are a top-quality product that doesn’t let the brand down. They are not the absolute lightest or pack down the smallest, but they offer a rock-solid build and are offered in longer than average (for a foldable pole) maximum height variant which will be valued not just by taller hikers, but also those tackling steep descents, working in deep snow or crossing deep steams. The market may be dominated by two big names, but these MSR poles offer a great alternative and we think they are well worth considering.
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