Gear Review: MSR DynaLock Ascent Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles
MSR DynaLock Ascent Poles
$150, 1 lb. 1 oz. (small, 100-120cm, with trekking baskets)
Sizes: S (100-120cm), L (120-140cm)
moosejaw.com

When you need trekking poles, you want them to stand up to the hardest use in any season. When you don’t need them, you want them to nestle unobtrusively under pack straps. From a 20-mile, mostly off-trail peaks traverse in Idaho’s Sawtooths to a rim-to-rim dayhike across the Grand Canyon and some of the hardest miles on the Appalachian Trail, MSR’s Dynalock Ascent Poles stood out for being tough, stable, and exceptionally packable.

MSR DynaLock Ascent Poles.
MSR DynaLock Ascent Poles.

I used the adjustable, three-section, folding DynaLock Ascent Poles dayhiking some of the hardest trail miles in the country—a one-day, 27-mile traverse of western Maine’s Mahoosuc Range, mostly on the Appalachian Trail—and as well as on a 13-hour, mostly off-trail dayhike of around 20 miles scrambling peaks in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and on other dayhikes in Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. My wife also used these poles on a four-day, roughly 30-mile backpacking trip in the Sawtooths, and on a 22-mile, 11,000-vertical-foot, rim-to-rim dayhike across the Grand Canyon.

The Dynalock carve out a unique niche among trekking poles for three qualities: durability, packability, and having adjustability in folding poles.

The Kevlar-reinforced, all-carbon fiber construction demonstrated very high resistance to sheering or crushing when bashed multiple times against granite when I scrambled while holding them in one hand over boulders on the AT in the Mahoosucs and in the Sawtooths. The poles suffered no damage on any outings, beyond a lot of superficial scratches in the shafts.

The two sizes each have an adjustable range of 20cm, so virtually anyone can use these poles. Most useful to hard users, these poles are very compact when folded, measuring 36.2cm/14.3 inches long (in the 100-120cm size)—meaning they fit easily on the outside of a small pack, and are much shorter than standard, three-section poles whose shafts collapse inside one another.


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The Dynalock poles have an inner cable for deploying and collapsing it, similar to a tent pole, and the three sections lock very rigidly into place with a simple pin mechanism (that’s easy to depress to collapse the poles). A Dynalock lever on each pole never slipped, even on the 5,000-foot descent of the South Kaibab Trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. There’s no discernible play or wobble in these poles, so they feel secure whether descending loose scree off-trail or powering up a long, steep ascent on trail.

The comfortable EVA foam grips feel good and don’t slip easily in bare or gloved hands, and an extended grip on the upper shaft helps in managing steep slopes. The wrist strap adjusts easily.

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MSR DynaLock Ascent Poles collapsed.
MSR DynaLock Ascent Poles collapsed.

At a hair over one pound (for the small length), they’re not ultralight, but compare with the sturdier trekking and winter backcountry poles on the market. But having broken all-carbon and bent all-aluminum poles in the past, from what I’ve seen, the Dynalock Ascent strike a fine balance between durability and moderate weight.

The three pole models in MSR’s Dynalock series are designed to cross over from summer hiking, backpacking, off-trail scrambling and mountaineering to winter split boarding, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing, so they come with both trekking and snow baskets; and the snow baskets have a catch for raising MSR Televators.

MSR’s other two Dynalock models are the DynaLock Explore ($100), constructed with light, high-strength 7075 aluminum, and the two-section, aluminum Dynalock Trail ($60), designed for lighter, on-trail use.

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MSR Dynalock Ascent Trekking Poles

Adjustability/Sizes
Packability
Versatility
Weight
Durability

The Verdict

While they are heavier than some models, if you’re looking for sturdy, durable, adjustable poles that pack down small and come in at a moderate weight, the MSR Dynalock Ascent Poles do that job at a price that beats high-quality competitors.

4.4

BUY IT NOW

You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the MSR Dynalock Ascent Trekking Poles at moosejaw.com or msrgear.com.

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See my picks for “The Best Trekking Poles” and my stories “How to Choose Trekking Poles” and “10 Best Expert Tips for Hiking With Trekking Poles,” and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, ultralight backpacking gear, and hiking gear.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” the lightweight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

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