Extensively tested and reviewed by Cairngorm Treks throughout May to September in the Cairngorms, Glen Affric, and surrounding mountainous areas.

We are always keen to try out new walking poles as they are a must for our guides and clients alike when multi day trekking. Key elements for us are poles that function on all types of mountain terrain, are robust, have low weight, easy to pack down with a low volume, and have some adjustability, including use with tarps.

Our initial impression of the poles in their storage mode reinforced the claim that they have a low volume and length [45cm for a large pair] when collapsed and they stash easily inside a small day pack, or unobtrusively strapped to the side as well as fitting easily into hold luggage if flying. The weight for a pair is 500g for the longer 120cm length [120 -140cm], whilst the short version with a length of 100cm [100 – 120cm], weigh in at 470g. [Both weights include summer baskets]. When putting the poles together the sections lock quickly and very securely together using an internal cord system and locking button. Once connected they are rock solid with no wobble even when under severe stress. Dismantling the poles involves pushing in the small locking button. This can be a little awkward if wearing gloves or if you are trying to do it with cold hands.

Notably, and one of the best features of these 5 section Kevlar - reinforced carbon fibre poles, is that both the small and large sizes offer a further 20cm of adjustment. This additional length is controlled by an anodized aluminium Dynalock levers which have tool free tensioning. This is very easy to control and adjust in cold conditions when wearing gloves and is even possible in full winter mitts. Importantly, length adjustment is easy to do on the go. Moreover, further adjustment can be gained by moving hands up and down the shaft to additional gripping areas. We found that if the right length of pole is selected there is more than enough adjustability when moving either up or down very steep ground, and particularly when traversing steep slopes.

The hand grips and lower grips are made from EVA rubber. These proved slightly sweaty when working hard in full summer heat but retained their grip, and we believe would work well when using them with gloves in winter conditions. The wrist straps are basic but made from a functional nylon material with a soft lining. They can be easily adjusted and locked by pulling up and down on the strap. The poles come with summer and winter baskets which are easy to change. The snow version will be great for moving quickly when snow shoeing.

Over a season of use in the Scottish hills the poles have shown excellent levels of robustness, build quality and have been rock solid, showing no signs of wear. Importantly they look good for the coming winter season and for another summer with the tips still going strong. The stability of the poles and purchase, even when moving at running speed over a range of montane terrains, including bog, river crossings, scree descents and boulder fields, allows the poles to be used with a high degree of confidence. Moreover, because of their low weight they are less fatiguing on the arms than heavier poles and don’t weigh down a pack down if stashed when needing both hands for scrambling or climbing.

Our Verdict

Overall the MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon Poles are lightweight and high strength poles offering superb strength and durability. They have a low volume and are quick to deploy and dismantle, making them a highly packable four-season option that can be used throughout the year, including winter. They do have some slight limitations in terms of size as they are only offered in Small or Large, but should be suitable for most people. When not in use they fit easily into a small backpack although they do not come with a storage bag. We have used them for tarping but they do have a minimum height which won’t suit all needs. The Dynalock easy adjustment system makes these poles stand out from others. In our opinion they are suited for pretty much all mountain activities, whether summer or winter, including fast paced trail and Nordic walking, snowshoeing, and multi day trekking.

Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...