It was on a fastpacking trip around Mt. Rainier that I decided to first give running-with-poles a try and was convinced immediately it was what was missing from my trail running. If you’ve ever hiked with poles, you know they add an extra point on the ground for balance and stability on unstable terrain and give a bit more confidence on a steep descent – the same is true with running, but can also a good way to conserve energy and engage your upper body for more efficiency.
There are pros and cons to running and racing with poles, as well as various techniques, so definitely read some articles / watch some videos / talk with other runners about when poles are best and how to introduce them into your training, and when you’re ready to buy a set, consider the MSR DynaLock™ Ascent Carbon Backcountry Poles! (I also look forward to using these all winter for snowshoe adventures, too, so they are a great multi-sport gear addition!) They come with summer and winter baskets for exactly this.
Because these poles are carbon fiber, they’re lightweight and because they’re made by MSR, they’re thoughtfully made.The DynaLock Ascents are made of Kevlar®-reinforced carbon fiber (i.e. strong, but lightweight) and have a comfortable foam hand grip. They also have a slightly lower grip for easily adjusting on steep terrain without tinkering with the entire pole. I used these poles for a challenging 50K race in late fall and loved that the grip wasn’t hardened in the early morning cold, but also didn’t get soggy with sweaty palms when things warmed up later in the day. Another great feature is the adjustable wrist straps. Granted, most poles have them, but these are noticeably soft and easily variable, even with gloves on. They aren’t easily twisted, so the comfort, ease of use, and considerate material choice here is a big pro.
Not unlike tent poles, their “assembly” is basic: three short sections that slide together then lock with a push button and are tensioned with a coated internal cable. They come in standard lengths of Small (100-120 cm) or Large (120-140 cm), the 20 cm of range is easily adjusted with the DynaLock system (i.e. snap lock) and has a micro-adjuster to be absolutely sure there is no slipping. They are robust and reliable. I’m loving them.
Weighing in at 15 3/8 oz for the pair (453g, size S, no basket), these aren’t the lightest poles on the market, but they do not feel heavy. Some athletes count grams and this will matter, however, I would argue that these poles are not noticeably weighty, even after many hours. My trusty hiking poles are only a few ounces heavier, but what I immediately noticed was the collapsed size difference. My hikers are telescoping, rather than the Z-folding, which doesn’t offer as much for compact-ability. The DynaLock Ascents are just a hair over 15 1/2 inches when folded, which I could easily attach to my smallest running pack. Again, they are lightweight enough that it was comfortable having them both on one side of the pack, but this is obviously personal preference.
I have one small downside to note about these poles: the velcro strap that holds them together is annoying to operate when wearing gloves! I was prepping for my race start and had to remove my gloves to deal with the velcro because it was far too sticky! It’s such a small complaint for an overall great product, but I found myself cursing the ridiculousness of the situation as I couldn’t free my hand from the velcro.
The DynaLock Ascents are competitively priced at ~$150 and if you’ve ever owned MSR products before, you know they produce high-quality gear with adventurers in mind. I’ve been reaching for these poles since I got them and recommend considering them if you’re shopping for poles.
Company: Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
Product: DynaLock™ Ascent Carbon Backcountry Poles ($149.95)
Details (from website):
- Ultralight Strength: Kevlar®-reinforced carbon fiber construction.
- Packable: Quick-deploy design folds small to stash easily in smaller packs.
- Secure Adjustment: 20 cm of easy, rock-solid DynaLock™ adjustability with tool-free tensioning; anodized aluminum lever provides lasting durability.
- Comfortable: EVA foam grip, plus lower grip for sidehilling or choking up on steep terrain.
- Versatile: Winter and summer baskets included for four-season functionality.
More about MSR:
In 1969, Seattle engineer and lifelong mountaineer Larry Penberthy formed Mountain Safety Research as a one-man crusade dedicated to improving the safety of climbing equipment. The fuel behind Larry’s passionate fire was a simple belief that still drives our team today:
THE IDEA THAT BETTER, SAFER, MORE RELIABLE EQUIPMENT IS THE KEY TO UNLOCKING GREATER ADVENTURES.
From that notion evolved a pioneering outdoor company whose innovations have revolutionized the way people experience the outdoors worldwide. Today, we’re a close-knit team still obsessed with designing the most reliable, high-performance gear possible, using our knowledge of engineering and science to find better solutions to the challenges of the mountains.
Thank you to MSR for providing us with sample poles. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.