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MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon Review

A simple, elegant, and well-built trekking pole with versatility for all uses
MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon
Photo: MSR
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $160 List | Check Price at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable grip, locks securely, packs small, highly versatile
Cons:  Carbon is less durable than aluminum, on the expensive side
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 25, 2021
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 16
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 9
  • Packed Size - 15% 9
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The newest version of the MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon is simple, elegant, and perfect for most users. The foam grip and rounded handle are comfortable to grasp, and the locking mechanism is easy to use and secure. The pair comes at an average weight but swings forward with the feel of a much lighter pole. It also packs down small and showed good durability in our test period, making this pole a great option for all-around use, from the trails to the boulder fields to alpine climbs and even winter backcountry arenas. This pole does it all.

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$199.95 at REI
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$139.95 at REI
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$99.95 at REI
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$39.99 at Amazon
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Pros Comfortable grip, locks securely, packs small, highly versatileComfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, lightweight, versatileFairly lightweight, packable, adjust and collapse easily, durable for a lightweight poleLightweight, short collapsed length, surprisingly durableDurable, comfortable grip, packs small
Cons Carbon is less durable than aluminum, on the expensive sideExpensiveSpendy, only slightly above-average comfortNo length adjustability, average grip comfortHeavy, less versatile due to weight
Bottom Line A simple, elegant, and well-built trekking pole with versatility for all usesThis pole is comfortable, easy to adjust, lightweight, and highly packableA lightweight but durable pole that is highly packable and features easy adjustment and collapsibilityDurable with a short collapsed length, this is a fantastic value for a lightweight poleA highly affordable pair of poles with all of the features of more expensive models
Rating Categories MSR DynaLock Ascent... Leki Women's Micro... Black Diamond Dista... Black Diamond Dista... Trekology Trek-Z
Comfort (20%)
9.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Weight (20%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
9.0
4.0
Locking And Adjustability (15%)
9.0
10.0
9.0
3.0
7.0
Packed Size (15%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
10.0
8.0
Durability (15%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Versatility (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Specs MSR DynaLock Ascent... Leki Women's Micro... Black Diamond Dista... Black Diamond Dista... Trekology Trek-Z
Measured Weight (per pair) 17 oz 16 oz 16 oz 12.5 oz 26 oz
Shaft Material Carbon fiber Carbon Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Collapsed Length 14.25 in 15.5 in 14/15 in 13/14/16/17 in 15 in
Max Length 47 in 51 in 49.2 in 39/43/47/51 in 47 in
Pole Design Collapsible Foldable Foldable Foldable Foldable
Grip Material Rubber / Plastic / Foam Foam Foam EVA foam Foam
Locking Mechanism DynaLock Speed​​Lock 2 External Lever Lock Speed Cone Deployment Lever lock
Baskets/Tip Attachments? Yes, winter and summer baskets Yes, tips and baskets Yes, rubber and carbide tips and trail baskets Yes, rubber and carbide tips Yes, powder and trail baskets, boots, and narrow tips
Size Tested 100-120 cm One size 105-125 cm 110 cm 100-120 cm

Our Analysis and Test Results

This pole doesn't seem like anything special, but after our thorough testing period, we were impressed by its high performance across our range of testing metrics. In fact, there wasn't a single thing that we didn't like about this pole.

Performance Comparison


The MSR Dynalock is a great option for any hiking excursion, like...
The MSR Dynalock is a great option for any hiking excursion, like this one to Hawaii.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Comfort


The Dynalock features a gently-contoured foam grip with a simple secondary grip. These grips can be hit-or-miss, and in this case, our testers found that most hand sizes hold the pole comfortably, despite its no-frills looks. After hours and hours on the trail, grip shapes can make the hands sore and achy, but in this case, our hands felt comfortable and at ease. This is aided by the pole's incredibly light swing weight, which makes it a breeze to hike with for extended trips. The padded strap is very comfortable on the wrist and makes hiking with heavy loads more pleasant.


Some of our testers noted that the top of the handle is less rounded and more flat than other high-performance poles on the market that we rate highly. This is true, and even though the top of the handle is made of soft rubber, you can still feel the edges of the handle when pushing down on your palm when using the pole in "cane" configuration. Most testers agree that this is not a deal-breaker, and some even liked the flatter handle, but when we compare poles head-to-head, we notice every detail.

The contours of the Dynalock's foam grip are subtle, yet comfortable.
The contours of the Dynalock's foam grip are subtle, yet comfortable.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Weight


The Dynalock Ascent Carbon weighs in at 17.0 ounces per pair, which is an average weight for a foldable carbon trekking pole with length adjustment. Other poles on the market are lighter, but generally, these poles don't include as many comfortable features or secure locking mechanisms. But upon extension, it is immediately obvious that most of the weight is in the handle, as the pole swings back and forth effortlessly, compared to other trekking poles with the same overall weight. The Dynalock accomplishes this by omitting heavy shaft protectors at the joints between shaft sections, and by eliminating sheaths for the internal locking cord.


While these omissions may impact the long-term durability of the shaft sections and internal locking cord, we applaud the low swing weight that this design achieves. Most occasional users won't notice the swing weight difference, but our testers would fight over these poles at the beginning of each day after experiencing the low swing weight on multi-day trips. Furthermore, climbers who want to save every bit of shoulder and forearm energy while approaching alpine climbs will notice the swing weight savings that this pole provides.

Locking and Adjustability


Three-section telescoping poles feature a small button that pops out through the shaft when the pole is fully extended, preventing the shaft pieces from disengaging and falling apart. The button on the Dynalock Carbon snaps out with a satisfying "click" and securely locks the shaft sections into place. When folding the pole to a smaller size for stowage, the button pops back inside the shaft section with a slight effort.


The length adjustment mechanism is a thick aluminum lever lock, providing a standard 20 cm of length adjustment, which is plenty for most uses. Unique to this pole is a small metal adjustment dial that is embedded into the lever and is easily manipulated with a gloved hand. This tightness adjustment knob is intuitive and prevents the need for a separate tool to tighten the lever lock. We like this feature a lot.

The Dynalock lever lock has a built-in tightening dial that is easy...
The Dynalock lever lock has a built-in tightening dial that is easy to operate and lightweight. A button snaps the shaft sections into place.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Packed Size


Foldable poles pack down dramatically smaller than telescoping poles, and most options on the market feature this design, including the Dynalock. This pole folds down to a length of 14 inches, which is on the more compact size of the products in this category. It easily fits into backpacks and luggage, and also can be strapped onto the outside of packs for faster transitions.


When it comes to packed size, smaller is better. The Dynalock packs small enough to be used by alpine climbers and backcountry snowboarders, who often carry small packs and need compact equipment. Packed size is less of an issue for backpackers and hikers, who will rarely collapse their poles during use. But when returning to the trailhead at the end of an extended mission, all users will appreciate the benefits of a compactly folding pole that fits easily into tote bags and the trunks of cars.

The Dynalock packs down smaller than other foldable poles on the...
The Dynalock packs down smaller than other foldable poles on the market, making it a useful tool for pack size-conscious missions.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Durability


During our testing period, we had no major issues with the Dynalock. The grip components are strong and well-constructed, and the strap is robust. The shaft sections feel strong and don't bend when weighted. Our testers have snapped carbon poles in the past when banging them harshly against the sharp edges of skis and rocks, or when getting them caught between boulders in talus piles. We expect this pole to be susceptible to similar extreme trauma. But for most normal use, we are confident that this pole will last a long time.


Carbon is more prone to chipping than aluminum, and in an effort to save weight, this pole does not include reinforcements or metal buffers to prevent wear and tear on the section ends where they meet. Over time, we expect the carbon edges to round and maybe chip along these joints, but probably not in a catastrophic way. That said, other poles on the market have more features to prevent carbon from eroding and chipping. This is purely speculative and based on our robust experience with carbon trekking poles.

The Dynalock's carbon shafts are not reinforced at the shaft ends...
The Dynalock's carbon shafts are not reinforced at the shaft ends, making them vulnerable to chipping over time. The tightening cord isn't protected, either.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Versatility


Rarely do we see a trekking pole as versatile as this one. It has enough comfortable features to make everyday hiking, trekking, and cross-country travel more enjoyable. Its low weight makes it suitable for mountain running and alpine climbing, and its small packed size and included powder baskets make it a good choice for splitboarders, especially if they also want a pole that excels in summer use. It can stand up to abuse over time, meaning long-distance backpackers and thru-hikers should strongly consider this pole for their adventures.


Niche users like dedicated mountain runners and alpine climbers might consider choosing a lighter pole, but they'll have to accept the sacrifice in useful features and length adjustment. Trekkers headed to rugged and remote locations where replacement equipment isn't available might opt for a heavier and more durable aluminum pole. That said, our testers wouldn't hesitate to use this pole on expeditions to snowy environments like Denali, where use on rock is limited.

The DynaLock Ascent Carbon is at home on all kinds of trails, rugged...
The DynaLock Ascent Carbon is at home on all kinds of trails, rugged and benign.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Value


This pole provides top-notch performance for a reasonable price, especially when compared to other high-end trekking poles on the market. In fact, no other pole provides the comfort, weight, packed size, and versatility of the Dynalock at a less expensive price. We feel like this pole is the best option for most users, and the fact that it comes at a price less than the similar competition is just another reason to love it.

Conclusion


The MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon is a comfortable, compact, and versatile pole that provides high-end performance at an attractive price. Only the most niche users will opt for a different trekking pole for their specific needs, but for most hikers, backpackers, runners, and climbers, there is no better pole on the market.

The MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon on the trails of Hawaii.
The MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon on the trails of Hawaii.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Jeff Dobronyi