Whether you are breaking trail in fresh snow, negotiating nasty talus fields, or simply plodding along the trail with your backpack, balance is critical. Trekking poles are a no-brainer if you are looking to stay balanced on the trail while relieving pressure from your knees and lower back. MSR makes a full line of poles for all types of activities, and at the top of the pile are the Surelock TR-3s. Designed with ease of use and maximum versatility in mind, the TR-3 poles may be an appealing choice to hikers of all skill levels. I used the testing grounds of the Beehive State to find out if an easily adjustable set of poles could stand up to a Wasatch-style beating.
Surelock technology is the driving force behind MSR’s trekking pole lineup. Their 100% positive locking system boasts “non-slip” performance in any conditions. Like the Surelock UL-2 poles we reviewed previously, the TR-3 feature a small, metal button that pops into a hole to lock the poles into place. However, unlike it’s ultralight counterparts, the TR-3s have but one single hole to slide the button into. This means you have no guesswork to do on length, simply lock in and use the trigger release system to find your ideal length. What is “trigger release,” you ask? This is easily my favorite part of the TR-3 trekking poles. A finger controlled trigger system just under the grips controls expanding, collapsing and adjusting of the poles. Simply depress the trigger, lock the metal buttons, and then pull out to your desired length. Both of these features worked great when testing the poles in my backyard, but it is how they performed in the mountains that matters most.
I really appreciated the trigger release system while snowshoeing in the Uinta Mountains. Thanks to freezing temperatures, bulky winter gloves were a necessity. Despite my clumsy gloves, the trigger was easy to use, and made adjusting for changing snow depths and uphill sections a breeze. I also liked the idea of not having to twist or depress any small pieces, because that would have required my delicate hands to be exposed to the cold…something I had no intention of doing. The TR-3 poles are constructed with 7000-Series aluminum to keep their weight ultralight (1 lb, 4 oz total weight), a design I truly appreciated after plenty of planting and replanting the poles in deep powder. Frankly, without the MSR poles, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed snowshoeing as much.
The Wasatch Mountains also provided a worthy proving ground for the TR-3 trekking poles. I used them in more snowy conditions, as well as dry hikes where short talus fields and uneven trails were the order of the day. I can’t say it any better than this: MSR’s TR-3 poles just flat out work. I mashed them through mud, snow, even icy trails and they never failed me, hell, they barely have any scratches on them. Ultralight weight means your hands and arms won’t get sick of holding them, and the final piece of awesome is collapsibility of the TR-3s: when fully retracted, the poles measure 23″ in length. You can stow these little beauties just about anywhere you’ve got a free strap or pocket. The only negative point about these poles is sometimes the metal button is difficult to depress when collapsing the poles. It seemed like I had to put a lot of pressure on it to make sure it would fully disengage. A bit of a hassle with gloves on, but no biggie with bare hands.
So there you have it: if you are looking for a trekking pole for year-round activities, give the MSR TR-3 a glance. At around $125, they are a bit pricey, but trust me, you will notice the quality on your first trip with them. Ultralight weight, bomber build, and ease of use make the MSR TR-3 trekking poles worth the extra cash you’ll spend for them.
The Good: MSR TR3 trekking pole are ultralight, feature an easy to use trigger system, collapse to short length, and performed well in all conditions.
The Bad: Metal button is tough to fully disengage at times, high price point
The Verdict: You pay for what you get; lay out the extra dough for the TR-3s, and you will have a bomber trekking pole that you can use no matter what mother nature throws at you.