MSR Surelock TR-3 Trekking Poles are lightweight aluminum trekking and snowshoeing poles with a unique trigger-release mechanism that makes them easy to adjust without stopping or taking off your gloves in winter. This is useful for people who are hiking, trail-running, or skiing, over terrain with rapid elevation changes with lots of switchbacks or across uneven mountainous terrain.
With three telescoping sections, the poles collapse down to 22 inches in length, making them easy to tuck into a side pack pocket when not in use or for air plane travel. The lowest section of the poles extends to a fixed, positive locking position, while all changes to the height or length of the pole are made with the center section, by engaging or dis-engaging the trigger release and extending it to whatever length you need, between 105 cm and 130 cm in 5 cm length gradations (41-51 inches).
To adjust the length of the poles on the fly, simply squeeze the two ends of the handle together to release the lock, and push down on the pole to shorten its height. This works well as long as the width of your hand is large enough to span the length of the handle and you don’t mind being limited to the fixed 5 cm length adjustments
To increase the length of the pole, you can step on the trekking or snow basket, squeeze the handle to release the trigger mechanism, and pull the segments apart to the desired length.
Structurally, the poles are elliptical in shape as opposed to round making for a more robust pole segment that is less likely to buckle under heavy pressure. Unfortunately, by hiding the locking mechanism inside the pole, it is far more difficult to repair a pair of TR-3’s in the field using spare parts or scavenged components from other poles. MSR does however offer a pole maintenance kit, including spare parts, that lets you take apart the poles and clean the locking mechanism, an excellent option for maintaining these poles in the long term.
Although not shown, both poles come with fully integrated straps which I removed during testing. While most people like leaning on straps and they can facilitate adjustment of the TR-3 pole, I find I hurt myself when I fall if I try to brace myself on my poles instead of letting them go. I also frequent avalanche terrain where having poles attached to your arms can be undesirable in the event of a slide.
If you prefer not to use straps, MSR also sells an ultralight pole, the Surelock UL-2 that are simpler, has a lighter weight swing, and does not have the trigger release mechanism.
The TR-3 poles come with regular trekking and snowflake shaped snow baskets, but at 18.4 ounces for the pair, they have a sluggish swing and are comparatively heavy. At $150/pair, they’re also quite expensive compared to poles from other manufacturers. All in, I’d recommend that you try a pair of SureLock TR-3 trekking poles before purchasing them to make sure you’ll use the trigger release mechanism and that the height settings of the poles are comfortable for you.
Disclosure: The author received a complementary pair of MSR SureLock TR-3 trekking poles from Cascade Designs for this review.