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Excellent, sturdy, lightweight trekking pole that…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (sample provided by MSR for testing and review)
Excellent, sturdy, lightweight trekking pole that collapses small, stores easily, does its job well, and looks darn nice, too!
- Collapses small
- Good looking
- No way to lock it closed
- For some, made in China
- For some, pole length is not infinitely adjustable
The MSR Surelock UL-3 three-section trekking pole is billed as an ultralight system designed for "multi-day treks or swift single-day ascents." I recently used them on a trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah and was not disappointed.
The poles not only look good, but worked exceedingly well in all types of terrain, ranging from deep sandy trails, to crossing shallow rivers, brushy trails, on slick rock, and steep off-trail, cross-country bushwhacks.
Weighing in at just 15.8 ounces a pair, and measuring just 23 3/4 inches long when fully closed, the UL-3 trekking pole has a minimum usable length of 43 inches and expands to not quite 55 inches, measured from the top of the handle to its metal tip.
The handle is made of an ergonomically designed foam that fit my (smallish) hands well. The adjustable strap system was easy to adjust and never slipped, even when loading it heavily while trekking up steep, sandy trails.
The locking system, which I was a bit skeptical about at home, worked very well. A simply tug on the lower pole section extended the bottom section of the pole (there are three sections, hence the name UL-3) quickly and easily out to its locked position. You then push a small, metal button — The SureLock — near the handle to extend the pole to your desired length, which is marked in centimeters.
One note; due to the SureLock design, the MSR UL-3 trekking poles are not infinitely adjustable. You have a choice of setting the length, as marked on the pole, to one of seven settings, ranging from 110 cm to 140 cm in 5 cm increments. Personally, I did not find this to be a problem when setting my pole length. I picked 115 cm and used that almost exclusively.
The UL-3 poles come with two sets of baskets; the trekking baskets (installed) and the snow baskets. I have no use for the larger snow baskets, so I did not use them. I did, though, swap them out once to see how easy they were to remove and install, which I found to be quick and easy. Just pull and twist to remove the pressured-fitted basket, and push and twist to install.
I had no issues at all while using the poles in the variety of terrain and conditions mentioned above, but did have one small issue when digging them out of the Jeep. I had a bunch of gear pilled on top of the poles and gave them a good yank by the handle to free them. The baskets were trapped, and the poles expanded rapidly. The SureLock button did not catch in one of the holes, and, consequently, the poles came apart. It took me just a few seconds each to reassemble the poles, none the worse for wear.
This brings up the only design flaw I could find with the poles — there is no way to lock them down to their fully collapsed size. I did not have an issue with the poles expanding when stored on the outside of my backpack, so I didn't count this as a minus when writing this review.
All-in-all, I found the SureLock UL-3 trekking poles to be an excellent product; more than capable of handling everything I threw at then. They are very lightweight, sturdy, collapse down to a small size, hold up well when I really loaded them down when climbing steep terrain, and they look good, too!
Thanks to MSR for proving the SureLock UL-3 pole samples for testing and review.