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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > MSR SureLock TR-3 Poles > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

MSR SureLock TR-3 Trekking Poles
By Raymond Estrella

February 23, 2013


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research, Inc. (MSR) TR-3
Web site:
Product: SureLock TR-3 Poles
Year manufactured: 2012
MSRP: $159.95 US
Size: Long
Weight listed: 20.8 oz (590 g)
Actual weight: 21.6 oz (612 g)
Length listed collapsed/full: 23/55 in (61/140 cm) verified accurate
Picture at right courtesy Cascade Designs

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

Collapsed w/ snow basketMSR's first foray into the trekking pole market looks to be a winner with the SureLock TR-3's Trigger Release adjustment system. It is the fastest, easiest adjustment system I have ever used. The pole is very strong and I feel that it shines for winter use. Just don't lick one when the temps are well below freezing. ;-) Please read on for the details.

Product Description

The MSR SureLock TR-3 trekking poles (hereafter referred to as the TR-3s or the poles) are the crown jewels in the company's new line of trekking poles.

The poles have three sections (hence the "3" in the name) allowing them to collapse for easy stowage. The shafts are made of 7000 series aluminum. This class of aluminum is the strongest of the alloys. The two lower sections are bare (shiny) while the top section has a yellow coating along with some graphics, name and MSR logo.

The middle section has graduated markings for length settings starting at 105 cm (41 in) up to the full length of 140 cm (55 in) in 5 cm (2 in) increments.
The shafts are not round but instead have a hexagonal profile. Here is a good explanation of why it is strong from the Department of Energy's Ask a Scientist web page. "A hexagon stretched into a column is a hexagonal prism. The strength and stability of the hexagonal prism allows for maximum flex and dissolution of forces from virtually any direction." Sounds good to me.

The coolest thing about the TR-3s is the way they adjust for length. The "TR" in the name stands for Trigger Release. At the top of the upper section is a collar with a flared protrusion. Pulling on this collar releases the SureLock system allowing the poles to slide up or down. Pulling the collar and pressing towards the ground results in the pole collapsing. To make it longer I can either step on the basket and pull upward as I release the SureLock or do it by hand if it is in the fully collapsed state.

The TR-3s dual-density grips are hard plastic at the sides with softer rubber-like material at the front and back. They have a generous index finger relief and the top extends out to make a catch used to release the heel lift on snowshoes and AT (All Terrain) ski bindings. A hole runs through each of the grips which is very useful when using the poles with the lines of a tarp or other shelter.

Attached to the grips are the TR-3s straps, which are quite different from all the trekking pole straps I have used before. The straps are set in length from the grip, but do have some adjustment for diameter with a long section of hook-and-loop fastener.

At the business end of the TR-3 poles is a hard nylon tip sleeve with a press-in, replaceable carbide point. The carbide has a heavily knurled point for traction. A set of small trekking baskets came attached to the poles. While almost all of my other trekking poles made me purchase wider snow baskets, MSR has seen fit to include them with the TR-3s. Excellent!

Field Data

TR-3 on the PCT with me

I first used the TR-3s on a 2-day backpacking trip in the southern Sierra Nevada (seen in the picture above), and a day hike in the Angeles National Forest, both in California. I covered 65 mi (105 km), with about 6,000 ft (1830 m) of elevation gain and loss on these trips, in temps that ran from 40 F to a ridiculously warm for that time of year 90 F (4 to 32 C). The terrain was mostly rock, sand, and decomposed granite.

I put them away until the beginning of December, and then used them all winter. Over the course of three months I took them on six backpacking trips. Four were on the Red River either on private property north of Halstad, Minnesota or just north of my town, one was on the North Country Trail by the Anoway River in Chippewa National Forest and the last on the North Country Trail in Paul Bunyan State Forest. These trips were cold with lows averaging around 0 F (18 C). The trip on the Anoway River saw -22 F (-30 C) at night but was actually colder as I left the trailhead. Terrain was hard frozen ground with little or no snow cover for the first four trips and deep snow for the last two. I used them on three or four day-hikes, most at MB Johnson Nature Park outside Moorhead, Minnesota. Average temps while day-hiking was around 10 F (-12 C).

Here is a shot of the poles in use backpacking as I stop to admire the work of some very optimistic beavers. I guess they plan to dam the Red River. Good luck with that my fat furry friends.

busy beaver


Since tearing my meniscus in 2004 I have been a regular user of trekking poles, taking them on 95% of my backpacking trips and day-hikes. Over the past decade I have used a lot of them but have never used as unique a locking and adjustment system as that employed by the MSR TR-3s.

The Trigger Release SureLock system is by far the fastest and easiest system I have used to date.

At first I was concerned that they may self-collapse while hiking during steep descents when I put a lot of my weight on the poles to help the strain on my knees. I needn't have worried as so far the poles have never budged once set.

Two old hikers

And they are pretty strong too. The trip in the Sierra Nevada (seen above) was my first "hard" hike after coming back from major leg and ankle surgeries so I was really relying on the poles, putting more weight on them then I might have in the past. I am happy to report that they never let me down. On over-grown sections of the trail I used them to help clear the way as I pushed through yucca, Manzanita, and buckthorn. Based on the scratches I see on the yellow uppers I guess I banged them into a few rocks too.

The grips are a very nice size and shape. I have big hands and many grips are too small which can make my hands cramp. These are big enough to be comfortable for normal use, yet don't feel bulky when I am wearing gloves, as I have done with the majority of use with the TR-3. Like in this picture taken on the North Country Trail.

One old cold hiker

The carbide tips are quite sharp and grab rock very well. I don't recall any time it slipped on all the rocky terrain in California. They still look like new, but I do have to admit that in this part of Minnesota it is mostly just frozen clay I am on. Speaking of freezing, the aluminum gets cold! I grabbed them with my glove off when I needed more dexterity to set up a shelter. My body heat melted some ice crystals and then instantly refroze to the pole. It made me think of Ralphie's friend Flick, in the movie A Christmas Story, freezing his tongue to a pole.

Holding up the Sublite Sil

I have got to use the TR-3s as shelter supports too. On the Sierra trips my brother-in-law Dave brought the wrong poles for his shelter, a Tarptent Sublite Sil. His were too short but I saved the day by letting him use the TR-3s at the end of the day, as seen above. He was very impressed by the poles and loved the adjustment system too.

I also used them as support for 5 nights with the Brooks-Range Propel tent seen below. (See review.) One night was during a full-on winter storm with heavy winds and lots of snow but the tent stayed upright with the assistance of the TR-3s.

Propping up the Propel

I rarely use the straps on trekking poles unless there is a danger of a dropped pole disappearing down a steep slope or in a river. We don't have much in the way of steep slopes in this flat part of Minnesota so I may have used them a couple times total. They are comfortable enough but a little short for my large hands if I wanted to do a traditional strap-through-the-thumb-web style of grip. I may even cut them off to save weight as I did with my last pair of winter trekking poles.

Ooh, gotta hatchet...

For the first few months of winter we barely had enough snow to cover the ground. I did not even change to the snow baskets until January but as seen above did not even need them then. In February Mother Nature played catch-up by clobbering us with a huge blizzard followed by days of sporadic snow. Suddenly I was able to use snowshoes, my gear sled, and yes, the TR-3s snow baskets. In the picture below I am on an unknown amount of base, sinking about a foot (30 cm) into two to three feet (1 m) of fresh snow. The snow baskets worked well.

Hiding the body...

That is about all I can think to share about the MSR TR-3 trekking poles. I have no complaints nor any suggestions for improvement. Now I am going to go play with the Trigger Release some more…

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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