MSR Talus TR3 Walking Pole Review

© Alan James Collection

Walking poles are great opinion dividers. There are those who think they are cumbersome wastes of time, and those who swear by them with an almost religious fervour, with little in between it appears. What turned me from the former to the latter was a gradual realisation that virtually everyone who seemed to know what they were doing in the mountains, has started to use them, that combined with some ageing knees!

MSR Talus TR3 in use in the Auvergne in France  © Alan James Collection
MSR Talus TR3 in use in the Auvergne in France

I have used a several different sets of poles over the years, mostly 2-section poles which are awkward to carry when not in use. So I was very pleased to be able to try out the MSR Talus TR3 poles. These three-section poles are aimed at backpacking, alpine trekking and arduous hiking. At a weight of 625g for the pair they are extremely lightweight although not as lightweight as the Swift 3 range from MSR. The poles feature the SureLock adjustment system which has a spring loaded trigger sleeve on the handle to allow the poles to extend and contract when required. The strap system is the adjustable loop with a velcro section for adjustment.

In testing I rapidly realised that three-section poles are much easier and more importunely safer, to carry than two-section. Having nearly had my eye taken out by others carrying two-section poles protruding form their sacks in the past, the ability to store the poles internally, or externally but below the top of the sack, makes for much safer carrying. A minor point, but important if you are bustling into crowded lifts or passing people on crowded approach paths.

MSR Talus TR3   © Alan James Collection
MSR Talus TR3  © Alan James Collection
The trigger ring on the handle outlined

Of course many manufacturers make three-section poles, and the drawback of the extra section is that it provides another point of weakness that needs an expansion system. This is where the MSR SureLock system proves to be a bit of a revelation. I have previously had problems with the traditional twist-locking compression rings. Sometimes the amount you need to crank the ring closed in order to stop the pole self-compressing as you put pressure on it in use means that it becomes incredibly hard to release again. There are locking system available to avoid this, but this MSR approach appears to avoid all these problems and brings its own benefits as well.

The release system works very easily - just pull the trigger ring back with one hand, and pull the extension sections out with the other choosing a length marked on the pole. With a bit of practice, and plenty of room around you, you can even do it one-handed by pulling the trigger ring back and flicking the pole quickly away from you. It is even possible to do both poles simultaneously if you want to really impress!

Another advantage of this system is the ease of retracting the length as you walk. I often find myself wanting shorter poles going uphill and longer going down. It is incredibly easy to adjust on the fly using the trigger ring.

Before covering the straps on the MSR Talus TR3 poles, I just want to make an observation about strap use with poles. Many people underestimate the correct use of the straps. Just check next time you see someone out on the hill and I bet most of them aren't using the straps correctly. When used properly a strap will allow you to virtually release your hand grip on the actual pole since much of the weight will fall on the strap under your wrist. This is far less tiring and more effective than when the strap is just wrapped loosely around the wrist since you can get a downward pressure from your whole arm, rather than by just gripping tight.

The straps on the MSR Talus poles are excellent in this respect allowing fine adjustment to suit your wrist and walking style.

MSR Talus TR3 - correct strap grip  © Alan James Collection
The correct strap grip with the loop going inside the hand across the palm
MSR Talus TR3 - incorrect strap grip  © Alan James Collection
The incorrect grip with the strap just looped around the wrist

For durability these poles have had no issues in use. The do feel a little on the flimsy side initially due to the lightweight construction, but after sustained use they are showing no signs of excessive wear and tear and the trigger system works as well as it did initially. The sections do rattle a little against each other which can be distracting but you get used to it.

One slight complaint is that the poles don't appear to come as standard with the tip protector, powder basket or snow basket attachments. The tip protector is especially useful if you are on soft terrain to stop the poles sinking in with each placement, and also as obviously to 'protect the tip' when you are carrying the things.


An excellent robust and lightweight pole with an innovative compression system. At an RRP of £90 they are certainly at the more expensive end of the market but they have performance to match. They are slightly rattly in use which can be annoying on long rocky walks.

MSR Talus TR3 in use

Price: £90

Weight: 625 grams

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10 Apr, 2015
I am one who swear by hiking poles . However one wonders if the cost of high end hiking poles is any advantage to some of the cheaper models.. I got a pole on sale from Adi's marked down from £5 to £2.50. An expert in the field of hiking poles took them apart and found they were the same construction as the very expensive Leki poles ....maybe Aldi's are made in the same Chinese factory ??. I now wonder if 80% of the price of expensive poles is often just for the brand name.
Well there may be something in that although most of the cheaper poles will inevitably be copies of the more expensive branded versions, using cheaper raw materials often, even if they are made in the same factory. You do pay a bit for a brand, but it is the brands that do most of the innovating hence have higher costs. I have used four sets of poles over the years (not because I wear them out, but for other reasons) and two have been big brands, two cheaper copies. One of the cheaper copies (Decathlon) was pretty good actually, the other was a terrible heavy copy with a bad handle. One of the big brands was okay but had a bad fastening system, and by far the best were these from MSR - lightest, best collapsing system, best grip and strap. Whether they were 4 times better than the ones from Decathlon is unlikely, but they are three-section hence they fit in my sack ( which the two- section ones don't). Alan
11 Apr, 2015
Yeah, similar experiences. I bought a pair from Tesco once for a less than a tenner. Remarkably good value until they broke, low quality plastic tightening widgets. I also had an appalling quality pair from that brand Trekmate (IIRC?) that I got cheap from TK Maxx. They just bent then snapped in the lowest sections. Seemed to be made of warm butter. I've had two pairs of Leki's both have lasted over 20 years. One pair I left last summer outside of a tiny church in deepest darkest Shropshire, but hopefully they've found a good new home. My two piece ones are my ski poles and I'm lousy skier who relies on poles to make up for bad skills at times, and they are still going strong. Unbelievably strong actually. Like my original thermarest, which is 25 years old and still good, going for quality poles seems to work out over the very long term!
12 Apr, 2015
Interesting. I had some Leki poles and grew to hate the twist lock joints, always seizing up and corroding. Bought some Black Diamond Ultra Distance which weigh 278g the pair, since I really only carry them for times when knees or hips begin to hurt, since I really prefer wandering along with my hands in my pockets.
12 Apr, 2015
Maybe the 'big names' are more robust (I have a pair of Leki sticks which are close to 20 years old although as they are two section they aren't used much for walking) but I did have a Black Diamond 3 section stick break for no obvious reason when skiing (very 'clean' break at one of the joints). But as someone with knees which seem somehow to have aged more than the rest of me, I find ski sticks almost essential for long descents when walking
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