I suppose it’s a sign that I’m no longer a springy teenager, but this summer my knees just weren’t going to stand for any nonsense. I’ve developed a touch of tendonitis in the left one and the right one gives me the occasional twinge too. For my job as a guide this summer, I needed a little bit of help but I had a few conditions: if I’m going to use poles, they’d better be stupidly strong and as light as possible. Enter the MSR Swift 2 poles.
MSR Swift 2 Trekking Poles Features:
- SureLock positive locking adjustment
- Lightweight, 7000-series aluminum
- Foam comfort grip
- Tailored blow-out hand straps
- Shock absorbing tip
Not your granddad’s walking stick
So, here’s a little bit of a spoiler. We’ve already covered a very similar product here on Feed the Habit – namely, MSR’s Swift 3 winter poles. Both poles have top-notch 7000-series aircraft aluminum, bomber positive-locking length adjustment and a no-nonsense design for total strength and confidence on the trail. I punished the Swift winter poles throughout some twisty tree skiing and long snowshoe slogs, so it’s been fun to take their lighter cousin, the Flights, out for a whirl.
I was looking for the lightest, simplest poles that I could find and the two-piece Swift 2’s were the perfect fit. The Swift 2’s clock in at a respectable 15.8oz/pair, which makes them competitively placed amongst the crowded poles market. For example, Helinox’s comparable Causeway poles are the lightest that I’ll reference today at just 14oz. On the other hand, Leki’s Cristallo poles (with anti-shock) clock in at a tubby 19oz. Lastly, Black Diamond’s techy Z-pole Distance FL pole comes in at 15.5oz. The truth is, it’s tough to find poles to compare with the Swift 2’s because of MSR’s venerable positive-locking design, which we’ll talk about next.
Most companies in the pole world are producing a variety of quick-adjusting wonder wands for the trail. It’s an obvious draw – adjust the length of your poles with just a push of your thumb or flick of the wrist. In contrast, MSR’s SureLock positive-locking design seems clumsy and utilitarian; in truth, it’s a minimalist solution to what was never really a problem at all. I personally only adjust my trekking poles twice per use – once to get them down to the length I know works well for me (which varies, based if I’m going uphill or downhill) and once to stow them away. It’s true that the design offers only limited adjustment, but it’s also true that anyone with a cordless drill and 1/4 inch bit can change that. So, I for one appreciate MSR’s minimalist design and the uncompromising performance that it offers.
As I carry consistently heavy packs throughout the summer, I’ve leaned harder and harder on the poles each trip to baby my knee. I’ve pushed a ton of weight onto the poles and they are consistently strong and stiff. I’ve even lent them to kids for day hikes and no amount of sword-fighting or dragging has yet to bring out a flaw in their design. The carbide tip grips well and offers a secure hold on rock, moss or dirt. My only real gripe is that the poles are noisy – if there’s any slop in the SureLock system, you’ll get a ‘click’ every time you take a swing. One of my poles is silent, the other is quite noisy – c’est la vie.
Lastly, big kudos to MSR for their intelligent strap design. The straps are designated Left and Right (who cares?) and they’re a lovely soft suede-y material that is wonderful on the hands. They adjust quickly by Velcro to the perfect length and they offer tons of control and support, especially when going downhill. Lastly, if something crazy were to happen and a bear tried to run off with your pole in its teeth, the straps break away from the poles and can be reattached easily and quickly.
- Ultralight, minimalist design – it says it on the shaft and it’s true to form
- SureLock system works in all temperatures and conditions
- Straps are very well designed and comfortable
- Lightweight, uncomplicated design swings very easily
- Poles are very strong and stiff
- Poles can be noisy
- SureLock design has limited adjustment (unless you’re handy with a drill)
- Two-segment design stows rather long (29 inches), but that’s the nature of the design
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a straightforward pole that you could easily pass onto your great grandchildren, this is the one. There’s no fancy adjustment or elaborate shock absorber, just uncompromising strength and performance. Ultralighters may balk at the 15.8oz total heft, but they’ll probably find a way to craft a few bendy straws into a handy trekking pole anyway. And, it bears saying again: these are almost identical to the Flight winter poles, so don’t be afraid to cross seasons and snow baskets with these excellent poles.
Buy now: Available from Backcountry.com