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HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions
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Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions on 09/15/2010 16:46:13 MDT Print View

Today I spent I an hour or so setting up and playing with my new HMG Echo I shelter. Since there isn't a lot of info out there on this product (or company) I thought I'd share my impressions.

ECHO I TARP
The Echo I tarp is similar in dimensions (8.5' x 7' x 5') to other solo tarps out there (ie. MLD Grace Solo). It has catenery cuts on all the edges which makes a taut pitch easy.

Echo 1

Echo 3

I went with 46" for the front pole and a foot shorter than that for the rear pole as suggested by Mike from HMG. The shelter did not come with any setup instructions. Maybe a pdf on their website would be helpful for first time users.

The whole thing seems well made and well reinforced with bonded reinforcements at the tie outs, sewn edges and a really nice ridgeline. The ridgeline is some sort of a 'multi step bonded' flat felled seam which seems very well done. Perhaps the best cuben seam there is? The reinforcements are very thick cuben and feel quite robust.

Echo I Ridgeline

Detail shot of corner tie outs:
Echo 2

I don't have much else to add about the tarp. It's an excellently made tarp and I can't think of any complaints or suggestions for improvement, although if you are looking for just a stand alone tarp and don't want any other of the Echo components then the MLD Grace Solo is $5 cheaper, 3" longer, 0.4oz lighter and you can pay more for colors. The BPL Stealth Nano tarp is larger and lighter while using the same cuben but it costs a lot more ($320 for members). It appears to be lighter due to less use of heavier reinforcement patches but I don't really know. The material is the same so the weight difference must come from the reinforcements & hardware (LineLocs) . I did not measure this tarp to confirm the dimensions.

ECHO I BEAK
Attaching the beak is straight forward. You've got 2 snaps, velcro at the top and a few clips. I bet you could get it on in 30 seconds...maybe 15 seconds to win a bet. The key to a good beak pitch is to have the tarp set up in the proper 'A' shape.

Echo I Beak

If it's too splayed out then it will pull the front of the vestibule in. If the tarp walls are too steep then it creates slack in the beak sides like this:
Beak 2

The above picture is an example of a radically bad pitch that I did intentionally to illustrate the variables at play. Any reasonable tarp pitch will provide a functional beak and any fine tuning you do is mostly just that...fine tuning. I imagine I will eventually use pretty much the same pole height and guy line lengths once I'm done experimenting with it. I'll probably use a dab of white out on my adjustable poles to mark the pole height I prefer and trim the guylines to have a narrower range of adjustment.

I didn't observe the beak altering the pitch of my tarp as Rakesh did. A taut tarp pitch stayed taut when the beak was added.

Beak detail:
Beak 3

A double slider zipper is an appreciated feature for having a peek outside, pepper spraying that pesky bear or maybe for simulating a top vent:
Beak 4

I'm not sure what the best practice is for keeping the beak door open. You can tuck it under the guyline as shown below, but it seems like a gust of wind could pull it out of there pretty easily:
Beak 5

The only ideas for improvement of the beak that I can think of are:

1) A more secure way to hold the door open.

2) Devise some way to leave the beak attached, like using more snaps and less clips/velcro. If I know I'm going on a trip where I'll always be using it (ie. cold conditions or a rainy forecast) then it would be nice to leave it on and save a little time. I don't know if this would work, but maybe the guyouts along the side of the beak could be replaced with snaps (or just eliminated?). This would save the weight of the two ~5 foot guylines and 2 clips and 2 LineLoc's. It might not get the beak as tight though. Add 2 more snaps at the ridgeline instead of the velcro wrap and you might have a way to leave the beak on and save weight. I don't know if this would compromise the pitch of the beak though. The small potential savings in weight and time aren't worth a poorly fitting beak.

ECHO I INNER:
The inner clips to the tarp at 8 locations. 3 along each side plus 1 at each end. All of these use LineLoc3's and bungie cordage (1/8"?) except for the front attachment above the door which clips directly on.

Inner 1

Front attachment above the door. I'm not totally clear why this LineLoc3 is hanging there. I imagine it's for pitching the inner by itself without the tarp and the user needs to supply some sort of cordage and way of attaching the trekking pole. Maybe you attach a ring to that clip to go around the trekking pole point and then you can grab the guyline off of the tarp and run it through the LineLoc3 to stake it down?
Inner 2

The mesh door is held open by tying it open with the cord. Light & simple:
Door 5

A look inside:
Inner 3

A full length NeoAir:
Inner 4

When you clip the inner into place it attaches along the ridgeline about 6" in front the ends. If you pull it taut, this yanks down on the ridgeline a bit and creates this wrinkle at both ends. This doesn't really affect anything but it does tarnish the look of your formerly perfectly taut tarp:

Inner 5:

You can avoid this by clipping the inner to the guyline instead of the clip along the ridgeline. You can also minimize this by using less tension for the inner, but doing so decreases the volume inside the inner and I'd prefer to keep my space.
Inner 6

Some ideas for improvement are:

1) A bit more headroom would be nice so one can sit up in the middle. The floor area is fine.

2) Use 3/32" shockcord instead of 1/8 (EDIT: This works well with this existing guylines and saves ~0.5oz).

3) The new 1.2oz/yd cuben uses the same thick membrane as 1.5oz/yd cuben but with less spectra. This might a way to save an ounce or so off of the shelter with no ill effects.

ECHO I DIMENSIONS
The Echo I Inner is claimed at 7' (length) x 3' (front width) x 2' (rear width) x 38" tall at the front.

I measured the height of mine at the door at 37". This height drops pretty quick as you can see. You can really only situp inside right at the door way. This is what I expected and I am fine with this (I was considering a MLD Bug Bivy or Serenity Inner) but other should be aware that it's not huge inside.

37" at front:
Specs 1

The front width is claimed at 36" and I measured 32" (the tape measure body is 3"). That's a >10% discrepency.
Measure 1

The rear is claimed at 24" and I measured 20". As you can see a few photos up, the rear is no wider than a standard width NeoAir (EDIT: HMG's Specs have Changed).

Length is claimed at 84" and I measured 82". The front and rear walls are vertical so all of this length is usable. Length is not a concern for my 6' self:
Length

Overall, the interior size is adequate for my needs but I am a bit disappointed that the width is >10% smaller than specified (EDIT: HMG's Specs have Changed). This puts the floor area at basically the same size as the MLD Serenity Shelter (82" x 32" x 23"). The height is the same too, but the Echo I does have more room inside because the lower part of the walls are vertical or past vertical thanks to the bungie side tie outs.

As a counterpoint, the shelter is not the widest at the floor where I measured. The widest point is about 10-12" above the floor where the bungie cords connect and pull the inner wider (as you can see in some above photos). Perhaps HMG will say they measured at the 'widest point' which is a bit of stretch IMO, but it could be their explanation. If you measured the width of the inner at this height then you'd likely get results close to the specs. This width 10-12" above the floor actually adds a lot of volume inside where you need it (compared to sloping walls of the Serenity Shelter) because this is where your shoulders etc are. Despite having similar floor area dimensions as the MLD Serenity Shelter I believe the Echo I insert has significantly more usable interior volume. I guess it had better since the Serenity shelter is 2-3oz lighter. I definately prefer the Echo's 1.5oz cuben floor over a slippery and less waterproof silnylon floor.

ECHO I WEIGHT

Ahh yes...the exciting part and I've saved it for last. To cut right to it, here's what the Echo I is claimed at:

Tarp: 6.1oz (8.0oz with guylines)
Inner: 10.9oz
Beak: 2.8oz (3.5oz with guylines)
Full Echo System: 19.8oz (21.8oz w guylines)

Of note, the 3 claimed component weights add to 22.4oz with guylines, not 21.8oz.

According to my scale I observed:
Tarp: 6.21oz (8.08oz with guylines)
Inner: 11.49oz
Beak: 3.42oz (4.14oz with guylines)
Full Echo System: 21.2oz (23.7oz w guylines)

Also, the supplied stuff sack weighs 0.51oz.

My intention is to pair this shelter with six 8g stakes (ridgeline & corners) and six 2g stakes (sides of tarp, 4 corners of inner). That brings the total to 26.3oz with guylines, stuff sack & stakes.

In just tarp + inner mode I'm looking at 22.2oz with stakes and the stuff sack.

In tarp + beak mode I'm looking at 15.8oz with stakes and stuff sack but I'd want to add a groundsheet too.

Overall, my Echo I system comes in 1.4oz overweight due to the tarp being fairly accurate (+2%) but the inner (+6%) and the beak (+22%) being overweight.

Perhaps the reason why the inner is 0.6oz overweight is because HMG may have made some changes since the website was created. On the website the photos of the inner show only 4 perimeter bungie guyout points (at the 4 corners) and there is not a guy out point along the sides like there is on mine. This extra 2 guyouts is likely the cause of the most of the 0.6oz. This extra guyout is appreciated for maximizing internal space.

DISCUSSION
Overall I really like the shelter. The quality is great and that's a really important thing. I would have liked to see some of the specifications match a little closer to what I measured (EDIT: HMG has revised the specs). It's not a huge deal and most of the specs aren't way off, but it would instill more confidence in buying future products if the specs were a bit closer.

It does seem possible to save a significant amount of weight off of this shelter by replacing the guylines and bungie cordage. The guylines total 2.6oz and the bungie cord is 1.4oz.

I haven't measured the included bungie cord but it's pretty thick (edit: it's 1/8"). My guess is that it's this thickness to work with the LineLoc3 adjusters. Using 1/16" bungie cord with the LineLoc 3's removed would likely save an ounce. I may do this.

For the guylines I may partially replace them with thinner pure spectra cord and just leave enough of the original guylines to work with the LineLoc3 tensioners. Most of the beak guylines in particular could be changed to about 10" of the original guyline to allow for adjustment and then attach that to lighter cordage. By replacing the cord where possible I would estimate another ounce could be saved.

Edited by dandydan on 01/12/2011 03:15:29 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
objectivity is our friend. on 09/15/2010 16:54:01 MDT Print View

Dan,
Thanks for a good, solid, objective look at some HMG products!

Adam Kramer
(rbeard) - F

Locale: ATL, Southern Appalachia
Re: HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions on 09/15/2010 17:05:16 MDT Print View

Dan the man, excellent review. you should get your BPL rank back for that one.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Rank on 09/15/2010 17:17:48 MDT Print View

What happened to my BPL Rank that I need to get it back?? Did someone snitch about that map I packed recently without trimming off the margins?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Rank on 09/15/2010 17:19:35 MDT Print View

Addie threw the BPL rank right out the window for everyone. It doesn't exist anymore.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Rank on 09/15/2010 17:24:42 MDT Print View

Bummer...I'll never get my free spork :)

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions on 09/15/2010 17:25:12 MDT Print View

Very nicely done review.

What's it like trying to enter the inner tent after a long hike? I find it hard enough to enter my Hexamid. It makes me really appreciate how you can practically fall into a tent.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Entering on 09/15/2010 18:07:24 MDT Print View

The door is high enough that you don't need to enter feet first like you are crawling into a bivy. You can 'fall' in to your knees or butt, however you won't get very far into the shelter in this position though since the height of the roof drops quickly. Once you are a foot or so into the shelter you either need to rotate to a feet first position to get your legs down to the far end, or you can just sit in the doorway, likely doing a 180 degree turn so you can face out and take off your shoes or whatever. IIRC, I 'fall in' to my knees and then spin around to take off my shoes while sitting. Then I spin back and shuffle my butt in with my feet leading the way and my head sorta staying in the same place.

Compared to the Hexamid (which I've never used), it seems like this has a bigger door, but then it's smaller to sit up once you are actually inside. The Hexamid looks quite roomy inside. Initially I was going to get a Hexamid Duo with a sewn in cuben floor like Douglas Ide but I decided on the Echo I even though it's a couple ounces heavier and less roomy inside because I like being protected from condensation more than a like space, because I feel that this is more storm worthy than a Hexamid and because I like the versatility of using just the tarp and being extremely light. It allows me to experiment with tarp camping without committing to it.

Edited by dandydan on 09/15/2010 21:16:02 MDT.

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Nice Review! on 09/15/2010 18:15:11 MDT Print View

Nice job on the photo's and review.

Cheers,
Lawson

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Nice Review! on 09/15/2010 18:30:42 MDT Print View

Great review Dan. The product looks well constructed and nicely designed too. Hope you get good service from it. I have 7m of Breen CT2k08 waiting for me to attack it with a cutting tool. Still havering over design. I like the look of the Echo 2 a lot...

HMG main thread:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=34831

Edited by tallbloke on 09/15/2010 18:33:42 MDT.

Michael Williams
(mlebwill) - F

Locale: Colorado
Excellent Review on 09/15/2010 20:21:58 MDT Print View

Great post Dan. I really liked the Corner Tie-out picture, the craftsmanship looks first rate. I can't wait to hear your thoughts after some continued used.

Mike

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Cordage? on 09/15/2010 20:28:34 MDT Print View

Dan,
What kind of cordage is supplied? How does it compare to Triptease? I've noticed that after a while, Triptease can "wear out" and begin slipping through the lineloc tensioners.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Cordage on 09/15/2010 20:47:41 MDT Print View

Regarding the cordage, from the HMG site:

"...Spectra core, polyester exterior line. It is incredibly strong and HMG uses 2.8 mm for its shelters... note that the guylines are slightly thicker, and thus slightly heavier than required. This is due to current limitations on hardware procurement. We are working on getting smaller linelocks"

The guylines are quite stylish as HMG has got them custom made to match the HMG colors. Unfortunately they are pretty heavy too, but HMG is right that its really a problem with the hardware availability. I'd love to see smaller LineLoc's available that work like LineLoc3's. LineLoc3's are designed for 2.5 to 3mm cord (from the manufacturers site).

I've got some 1/16" pure spectra cord (1.6mm) that does not work with LineLoc3's (it slips) but it's close enough that I suspect thicker pure spectra would work even though spectra is less grippy than polyester. I believe pure spectra would be a lot lighter. I may order some 2.5mm pure spectra to see if that works and how much lighter it is. You can get it on eBay for about $5/10 ft. 3mm is available as well but the strength of that is just way overkill. Even 2.5mm spectra is huge overkill at 1200 lbs breaking strength. This blue 2.5mm pure spectra cord is sweet but I can only find it in 330 ft increments for $106.

Spectra Blue
http://cgi.ebay.com/DYNEEMA-ROPE-2-5MM-100-MTS-Available-5diff-Coloures-/330380630631?pt=UK_Sporting_Goods_Sailing&hash=item4cec385a67

Sort of chopping off the LineLoc3's and using the lighter micro tensioners with thinner line, the lightest option is likely a few feet of 2.5mm pure spectra to provide adjustability and then use thinner pure spectra for the rest of the guyline. I've got some 100 lbs test pure spectra fishing line that might work good but I suspect it's not actually pure spectra because it has more stretch than spectra normally does. It's too bad that there's no easy to way to put LineLoc3's back on. Chopping them off is so permanent that it makes me hesitate. They're heavy but nice to use.

Edited by dandydan on 09/15/2010 20:49:59 MDT.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Cordage on 09/16/2010 03:52:05 MDT Print View

'Heavy' being a relative term here. :-)

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions on 09/16/2010 06:00:57 MDT Print View

Thanks for the review Dan! HMG seems like they make a very nice, extremely well made product, however, it is heavier, smaller, and more expensive than my very similar Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter - Alpinlite Bug Tent 1.25 combo.

The Spinnshelter/Bug Tent combo is lighter at 20.35oz with gulines, linelocks, and seam sealing and offers full foot end protection that the Echo does not.

The bug Tent is larger too:

Head End Width: 42"
Foot End Width: 28"
Height: 38"
Length: 84"

Brian Cripe
(brian.cripe) - F

Locale: Midwest
Cordage on 09/16/2010 06:12:36 MDT Print View

You may be able to cut the sheath off of part of the supplied line, and leave the sheath on the end of the line where you need adjustment. The sheath can then be woven back into the core at the cut (or simply melted off there - weaving back is neater though). If you're looking for guidance on how to do this, check out sailing line guides - it's a common practice on certain lines for larger racing boats to reduce friction/weight without sacrificing strength.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions on 09/16/2010 08:08:07 MDT Print View

Thank you for taking the time to write this up.

Very well done and could serve as a model for others!

John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
Best Review! on 09/16/2010 09:37:59 MDT Print View

My jaw dropped at how well you covered your review of the HMG Echo 1 tent. Way to go! It looks like HMG really cares about their craftmanship. Weight issues are always difficult. The next one that goes out their door may be lighter then advertised.......or heavier then yours.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"HMG Echo I - Initial Impressions" on 09/16/2010 10:25:24 MDT Print View

I'll just echo, no pun intended, what others have said about your review, it was of the utmost quality and detail, it rocked! I don't even have the slightest inkling (or checkbook) of a desire to pick up the HMG Echo I shelter but I found myself reading every bit of your review, the "written by an UL'er for the UL'er" style and simplicity is what BPL could use a little more of, nice and objective.

From what I can see in your photographs, the build quality and craftsmanship looks very tight and deliberate, nothing sloppy about the Echo I it seems. The modularity of the Echo I system is very well thought out and stands apart, sure there are several modular options available for tarp users from other companies in the form of bug canopies, bivy's, inners, etc, many as an afterthought. But I can't think of any 3 part component catenary tarp setups that are this refined using a beak, inner, and tarp. The closest thing I can think of is the Golite Shangri La 1, perhaps the MLD Patrol.

Robert Carver
(Rcarver) - MLife

Locale: Southeast TN
Spinnshelter on 09/16/2010 13:20:42 MDT Print View

Brad, I made the same comparison a while back. The Spinnshelter is my favorite shelter. Combining it with the Alpinlite bug bivy gives the user some very nice set up options.