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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review on 01/11/2011 14:23:53 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review

Nick Klockenga

Locale: Chicago Area
heavy thunderstorm ... maybe not on 01/11/2011 16:59:38 MST Print View

I don't think that video qualifies as a "heavy thunderstorm", but I wish more reviews included videos like the above. I love the sound of rain on a tarp. I want to loop that sound and use it as sweet white noise to sleep to :-)

I like the modular system, but doesn't seem worth the price in this case. For $600 I could get a few different just as light, or lighter options.

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
URL on 01/11/2011 18:06:29 MST Print View

The URL you guys have posted for Alpinelite Gear is missing the 'lite' part!

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
apples and oranges on 01/11/2011 20:36:01 MST Print View

It's interesting to me that this is getting a recommended rating in comparison to tents. I've had the opportunity to set up this shelter (prototype echo1) and while I agree with some of the cons listed, particularly that the headroom is not extremely spacious, and that the price is a shocker; I have to ask, why are we comparing a tarps set up time to a tent? While I may on the minimalist side of the spectrum (sure hope so) I think this is the ideal shelter for ultralight backpacking. It should have phenomenal weather resistance given it's shape, the modular design allows adaptability for various trips, the guy system is one of the best I have used (I generally prefer a truckers hitch, but this works really well) and its bug net and the high bathtub floor "walls" eliminate the need for a bivy, somewhat compensating for the added weight of the bug net. Having spent a lot of nights with two adult fellas in a Golite hut 1, this seems like the obvious evolution of that design.

As mentioned in the review, the stormproofness offered by the beak of the HMG shelter is a distinct advantage over comparable tarp shelters, and for the devout minimalist can be left off. Of course it won't have the head room of a mid style shelter, because it's not one. The use of trekking poles to set it up supports it's categorization as a minimalist shelter, so why compare it to less minimalist shelters that require a separate pole (and I generally don't even hike with poles)? Just seems like it is comparing apples to oranges.

For what it is, a minimalist adaptable shelter I would highly recommend this shelter.

I just wish I could afford one!

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Good on 01/12/2011 03:40:26 MST Print View

Good job on the review Will. As an Echo I owner, I agree with everything. A bit more headroom would be nice, but the most important thing to me is that I'm crawling into a durable, well made shelter that provides worry-free protection from heavy rains, condensation and bugs for a very low weight.

FWIW, I have shaved several ounces off my Echo using lighter guyline, tensioners and shockcord as discussed at the link below. The main 3 components now weigh 21.2oz.

Edited by dandydan on 01/13/2011 13:40:58 MST.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Good on 01/12/2011 08:28:24 MST Print View

very nice review. good job.

Johnathan White
(johnatha1) - F

Locale: PNW
Review of the review on 01/12/2011 09:35:14 MST Print View

Even though I don't care for this shelter, I have to at least note that Will's reviews are top notch! Thanks again Will, and a special thanks for the videos. Love the rain on the Cuban.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review on 01/12/2011 16:03:36 MST Print View

Thanks for the excellent review. I appreciate the information. I hope you are able to review some of the gear that you put down as comparisons.

Mgm Heck
(Metck) - F

Locale: Netherlands
Rain on 01/12/2011 16:06:11 MST Print View

Indeed a very insightful review.

By the way, the sound of the rain on the shelter actually makes me long for a hiking trip.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

re on 01/12/2011 17:21:07 MST Print View

Hello Everybody,

I have been using the HMG Echo 1 (full production, non prototype) for a couple of months now. It has been used for about 45 nights here in the Redwood region of Northern California. The longest I have had it setup 24/7 was 11 days, in which it rained for all eleven days non-stop. On day 9 the tarp finally began to saturate. For comparison, a Zpacks cf tarp setup along side of it saturated on day 10 and a SpinnUL tarp saturated on day four.

As was mentioned by the reviewer, the head-height of the insert is an issue. I am 6'1 and my head hits the net just sitting up in it. After I inflate my NeoAir pad I am totally unable to sit up and am forced to crawl into/outof it. This will be the #1 reason (and only reason) why I will sell it once it gets back from a buddy who is trying it out. There is a point where I am willing to accept "cons" on the good/bad list and than there is a point where no matter how light or nice the rest of a product is, that one thing makes it unacceptable for thru-hikers or just those going out for a week or two. Most of you understand what I mean by this. Hitting your head every time you try to sit up, for me, is one of those things that makes me never want to use it.

I also had a serious issue with the zipper. The first day out it got stuck in one spot. I was able to get it loose but a few days later it got stuck again. To be clear: there was no pressure on the zipper the first time it got stuck. The insert was not staked down and it was not compressed in any way. However, there is an angle on the zipper path right where it makes the turn down/up and that is right where it got stuck the first time. The second time around I was in the insert and was totally stuck. I really was about five seconds away from ripping the insert in order to get out (had to water a tree, bad). Finally, I thought to myself "Ok, give it one really hard tug, it will either unzip or rip". Thankfully, it pushed past the stuck part and unzipped. It was the last night on-trail so once I got back home I started working with the zipper and after awhile I have gotten it almost working, but it still does gets stuck at times. Sadly, a small bit of the bug netting right where the original zipper-stuck area was, has split and now I have a couple of small holes in the insert. That really sucks. Clearly was an issue with either the development at that one spot (HMG has indicated to me they have not had any other zipper failures) or it was just plan bad luck on my part.

I did contact HMG about this and they agreed to do a swap for my broken insert for a brand new one. I also contacted HMG about a missing tie-out that was not included for the beak, which they sent out the next day.

My thoughts on the tarp:

Very nice. I do not understand why the reviewer said he had "flapping" issues. I have been able to get this tarp setup amazing tight so that there is zero flapping and zero material that is loose. Yes, it can consume a bit more ground-space than what one might expect, but after a few times you come to realize you do not need (and I have found it is actually better) to put your tie-out stakes far away from the tarp. I end up putting my stakes almost directly where the tie-outs connect to the tarp, maybe an inch or two away. Remember though that I live in the middle of a rain forest. Overall, this is one of the nicest tarps I have encountered.

My thoughts on the beak:

I like the beak. I wonder if the snap-buttons are really all that necessary. Could use clips instead and save a bit of weight. Been doing it that way on tarp beaks for a long time, so not sure why the snap-buttons are there. As many others (including myself) have said in the past, we/I do not care how much HMG says water will not get into the foot-end of the setup, this setup *needs* to be designed with a foot-beak. For the record, yes, I have got horizontal rain into the foot of the insert. Just once, and just a handful of drops. That was even when it was setup in the direction the wind was coming from at time of setup (hellish storm caused the weather to go back the direction it came from - oh boy, more rain, sigh). Other thing with the beak, it's a wee-bit hard to reach all the way out to the end of the zipper. That said, it does provide a great deal of room for storage. I can easily get my HMG Windrider, my shoes, and a few other small things within the vestibule area. Not an issue for myself, but the lack of a foot-beak also makes some be concerned about privacy. Totally understandable.

My thoughts on the insert:

As indicated above, and by the author of this review, it is just too low in head-height. That said - the #1 reason I bought this was because of the bathtub side-wall height. I wanted (actually, needed) something with 8-12 inch sidewalls (rain, rain, rain = always soaked and muddy soil). The HMG Echo 1 Insert has the highest bathtub sidewalls I have found of any insert. I beyond love this aspect of this setup!! But because of the lack of head-room I just cannot see me keeping this for any of my thru-hikes over the next few years (~3500 miles). As for the durability of the bathtub, it is very very tough. Unless I was somewhere that the ground was nothing but a bunch of very sharp rocks I would have no issue with setting up this system anywhere. Suppose if you really were worried the GG Polycryo ground cloth could be an option (and HMG has indicating they are planning on releasing their own CF ground cloth for the Echo 1) but I just do not see a need for it. I have also used the insert as a stand-alone. You do have to take something off the tarp and slap it onto the insert, but it is easy enough to do. Would make sense if they just put a grommet for your pole right onto the insert cord though.

My thoughts on setup time:

My first time setting it up took about three minutes. My time now for setting it up takes around 45-60 seconds depending on soil/stake issues and learning its tricks - no different than any other setup.

If you know you will be in an area where there will be a need for the insert day-after-day you can leave your insert attached to the tarp (and your beaks for that fact) and that saves about 30-45 seconds on setup time and makes packing it up all the much easier.

My thoughts on quality:

The decisions they made to use different weight cuben fibers in all of the different places are dead-on perfect. The seams are done the right way and not the wrong way when it comes to working with cf. HMG is one of the few that do it the right way and it shows in their quality and durability. Except for the small tear in my bug-net due to the zipper-getting-stuck-issue the bug netting is perfect.

So to summarize my own thoughts on this setup:

If you are under 5'9 and do not use an inflatable air pad this is one of the finest sub-2 pound setups I have encountered (and I have tried my share of them over the last few years, including the ones mentioned by the reviewer) and very likely is the finest. Yes, there are things you can do to shave a couple of ounces off of it, but I understand why it is shipped the way it is with those extra few ounces. Additionally, if you value your privacy or encounter horizontal rain the lack of a footer beak will be an issue. Setup time on this is very quick - especially if you leave everything attached to the tarp.

I would 100% recommend this tent setup for anybody in a 3-season situation, provided you are under 6-feet and do not use an inflatable sleeping bad. The price might seem a bit high but with the exception of a foot beak you are getting a whole lot of high quality cuben fiber for that price tag.

Eureka, California

(Jan 16, 2011: I have updated this post to reflect updated details and fix typos)

Edited by JohnAbela on 01/16/2011 06:20:37 MST.

John Giesemann
(johngiesemann) - MLife
Re: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review on 01/12/2011 17:54:58 MST Print View

In the Comparisons section, you note that neither the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwin tarp or the MLD Grace Solo or Grace Duo tarps have a beak. However, they are significantly longer than the HMG tarps. This should definitely have an effect at reducing the amount of rain that enters.

I currently hike with a Granite Gear White Lightning tarp (and really want to buy a lighter system such as the HMG, Gossasmer Gear Spinn Twin, or MLD Grace trap) that approximates the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwin tarp in size. When I pitch it in storm mode and get it oriented correctly to the wind, I have very little problems with rain.

Thanks for the always insightful reviews!

Edited by johngiesemann on 01/12/2011 18:01:05 MST.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Similarity on 01/12/2011 18:10:53 MST Print View

Looks a little like my Bilgy which is very similar in shape but not modular. The price of modularity would appear to be weight. The net in the Bilgy is fixed to the walls making the roof netting unnecessary. What this tent shows us most of all is that if some of its ultralight competitors were made of cuben instead of silnylon or spin,they'd weigh about half what the echo weighs.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Echo vs Contrail on 01/12/2011 18:42:51 MST Print View

Am I missing something here? The Echo I appears to be a nice piece of kit with high tech cuben and modularity, but for $300 less you can get a TarpTent Contrail which is a similarly shaped more spacious tent with room to sit up, even for tall people, and a weight penalty of only about an ounce, maybe two. (Remember the Echo I wt. is without stakes). I concede the Contrail is not modular, but I would bet most folks will end up taking all the Echo pieces along when they go out anyway, you never know when it's going to rain or how bad the bugs will be. Still the Echo is an interesting, albeit expensive, alternative.

Happy Trails,

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review on 01/12/2011 18:48:11 MST Print View

Good review.

IMO the price is too high (unless that is a typo)

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Contrail on 01/13/2011 13:51:37 MST Print View

Mark, the key difference is that the Contrail is a single wall shelter whereas the Echo I is almost entirely double wall (just the small area on the foot end is single wall).

Edited by dandydan on 01/13/2011 13:52:13 MST.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: Contrail- I should have said Gatewood on 01/13/2011 16:47:46 MST Print View


Yeah, I know there is a little of comparing Apples to Oranges. So I probably should have compared it to SMD's Gatewood Cape + SMD Serenity NetTent which is even lighter (18 oz w/o stakes), double walled, arguably modular, has more coverage than even the Echo II, more headroom, is half the price, and is dual use to boot. But you are right, it was not fair to compare it with a single wall Contrail. :-)


P.S. Dan, I am not knocking your choice. I'm sure the Echo is a great set up. It is just that, at the price, it is good to comparison shop. I love cuban and have a Z-pack to prove it. I really do appreciate the BPL reviews of all the new gear, but there is some old gear out there that compares favorably, and for some reason Will didn't mention the Gatewood combo.

Edited by markhurd on 01/13/2011 17:03:25 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: re on 01/13/2011 21:38:24 MST Print View


You're right that the SMD Gatewood Cap + Serenity net tent is a really nice combo. I think this whole design is brilliant. It's true that it's far cheaper, several ounces lighter, fully double walled and has more headroom. I personally dislike silnylon, but a cuben version of this combo would be really appealing to me.

HMG has a great product on their hands as well. IMO, they just need to add a bit of headroom and shave a little weight off since it would be easy to do. Several ounces could be saved with lighter guyline, lighter shockcord and 1.26oz cuben (instead of 1.48oz) for the floor. The price is par for the course for cuben and IMO cuben is worth the extra money over silnylon for several reasons (total waterproofness, weight, durability and non-stretch).

"The longest I have had it setup 24/7 was 11 days, in which it rained for all eleven days non-stop. On day 9 the tarp finally began to saturate."

John, can you explain this in more detail? Cuben is essentially plastic, so I don't see how it could saturate. Are you sure it wasn't just wet inside from condensation?

"this setup *needs* to be designed with a foot-beak."

I personally don't think it needs a foot beak, but if one was to be added I'd prefer it was just a flat wall that attached (like the GG SpinnShelter) rather than a beak design.

Edited by dandydan on 01/14/2011 10:50:59 MST.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

re on 01/16/2011 06:33:29 MST Print View


That is very hard to say... I am not sure. I am far from an expert on materials.

What I do know is this:

I've been around long enough to know what "saturation" is when it comes to most materials. CF is relatively knew to me (about a years experience with it) and while I understand that CF is not 'suppose' to saturate, there are times when it sure does seem like it does/is.

Here is the thing (and this is just 100% pure observation on my part)...

I have three different tarp material setup next to each other, say (a) silnylon, (b) SpinnUL, and (c) cuben fiber.

Eventually they all acquire that "saturation" appearance. Typically for me SpinnUL gets it first, than silnylon than eventually (as in many days later) the CF gets it.

All three are setup in the same exact spot (give or take a few feet for having 3 setup at once). Be it on dry ground, on grass, next to a creek, under a redwood tree, whatever.

The same exact characteristics that I have always known as "saturation" with Silnylon/SpinnUL is present on CF. Again, usually takes twice as long.

So, if you want to call this "saturation" of the Silnylon/SpinnUL and not call it "saturation" of the CF... hey, honestly, I got no grounds to stand on to argue the point, I just really don't. I have zero idea of the dynamics of material. I've just got the experience of living in a rain forest to know what happens to what material and how long it takes. Typically accounts for not a darn thing when you want to get technical, but as we all know, when your on-trail being technically right doesn't usually mean a darn thing, eh. The trail is what it is - reality. x-material saturates in x-days, y-material saturates in y-days, and z-material saturates in z-days... that's just how we have to approach living on the trail as I see it. shrugs.

Again, Dan, not a freaking clue as to whether CF actually saturates. Everything I have read about it indicates it takes one hell of a lot of water to permeate CF. Whether saturation of CF is different than what we know of as saturation of Silnylon/SpinnUL is just not one of those things I can call.


Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Thanks on 01/16/2011 14:06:22 MST Print View

Thanks John. I appreciate hearing your experiences. You must really learn a lot living in such a wet climate.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Re: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo Ultralight Modular Shelter System Review on 01/26/2011 11:23:30 MST Print View

To me this appears very similar to a RayWay tarp plus net tent plus "bat wing" done in Cuben instead of silnylon, with a catenary ridge instead of a straight one, and maybe a taller bathtub floor and zippered access to the net tent.

Does it differ any significant way?