Rating: 5 / 5
I wasn't sure where to put this review as the Echo I can be used as either a tarp or a double wall tent.
I've given the Echo I five stars because it's quality construction and versatile modularity make it a great shelter for a range of conditions with no significant downsides. It can effectively act as a solo tarp, full protection tarp or double wall shelter.
The Echo I is an extremely well made shelter. It is well reinforced and well stitched/bonded, which gives me confidence that it will hold up for a long time.
The Echo I system includes a tarp, tarp beak and inner net tent that weigh 8.0, 11.5 and 4.1oz respectively in their original state. By replacing the LineLoc3's, 2.8mm guyline and 1/8" shockcord with microLineLocks, 1.4mm guyline and 3/32" shockcord, I lowered the weights for these components to 6.8oz, 11.0oz and 3.4oz respectively. I retained the LineLoc3's on the inner net tent as they work well with the 3/32" shockcord.
In combination with the included 0.5oz stuff sack and not included 0.3oz (8g) stakes, the Echo I can be set up as a 9oz solo tarp, 12.5oz full protection tarp or 23.9oz double wall tent.
Setting up the Echo I is not as fast as setting up a tent. I haven't faulted the Echo I for this because the main reason is simply that tarps take longer than tents to setup. The longest part of the setup is getting the Echo tarp setup with 8 stakes and two hiking poles. I like to use 46" at the front and about 30" at the rear. The rear height doesn't really matter. Once the tarp is setup and taut, the beak attaches quickly and easily with a few snaps and clips. The inner also clips into place fairly quickly and if you left it attached from last time you used it then you'll save time. It takes me about 5 minutes to setup the tarp, 1 minute to add the beak and 2 minutes to add the inner and stake it down. The main setup tip I find to be helpful is to clip the inner to the tarp ridgeline guylines, rather than to the clips on the underside of the tarp. This pulls 'out' on the inner more and I find it easier to get a taut inner pitch.
In simple tarp mode, you've got a normally sized solo tarp which provides enough space for one sleeper and not much else. Adding the beak really increases the space inside. With the beak you'll have lots of room to store everything inside. I'm not normally a tarp user because mentally I like to be fully enclosed by my shelter. By using the Echo I tarp with the beak, and by leaning my pack against the short trekking pole at the back to largely block that opening, I can sleep well feeling safely enclosed. I add a ground sheet to sleep on (3oz of 3mil plastic) and I've got a fully enclosed, but not bug proof shelter for about a pound total weight with groundsheet, stakes, bag etc.
When bugs are a concern, I take the inner net tent instead of the groundsheet. The net tent isn't huge inside but it's adequate. I can only sit up right by the door way. A bit more headroom would be nice, but it's not a big deal. The large vestibule is awesome.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
1) Switch the net tent floor to the new lighter 1.2oz cuben which uses the same durable membranes as 1.5oz cuben and save an ounce or so.
2) Use 3/32" shockcord instead of 1/8" shockcord for the inner net tent to save weight with no ill effects.
3) If possible, a little more headroom would be nice but I'm not sure it's practical to do this because you'd need to pitch the tarp higher, which would allow more wind in unless you actually had a larger tarp which would add weight and cost. You'd really end up with the Echo II.
4) Choice in colors would be nice.