Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north


Time to start the in-depth reviews of some of the gear used in Russia. I had the Hyperlite Mountain Gear ECHO I Shelter System since a couple of months, doing a few overnighters in it and then of course putting it up and down for eight nights in a row in Russia. Enough nights spent under it to make a objective review, and to let you know if it is worth the money.

Lets start with the basic details, the weights as they were when I got my shelter system:

Tarp: 228 g incl. guylines (HMG site: 226 g)
Beak: 112 g incl. guylines (HMG site: 116 g)
Inner: 305 g (HMG site: 325 g)
Stuff sack: 15 g (HMG site: 15 g)
Total: 660 g (HMG site: 682 g)

Nine Titanium pegs: 72 g
GG LT4 Trekking Poles: 198 g
Total: 270 g

The weights on the HMG site are without guylines attached, (I took the HMG weights with guylines as stated by Dan on the BPL forum in this thread); also, I got a pre production sample so the to-be-expected weights are what's stated on the HMG site, which are not far off as you can see.

In case you're still asking yourself, what is it made of, then the answer is cuben fibre. It is my first cuben shelter, and the weight saving in comparison to my Gossamer Gear Spinntwinn is 52 g. The advantage with cuben versus spinnaker is that cuben is 100% waterproof and even more tear resistant, and well, super strong and lighter. As a UL backpacker, lighter (usually) equals better.

Now that we got the important bits out of the way, lets get to the tasty chunks. As a starter, I serve today this HD video of how to set up the complete shelter.

Click here to see the Youtube version.

There were some questions about the speed of my pitch, and if it does take so long or if it is difficult to set up the ECHO I. The short answer is "No". The more detailed answer is, in the video I try to do it more slowly to be able to show and explain things, and not just hurry through it as I would in a downpour when on a mountain. I'm also a perfectionist when it comes to setting up my shelter, so I make an effort to get it pitched flawless. Hence the "slow" speed, for a normal, flawless pitch I need around three to five minutes, which probably seems like an eternity to people sleeping in a Tarptent Moment. Anyhow.

Bird's view.

I have used the tarp mostly, as there aren't much bugs around anymore which would make me take the inner. I am thinking about if I might take the inner in winter, but am not sure yet. The beak was used on the days that I got extra gear (as a Daily Guide you get to carry a Satphone, GPS and two massive First Aid kits) so the extra space came in handy. Also if it is raining or very windy, the beak will come in handy. And of course one could use the beak as a Mini tarp just for the head when bivying.

When good stake-out points are rare, attach it to a tree!

The tarp is one person + plenty of gear size, though you could squeeze with two and gear under it if you really like each other. I found it perfect for my needs, the smaller size also means I need less space for pitching it, which is great - so often in Russia I pitched in places where there was no a lot of good spots, so having a small tarp definitely put me at an advantage - my SpinnTwinn would not have fit some of the spots where I pitched, as it is so much wider than the ECHO I. So if you tarp a lot in areas where space for a good, perfect pitch, is at a premium, you will, like me, value the good size of the ECHO I.

Extra rain and wind protection with the beak.

Speaking of size, the ECHO I tarp is 262 cm long, 213 cm wide in the front and 152 cm wide in the back. I can fit all my gear underneath the tarp, often at the foot end while only keeping the essentials - puukko, headlamp, water, camera - with me in the front, but I also can spread them out, for example while packing.

Spread out gear.

The quality is topnotch, as you would expect. The tarp has catenary curves everywhere - ridgeline, front, end and sides - and instead of sewing them, which would weaken the material, they're bonded. The tie out points are reinforced and it comes with custom made, that means in HMG's colours, guylines. My problem with the guylines is that they're a bit heavier than other lines, and also they're not reflective. I like reflective guylines, as they help other people not to trip over them - that's my usual problem & worry.

In case you're not using trekking poles, you also can cut & sharpen sticks and pitch with them.

On to the beak. A very nice addition for when wind and rain are coming down horizontal from every direction. It is easy to attach with the help of buttons, as you can see in the video or on the photo underneath. It comes with a two way zipper which is waterproof, and it runs very smooth and doesn't get stuck in other material. Now attaching should be done under the front guyline, but I always do it over the front guyline as that's easier for me. You can attach both beak and front guyline to the same peg, but I like to use two different pegs. Also, when using the beak you should tie out the sides, something I usually don't do. While possible to do without, it is tauter and more stable when you do.

Furthermore, and these questions have been raised elsewhere as well, some might wonder why there's no beak or wall for the back - after all, when you pitch into the wind and then it turns 180°, what then? The reason (or my reason, for that matter =) is that HMG assumes you'll use the complete system, so tarp, beak and inner. The inner, as you'll see, has a full wall in the back and thus would, if used with the beak, provide 360° coverage. Just looking at the weights, I personally would rather have a wall or beak for the back instead of the inner, as that separate beak/ wall for the back would be lighter than the inner.

Buttons to attach the beak in front.

D-Rings to attach the beak at the side tie-outs.

Back wall of the inner.

Thus the inner. The heaviest piece of the shelter system, it gets attached with bungee cords to the tarp and you can get it nice taut with the line-locks. I haven't used this at all yet on a trip, but given that you can pitch it on its own - bug invested summer days - or with the tarp - bug invested summer days with rain - I can see it as a possible replacement for the LightHeart Gear Solo tent I used last summer. It has a tough black cuben floor and high sidewalls, as well as the aforementioned cuben back wall. The top and front have no-see-um mesh, and the door is fully openable with a two-way zipper.

Front door of the inner, with and without beak.

The inner is 185 long and tapers from 81 cm wide in the front to 51 cm in the back. It is enough for you and your sleep system, but your gear will stay outside. That shouldn't be a big problem, though, as there's still plenty of tarp covered space to hide under for it. You can peg out the inner with the loops at all four corners, which makes life a bit easier and also keeps it in place.

Full system - inner, tarp & beaks.

While moving in, pitching the front slightly higher.

As the regular reader knows, I really enjoy tarping, so it is with great pleasure that I now carry even less weight with me when out on a trip. The modularity and high craftsmanship of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear ECHO I is its strongest selling point. You buy one system to suit all your needs. For spring and autumn you take the tarp and maybe beak, in the summer its the inner and tarp and in winter you take all three to have a bomb-proof shelter.

What I could imagine, taking HMG's modular approach on step further, is that they could introduce a full cuben inner with small mesh windows at the top for winter use. In winter I'd like to keep the wind at bay, and with a double-wall shelter I even might gain a degree or two in warmth. I also can imagine that it's lighter than the mesh version =) I'd also like to see a beak/ wall for the back on those days where I wouldn't take the inner but would like full 360° protection.

To conclude, I really like the ECHO I and I believe it could become my dedicated solo trip shelter. Its small footprint, light weight and modularity all speak in favour of it. It is easy and fast to pitch, looks great, and it is a joy to wake up under! It packs very small and I carry it, like my other tarps, in the outside pocket of my pack so it is easy & quickly accessible. Finally, I will use this shelter during the coming winter, so you can expect a long-time review sometime next spring.

The price for the ECHO I is 490$ plus shipping, and you can order one directly at Hyperlite Mountain Gear. If you want to learn more about HMG, check out the interview with Mike St. Pierre, the Founder and CEO of the company, which I did a while back.

Pitch on a ridge with a view.

The Week in Review

Nothing to see here, please move on.

UL backpacking in Belgium with Odinius and friends in Signal de Botrange.

John went backpacking in Gyeryongsan National Park in South Korea. Beautiful!

Keith was on the Mourne Wall and this teaser is very teasing!

Cedar & Sand did their annual Torrey trip.

Royal Wulff encounters spiders.

James went for a 24 h trip.

Dondo visits Eagles Nest.

Phil from Fat & Sh1te writes about the Nokia Coast 2 Coast 2010.

Vito spent a day on the North Shore. Lovely.

Joe, fellow Nordic Lightpacking fellow, also went on a 24 h trip and comes back with superb photos. Recommended read.

Steven, Kuksa photograph extraordinaire, takes a backseat on Coledale - actually, wait, just head over to Helen's blog and read her account titled "Coledale Zen"!

Chris Townsend is back from the USA and writes about the hills of home.

Dave reports on Bivvies and Bothies.

Geoff did a four day Lakeland traverse and has splendid photos of cloud inversions in his report, a recommended see!

Chris and partner visit La Puerta in Andalaucia.

Roger enjoys the beach, rainbows and wind mills along the coast - who wouldn't?!

Damien posted a video of his Teton traverse that he and some BPL trekking course alumni did. Awesome, a must see!

Mark reviews the Suunto Core Extreme, and he did an excellent job on the review - recommended read!

Robin muses about Paramo and the micro minority.

Chris has a first look at his Custom Hyperlight Mountain Gear Echo II Shelter System.

terry has a brief chat with the founder of Gram-Counter Gear plus a video of the LiteHouse Solo shelter.

Lighthiker is playing with something from LAUFBURSCHE.

Minimalgear has a short short review on a couple of pieces of kit which he used on his Lakes trip.

Richard reviews the Paramo Velez Adventure Light.

Fiona writes on the benefits of winter fitness and why it is good to be outdoors.

Philip likes to do the laundry, and tells us how to wash our eVent garments.

Alan Sloman shows us some gore! I hope the hand heals well, Alan.

Perkunas thinks about Bushcraft.

Maz analyzes trekking poles and their pros & cons.

Yeti made a frame bag for his new, awesome bike.

Gear That Worked and Gear That Didn't III

Plenty of old and trusted gear, mixed with some new gear, and also some mandatory and traditional pieces of gear, here's the packlist of my trip to Russia and my evaluation of it. Get ready for some Geartalk!

As in previous discussions in the article here, I use Skin-out as the boundary. That puts me 365 g over the Lightweight limit, OMG!

Backpack: A bigger version of the LAUFBURSCHE huckePACK, made from Dyneema X Grid. 49 l with up to 10 liters more, it was big enough to carry all my gear and ten days of food - comfortably! I had by far the smallest and most compact backpack, something I find, if walking off-trail in forests an enormous benefit - it means less whiplashes for the people behind me and less get tangled up in trees and shrubbery.

Shelter: The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo I Tarp & Beak were my home at night in Russia. Light and roomy and giving plenty of protection for me and my gear, it was a great shelter which will see more use in the coming months. Theoretically I wouldn't have needed the shelter at all, as it didn't rain - but then I already brought it, and just using a bivy might have been too "extreme" in terms of me using other gear than the rest of the group and standing out even more wasn't necessary. Detailed review forthcoming.

Sleeping: A MLD Alpine bivy with a Dyneema X Grid bottom and eVent 2L top, purchased from a BPL member, was the extra protection against wind and rain (well, moistness from underneath as it didn't rain). The decision for the MLD Alpine was made after reading how happy Dave was with his, as well as expecting more rain. The Exped Groundmat was a present from Jonas and I am glad I took it. The ground was moist and mossy at most campsites, so having a mat on which to lay out gear was welcome.

That I love quilts should be well known to the regular reader by now, and my GoLite Ultra 20 performed well yet again and kept me nice and warm. The Artiach Skin Micro-Lite was a new try on how comfy and warm self inflating pads can be, and I wasn't disappointed. A more detailed review will come in the future.

Kitchen: I carried the Bushcooker LT III as common gear for my food partner and me, but as we were able to make a fire each day it wasn't needed. The SnowPeak 1400 was perfect and will be my go-to pot for the coming months, offering plenty of space to melt snow and also to make bannock and pancakes. The Alpkit Lhoon is affordable and perfect for my type of cooking, and service from Alpkit is outstanding. A new drinking vessel is my Kupilka 21 kuksa, lighter than my wooden one and a bit bigger - just right for a cup of coffee or tea. A more detailed review on Kupilka crockery and cutlery is coming, so stay tuned.

Clothing - Worn: Woolpower for underneath. Rab Drillium pants as usual - I expected rain, remember? - though I switched to a Rab Demand Pull-On this time around. Splendid smock, it breaths fantastic, is light and the one pocket is much more to my liking than two. Detailed Review forthcoming.

Finisterre Zephyr Merino Boxer Shorts for that next-to-skin comfyness, warm, non-smelly, looks good. Wouldn't take anything else anymore when I go backpacking, be it one night or two weeks.

Inov-8 OROC 280 on my feet, perfect grip on any surface and so much lighter and more comfortable than the rubber boots the rest was wearing. Detailed review forthcoming.

SnowPeak 1400, Inov-8 OROC 280, Woolpower 200 socks.

MLD gaiters = great, Suunto Core = detailed review in the future, but I can say that I liked it a lot (first watch I'm wearing in twenty years!) and also the GG LT4s were excellent. Only one member of the group used trekking poles, and while I myself am only a recent convert I found them very beneficial. On super swamp day they allowed me to probe the ground, on summit day they made the climb up and down simpler, and in the evening they were used to pitch my tarp. I think they're a good investment for people with joint and back problems, as they seem (so others tell me) to take some of the stress of them. More on them in detail as well.

Clothing - Carried: Klättermusen Loke is awesome, detailed review coming after using it for over a year. The PLQ pants and pullover from Integral Designs were with me in case it would have got cold and also as wet weather insulation. I wore the PLQ pullover every day, the pants twice. If I would have known that it wouldn't rain I would not have taken either, as the Loke could have taken the duty. Extra socks were a recommendation, though taking both the 600 and 800 was overkill and the 600 would have been enough.

The MLD eVent rain mitts I yet have to wear when it rains. It seems they're my good weather charm, and if I need to carry 36 g for it to stay dry then that ain't too bad, me thinks. The Cyclone Buff is excellent and was worn during the summit day, where it was so windy that if I would have jumped up in the air I likely would have flown a couple of meters with the wind! Trekmates GoreTex socks for camp, as usual.

Photography: I carried a new test camera on this trip, sans spare battery - so all photos from this trip - nearly thousand - were taken with the Panasonic Lumix G2. I'll not lose much words on the camera now as I'll write a more detailed review on it in the future; though the photos already can give you an idea of it.

So, where should I go?

Various: Puukko as my trusted knife & also a mandatory item. Recta DT 220 compass, used twice: On the day I was guiding and on the last night, because it is easy to get lost in the dark if you camp on top of a ridge! Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe as mandatory group gear, a very nice axe which I used quite a few times. Sharp, well balanced and practical if you need to split wood for a fire or cut down a dead tree to make a pole for your tarp. Detailed Review forthcoming.

Suunto Comet, my small compass & thermometer, always handy but with the Recta compass and my Suunto Core maybe not necessary anymore. Baby powder was a last minute buy for footcare, in order to keep feet in good health after walking through swamps. As I used only 11 g in nine days the whole package was unnecessarily big, need to refill it for future trips in appropriate portions. The iPhone was dead weight, and I also had not enough time to read so both book and phone could have stayed in the car. Princeton Tec Remix headlamp was just perfect for this time of the year, the red light is so much more comfortable on the eyes when walking in the dark as it doesn't kill the natural night vision of the human eye (white light does).

Personal First Aid kit wasn't needed, also not the fixing stuff. Hygiene, I could have taken less soap (should have taken a Mini Dropper bottle!), everything else was ok. Maybe I should have cut my toothbrush shorter to safe some extra weight?

Conclusion: All gear worked excellent, though some was too much - I think I could have taken a few pieces less and still have been as comfortable as I was now. In comparison with the other students I think I was just as well-equipped and comfortable (if not better, oh my!), but given that I carried less weight on my back in a more compact pack I believe I had a better experience. Less weight means less stress on joints and back, it is easier to navigate in difficult terrain, one can carry less food and overall can enjoy the walking part more as ypu don't need to just watch your steps. Not being able to have a blazing fire in front of my cuben tarp was the only shortcoming of my UL gear, though I can life with that. So that was the Russia gear extravaganza. Comment away if you have questions, comments or observations =)