The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II Ultralight Shelter System is a modular tarp shelter system with three components that can be mixed and matched depending on your trip requirements. Made with cuben fiber, it’s also very lightweight enabling it to be used by one or two people with little weight penalty.
The Echo II consists of three components that weigh 28.6 ounces when fully assembled:
- A two person catenary cut tarp which can be used by itself as an ultralight tarp
- A two person inner tent with solid walls and a waterproof floor, including a mesh ceiling
- An optional beak which can be attached to the tarp to create a front vestibule to prevent rain and wind from blowing into the front entrance
Let’s look at each of the components in turn:
Echo II Tarp
The Echo II Shelter System includes a catenary cut tarp which means that it has a curved ridgeline and side edges to make it more aerodynamic and help reduce the weight of the material required to make it. The tarp can be set up by itself when you don’t need the bug, ground, or wind protection provided by the inner tent and front beak.
Made using CF8 (.78 oz/yd) weight cuben fiber, the ridgeline of the Echo II tarp is taped, eliminating the need to seam seal it before use. The side edges of the tarp and tie-outs are sewn but there’s no need to seam seal these since they don’t pool any water.
The Echo II tarp has three guy lines on each side and two on the front and rear of the ridgeline. All of the guy-out points are reinforced with an extra layer of cuben fiber for additional strength and include pre-installed line-locs and spectra cord for easy setup.
The dimensions of the tarp are as follows:
- Length: 8’6″ | 102″ | 259.1 cm
- Front Width: 8’6″ | 102″ | 259.1 cm
- Rear Width: 6’6″ | 78″ | 198.1 cm
Weighing a total of 9.1 ounces, the tarp requires 8 stakes to pitch. The recommended height of the front pole is 52″/132 cm, requiring the use of a long trekking pole and a 40″ pole for the rear. When pitching the tarp, I found it best to use long 8″ Easton stakes for the ridgeline guy-outs and corners because there’s a lot of tension in the tarp when the guy lines are pulled taut, enough that shorter and thinner stakes are easily pulled out of the ground.
Echo II Inner Tent
The Echo II inner tent or what Hyperlite Mountain Gear calls an “insert” provides occupants with bug, rain, and wind protection. It is literally hung from the tarp, attaching to the underside of the ridgeline and the guy out points using mitten hooks, before being staked to the ground. Staking the corners of the inner tent to the ground helps maximize its interior width, which is large enough to fit two 20 inch sleeping pads, with room to spare. Titanium shepards hook stakes are sufficient for this purpose because the inner tent is not pitched under as much tension as the tarp above.
The insert has a deep bathtub floor, a solid rear wall and solid side walls to prevent rain, wind, and wet ground from compromising occupants’ gear, with a mesh roof to maximize ventilation and eliminate internal condensation. The bottom of the insert is made using more durable CF11 (1.14 oz/yd) while the sides and rear panels are made using CF8 (.78 oz/yd) like the remainder of the Echo II.
When the tarp is pitched at its recommended front pole height of 52″, there’s quite a lot of space between the tarp and the mesh ceiling of the inner tent, ensuring excellent airflow. While you can lower the front pole a few inches in storm mode, doing so creates some sag in the side walls of the inner tent wall, although not enough to compromise interior comfort or ground water resistence.
While the inner tent is sized for two people, it is somewhat cramped because of the sloping mesh ceiling. Entry and exit are also a bit cumbersome, particularly when the beak is deployed, because occupants must exit from the front of the inner which has a left hand zip only, squirming around each other and the center pole.
The weight of the inner tent is 14.9 ounces and it has the following dimensions:
- Length: 7’0 | 84″ | 213.4 cm
- Front Width: 4’4″ | 52″ | 132.1 cm
- Rear Width: 3’9″| 45″ | 114.3 cm
- Height: 3’5″ | 41″ | 104.1 cm
The back wall of the shelter is similarly shorter than the length of the rear pole, as shown. Given the difference between the height of the front pole (52″) and the rear pole (40″), occupants must position their heads at the front of the shelter. None of this is that surprising. It’s just important to understand because the manufacturer provided specs don’t provide a complete picture of the effective space inside the insert when it’s pitched.
The Echo II beak can be attached to the front of the tarp when you need more rain or wind protection at the head of the shelter. The design is very clever and is the most unique element in the Echo II shelter system. The beak weighs 4.5 ounces including spectra cordage.
The beak attaches to the front of the tarp in 5 places:
- A velcro collar wraps around the front pole
- Two snaps connect the beak to the front tarp guy lines
- Two mitten hooks connect the beak to the center tarp guy lines
The beak has a waterproof zipper down the middle so you can open one side for ventilation and keep the other closed for privacy. The beak secures to the ground using a front guy line and may require a little fiddling to stake out, since it has to fit over the front tarp guy line.
When installed the beak helps limit airflow through the shelter system as well as rain spray. While it doesn’t create a fully waterproof seal around the front pole or tarp sides, I never experienced any water leaking into the vestibule during rain storms.
I’ve been using the Echo II shelter system on trips this spring and summer and found it to be a versatile shelter system that’s excellent for New England camping in the cool, rainy, and humid conditions we often experience here. The air flow through the shelter keeps it comfortable and dry, even in warm and humid weather, although it can be a bit breezy on cold and windy nights. The shelter is bomber in rain and I’ve always remained dry when sleeping in it.
While the Echo II is designed for two people, it can also be used by a single person who likes a bit more interior room without a big weight penalty. There is however a loss of flexibility in the number of the sites where the Echo II will fit, since it requires a large space to set up. The biggest advantage of one person tarps is that you can wedge them in small spaces, and you lose that flexibility when you use a two person tarp.
While pitching the tarp alone is very straightforward, adding the inner tent and beak can be a bit time-consuming because there are a lot of mitten hooks to attach and elastic cords to adjust. I’ve also found the Echo II system to be very sensitive to pole height when you set the front pole up slightly lower than its recommended 52″, such as in storm mode. There’s a cascading ripple effect of adjustments required that kind of destroys the equilibrium of a perfect pitch, and it is hard to dial it in again. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I’d avoid lowering the front pole below 52″ and recommend you pitch the shelter in a more protected spot from heavy weather instead.
Finally, at 52″, the height of the front tarp pole is quite high and you should make sure that your trekking poles are sturdy enough when fully extended to support the shelter system. I can only pitch the Echo II with the longest set of trekking poles I own, Pacer Pole ALs, and even they they’re fully extended and at their weakest.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II Ultralight Shelter System is a modular set of shelter components that can be configured in different ways, making it ideal for long distance backpackers, climbers, and adventure racers who need a tough, durable shelter that can withstand a tremendous amount of abuse during a journey. The cuben fiber construction of the Echo II is absolutely bomber, but still very lightweight, making it a logical choice if you need a shelter to perform without failure.
What the Echo II lacks in relative comfort and headroom, compared to other ultralight tents, is largely irrelevant to outdoor adventurers, who only need a shelter for sleeping, or sheltering from weather conditions that are so bad that can’t go on. Still for its relative headroom limitations, the livability of the Echo II is not that bad if you’re chief concern is good airflow and minimizing internal condensation in hot or humid conditions.
At $675, the Echo II is probably overkill if you just want an ultralight backpacking tent for weekend trips. But if you are out to set a FKT and prefer a tarp-based shelter system with optional, modular components which you can choose to leave behind when conditions warrant, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II is a best of breed ultralight shelter system.
- Excellent air flow
- Can be pitched in the rain without wetting inner tent
- Long length for tall people
- The beak is very cleverly designed for modularity and low weight
- No seam sealing required
- Requires a large space to pitch
- Front pole blocks entry
- Height of inner tent is fairly low compared to a tent
- Requires a minimum of 13 stakes to pitch
- No pitching instructions or documentation provided with shelter
- Very expensive
Disclosure: Hyperlite Mountain Gear provided the author with a sample Echo II shelter for this review.
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