Deva Makes it to Maine with her Ultralight Windrider and Echo Shelter

I made it to Maine!

But first, a little about the Whites. I entered the Whites July 11, doing 18 miles over Mt Moosilauke with Porter, Pace, Toto, Crop Duster and Dreamwalker. The view was gorgeous, but the climb down was a bit treacherous. The next morning, the Whites lived up to their name and the mountains were capped with fog. We stopped into Lonesome Lake Hut for free leftover pancakes that made a grim day look brighter. We then hiked into North Woodstock to resupply our Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windriders, and pushed back onto the trail.  I stealth camped above 4,000’ in my Echo I Shelter just below Mt Lincoln.

5:00AM came early as we headed into more fog. After three bowls of split pea soup at Galehead Hut, things were clearing up. Crop Duster and I stayed at Zealand Hut and did work for stay. We got to sleep in the warm hut and eat leftovers in exchange for 30 minutes of cleaning. We did feel a bit like dogs as we waited on the porch while the real guests ate dinner; sleeping under the tables didn’t help the feeling either.  The following night I stayed at Lakes of the Clouds Hut in the Refugee Room, for emergency use only.

I was the first and only person at the summit at 6:45AM the next morning.  Crop, Spike and The Maine Boys followed.  It was a gorgeous day, but windy at the top. We ran the ridge down to Pinkham Notch, and with tummies full of trail magic, we climbed up and camped atop of Wildcat Mountain.

After some R&R in Gorham, I pushed out and crossed the Maine border! It felt so good! Mahoosuc Notch was really fun and I got to work on my flexibility bending around and under boulders. I saw a moose, and many beautiful ponds (I can’t wait to jump in one!) I’m staying in Rangeley with my parents tonight and am hoping to summit Katahdin August 4th!

Steve Graepel and Chris Minson, on an 850 Mile Idaho Traverse

When I moved to Idaho, I picked up the gazetteer’s map and almost immediately noticed the dashed black line running through its pages. The arc delineated the Idaho Centennial Trail, an 850-mile trek from Nevada to Canada… I filed it away in my black book of to-do’s.

As I began to explore my new home, that black line continued to creep into my maps. The Sawtooths, The Frank, the Owyhees… there it was. The Centennial trail was devised to cut through the best of the State, and I didn’t have the time–or the urge–to hike it all. Studying the maps, I noticed key rivers flowed north before turning west to the Columbia. The wheels began to take traction. Why not boat the rivers, then cycle or pack between the drainages?

So I devised a plan that would move us through a northerly route in an expeditious way. Success hinges on embracing “fast and light,” using featherweight kits with minimal supplies. But it’s not enough to just have the latest carbon and cuben fiber. It’s critical to be trained in body and mind to go fast, smart, and ultimately be smart enough to go light.

My adventure background stems from mountaineering and distance running, where training has always been a core part of the journey. It’s a habit woven pretty tightly into my fabric. So when someone asks how I get in shape for an endeavor like this, I usually reply that I try not to get out of shape. But the Idaho Traverse averages 50-60 miles a day, with monster days on the bike, requiring me to move new muscles for longer duration. I laid out a plan to build up speed, muscle, and endurance. My wife insisted on a spin bike, which was probably a game-saver during this year’s wet winter and spring. (The flip side is I have liters of my soul stained into the basement grout.) As we moved into summer, I focused primarily on longer endurance riding.

Fall/Winter

Tuesday/Thursday: I would do a lactic threshold run or ride, followed by 20 minutes of weights–working mostly core and upper body to balance the load on the legs.

Sundays: I’d either sit on the spin bike or run for 2-3 hours.

Monday/Fridays: 1.5 hours on the spin bike or running.

Spring/Summer

The Boise foothills are a fantastic playground to train in. We have over 130 miles of single track which I’m able to access right out the back door of my office or 5 minutes from home. Go a little longer and I can ride these trails to the backcountry fire roads, the same system that will take us all the way to Canada.

During the week: I dropped the weights and held on to the lactic thresholds as much as I could, which was usually one tempo ride a week. In June I transitioned to mostly 2-3 hour daily rides or runs. To maximize time, I’d sometimes divide workouts into morning runs and lunch-hour rides.

Weekend: I’d take in an early long ride on the local fire roads. One of my repeated routes was a 60-mile loop with 7,000 feet of climbing (or 5-6 hours in the saddle). If you can ride that long (and stay hydrated and fed), you can ride all day.

 

 

 

Gear

While the Idaho Traverse is a multi-sport endeavor, we can divide our route into cycling and pack-rafting legs (which also includes backpacking). But our method requires us to be able to leverage the same gear during either of these legs. A streamlined kit is paramount.

Packs. We had our pick and chose to use Hyperlite’s Windrider pack. At 40 liters, it’s the perfect size. While cycling, we’ll put our ‘puffy’ items in the pack. It compresses well, doesn’t round out and stays clear of helmets. The pack is well taped and we’ve seam gripped exposed seams. With a roll top, it’s virtually a drybag; it should keep our gear plenty dry while rafting. And when we need to hike, its side pockets hold paddles tight and the large kangaroo pocket in back allows wet gear to dry out or the solar panel charging our electronics.

Clothing. Clothing can be divided in to clothing worn on the go, and clothing incorporated into our sleep system.

Base layer:  While on the go, we’ll each have two pairs of shorts each, one for cycling, one for hiking and rafting—both are a Lycra, bike-fit type short. We’ll use one synthetic short sleeve shirt each for both cycling and hiking. Instead of bringing long sleeve shirts or tights, we’ll use cycling ‘sleeves’ and leg warmers, which offer greater warmth when we need them, and more flexibility across disciplines.

Wind layer:  In addition to shoes and our ‘super hero-like’ base layer, Salomon provided a great 5oz wind jacket. It’s ideal for riding during the twilight hours and I’ll likely sleep in it.

Rain gear:  Eddie Bauer is our primary sponsor and has made a big reentry into mountaineering with their First Ascent line. For rain gear, we’ll be using Eddie Bauer’s BC200 jacket (10 oz).  I’m supplementing the kit with a pair of Patagonia Grade VI waterproof pants (6 oz).

Footwear:  We’ll be using Salomon XA Pros for rafting and hiking, cycling shoes, and two pairs of wool running socks.

Head and handwear:  My all around head wear is a buff—which works great in both hot and cold conditions, and a pair of soft shell gloves for chilly morning riding conditions. It’s Idaho in summer, so it will be hot and dry for the most part, but I’m throwing in a pair of plastic medical gloves for dire, wet situations.

All counted, our entire clothing kit weighs 4.5 pounds.

Sleep System / Insulated clothing. It’s no secret that if you wear your clothes to bed, you’ll stay warmer. A key part of our sleep system is integrating Eddie Bauer’s insulation line into our sleep system. I’ll be using a Women’s XL Downlight Hoodie (13 oz. It was a hot item this season and sold out in men’s sizes). Chris chose to go with synthetic and will be using the Eddie Bauer Igniter jacket (20 oz). Instead of sleeping bags, we will both carry a 1/2 quilt by Nunatak (9 oz), upgraded to 975 fill power. We’ll use torso-length Neoair thermo-rest pads (9 oz) with our dry bags and packs as supplementary ground cover.

Shelter. We worked with the team at Hyperlite Mountain Gear to develop a three-person shelter that would work for pack-rafting, cycling, or backpacking. We can readily pitch the tent using our 4-piece paddles, poles, or even our bikes. Our original team had three members; one pulled out after we had prototyped the shelter. But the extended space is ideal for pack-rafting: if you want to use your rafts as pads, two rafts readily fit under its walls. The shelter weighs 25 oz.

Cooking. Taking a page from Andrew Skurka, I built a cat food-can alcohol stove. It weighs virtually nothing (like 0.3 oz). Filled, this stove quickly fired up and boiled 0.8L of water in 5 minutes and then burned another 7 minutes. It only needs an ounce of alcohol to boil water. We’re bringing an 0.85 L titanium pot and an 0.7 L titanium pot. Both of us will use a titanium spork.

We’ll each carry 2-liter and 3-liter MSR bladders, providing backup should one fail, and 5 full liters of water to cross the Owyhee desert.

Device vice. Getting sponsored to go light has its payback, and it’s all in this line item. We’re documenting the trip with RAW images and HD video. My primary camera will be a Sony Nex 5 (love this), but we’ll also bringing two GoPro helmet cameras to capture on-the-go video. We’re bringing a SPOT connect to track our route and share quick updates along the way, and my satellite phone looks like something Tubbs would brandish on the South Beach strip. We’ll be charging it all with a solar panel.

Cycling. With epics like “Ride the Divide” and adventure races, adventure cycling has embraced ultralight practices. We’ll be using the same gear during the cycling legs, just carrying more of it on our frame bag system. To keep most of the weight out of our packs, we’ll use a handlebar bag, a large seat bag, and a “gas tank” bag that rides over the top bar. In addition, I’ll be using a small bag that fits inside the frame geometry, keeping the center of gravity tight. All of our bike gear will be shuttled around the Frank Church and Selway-Bitterroot wildernesses, so that we can swap boats for bikes and pedal onward to Canada.

Pack-rafting. This fringe sport is more than strapping a kiddie pool to your hindquarters; it’s blossomed into an active community of adventurers, seeking to cover more miles through wild areas. While we expect to hike between 30 miles a day, we can paddle between 30-50 miles a day with much less effort. The entire kit–paddle, boat, spray skirt–weighs about 6 pounds. We won’t skimp on the PFD, though. If the Bruneau is running below 500cfs, we’ll ship our boats to a ranch sitting at the edge of the Frank and exchange them for our bikes in Lowell, 250 miles later. If the Bruneau runs above 500cfs, we’ll run the Bruneau and then carry the boats with us to the Frank.

Food. Chris found out that he has a gluten intolerance, which goes directly against my strict complex carbohydrate and saturated fat diet. Fortunately, Chris is a professor of physiology and has had many students who have graduated and moved onto interesting careers…like endurance athlete nutritionists. Big shout-out to Sarah Weber for putting together a creative solution for our diet dilemma. In general, we’ll be eating calorie-dense foods that have high calorie-to-ounce ratios: think nuts, nut butter, dried soups, dried potatoes, hummus, quinoa, and halvah.

All together, we plan to carry no more than 35 lbs at any one time. We’ve strategically arranged for caches every 200-300 miles so we can travel 50-75 miles per day, which allows us to travel with 4 days of supplies for every block of travel.

– Steve Graepel

The team at Hyperlite Mountain Gear would like to wish the best of luck to Steve and Chris on this traverse.  We are excited to follow Steve and Chris’ progress and to see photos and videos of their expedition.  We are so happy to be be able to sponsor this team with companies like Eddie Bauer, Patagonia and Solomon.  Steve and Chris are scheduled to depart Saturday, July 23.

A day on the trail

I’ll start with last night. A BBQ place in Fort Montgomery, NY, was featuring a special called The Pig Out. Porter challenged me to eat it, and being the competitive person that I am, I accepted. It was a half rack of ribs, half BBQ chicken, pulled pork, kielbasa, and some other unidentifiable pork. Plus cornbread and two sides – I chose Mac ‘n’ cheese. Two hours later I limped back to my hotel room clutching my stomach in defeat. I couldn’t eat the kielbasa.

The next morning rolled around and I woke up feeling worse than I did the night before. I started to pack up to hit the trail, but decided a forced vomit was needed. After reliving the night before in a bad way, we headed out. I grabbed two yogurts while Pace tried unsuccessfully to call a cab. We ended up begging the manager to let a desk worker drive us two miles to where we got off the trail the day before. We offered her $20 but she refused. In our usual order – Pace, me, and Porter – we started our hike across the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson. We had to cross a crosswalk and waited a solid five minutes since NY traffic stops for no one. After a truck with New Hampshire plates finally let us cross, we began a steep uphill. I was still feeling weak and queasy, and Porter was nursing his own hangover. Pace was quiet with his own thoughts. I guess he was fantasizing about naked hikers. It was summer solstice, known in the hiking world as Naked Hiking Day. We were not naked. We finally peaked out and our climb ended so we chatted about hiking naked – the chaffing, sunburns, mosquito bites, and about which hikers we would hate to see in the buff.

Six miserable miles later, we came to a road with a gas station! We bought cold Gatorades and I ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies. My tummy was feeling better. Pajamas, another thru hiker, showed up. We were surprised to see him with clothes on, since we pegged him as most likely to hike naked.

Two overweight girls wearing jeans stepped out of their card and set out for a hike with their dog. Their packs were huge – complete with a cooler and chair strapped to the outside. Before they set off we warned them about naked hiking day. We caught up to them a few minutes later and Pace asks for a photo with me in the center because we are doing a study on packs. I tried unsuccessfully to contain my laughter.

After passing the girls and joking behind their backs, we saw a big black snake to the left of the trail. It vibrated the end of its tail on some leaves, imitating the sound of a rattlesnake. I wondered where he would learn something like that – his mom, snake school, Kiwanis for snakes, maybe his best friend was a rattler.

We kept moving. Little ups and little downs. I turned my phone on occasionally to text and pass the time, and to share with Pace and Porter anything interesting I found out. We grabbed some granola bars out of our packs and ate while hiking. Pace stopped to pee so I went first, moving slowly in case of snakes. Then I saw them. Coolers! And on top of a mountain?! Surely they’d be full of trash and ants like so many others. But no, this Trail Magic was stocked and we stopped to enjoy cold Gatorades.

A few minutes later a southbound section hiker passed us and told us that her friend close behind didn’t have his hearing aids in. She also said she’d seen some partially naked hikers. We passed her friend, and Pace started mumbling things to see if he really couldn’t hear. I broke into laughter for the second time in one day and had to stop hiking to compose myself.

We hiked on, mostly in silence, pointing out a toad here or turkey there. Pace got hungry so I handed him some snacks from the outer pockets of his pack. We crossed a road and there was a pump house so we stopped to fill our water bladders since it’s nice to not filter it. It started to rain. Pace put his pack cover on, but Porter and I have Cuben Fiber packs, so didn’t need rain covers.

We hiked up to a view of a lake. A bit later we came upon two kids playing guitars. On the way down, two other kids passed and I could smell how clean they were. I told Porter and Pace I’d check their cars for a soda and steal it. They didn’t have any. I would have left them a couple bucks, don’t worry. We hiked on, under power lines, and Pace moved fast because he has a pacemaker. We finally got to a campsite with a water pump and set up our tents.

At the campsite were the only thru hikers we’d seen all day. I was disappointed because they weren’t naked (not that I wanted to see these particular people naked, but did want to have some sort of special experience on this day). I found a summer sausage in my backpack while unpacking – Porter had hidden it there while I was in the bathroom throwing up my bucket of meat! That is the last thing I want to see! We all laughed, I made dinner, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. Through the mesh part of my Echo Shelter I could see fireflies floating around the yard. I was reminded of my grandparents’ home and I drifted to sleep thinking of Kentucky and our 28-mile day.

Deva is in New England!

I’ve made it to Connecticut!

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Pennsylvania was flat and a little boring. The northern part had little round rocks, and big sharp boulders and everything in between. They ate through a pair of Keens, and slowed me down a bit, but overall the rocks were not as bad as I expected. Towns were frequent and near the trail, so I think I had one too many cheesesteaks and managed to gain weight while in PA.

In Delaware Water Gap, the last town in Pennsylvania, Hyperlite Mountain Gear sent me a new pack to test. It rides much nicer with lumbar padding, and the hip belt comes out of the lumbar pad, rather than the pack’s side seam. The belt wraps and hugs the hips better, making for a more comfortable system all around. There are external compression straps, and less external mesh, but surprisingly I haven’t missed the storage space. There is an accessory pocket attached to the compression straps, where my water bladder rides now. I was afraid the water would get warm faster, but since the Appalachian Trail (AT) is mostly shaded, and the bladder is off my back, I think the water stays cooler.

Porter also bought a Windrider and is enjoying it. He says his back pain has stopped completely since switching to the lightweight Cuben Fiber pack.

I crossed into New Jersey, which was very beautiful with lots of wildlife: snakes, deer, and turtles. There were some hills, but that meant views. Finally!

A rainy night and day meant I slept in until 7:00am (I usually wake up around 5:30). I hiked into the town of Vernon, NJ to dry out and resupply. I got a care package from a friend and hit up the local carnival!

I crossed into New York, and received some awesome trail magic from a past thru hiker, Patio. Then I hiked through the Lemon Squeezer, which wasn’t really a tight squeeze since my Windrider pack is so little!

The mosquitoes made a convincing argument to start tenting once I entered NY. My first night tenting was in Pennsylvania and with the help of my friends, the Echo I shelter worked out really well. My first time setting it up by myself was a different story, but I got the job done. Lately, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. The tent is minimalist; it’s cozy and keeps me dry. When I pack it up and see the size and feel the weight, I can’t complain. Two nights ago, I went to sleep watching the fireflies from beneath the tarp.

I hiked into Harriman State Park in NY and to the lowest point on the AT- the bear’s den at the Trailside Zoo! The trail literally goes through the zoo. Next I crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. It was June 21, summer solstice, known in the hiking world as “Naked Hiking Day.” I was crossing a lot of busy roads that day, so I did not participate. I warned section hikers I saw, but never saw any other thru hikers that day. I thought about the dangers of hiking naked – bug bites, chaffing, sunburns, and was glad I didn’t participate.

Yesterday it poured. Really, really poured for an hour straight and normal rain the rest of the day. But by the end of the day, everything in my pack was dry. This morning I put on my soggy sneakers and pushed out of the shelter at 5:45am. I crossed into Connecticut and was welcomed home to New England with more rain. The heavens opened again but as they say, “No rain, no Maine!”

We are Featured in DownEast Magazine

DownEast Magazine just came out with their “Best of Maine” issue, and included Hyperlite Mountain Gear and a review of our Windrider pack:

“Ultralight” equipment is the latest trend in backpacking, so it’s no wonder Hyperlite Mountain Gear, a designer, manufacturer, and supplier of outdoor gear based in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill, is attracting attention for its Windrider Pack. Made from the high performance sail-making fabric Cuben Fiber, the frameless, waterproof Windrider weighs only 25.5 ounces, yet easily carries thirty-five pounds of gear. Designed for long-distance hiking, we think it makes a great daypack, too.

Deva on the Appalachian Trail

Meet the newest member of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team. Christi (trail name “Deva”) is about half way through the Appalachian Trail (her first thru hike), and she’s experiencing the benefits of a lighter load. We met Deva at Trail Days, in Damascus, Virginia, and realized she’d be a perfect candidate to demonstrate the difference a lighter base weight can make. Before setting out on her hike, she visited the LL Bean flagship store in her home state, Maine, and loaded up on all the gear she thought she’d need (and then some). A backpack weighing 5 ½ pounds (plus rain cover), a 3+ pound tent, heavy stuff sacks, a heavy water filter, and other non-essentials combined to give her a base weight of 22 pounds. And that’s without food, water, and fuel!

Fit and fast, Deva was making great progress along the trail, even with her heavy load. But we knew she could move even faster. We compiled a list of everything in Deva’s kit, then systematically replaced whatever we could with lighter options, and removed anything unnecessary. With a new Windrider pack (1.6 pounds), an Echo I shelter (1.48 pounds, with guy lines), lighter stuff sacks, an alcohol stove, and other equipment, we helped her reduce her base weight to 12 pounds. That’s almost a 50% weight reduction!!!

A before and after breakdown of her gear and base weight is below.

Deva was already covering some impressive daily distances. But now she’s cruising through as many as 30 miles a day. Her two hiking companions, Porter and Pace, both experienced thru-hikers, say she’s one of the strongest hikers they’ve ever shared the trail with. They were having a difficult time keeping up, so now they’re both carrying Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs and have lightened their base weights in an effort to stay on track with Deva.

As she continues north, Deva will be updating us on her experience. She’ll tell us about how a light load doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort. We’ll see how her gear performs. And we’ll just follow along as she makes her way up the trail, back to her home in Maine. Stay tuned…

Hyperlite Mountain Gear in TrailRunner Magazine Gear Guide

TrailRunner magazine’s 2011 Gear Guide just came out, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Echo II shelter received high praise and the TrailRunner seal of approval. Check out the the images below, or pick up a copy of the magazine and read about great lightweight gear for trail running.

Echo II in Trail Runner Magazine

Go Ahead Feel the Earth Beneath Your Feet

Perhaps you’ve felt this way before. The world you live in is not the world you feel comfortable in. Cell phones, iPads, computers, and plasma TV’s begin to edge us away from our reality. Living in our world can be fast paced and often leaves us feeling disconnected. Take heart we can all step away from technology just by stepping outside. Whether you set off to hike a local trail or tackle the Appalachian Trail, we can all reconnect to the natural world and bring ourselves back to the present. Go ahead feel the earth beneath your feet, smell the spruce trees, hear the stream running, breathe some fresh mountain air.

Take the time, it will be worth it. Read the rest of the article here.

Sneak Peak of 2011 Windrider Pack

Hi there!! Hope the winter is treating you well and that you’re finding time to get outdoors. Big snow in Maine and we’ve been snowshoeing, ice climbing, running, shoveling and hoping to hit the slopes before this is all over. Also, we’ve been working on the new 2011 Windrider pack and it looks great. We thought we’d give you a sneak peak at it before it’s available in two weeks (Feb 15).

There are some great new features in this pack with only an extra 1.5 oz in weight, well worth it, we think, for the extra comfort and convenience. We widened the hip belt for a bit more support and comfort, as well as increased the size of the waterproof hip belt pockets. We added a hydration sleeve to the inside of the pack for your bladder or for a bit of compartmentalization or both. We added an ice axe loop and keeper for attaching a mountaineering axe, added a lower compression strap to the back, added hardware for removable straps to attach snow shoes or other equipment, switched from a plastic stay to a stiffer and lighter aluminum stay, and increased the blousing on the back mesh pocket for a few extra cubic inches of storage. And we are now offering the Windrider in four sizes in stead of only three!  Here are a few pics.

Sneak Peak of the 2011 Windrider

We know a lot of you are excited about this pack. It’s great… made from a 100% waterproof Cuben fiber/nylon hybrid material… you’re gonna love it!

Coming out February 15!!

Thank you

Post-PCT Echo I and II review

Hi, my name is Dave. In September 2010 I completed a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For about 1,300 miles of the hike I used Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelters:  the Echo I Tarp and Insert for 650 miles (from Agua Dulce to South Lake Tahoe) and the Echo II Tarp and Beak for 650 miles (from South Lake Tahoe to Ashland). The Echo II was shared with another person for 450 miles.  The following is my review of both shelter systems.

Echo I Tarp and Insert

I used the Echo I tarp and insert in the southern California desert and the Sierra Nevada mountains from mid-May to late June (note that I did not have the beak, as the prototype version I was testing at the time was not compatible with a beak). Overall the weather was good for the duration of use, with only a few sporadic showers, one half-inch snowfall, and one night-long drizzle. The shelter did face a lot of wind in the desert and condensation/frost in the mountains.

The Echo I sets up quickly and easily with a minimum six stakes and two trekking poles (or sticks) and can be very easily tightened and adjusted. It is by far the easiest tarp I have pitched in the wind. The catenary cut is excellent and sheds wind beautifully, provided the tarp is pitched drum tight. If it is not pitched tight in breezy conditions, the tarp will make an interesting but rather obnoxious vibrating sound all night long. This was never an issue when pitched tightly. Staking out the guy lines in the center of each side helps prevent this as well, so if you’ll be camping in windy areas, do yourself a favor and carry the two extra stakes (meaning eight stakes in total). This tarp will pull very hard on the stakes, so use something strong, such as MSR Groundhogs or 9” Easton Aluminums. The tarp comes with linelocks for each guy line, which I really liked, as they make tarp adjustment incredibly easy. If linelocks are not your thing, they can be easily removed.

As far as coverage, the tarp by itself covers one person with gear well enough to stay dry in a light or moderate storm, especially if the beak is used, but plan to get damp in a wind-driven rain. The tarp by itself would work great with a bivy sack. Using the tarp with the insert provides much better weather protection, stops the wind almost completely if pitched right, and protects better against pooling water than many tents. The insert is designed to fit no more than one person, so bringing gear inside is pretty cramped but possible. Gear stuffed under the tarp outside the insert will probably get damp or wet, unless it is placed under the beak. If stormy weather is likely, I would highly recommend using the beak, which will protect the user from getting soaked if the wind changes direction (without it, I felt somewhat vulnerable, as the user’s head is not far back from the end of the tarp and the door at the head of the insert is mostly mesh). I never had condensation issues under the tarp with or without the insert, although air flow was noticeably better without it.

One minor issue I did have involved the foot of my sleeping bag getting wet due to a very light drizzle drifting in through the mesh at the foot end of the insert, despite my having pitched the foot end of the tarp low. While this was not a big deal in the SoCal desert, it would have been a bigger problem had it been in Washington, where I hiked through several consecutive days of 40 degree rain and drizzle and keeping my sleeping bag dry was critical. A couple simple solutions would have prevented this: 1) replace the first foot or two of mesh extending back along the sidewalls from the foot of the insert with cuben, or 2) offer a second beak for the foot of the tarp.

Predictably, what I liked best about the Echo I shelter system is its modularity, which makes it versatile to a range of conditions and personal preferences. I was able to use the two components I had (tarp and insert) in several different combinations to match a variety of conditions (note that the insert by itself can be used as an excellent and durable groundcloth or can be pitched independently as a bug tent or even used as a bivy sack for bug protection in a pinch). Using the beak would allow even more combinations and therefore more versatility. I’ll discuss this a bit more later.

Echo II Tarp and Beak

I switched to the Echo II Tarp in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains along the PCT and carried it until southern Oregon, a distance of about 650 miles, from late June to late July. I switched to the Echo II in part because my girlfriend would soon be joining me on the trail, necessitating a two-person shelter, and in part because I was interested in trying a slightly different style of shelter (larger tarp with a beak but no insert). Weather conditions were good most nights this tarp was used, with some wind and a few sporadic showers being the worst of it. Since the Echo II shelter system is simply a wider version of the Echo I, most of the comments I made for the Echo I also apply to the Echo II.

To date, the Echo II tarp with beak (and without the insert) is my favorite three-season shelter for one person, provided bugs are not a major issue. Before the bugs hit, it made the perfect PCT shelter, and a simple lightweight bug bivy would have made it useable in the worst of the mosquito swarms. The Echo II tarp weighs only 1.0 oz. more than the Echo I tarp, provides far more coverage, and sheds wind just as well. For one person there is plenty of room to spread out gear and cook, or to recede away from the edges of the tarp during a heavy storm and stay dry. This also means it has a large footprint, so be sure to have lots of room to pitch. Because of the wider coverage, the tarp can be pitched higher in a storm without fear of getting wet, allowing the user to sit fully upright. For a single person, I do not find the insert or a bivy necessary, and would prefer to use the Echo II tarp with beak and no insert over the full Echo I shelter system (again, provided bugs are not a concern).

For two people, I found the Echo II tarp with beak was adequate if very little severe weather was expected. At 14 oz. (including guy lines but not stakes), it is certainly the lightest two person shelter I’ve carried. Space under the Echo II tarp for two people is about the same as it is under the Echo I tarp for one person, meaning in a wind-driven rain with changing wind direction some part of at least one person is likely to get damp (again, that’s without the insert). Bivy sacks would have been appropriate for this kind of use. Without them, and with the tarp pitched low my girlfriend and I were able to fit comfortably underneath, with gear under the beak, and be fairly confident we would stay dry in a moderate rainstorm with little wind or wind only in the direction of the beak. If I were to use the Echo II for two people in areas with high potential for rain, I would definitely want the insert. After 650 miles of use the Echo II still looks almost new, with no visible signs of wear or damage.

I found that when I pitched the tarp with the beak, it was far easier to enter and exit through the open foot end of the tarp rather than through the beak. This made the zipper on the beak pointless when used without the Echo II insert. To save weight, this zipper should be optional.

For the record, the reason we stopped using the Echo II tarp in southern Oregon was because we were being devoured for weeks by a massive cloud of mosquitos every night (sounds dramatic I know, but trust me, it’s an understatement). This was no fault of the tarp, it was simply time to switch to a shelter with full bug protection. Based on my experience with the Echo I, the Echo II insert would have been fine protection against this.

Why would I buy this shelter?

In my opinion, the major selling point of the Echo shelter system is its modularity, which allows the user varying degrees of protection from the elements depending on his/her preference on any particular night. This will be especially beneficial to tarp users, who tend to like a higher level of exposure to nature when it is safe and practical, but on occasion require a higher degree of protection. For instance, most nights that I pitched a shelter along the PCT (with the exception of Washington), the weather was very predictable and I only needed protection from condensation (pitch just the tarp), mosquitos (pitch just the insert), or a possible light shower (pitch just the tarp with beak). For me, a fully-enclosed tent would have been an unnecessary and unwanted barrier between myself and nature; as such, I really enjoyed the versatile nature of the shelter along the trail. Furthermore, switching between these degrees of protection is very quick and simple—the insert can be pinned up, tarp lowered, and beak attached in bad weather in the dark all in a minute or two.

This modularity also allows versatile use of the gear from one trip to another, which is great for people who don’t want to own lots of different shelters. In other words, the three components (tarp, insert, and beak) compose one complete shelter system, but not all three parts need to be used on every trip, depending on the expected conditions. So while a 22 oz. Tarptent Sublite Sil might be well-suited to rainy Washington, for me it is overkill for simple protection from condensation or a fairly unlikely rainstorm in northern California in July. With the Echo I shelter system, I could carry all three components (24 oz.) in Washington and just the 8 oz. tarp in NorCal, thus adapting a single shelter system to multiple conditions and allowing me to shed unnecessary weight. I think of this as a lot like dressing in layers rather than using a heavy parka while hiking in cool weather.

Other thoughts/suggestions

The following are some additional thoughts on the Echo shelter system:

I would recommend replacing the stock guy lines with something lighter and more reflective.

If I was going to make one suggestion to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, it would be this: offer an optional second beak for the foot end of the tarp. With only one beak, the head end of the tarp (and therefore the entrance) gets pitched into the wind. I don’t like sleeping headfirst into the wind, especially when I have to use the bathroom at night during a wind-driven rain. Having a second beak would eliminate the need to carry the insert in many cases and address concerns over changing wind conditions. Additionally, make the beak zipper optional. If using just one beak, it is generally easier to enter/exit through the open end of the tarp, making the zipper unnecessary weight.

If I was going to make one other suggestion to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, it would be to offer a lighter, cheaper bug bivy. The Echo Insert is a very sturdy and well-constructed piece of gear that is great for storm protection, but too heavy and expensive just for simple bug protection. It would be nice to see an additional insert offered that is fully mesh on the sides, has a lighter bottom, and is intended for bug protection only (which is not really worth the cost of more cuben). For me, a single person lightweight all-mesh bug bivy with a silnylon floor would work great with the Echo II tarp.

This was the first cuben fiber equipment of any kind that I have used. I have avoided cuben in the past because I assumed it had a poor cost to durability ratio, and because I failed to see significant benefits over fabrics like silnylon or spinnaker. However after 650 miles of use on two different cuben products I was sold on the durability (I felt the material was slightly more durable than my old silnylon tarp) and came to appreciate the full waterproofness (no misting), lack of sagging, lack of loud crinkling (compared to new spinnaker), and very taut pitch of the cuben fabric. Whether these factors are worth the high price tag is a personal choice of each individual consumer, so I cannot speak to that.

Echo 1 Review

Hendrick from Hiking in Finland product tests the HMG Echo 1 Shelter System while on a trip to Russia. Read the review here.

Hiking in Finland interviews Mike St. Pierre from Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a fairly young cottage manufacturer from the USA, with some very innovative cuben tarps and packs and a great looking and very user friendly website. I managed to get in touch with Mike, the founder of Hyperlite Mountain Gear, and he took the time to answer my questions in order for us to get to know Hyperlite Mountain Gear a bit better. It is a great interview and I enjoyed reading Mike’s answers and stories heaps, and I hope you do as well – Enjoy! Read the full interview here.

Echo I and Windrider Pack Review

Hi everybody Straight Jacket here, back to do a review of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack and shelter I used for my Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike.

Echo 1 Tarp I used the Echo Shelter for the whole trail

Durability: Started the trail with this shelter and used it the whole way through, all 2655 miles of it, and it held up great with no major issues affecting the durability at all. The only problem at all in fact, a small hole in the tarp (not sure how it happened) was very easy to repair with a patch of the cuben bonding tape. As for the insert the floor especially was bombproof, I used it the whole trail without a ground cloth, camping many times on gravel, rocks and other not so nice surfaces and never had a problem with it. All the zippers and hardware held up fine, and with the exception of one frayed guy line from snagging on a rock the lines to held up great.

Setup/Versatility: Overall the setup of the Echo proved to be quit straight forward and the versatility of this shelter came in very handy. The line locks on the tarp and clip in bungees on the insert made setup simple, it was very nice to be able to place the stakes and then adjust them later without having to constantly move them around to find a rock free spot at the right tension. The tarp is also very easy to get crazy taught, a common problem with many silnylon tarps and since it was cuben it stayed taught, retensioning was never an issue. With a wide range of setup options I was always able to have exactly the setup I required, a full shelter with beak for stormy nights, a tarp and bug net to provide bug protection but still vent well when both condensation and dew were an issue, just a bug net when I wanted bug protection and maximum ventilation or when there was no room to set up a full tarp, or a ground sheet to put my pad and bag on top of when i just wanted to cowboy camp. The one catch 22 with all this versatility however proved to be that when setting up everything setup can take a good bit longer then it would with a normal fully integrated shelter, this never really proved to be a major issue, since it does lessen the setup time when only using parts.

Size: The Echo was a very nice compromise between being large enough to provide good storm coverage and small enough to keep the weight low. It does feel a little bit a bit on the small side when huddled in there trying to stay out of the bugs or rain, but any other shelter in its weight class is just as small. Although I had insanely good luck with the weather, (it hardly rained at all) the few times it did rain the Echo provided very adequate protection as long as I set up the beak. The two big storms, the one on the first night of the kickoff, and the thunder and hail storm i got hit with at Drakesbad just past the halfway point, I stayed totally dry, and thanks to the sizable vestibule provided by the beak so did my gear.

So all in all the Echo performed very well, it was everything I needed and nothing I didn’t, I would certainly recommend it to others and will definitely use it again for future hikes.

Windrider Pack I used the Windrider for approximately 1500 miles from South Lake Tahoe until Canada.

Durability: Despite my initial doubts about how a cuben fiber pack would hold up (having seen other packs made with lightweight cuben shred in no time) it held up quite well and I was very glad for the heavier 3 oz cuben despite the weight gain. The construction proved to be top notch with all the stitching staying intact. In addition despite all the overgrown trail and blow downs throughout the northern half of the trail the pack stood up to the constant abuse of being snagged on branches, dragged over blow downs, and forced through some very thick overgrowth, very well with no tears in either the main body or even the side and rear mesh pockets.

Comfort: Although I felt and still feel that aluminum stays are the best way of supporting a pack’s load, the plastic stays of the Windrider carried well after they had a few days to mold into shape. I also tend to like my hip belts and shoulder straps to be a little bit on the wider side, but this is purely personal preference and I have met many people who like the skinnier straps more. This pack did quite well when loaded with my 8lb or so base weight combined with up to 5-6 days of food and 1-2 liters of water, putting it at around 28 lbs. So for the part of the trail I used it for it was great, I think for the Sierras where I was carrying 12 days of food, I would prefer something with a more substantial frame, more volume and definitely an ice ax loop, the next pack Hyperlite Mountain Gear is designing specifically tailored for the western trails sounds like it would fit the bill perfectly.

Size: The volume of the Windrider fit in everything I needed not problem for the full time I used it, the main pack body fit most of my gear and then my non water sensitive items (having a waterproof pack was very cool, i even seam sealed the rear seams, the only ones that weren’t already taped, so I never had to worry about getting my gear wet) and stuff i wanted to have readily available in the mesh. The side pockets each fit a 20 oz Gatorade along with some bars sunglasses or other small item no problem, and the back mash had plenty of room for both my rain jacket and fleece along with some other small stuff stuffed in between. The hip belt pockets were a perfect size allowing me quick access to my spoon (a thru hikers most important piece of gear) headlamp, ipod and other important items quickly. The one caveat though, although it worked great for the north half of the trail, again I would want something different for the Sierras, fitting a bear canister in here along with 10+ days food would be difficult at best.

Overall I think this would be a great pack for anyone to hike the AT with (due to the lower weight and volume of significantly shorter resupplies) and parts of the PCT with, but for more remote sections of trail without resupply access every 5 days or so I would look for Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s next pack.

Thanks again to all the guys at Hyperlite Mountain Gear for all your help and I look forward to seeing what you have in store for the future.

Oops, He Did It Again (3rd time finishing the AT)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear gear tester Bama finishes the Appalachian Trail for the third time, taking only 92 days.  Holy Crap! Mike St. Pierre was on the summit of Mount Katahdin to share in the celebration.

187 Miles To Go!

Hi everybody, I’m here at the Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven in Skykomish WA with only 187.2 miles to go, which given my pace recently I should be able to do in 6 days. Washington has been beautiful with Goat Rocks and Knifes Edge being the highlights so far. Haven’t had to much rain just some mist most mornings but even that’s been clearing off recently, and after recovering from the bout of giardia I dealt with for the southern few days of the state (was able to keep moving unimpeded by the best trail magic ever in the form of some antibiotics I received from another hiker) it has been some very enjoyable, although hilly, hiking. Kinda reminds me of the Appalachian Trail. I’m looking forward to the Glacier Peak area and the northern half of Washington which is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the state and can’t wait to get to Canada. Success is nigh, Onwards!

Another State Bites The Dust!

Just got into Cascade Locks OR, lowest elevation the trail at 200ft, the end of another state, and the 500 mile to go mark. After 2 weeks of amazing views that were tarnished by the most demonic, pure evil, run through the woods screaming obscenities, god awful mosquitoes I’ve ever seen in my life (think swarms of hundreds following you all day then waiting for you outside while you sleep, seriously I’m not exaggerating here) I’m ready for a new state. A state which hopefully will be a nice relaxing problem free end to an awesome trip. All signs suggest that it will be, the mosquitoes seem to have ended, I’m still hitting some patchy snow (yes even in august) but nothing too bad, I might end up being too early for the infamous Washington rain, and the sub 4 month finish time I had hoped for from the beginning seems quite attainable now. The next milestone is Canada and I can’t wait! Onwards!

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