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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Sierra Designs Echo and Electra 2007 > Test Report by Andrew Henrichs
Sierra Designs Echo Sleeping Bag
Test Series by Andy Henrichs
June 25, 2007
Name: Andy Henrichs
Shoulder Girth: 49” (124 cm)
Hip Girth: 40” (102 cm)
Feet Girth: 35” (89 cm)
Email address: email@example.com
Most of my backpacking has been in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, as well as the desert in the southwestern US. I’ve gone winter camping several times, but I still prefer backpacking in the warmer months. Most of my trips are 2-3 days, but I have taken several trips of 5-6 days. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to have thru-hiked the 476 mile Colorado Trail over 35 days. Recently, I have been leaning towards the lightweight side of the spectrum.
Manufacturer: Sierra Designs (www.sierradesigns.com)
Year of Manufacture: 2007
MSRP (regular): $479 US
MSRP (long): $499 US
Manufacturers Stated Bag Weight (long): 4 lb 8 oz (2 kg)
Manufacturers Stated Stuffed Size (long): 10 in by 20 in (25 cm by 51 cm)
Measured Bag Weight (long): 4 lb 8 oz (2 kg)
Measured Stuff Sack Weight: 5.8 oz (160 g)
Measured Removable Pad Lock Weight: .5 oz (14 g)
Measured Compressed Stuffed Size (long): 10 in by 14 in (25 cm by 36 cm)
The Sierra Designs Echo is a -20º F (-29º C) sleeping bag. It features 800-fill goose down as well as a dark blue waterproof-breathable DriZone 40-denier nylon shell. The Echo has a two-way zipper that runs nearly the full-length of the bag. The pull tab on the upper zipper is a small flap of a leather-like material. The bag also features Welded Seam Construction. According to the Sierra Designs website, "Welded Seam Construction is stronger, lasts longer, and denies water an entrance to a sleeping bag." Basically, this means that there are almost no seams on the exterior of the bag. The only seams on the exterior are at the edges of the zipper and storm flap. The storm flap runs the length of the bag and has small hook-and-loop closures at four points along the length of the zipper to ensure it covers the zipper. The hood of the Echo is an "Expedition Jacket Hood." According to the Sierra Designs website, this is a "streamlined construction [which] creates the most thermally efficient hood on the market." The hood also features an internal face draft tube and draft collar. Both the face draft tube and draft collar have draw-cords for adjustability. Again according to the website, this "creates an extremely quiet sleep zone" and "allows eyes to be more shaded (ideal in the most northern latitudes)." The internal draft collar also features a 3 in by 4.5 in (8 cm by 11 cm) mesh "media pocket" with a hook-and-loop closure. In addition to the adjustable face draft tube, the Echo has a traditional draw-cord closure around the perimeter of the hood. The Echo also has two removable pad locks. These are .5 in (1 cm) wide strips of fabric with an adjustment tab. They have hook-and-loop closures at each end; these in turn are attached to small loops of cord. When used, the pad locks secure the sleeping bag to the sleeping pad, preventing shifting of the pad or bag. There is one green Sierra Designs logo on the chest of the bag and one on the left side of the foot of the bag. Also at the foot of the bag is the name, fill, temperature rating, and DriZone logo. There are two storage hang loops at the foot of the bag, as well as two consumer information tags of the "to be removed by consumer only under penalty of law" variety.
I think my favorite thing about this bag is the 40-denier polyester liner material. It comes in a very cool looking pinstripe-like pattern. The interior of the Echo also features dual draft tubes running the length of the bag on either side of the zipper. Sewn into one draft tube is a care instructions label. The Echo also comes with a standard cotton storage sack and a compression stuff-sack. The stuff-sack has four compression straps. Two are fixed, and two have quick release buckles. The opening of the bag has a draw-cord. The opposite end of the sack has a pull handle of webbing so it's easier to get the sleeping bag out of a pack. Attached to the Echo was a Sierra Designs hang tag with information on the DriZone sleeping bag line, a description of various features of the Echo, and the Sierra Designs warranty.
The bulk of my testing will take place in the Elk Mountains of western Colorado this winter. I will also use this bag through the spring when the temperatures are warmer, but always threaten to plunge at night. I will use this bag at elevations ranging from 7000 ft (2134 m) to over 13000 ft (3962 m). I would expect to experience a variety of nighttime weather on my trips. This may include wind, snow, sleet, hail, and possibly rain on spring trips. On most of my testing trips I expect to experience nighttime lows ranging from -10º F (-23º C) to around 15º F (-9º C).
The Sierra Designs Echo arrived stuffed into the cotton storage sack. Having never owned such a cold-weather bag, my first thought when I picked it up was "this is one heavy bag!" I removed the bag from the storage sack, let it loft, and began looking it over. Based on my inspection, Sierra Designs paid a lot of attention to detail with this bag. All the construction looks top-notch, and the bag looks just plain tough. I get the feeling that I could run this bag through the wringer and it would come out looking like new. Nevertheless, there's a lot of testing to be done before I can jump to any conclusions. I've crawled into the bag at home several times and it feels great. It's snug (no extra air to heat), but not constricting. There's adequate room in the bag to store clothes, camera, food, a water bottle, or anything else that I don't want to freeze. I was able to fit my camera into the internal media pocket, but the pocket wouldn't close. I anticipate using this as a watch pocket most of the time.
The hood opening is relatively small when the bag is zipped completely up. I think this will be nice in the field, as less warm air will escape. When I cinch up the draw-cords on the hood, face draft tube, and draft collar, the hood opening exposes only my nose and mouth. When the face draft tube is cinched up, the material tends to bunch up and poke at my eyes, but I've been able to avoid it by shifting the hood slightly. When stuffing the sleeping bag back into the stuff sack, air tends to get trapped inside the baffles. I've found that if I just maintain steady pressure on the bag, the air escapes and I can stuff it into the stuff sack. I suppose this is to be expected of a windproof material, but it raises concerns about how well the DriZone fabric will breathe.
I will pay particular attention to the following aspects of the Sierra Designs Echo Sleeping Bag during the testing session:
1. Fit/Comfort – So far I feel like the bag fits well. Will I feel the same after a full night in the bag? What about ten nights? Will the snug-fitting hood overheat me in warm weather? Will the face draft tube poke me in the eyes if I shift while sleeping? I seem to have found a short term solution, but will it work when I roll around at night?
2. Warmth – How accurate is the temperature rating of this bag? I tend to sleep slightly warm. What is the temperature in which I will comfortably be able to use this bag? Will I find an upper limit where the DriZone can’t breathe as fast as I produce heat and moisture? Are the dual draft tubes and draft collar effective at sealing in the warmth?
3. Zipper – The very first time I unzipped the bag, the zipper got snagged on the storm flap. "So much for the Snag-Free Zipper Track," I thought to myself. Honestly, I've haven't had a problem with the zipper snagging since then. I'll see if it occurs again.
4. Durability – How tough is the nylon shell and liner material? Will the shell hold up to normal wear and tear, especially when sleeping outside of a tent? Just from the look and feel of the material, it looks like it could hold up to nearly anything. I'll work this bag hard to see how it handles real-life use.
5. Waterproofness and breathability – The DriZone shell sounds pretty intriguing. One of my first tests with this bag was to stick the foot of it under the kitchen sink. I was pretty impressed; even after sitting under running water for a full minute, the material didn't soak any water up. I’ll test the waterproofness claim in the field by spending several nights out under the stars, hopefully under a light snowfall. As I stated earlier, I'm a little leery of the breathability of the DriZone in warmer weather. I’ve often heard complaints of waterproof bags feeling clammy due to moisture expired by one’s body, particularly when sleeping in more moderate temperatures. Will I get the clammy feeling after a night spent at mild temperatures or will the shell breathe easily?
6. Windproofness – The shell also claims to be windproof. As I mentioned previously, I plan on spending several nights out under the stars to test this claim. How windproof is the zipper? Do the draft tubes and storm flap block the wind effectively?
7. Compression Stuff Sack – I was able to compress the Echo to 10 in by 14 in (25 cm by 36 cm) At this size, the compression sack was pretty solid. I probably won't compress it quite as much in actual use as less compression will make the bag softer and easier to pack. Will it easily fit into my winter mountaineering pack?
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
Most of my testing has taken place on the Western Slope of Colorado. I have also taken one long weekend day-hiking/car camping trip and two overnight mountain biking trips to the desert of southern Utah this spring. Testing has taken place at elevations ranging from 4500 ft (1400 m) to 10500 ft (3200 m). Nighttime low temperatures have ranged from 10° F (-12° C) to 35° F (2° C).
Unfortunately, the arrival of the Echo also seemed to herald the arrival of spring to Colorado. As such, I haven't been able to test it in the extreme cold it was designed for. Nonetheless, I am getting a good handle on what it is capable of. I've been able to use the Sierra Designs Echo during three overnight backcountry skiing trips and nearly a week total of car camping. Two of the skiing trips took place on Huntsman Ridge, a ridge heading off a nearby mountain pass. Elevations of my camps on both nights were near 10500 ft (3200 m). During the first trip, I experienced strong winds, blowing snow, and a nighttime low of approximately 15º F (-9º C). Due to the wind and new snow, I ended up tracking a fair amount of snow into the tent despite my best efforts. The DriZone shell on the Echo worked like a charm. I was able to brush most of the snow off the bag, but soon realized that wasn't necessary. When it melted, the water would just roll off the bag. Weather on the second trip up Huntsman Ridge was much milder, with only a slight breeze and clear skies. Temperatures on this trip hovered around 10º F (-12º C) at night. My third skiing trip took place at Thomas Lakes, which lie at 10300 ft (3100 m). This trip also featured mild weather with clear skies and a light wind. Nighttime temperatures on this trip only fell to approximately 25º F (-4º C).
My car camping trips gave me more time at even milder temperatures. Nighttime lows during these trips ranged from 25º F (-4º C) to 35º F (2º C). I spent one of these nights sleeping under the stars. When I woke in the morning, I found frost covering the top of the Echo. I had to stuff it for a few hours with the frost still on the shell, and it seemed like the shell itself wet out slightly, but the down still seemed to loft well. The shell dried after approximately 15 minutes in the sun.
Thoughts (so far)
I like the cut of this bag. It's cut so there isn't an excess of air that I have to heat, but it's just roomy enough to fit my food bag (to prevent the food from freezing) and extra clothes in the bag with me. Given the relatively warm weather that I've used this bag in, I haven't found myself using the hood too often. As such, I haven't had a problem with the face draft tube poking me in the face. As I mentioned earlier, I unfortunately haven't been able to test the Echo in the temperatures it was designed for. My coldest night has been around 10º F (-12º C). On this trip, I used the hood but didn't wear a hat. I was layered in my base layer with my extra clothes stuffed behind my knees and around my feet. I left the top quarter of the zipper unzipped for some venting and I was plenty warm. In fact, I woke up during the night to take my socks off because my feet were roasting. That's something I've never expected to do while winter camping. On the nights where the low was near 35º F (2º C) I didn't use the hood or wear a hat. Again, I was in my base layer without socks. I had the top half of the zipper unzipped for venting and I was still fairly comfortable. I don't think that I'd want to sleep in the Echo in temperatures much warmer than 35º F (2º C). I just don't like saunas that much.
I've still been quite impressed with the construction of the Echo. I haven't had any issues with the zipper snagging since the first incident. The material has also held up quite well, despite sand being everywhere and anywhere on several nights. I have yet to find any stray threads, abrasions or snags.
I'm also quite impressed with the DriZone shell. As I mentioned earlier, it has withstood snow, water, and frost. When it did wet out (stuffed while covered with frost) it dried extremely quickly. Despite the warm temperatures I've used the Echo in, I haven't felt the clammy feeling that I was dreading. While I never had the bag completely zipped closed in these warmer conditions, I think the DriZone breathes admirably.
As for packability, I've found that compressing the Echo so that it still has some "give" is the best way to pack it. This allows it to conform to the other items in my pack. It fits into my winter mountaineering pack, but it does take up a good amount of space. I suppose this is normal for -20º F (-29º C) sleeping bag. The one feature of the Sierra Designs Echo that I don't really care for is the pad lock. I've found that if I tighten them enough to hold my sleeping pads in place, they take up the slack in the bag and prevent the zipper from closing. As soon as I loosen them, the pads can begin to shift. Also, I like to roll around. Due to the design of the hood on the Echo, I find it much more comfortable to roll the entire bag with me. The pad locks hinder this quite a bit.
This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
The testing during the Long Term Report has taken place in the mountains of central and western Colorado. Elevations have ranged from 8500 ft (2600 m) to 10000 ft (3000 m). Nighttime low temperatures have ranged from 20° F (-12° C) to 35° F (2° C). The weather on these trips was very mild with clear nights, mild wind and no precipitation.
I used the Echo on five additional nights during the Long Term Report session. I used in on two backcountry skiing trips, two 14000 ft (4300 m) peak climbing trips, and one car camping trip. I slept under the stars on one backcountry skiing trip and one climbing trip. I slept in a tent on the other three nights.
I’m still very happy with how the bag fits. There’s just enough room for me to maneuver extra layers on and off, but not so much room that it takes all night for the bag to heat up. In fact, it takes almost no time for the bag to heat up. All of my testing has been in nighttime temperatures of 10° F (-12° C) or warmer. I never had to completely zip up the bag, and I rarely used the hood. Once temperatures hit 35° F (2° C), I would absolutely roast in my bag, even with it completely unzipped. When the bag was partially unzipped, I always felt like I was cockeyed in the bag. I think this was due to the way the zipper contours from the side of the bag up the shoulder to the neck. If I had the bag partially unzipped and I draped the front of the bag over me it would either slide off or I would pull too much over and the hood would slide out from under my hood. This proved to be mildly annoying. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if I had been able to use the sleeping bag in the temperatures for which it was designed. The only other feature of the bag that I didn’t like was the pad locks. I tried using them a couple of times, but I found that I just didn’t like the feeling of being strapped to my sleeping pad. I think I just roll around too much in my sleep.
The DriZone shell proved to be extremely durable. Despite sleeping near dirt, rocks, and sand, I never damaged the fabric at all. Better yet, the DriZone fabric proved to be extremely waterproof and breathable. While I did wake up on several occasions sweating profusely, keep in mind that I was sleeping in a -20° F (-29° C) sleeping bag on a 35° F (2° C) night. Despite waking up to the bag covered in frost on several nights, the frost never penetrated the DriZone barrier into the down. The outer layer of the fabric was soaked, but the down remained light and fluffy.
Overall, this is a great sleeping bag. While I haven’t been able to push its useable range due to the warm winter and spring we experienced, I have confidence that it would perform well at those extreme temperatures. I would feel comfortable spending a night out in the Colorado backcountry in winter if I had this sleeping bag with me.
The DriZone shell lives up to its waterproof/breathable billing
The Echo is cut extremely well
The Echo is very warm
The interior lining looks awesome!
I didn't find the pad locks useful
The bag draped over me "funny" if I didn't have the zipper zipped all the way up
Thank you to Sierra Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test this sleeping bag.
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