Outdoor Research Echo L/S Review
Cons: Ineffective odor control, warm-weather focused
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Continuing to build on their Echo Collection — a line designed specifically for high-exertion activity in hot weather — this shirt is an ultralight solution to long days out in the sun. The new and improved Echo L/S Tee (L/S standing for long-sleeved) is very similar to OR's well-acclaimed sun hoodie, but with a slightly more tapered, athletic fit. Toss in a UPF15 rating and ActiveFresh odor control, and this layer may very well become your go-to top for fast and light missions through the warmer months.
We're just going to front-load this fact: the Echo L/S is very, very similar to the award-winning Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight, and vice versa. The savvy reader will notice that both tops rank almost identically across the board, making either a great selection when it comes to lightweight, technical base layers. While these two tops differ by a mere 0.4 ounces, a major difference in construction lies within fabric weight.
Outdoor Research's proprietary AirVent fabric is able to pack in an additional 31 g/m² without packing on any noticeable weight. This gives the Echo an advantage over other, similarly weighted tops when it comes to overall warmth. In our field testing, we also noticed that the thicker material also does a slightly better job of blocking the wind.
On an early spring morning that started out in a puffy, this top was entirely comfortable layered only under a wind jacket for our mountain bike laps. When we hauled it up to 12,000 feet on a ski tour, worn only by itself under a rain shell, we were similarly impressed with its insulating capacity and its ability to withstand ridgeline winds. And on higher intensity runs, rides, and climbs, the Echo was very comfortable to wear on its own, even outside of the limits of warmer, summer-like temperatures.
With yin there is always yang, and while this base layer may not be the warmest in our review, it is certainly at the top of the charts when it comes to breathability. You could say that the Echo specializes in this metric, as the entire Echo collection was specifically designed to protect you from the harsh realities of high-exertion workouts in the heat.
The Echo is a versatile, 3-season machine that can comfortably transition from early-morning spring ski tours to sun-baked desert towers to multi-day backpacking trips in the fall. Not only is this layer super comfortable to run in, but it sheds heat quickly, keeping you cool, dry, and on the move — a requirement during shorter sessions that keep up the intensity. On longer hauls, this top continued to handle exertion with ease, effectively wicking sweat away from your body throughout the day.
We loved wearing this as a base layer in combination with the Patagonia Houdini Air, our Top Pick selection for breathability in the windbreakers review. The gridded design of the AirVent fabric pulls sweat off your body, and efficiently transfers it to the exterior surface for evaporation. When worn in combination with a similarly breathable outer layer, our backpack straps showed signs of sweating while we remained completely dry — mission accomplished!
Comfort and Fit
When it was first introduced to the OR line, the Echo collection was tailored to be airy, baggy, and loose-fitting — very practical from a strictly desert-perspective. In order to align it with their overall alpine-inspired style, for this update designers trimmed down the fit, giving the Echo a much slimmer, athletic cut.
While the fit may be tighter, particularly around the collar and through the sleeves, this top is by no means constrictive. The Echo is very thoughtfully mapped with agility in-mind. The sleeves are set-in, so there are no shoulder top seams to rub underneath the weight of a backpack. We were most impressed with the tri-panel articulation across the ribs.
This design, combined with the stretchy quality of polyester, provides an incredible range of motion through the arms. We found this handy when twisting or reaching for holds while climbing, or by just adding to the overall comfort of movement when running.
Overall, the Echo is a very solid shirt for such a lightweight construction. After days of field testing, we did note minor dropped stitches and piling, but only on the inside, and mainly in areas of the lower back and sides where the waist belt of a backpack would increase rubbing.
Our findings from the field were backed up in the laboratory, where this layer held up remarkably well to one minute of vigorous rubbing on sandstone. There was some slight fraying on the outside, but on the inside, the face fabric and stitching were completely intact. The overall durability of this shirt is supported by a flatlock-seam construction, and UPF 15 treatment. Many think of a UPF rating as solely protection for your skin, but it also helps improve the longevity of a shirt over a lifetime of days out in the sun.
Understand that the angle of perspective must be considered when comparing the durability of this layer to those stitched with more robust materials — for its fabric weight class, the Echo is one tough top. While our testing period is somewhat limited, we have no doubt that this shirt is capable of withstanding hours at the crag or weeks out on the trail.
Although a bit slower to dry on the line, we were SUPER impressed with the Echo's drying speed on the body. During a sun-soaked desert ride, this top felt completely dry within a matter of minutes of shedding our outer layer. We really appreciate the addition of the "sweat collar" across the top of the back, to help keep sweat from beading down your back. But we believe that this shirt would benefit from a hanging tab, both for ease of drying and to keep the collar from stretching out.
In our laboratory "soak n' dry" test, the Echo falls within the top third for flat drying speed in the sun, making it an asset for backpackers and dirtbags alike. While this layer is designed with ActiveFresh odor control, after a few rounds of sweat-induced activity, we found that it certainly was in need of a good wash. Fortunately, AirVent is a 100% polyester fabric, making this shirt both washer and dryer safe.
As a lightweight base layer, this shirt is definitely designed to be worn next-to-skin as the very first piece you put on in the morning — from there, the possibilities are based on the weather outside. We did knock the Echo a few points only in terms of layering versatility; this top is simply too slim to comfortably layer anything else underneath it, although we cannot imagine wanting to wear any lighter of a layer as your base.
Planning on a pre-dawn approach to a climb? Wear the Echo under your favorite puffy, and expect to be warm, dry, and ready to tackle that newest project. We particularly appreciated the thoughtful body-mapping of this shirt, allowing for full freedom of motion, even layered under a synthetic softshell.
Going on an all-day ski tour? We found that while this top is just a tad too thick to wear under a heavier-weight base layer without bunching, when layered properly underneath a midlayer and shell there are no constrictions, allowing you to comfortably move throughout the day. Just wanting to take the dog for a long, evening walk? Throw on the Echo under your favorite sweatshirt and add the perfect touch of warmth to help fend off the creeping chill of fall.
The Echo is a versatile addition to any recreational wardrobe. This top is not only super lightweight but scores well across the board in nearly every metric. While this shirt shines in terms of breathability — and is, therefore, best suited for the warmer seasons — we cannot discount the benefits of wearing this as a technical base layer through the winter. Considering all of the value included in this small package, it is easy to see why we landed on this layer as our Best Buy Award winner.
If you need a workhorse of a base layer that can keep up with your adventures across the seasons, look no further than the Outdoor Research Echo L/S. Able to perform as a sun shirt for weeks on the trail, and at the base of a well-layered kit for day-long ski tours, this top earned our Best Buy Award for its value and versatility. Keep in mind that this top is designed for high-exertion activities through the warmer 3-seasons. So if you are looking for a true wintertime base layer, or just generally run cold and need a little bit of extra warmth, we suggest checking out heavier-weight options.
— Aaron Rice