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Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer Review


Down Jacket

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Editors' Choice Award
Price:   Varies from $200 - $350 online  —  Compare at 6 sellers
Pros:  Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, packs into its own pocket
Cons:  No hood cinch, some slightly heavier jackets are much warmer
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear

Overview

Paper thin and feather light, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a minimalist approach to a fully mountain ready jacket. Whether on a multi-pitch climb or a multi-day expedition, the Ghost Whisperer has precisely what you need - and nothing more - to get you through in comfort and safety. Lightweight but heavy on tech, this jacket incorporates Q Shield DWR infused hydrophobic down and Whisperer 7D X 10D ripstop fabric, both Mountain Hardwear proprietary materials. Though deserving of the many awards it has won, the Ghost Whisperer does have a few limitations that might make another jacket more appropriate for you. For a jacket that will take more of a beating and be a little warmer, check out our Top Pick winner, the Arc'teryx Thorium SV. Or for a more breathable jacket that can be used as a mid-layer, try the immaculate Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody.

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Thomas Greene
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 25, 2014

Interested In New Colors?


The Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer has kept its awesome design and is now available in new colors: Ice Shadow, Serpent Green, Dark Compass, Electron Yellow, Fiery Red, and Shark/Titanium. You may also be able to find the same great Hooded Ghost Whisperer on sale in different colors. Check out the new colors, pictured in the above order.
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Hands-On Review


Weighing in at a meager 1.1 oz.more than the Arc'teryx Cerium SL,which is the lightest jacket we tested, the Ghost Whisperer retains all the necessary features to be a fully functional, stand alone piece. This jacket was designed with climbers in mind, but became a go-to for our testers while traveling because of its packability, warmth, and style. Though pared down, you won't miss any of the superfluous features. The Single drawcord at the waist keeps the warmth in and the wind out, and the elasticated cuffs and hood rim more than make up for any lack of adjustability. We tested this jacket in both very wet and very dry environments. Though it would certainly be more at home in the high desert or high mountains away from the rain, it fared better when wet than any down jacket we tested.

Performance Comparison


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The Lightweight Ghost Whisperer was more than warm enough on the "warmer" days in Antarctica.

Warmth


Though the Ghost Whisperer will never replace your heavy belay jacket, it is the perfect mid-altitude shoulder season/summer climbing jacket. Our testers found this to be a favorite and consequently it got a lot of use in some very cold places. It was tested very high up in the mountains of New Zealand, where it easily held up up to the blustery damp of the Southern Alps. The Ghost Whisperer also performed well in Antarctica where it was perfectly suited to the dry, cold, and windy terrain. It performs equally well as part of a layering system or as a super light single insulation piece. How warm it keeps you is all relative. You're not going to climb Denali with this as your only warm layer, but it will do for more than a few pitches in the shade when Rocktober comes along. In terms of its warmth-to-weight ratio, you'd be hard pressed to find anything better.

Weight


With no drawcord in the hood, no velcro on the wrists, only 2 handwarmer pockets, ultra-light zippers, and no reinforced areas, the spartan design of the Ghost Whisperer couldn't get much more pared down. Consequently, Mountain Hardwear had to rely on some extremely light materials to further reduce the weight of the Ghost Whisperer. The 7 D X 10 D Ripstop Ghost Whisperer fabric is so specialized that only one mill in the world makes it. The Whisperer 7D X 10D is incredibly strong for an ultra-light fabric, but is more susceptible to tearing the more robust materials. Down is the most efficient insulator per gram available, so naturally is it the material of choice when attempting to make the lightest jacket possible. However, the combination of an ultra-light exterior and down insulation can result in some hasty and necessary field repairs if you get a bad enough tears. The Ghost Whisperer is amazingly warm and supremely light, but you'll have to baby it a bit more than heavier jackets.

Water Resistance


While getting wet in the mountains is almost never fun, getting wet while wearing or sleeping in down is proportionally less fun than normal, at least historically speaking. Though still the best insulator on the planet in terms of weight and warmth, down does have its Kryptonite. When wet, down loses virtually all it's insulating properties. Hence the proliferation of synthetically insulated jackets which continue to insulate even when wet. With the recent development of hydrophobic down technology, the playing field may again be tipping in down's favor. The concept is fairly simple: coat individual plumes of down in a Durable Water Resistant polymer using magic, or nano technology, or something. Either way, the results have been impressive. Hydrophobic down retains loft and stays drier substantially longer than untreated down, and dries much faster. While definitely not waterproof, Q Shield down is a significant step in the right direction. Though its performance metrics don't quite compare to the water tolerance capacity of synthetic materials, they are edging closer.

By necessity, the Whisperer fabric is very finely woven to hold in the down insulation. This makes the fabric fairly resistant to water. In a light rain shower the water may never even reach the down.

Compressibility


This jacket belongs on your ultra light climbing gear wish list. The Ghost Whisperer virtually disappears into its own pocket, forming a package about twice the size of a 7 millimeter 15 foot cordelette (meaning super small), and clips handily onto a harness. The down regains its loft quickly after being compressed and is immensely durable. Throw it in your pack and forget about it until the cold reminds you it's there. It takes up less space than any insulated full featured jacket we've tested. Pro Tip: store this jacket in the closet and not in the bottom of your pack if you want to extend its life span and don't be afraid to wash your down!

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The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is the perfect cool weather companion and is easy to pack on any type of adventure.

Features


The Ghost Whisperer is defined more by what it doesn't have than what it has. The elasticated hood rim and cuffs lack adjustability but suction cup themselves over helmets and gloves. This provides more than adequate protection and performance, and keeps the grams down. The two handwarmer pockets are placed high enough on the body of the jacket to not get buried under a harness. The hem sits low enough to stay under your harness when you're moving and the sleeves accommodate a positive ape index when reaching.

Durability


As previously stated, this jacket has some minor issues with fabric durability. Not a game ender, but something to take into consideration when making a purchase. After significant use, our testers reported no damage to any of the zippers, drawcords, drawcord cinches, or elastic in the hood or cuffs. There really isn't that much that can break on this jacket, and what's there is very well made. The outer material showed no signs of sun damage and leaked no feathers.The only mark against the Ghost Whisperer is the relative fragility of its ultra light fabric. After several months of testing, the jacket had two tears, one in the hem and another in the sleeve. Both occurred while climbing on sharp rock where a more rugged material may have fared better.

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The 7 denier Whisperer fabric stood up to some serious abuse, including sliding through an ice cave.

Style


This jacket is definitely cool looking and comes in some flashy colors. Yet it has a higher volume than appears necessary, especially for folks with a thinner-athletic build. Though the extra space might make layering under this jacket easier, when worn over thin layers, the jacket seems bigger than it ought to be, even when compared to other Mountain Hardwear jackets. If you can get away with sizing this jacket down and still have adequate arm and torso length, it might be worth checking out. Not just for for style points either: less internal space means less space to warm up with body heat, helping to conserve and use your energy more efficiently.

Best Applications


Take the Ghost Whisperer just about anywhere and you'll be happy with it. Made for the mountains but not too much for a blustery day at the beach, the Ghost Whisperer is extremely warm for the weight and packs in enough style for those concerned with fashion.

Value


Though not inexpensive, this jacket might actually save you some cash by filling a few gaps in your wardrobe. It's a one jacket wonder that will keep you warm on tiny belay stances in the shade and isn't overkill for a train trip across Europe. Highly durable and ultra light, it became the go to jacket for our testers and will be for the foreseeable future.

Other Versions


Ghost Whisperer Down Vest
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and Ghost Whisperer Down Vest - Women's
  • Cost - $244 ($106 less than Ghost Whisperer Jacket)
  • Weight - 5oz (Claims to be world's lightest full-featured down vest)
  • Perfect for layering; ideal for travel

Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer - Women's
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  • Cost - $350 (Same as men's version)
  • Weight - $7.2oz (.3oz less than men's version)
  • Available in colors that you either love or hate
Thomas Greene

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 25, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.9)

86% of 7 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 38%  (3)
4 star: 38%  (3)
3 star: 13%  (1)
2 star: 13%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Dec 18, 2015 - 04:35am
The necessary stuff about weight, warmth and so on has all been said, and I totally agree. However, the durability of the loft of the QShield down is a concern to me, as is breathability.
In the beginning, when the loft was still impeccable (and it is impressive) there was lots of warmth, but when I started sweating, I had the feeling the generated sweat was incubating underneath the fabric, instead of diffusing out. Also, it would take a while to dry after being wet from the inside.
Initially, that wasn't much of a problem, the jacket continued keeping me warm during a few weeks even when sweaty, but after those initial weeks, the jacket never really recovered its loft and would flap around my body a bit instead of fully lofting, even after days of drying and also never fully lofted back after compressing it a couple of times. Granted, I think mine was the first generation of QShield down, and maybe the retailer might have even dumped a no-QShield model on me, since I cannot see any hint of QShield labelling on the jacket. But I have another one without the hood, and this definitely lofts better, yet I took care to not compress this one very often yet (maybe 2-3 times in 2 years).
I also have a Sea To Summit Spark 2 sleeping bag, and the Ultra-Dry Down used in that one has a definitely stabler loft, to sweat as well as to compression. As I said, newer models of the Ghost Whisperer might fare better and there is a noticeable difference in loft even between two models that I have, but even the better lofting model still cannot hold a candle to Ultra-Dry Down in the long run and in terms of breathability and to compare one of the latest models of the Ghost Whisperer, the price is simply to steep to justify a new purchase for a jacket that is still otherwise very functional. I always used the Ghost Whisperers I have layered underneath a hardshell, so they don't have to face the elements on their own.

Another immediate concern is the cut: I am 1.80m, swimmer and rather athletic, but not extremely so, and the jackets feel either baggy, or too narrow and too short in the arms. I have size L. M felt like they would rip apart when I took too deep breaths, and XL felt like I could pith them as a tent. Yet, the L could probably still accommodate my frame if more of my 88kg were in my belly instead of in my torso muscles and my lung volume were smaller.

Another point of contention would be that the hood is not cinched, which is not such a biggie, since it fits rather well, as long as you keep looking straight ahead. When you turn your head though, that's a different story: the hood does not turn in the same direction, and you end up having the hood over half of your face (which won't probably be fixed by a cinch either), which is a problem when you are on your bike looking left and right at an intersection. Also, one suggestion would be to make the hood stowable. This should not add too much weight and would definitely increase the usability of the hooded version greatly.
So, I would still recommend it, but there ate some issues that might only turn up after a couple of weeks of usage. And I haven't even used the jacket in extremely humid (sweat- or rain-wise) situations yet; I have my thermoballs for that.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 25, 2016 - 01:30am
NatD · Climber · WA
I go back and forth on whether or not this item is really worth it. It is extremely light, packable and fairly durable. But it isn't THAT warm. It's about as warm as a typical 60g/cm synthetic jacket with a windproof fabric, at less than half the weight. So light is the key word here.

In the Pacific Northwest the temps that this jacket is warm enough to be your only jacket are usually accompanied by wet-snow or rain. On the east side of the crest it's dry but for most of us, it's wet when it is in this jackets sweet spot. So the usual story is A) it's so cold that I have to bring a major parka for a true belay jacket/base camp jacket, and a more breathable layer like the Patagonia nano air is more useful than the ghost whisperer, or B) it's not cold enough for a bigger parka, which means that it's either raining or about to rain, so a synthetic is going to be the action layer no matter what so the ghost whisperer is just an extra jacket.

I've gotten good use out of it in the American southwest where it is absolutely stellar in the dry, mildly cold winters. I got really lucky with zero rain for 8 days straight in the North cascades in 2015. I spent 2 months in Mongolia where this jacket truly shined. But for me those are anomalies. I find myself in my Rab Nebula or Patagonia Nano Air far more often due to the weather being wet enough that even mountain hardwear's very good hydrophobic down can't keep up for multiple days on end. Or if it's really cold or high altitude, I've got a fully baffled down parka on.

So just think about it before you buy. If you are building a total-mountain wardrobe with the world in mind, like I tend to do even against my better financial judgement, then I believe you will really like this jacket. If you are a hometown adventurer though, think about your climate before you drop the coin for this jacket.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 30, 2015 - 09:19am
aegispsyche · Hunter · Fairbanks
I have only worn this jacket as a mid-layer to and from work. I planned on using it for hunting on the north slope/haul road here in Alaska. However, this jacket has little durability. For a month now, I have put the jacket on and then a outer layer over it, I get in my truck and drive 2 miles to work, I take the jacket off. I then repeat this for my trip home. So far, the jacket has lost tons of feathers and fill from just sitting in a truck and driving. I have feathers and fill all over my truck, my office, and my home. There are no holes in the jacket it just seems to shed its fill non stop. I could not imagine it lasting more than one trip where i had to exert myself at all or even walk for a bit. And to be honest, the review here at outdoor labs about this jacket has me concerned since I based my purchase of the jacket on the review here.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 16, 2015 - 02:28am
Jug · Surfer · Huntington Beach
Amazing UL Down Hooded jacket. Mine weighs just under a half pound at 7.9oz for the medium which fits large imo. It will stuff and disappear into your backpack, and when the chill starts creeping, this thing will keep it at bay. Just finished 21 days of clear JMT hiking, and this was the key piece of gear am and pm to avoid getting cold without having to layer up.

Pros:
Uber Light under a half pound
Silky Soft Whisper 7D Ripstop Nylon windproof water resistant
Q-shield 850 down (DRIDOWN)
Lofts well for the amount of down
Warmth was beyond impressive, stopped the wind and cold.

Cons:
This is the single issue that lead me to deduct 1 star. The zippers are tiny, and have more friction than they should. Like a tough, waterproof style zipper would feel. Starting and undoing the zipper feels like in time, the plastic slide where the zipper starts, will either tear off, or wear out in no time.
The hood is fitted, zero adjustment although it fit me good with a beanie on.
A bit drafty around the collar area when the hood is off, but a buff solved that.

All in all, an amazing piece of outdoor gear. One of my prized pieces for sure. When the zipper fails, I will just have a better one sewn on.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 30, 2015 - 07:46pm
My biggest disappointment with this jacket.
Mountain Hardwear lowered the fill rate from 850 to 800 and didn't even reduce the price.
What set this jacket above the others was the weight-v-warmth factor.
I suppose it makes little difference in the scheme of things, as I hope to never be in a situation were that little extra is going to save my life. My question is…if you have a multi award winning product that is literally flying off the shelves, (excuse the very small pun) why down grade it?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 4, 2015 - 05:36pm
Gordon · Backpacker
Layered perfectly under my ski jacket (Flylow BA Puffy) on a very windy day at Mt. Rose, when extra warmth on the lift was essential. Also, took up very little room in my travel bag.

I am 6'1", 150 pounds, and the medium fits me well, even in the sleeves.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 28, 2014 - 09:13am
Supertramp · Backpacker · Sarasota
This jacket has traveled with me for over 1,450 miles and kept relatively decent loft with my body oils and the humidity of the east coast. I washed it when I got home and as expected the loft has returned. It's extremely warm for its weight and I plan on using this for years to come.

Pros:
Warm for its weight
Great fit (medium; for me at least)
Compact

Cons:
Price (although not abnormally expensive)
Fragile feel (trade-off for ultralight gear)

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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