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Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer Review


Down Jacket

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Editors' Choice Award
Price:   Varies from $224 - $350 online  —  Compare at 7 sellers
Pros:  Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic down
Cons:  No hood cinch, some slightly heavier jackets are much warmer, waist cinch leaves cord hanging below the waist
Bottom line:  A surprisingly warm jacket that is super-light and thin, providing excellent versatility for technical adventures.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear

Overview

Paper thin and feather light, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded 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 moisture-resistant hydrophobic down and Whisperer 7D X 10D ripstop nylon 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. Besides being very thin, it is also extremely light on features, such as an adjustable hood or internal pockets, which help create an extra level of comfort and protection. But despite its few minor imperfections, this jacket was the highest scorer in our test, and is truly unique enough to win our Editors' Choice Award for Best Overall Down Jacket.

Don't need a hood? Check out the jacket version
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The Ghost Whisperer Jacket is basically the same as our Editor's Choice winner without a hood. The main difference is that jacket is a little lighter than the hoody and saves you $30 (the jacket retails for $319). We prefer a hood in most applications because it adds a lot of warmth and not much extra weight. But the hoodless version is easier to layer under other jackets and arguable more stylish around town. We highly recommend both models.

RELATED: Our complete review of down jackets - men's

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Andy Wellman
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
November 20, 2016
Weighing a meager 8.4 ounces, roughly four ounces lighter than its next closest competitor, 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 pack-ability, water resistance, and light weight. Though pared down, you likely won't miss any superfluous features. The single draw cord at the waist keeps the warmth in and the wind out, and the elastic cuffs and hood rim do an effective job despite their 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 desert or high mountains away from the rain, it fared better when wet than any other down jacket we tested.

Performance Comparison


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Thrown on over our wind breaker for the chilly start to the morning long ride, this super lightweight jacket was very quickly shed as the trail started to climb, but easily fit into the small riding pack. This is in the La Sal Mountains of Utah, at the very beginning of the Whole Enchilada bike route.

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 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.

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The Ghost Whisperer jacket uses very thin sewn-through baffles with vertical stitching as well to create small pockets for its 800 fill-power down, allowing it to be very light and thin and surprisingly warm.

Constructed using 800 fill-power down, we can honestly say that this jacket demonstrates how the quality of materials matter when it comes to warmth. The Whisperer ripstop nylon does a great job of resisting the wind, a crucial element in keeping out the cold with such a thin jacket. While it wasn't by any means as warm as the Marmot Guide Down Hoody or the Arc'teryx Thorium SV, we found it to be just as warm as some thicker jackets, like the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. Six out of 10 points.

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Enduring the cold in lightweight down jackets while climbing in Red Rocks, Nevada.

Weight


The Ghost Whisperer Hooded weighed a mere 8.4 ounces on our scale for a men's size large, four ounces lighter than the REI Co-op Down Hoody, its closest competitor. With no draw cord in the hood, no Velcro on the wrists, only two handwarmer pockets, ultra-light zippers, and no reinforced areas, the minimalist 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 7D X 10D 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 than more robust materials. Down is the most efficient insulator per gram available, so naturally it is 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 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. Even still, it was easily light enough for a perfect 10 out of 10 score.

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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.

Water Resistance


While getting wet in the mountains is almost never fun, getting wet while wearing 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 of its insulating properties. Hence the proliferation of synthetically insulated jackets that 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. The results have been impressive, and the Ghost Whisperer is a prime example of how effective this technology can be.

In our testing we found that while the Whisperer nylon outer fabric combined with a DWR coating does a decent job of beading up and shedding water, it is also fairly water absorbent, and is obviously wet to the touch and shows visible signs of water penetration after even a light rain shower. In this regard, it ranked fairly poorly, similar to the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody or The North Face Trevail Hoodie. However, we also tested this jacket in a full on dousing in the shower for about five minutes. After this test, we noticed virtually no compression of the down or loss of warmth-trapping loft. Although this wasn't a highly scientific test, we nevertheless found the Q.Shield down to be fairly effective, as advertised, and so bumped up the water resistance score to seven out of 10.

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Not satisfied with simply letting the Ghost Whisperer get wet outside in the rain, we insisted on also soaking it in the shower in an effort to determine the success of the hydrophobic down inside. After soaking directly for many minutes, we couldn't see any loss of loft in the down, despite the fact that water had without doubt penetrated the shell.

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 mm, 15 ft. cordelette (meaning super small), and clips handily onto a harness. It was the second smallest compressed jacket in this test, behind only the Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody. 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 definitely 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 10 jackets in this year's review stuffed into their own stuff sacks or pockets, with a nalgene bottle for comparison. Left, bottom to top, smallest to largest: Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, REI Co-op Down Hoody, Outdoor Research Transcendent Jacket. Right, bottom to top: The North Face Trevail Hoodie, some blue jacket we cut from the review (stuff sack), Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, Marmot Guides Down Jacket, Arc'teryx Thorium SV (stuff sack), Western Mountaineering Flash XR (no sack, stuffed into its own hood).

Style


This jacket comes in some flashy, creatively contrasting colors that make it look cool, yet also techy. 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 style points either: less internal space means less space to warm up with body heat, helping to conserve and use your energy more efficiently. There is no doubt that this jacket has a techy look and isn't one that we would choose to wear out on the town very often. As such we gave it six out of 10 points.

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We liked the offset colors of the pewter grey and electric blue lining, and also the long cut of the jacket that allowed it to come down well below our waist, and stay there, but felt that it looked like a technical layer, not like an out-on-the-town puffy.

Features


The Ghost Whisperer is defined more by what it doesn't have than what it has. The elastic hood rim and cuffs lack adjustability, but suction cup themselves over helmets and gloves. This provides adequate protection and performance and keeps the grams down, although by no means will you get the tight, adjustable seal that is to be found with Velcro wrists or a cinchable hood like that found on the Marmot Guide Down Hoody.

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. We wish this jacket had some internal stash pockets, like many of the other warmth layers we tested, and certainly lament the fact that the hem draw cord leaves a big loop of bungee cord hanging down below the waist for gear or brush to get caught on. This jacket ranked near the bottom when considering features, only slightly better than the Western Mountaineering Flash XR. We gave it five out of 10.

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While the hood on the Ghost Whisperer is not adjustable in any way, it does have a small enough opening for the face, lined with elastic, that does a good job of sealing out the cold and wind.

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A flaw in the design of this feature, the hem line draw cord, is that it leaves a long loop of cord hanging down below the waist when pulled tight. Most jackets managed to hide these cords inside the pocket, and if wearing crampons, or climbing, this loop can easily catch on things, tripping you up.

Best Applications


The Ghost Whisperer is designed for technical use think climbing or backcountry skiing. It thrives in moderate cold where it can spend some of the time in the pack, and where the thickest and warmest of outer layers are not necessary. Due to its thin construction, it makes a good option for actually exercising in it, rather than just waiting out the cold.

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Max Neale on the Evolution Traverse (bottom center) in the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket.

Value


This jacket retails for $350, which is cheaper than the more expensive jackets in this test, but also quite a bit pricier than the most affordable. 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. Since we think it's the best overall jacket in this year's testing, we are happy to say that it presents a good value.

Conclusion


The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded is the best overall down jacket and as such wins our Editors' Choice Award. It is very light, super packable, and shows surprising warmth and water resistance for such a thin garment. While we think it outperformed all the other jackets in this test, we warn that it would not be our first choice as a cold weather belay jacket where there will be lots of standing around, or for such crazy cold as that found in Alaska or the high Himalaya. It is best used for active pursuits in moderate cold, and has the versatility to serve as an outer layer, or as a warm mid-layer. This jacket truly embodies the ethos of innovation and lightweight, and we happily recommend it to you the reader.

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Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer in Champagne Slot, East fork Hyalite Canyon, MT

Other Versions and Accessories


Men's Ghost Whisperer Jacket
  • Cost: $320
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Same jacket, without the hood

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer - Women's
  • Cost: $350
  • Same jacket made specifically for women

Men's Ghost Whisperer Down Vest
  • Cost: $245
  • Weight: 5 ounces
  • The same product, in vest form
Andy Wellman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 20, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
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5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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