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Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Down Jackets - Men's

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 10 reviews. Most recent review: August 5, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $340 - $350 | Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, packs into its own pocket.
Cons:  No way to cinch the hood, some slightly heavier jackets are much warmer.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, hiking, mountaineering, and around town.
User Rating:     
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 (3.6 of 5) based on 9 reviews
Recommendations:  43% of reviewers (3/7) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ December 3, 2012  
Overview
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer was the down jacket of choice for many of our testers. It is impressively light, only 7.5oz, very warm for it's weight, and has all the features we like in a light insulating layer. It comes in a hooded and non-hooded option, but we recommend the hooded version for its added warmth. It packs into its own pocket, which makes it a great choice for climbing. If you like bright colors, there are some unique color options to choose from.

Related: Non-hoodie version Ghost Whisperer

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

This is the second lightest down jacket we have tested. The medium weighs 7.5 ounces on our scale and has 2.78oz of 850 fill down. While the MontBell EX Light Down Jacket is lighter (5.6oz total and 1.8oz of 900 fill down), it has no features at all. With a hood, two hand pockets, a waist cinch, and the ability to pack it into its own pocket and clip it to your harness, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a far more versatile, and warmer jacket than the MontBell EX Light, and only 2oz heavier. The next lightest jackets we tested are the Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody where the Medium weighed in at 9.6 ounces, and the Western Mountaineering Flash XR (11oz). It should be noted that the Ghost Whisperer Medium is a fair bit bigger than the Ultralight Down Hoody.

We have been wearing the Ghost Whisperer with our favorite lightweight rain jacket, the Outdoor Research Helium 2. Their combined weight is 13.9 ounces! We believe this combo is about as warm as you can be with the most wind and rain protection for under a pound.

Note: The Ghost Whisperer reviewed here features standard 850 fill down. For the Spring '13 updates Mountain Hardwear is releasing their Q.Shield Down which is their version of the treated hydrophobic downs that are appearing on the market now. The updated Ghost Whisperer will feature this treated down and if you're looking for a light down layer with hydrophobic down it might be worth the wait for the updated Ghost Whisperer. Take a look at our How To Choose The Best Down Jacket buying advice article for information on treated down.

Warmth
This jacket is incredibly warm for its weight. It is probably one of the warmest sub-half-pound layers currently made. It feels like you are just wearing warm air. Wearing this over a t-shirt on 40-degree mornings is plenty warm as long as there is no wind. One tester slept in the Ghost Whisperer at fifteen degrees while wearing only a lightweight baselayer and inside the Katabatic Gear Palisade down sleeping bag (30 degree rating). Overall, this jacket, like other super-light insulating layers is best paired with a really light shell and gloves if you are in any type of cold wind.

The jacket uses 850 fill down, which is about as good as it gets. The down quality, along with the super light shell material, is what makes this jacket so warm despite its incredibly light weight. There is waist adjustability allowing you to cinch down around the hips and keep warm air in, and the hood fits snug around the face. There is an extra big baffle on the back just below the neck in the shape of the Mountain Hardwear logo (a nut). Not really important for performance, but a cool little touch.

Weight and Compressibility
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Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket (left) packs just a little smaller than the Patagonia Ultralight Down (hoody Right). However, the Ghost Whisperer packs into its own pocket whereas the Patagonia requires you to keep track of a small stuff sac
Credit: Chris McNamara

Even before we put it on a scale, we could tell this was one of the lightest layers out there. We have had over a dozen people wear this and they all have the same reaction when they put it on, "Wow, it doesn't weigh anything!" We thought we had tried a lot of light jackets, but this one really takes it to the next level. Many of our testers take the Ghost Whisperer as their only insulating layer for fast and light summer trips.

The jacket packs into its own pocket. Thank you! We always find it annoying when companies require you to keep track of a separate stuff sack (which invariable gets lost after a few months). Additionally, jackets like this that pack into a pocket are an excellent choice for multi-pitch climbing since you can clip them to your harness and whip them out fast and easy when you get to the belay. The First Ascent MicroTherm Hooded also has this feature, but weighs several more ounces overall.

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Max Neale on the Evolution Traverse (bottom center) in the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket.
Credit: Matt Wilhelm
Features
There is no cinch on the hood. We understand this is probably to save weight and the jacket's light weight is one of the main reasons we love it. And even without hood adjustment, the hood is designed in a way that mainly keeps light winds at bay. The hood fits best under a helmet and while performs well in terms of keeping you warm and keeping your peripheral vision clear, it has a slightly goofy look for around town. There is also no way to cinch the cuffs, but they are elasticized. This is standard on jackets like this. The jacket does have an adjustable waist with a single cinch on the right side. There are two handwarmer pockets, which in the spirit of cutting weight are not fleece lined. There is no chest pocket either inside or outside which is a minor inconvenience that saves weight and gives the jacket a clean look.

Colors and Style
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Western Mountaineering Quickflash and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer climbing in Red Rocks, Nevada.
Credit: Zeb Engberg

So far all the colors we have seen, except for black, are very bold: neon orange and blue, or silver with equally bright zippers of different colors. Some people will love these bold colors. Others will want something subtler. One tester loves the super bright orange (and feels very visible and safe when crossing the street or riding a bike). But his wife won't let him wear the jacket around her in public.

Durability
This jacket got a lot of use since we liked it so much. It even got a ride on the Evolution Traverse in the Sierras. However, after four months of extensive testing and the jacket seems to be holding up well. The logo, which was laminated to the chest, came off in the wash. This could be a good thing if you don't like logos.

The Ghost Whisperer has a very light shell material and that gives it a relative fragility in comparison to burlier jackets like the MontBell Frost Smoke Parka, or the OR Transcendent. As with the Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody and the MontBell Mirage Parka the incredible lightness of the Ghost Whisperer forces a slight drawback in overall durability. Overall however, we feel like the benefits of extreme lightness and packability usually outweigh the sacrifice in durability. If you need one light jacket to wear everyday for everything from walking around town to excursions in the backcountry you might be more satisfied with a more inherently durable jacket that weighs five or six more ounces.

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The Ghost Whisperer's ultralight fabric is prone to tear. After more than a year of hard use our test model has at least four holes, which have been quickly patched with orange Tenacious Tape.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab
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Mike Meo used the Ghost Whisperer as his primary insulating layer on a month long winter bike tour down the Baja Peninsula, Mexico.
Credit: Meghan Meo
Water Resistance
Like all the down jackets we tested there is a DWR coating that repels water in a very light drizzle.

Best Applications
At an incredible 7.5oz with 2 hand pockets, a hood, and packable into its own pocket the Ghost Whisperer is our go-to piece for staying light when a light insulation piece is needed. Excellent for climbing and backpacking.

Value
This is certainly not the cheapest down jacket available. That being said, you are getting an impeccable jacket. So far we are impressed with the durability, but as with any super-light jacket it is not designed to be bombproof. The First Ascent MicroTherm Hooded is a similar jacket in terms of style and features and although we feel it performs less well then the Ghost Whisperer, it also costs $100 less.

Other Versions
The Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer - Women's is the women's version of this jacket and won the Top Pick award in the Women's Down Jacket Review.

Want the Ghost Whisperer without the hood? Check out the men's Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, $319, or the women's version, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer - Women's, $299.

Tangential Note: Dream Backpacking Gear List
The Ghost Whisperer is one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.


Chris McNamara and Chris Simrell

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 5, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.6)

43% of 7 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
9 Total Ratings
5 star: 44%  (4)
4 star: 11%  (1)
3 star: 22%  (2)
2 star: 22%  (2)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 9 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Aug 5, 2014 - 10:39pm
EmBomb · Skier · New York, New York
The Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer would be a great jacket if it had better quality. I'm 6'5" 260 lbs. and the XXL fits fine. It's light-weight and warm, also stylish, but for a $350 dollar jacket I don't think it is the best value because the quality of the stitching is kind of poor. I was already pulling out a few threads in the arms after 2 weeks of use. Overall it is a solid coat and would work well as a layering piece, but as a stand alone/go to jacket I would look for a better value. Bottom line if you have money to burn, add it to your ensemble, but if you're on a budget like most folks, I would do some serious research before pulling the trigger on this. Seems like it won't last longer than 2-3 years to me. In my book, you should get at least 5-7 years of solid use for a price point above $250.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 8, 2014 - 11:01pm
Gordon · Hiker
I can't fathom the sizing comments here. I am 6'1", wear 34" shirt sleeves, and, at 145 pounds, I have no belly to speak of. A medium fits me fine, with no excess in the body and plenty of length in the sleeves.

Maybe some of you are buying counterfeits?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 4, 2014 - 02:24pm
Cormes · Climber · Cape Town
I have had this jacket now for 7 months. It is exceptionally warm for it's weight/ bulk (which is minimal)
I bought it because I hike deep into the mountains to trad climb and do not want to be be carrying more than I have to, I still need to pack food, climb and sleep gear etc.
Whilst climbing at higher altitudes and in the shade it's great for whipping out when it's my turn to belay. Whilst trad climbing I don't carry any additional gear besides this jacket, energy bars and some water.
Whenever I wear it I always get positive comments (on the styling and minimal pack size) on it and people are very keen to purchase one until they hear the price!
It is expensive but thats what you need to pay to get this weight/ packing size.
One of the handwarmer pockets are the stuff sack and it includes a loop to clip to your harness
The only negative thing I can say is that it looks fragile (might tear) So I am a little conservative with the jacket: I don't bushwhack or chimney with it!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 23, 2014 - 08:00am
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA
I wanted to buy one of these for ultralight backpacking trips. I'm 6' 160 and typically wear a medium in nearly all brands, but usually have to go with a large in MHW since their sizing is "different". I tried a medium in this and it was too tight across the chest, to the point of being constricting. Then I tried a large and it was huge in the belly, to the point of being ridiculous. I'm not going to buy a jacket that doesn't fit just because it is light. Also there is no hood adjustment. So I got the patagonia ultralight down hoody which fits me almost perfectly in a medium, has a hood adjustment and chest pocket, and weighs 9.4 ounces. It will probably be a lot more durable too. I'd rather support patagonia than the Columbia/MHW conglomerate, and in this case a well thought out feature set and dialed in sizing makes the choice that much easier, even though it does weight a couple ounces more.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 23, 2014 - 12:58am
aliebling · Climber · San Francisco, CA
Stylish and warm and blocks wind surprisingly well, but way too delicate - to the point where brushing against a wall can put a hole in to it. Probably fine as a midlayer and maybe even for around town wear (though even that is suspect). I say this as someone who isn't insanely hard on clothes, either. No way I could recommend it for the price.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 7, 2014 - 03:47pm
WhiteTomato · Hiker
Bought this jacket prior to a January trip to Saguaro National Park, where I was planning on camping at 8000 feet; not terribly high but I had to compensate for a potentially unwarm sleeping bag!

For its weight, the jacket is very warm. I NEVER felt cold when I wore it. Temps were in the 20s at night and early morning. I also had a couple windy days and it worked well as a windbreaker.

The jacket packed down super small; I loved it! I kept trying to find a smaller compression sack to see how small I could go.

I bought an extra large and would have to occur with a previous review regarding the sleeves. I am 6'6" and the sleeves definitely did not go down to my wrists all the way; however with a long sleeve shirt and gloves this wasn't a huge deal. The drawstrings on the side were great for cinching the jacket to my size.

Overall, I was very pleased with this purchase. I wouldn't mind longer sleeves, but other than that the jacket was as advertised.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Aug 27, 2013 - 09:11am
 
Davido · Climber · Peru
Do you have any review or comparision with the marmot quasar?
Thanks
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Jul 29, 2013 - 01:25pm
 
Steve707 · Backpacker · Santa Rosa
Just wanted to point out that the amazing 69% off deal for only 89 dollars, is NOT the reviewed down jacket, its just a rain parka.
So disappointed, I was going to order 3 of em!
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   Jul 25, 2013 - 05:52pm
CDBahl · Hiker · Seattle
I think it's important to mention the unbelievably poor sizing of this jacket. I'm not sure who Mountain Hardwear was designing the fit for, but it sure wasn't me. I'm a pretty average size and build: 6 foot, 160 lbs, and I wear a size medium from most outdoor brands without a problem. The sleeves on this jacket are waaaaay too short and there is a ton of extra room in the body- much more than is necessary (even if layering). If I go up a size, the sleeves are still a little short, and now the jacket could fit two of me in the torso section. This isn't just me either, if you look closely at most of the pictures accompanying this article, you can see the sleeves often end about 3-4 inches away from the wrist of the wearer. This is inexcusable on a ~$300 piece of supposedly technical gear.

A jacket can have all the fancy features in the world, but if it doesn't even come remotely close to fitting properly, it's ultimately a fail.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer shown in Steel
Credit: Mountain Hardware
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