The Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch 3 is a well-constructed, lightweight bag for backpackers and climbers looking to shave weight without compromising comfort and features. Its balance of warmth, weight, and features put it at the top of the podium for our testers, earning it our Editors' Choice award, despite some very stiff competition. The bag's nearly translucent shell material proved to be very resistant to snowmelt and condensation, but not as weatherproof as Western Mountaineering Antelope or the Feathered Friends Snowbunting. Our testers appreciated its unique features like the hood cinches and the awesome double stash pocket.
Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch 3 Review
Cons: Zipper snags
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Our Analysis and Test Results
This bag is a close competitor with the Western Mountaineering Versalite, our Top Pick for Light Weight, and if you're keen on some extra features like an internal stash pocket and a different cut, you may even prefer the Torch, especially if you are a colder sleeper. For a slightly warmer, beefier bag, check out the Feathered Friends Snowbunting. While the Snowbunting is an efficient, no-frills alpinist's bag, the Torch earns our Editor's Choice award because it's more comfortable and appealed to more of our testers.
The Phantom Torch 3 is stuffed with 27.9 oz 800 fill goose down treated with Q-shield, Mountain Hardwear's proprietary hydrophobic treatment. The "3" is derived from the lower limit of the bag's EN rating. Our testers feel that EN ratings are only a rough guideline at best, and in our hands-on comparative testing, we found that the Torch 3 kept us warmer than some of the designated 0° bags in this review, such as the Nemo Sonic and the Kelty Cosmic Down (which both cost much less).
The Torch 3 is not as warm as the Feathered Friends Snowbunting, which is insulated with 900 fill down, and only weighs 1.8oz more than the Torch 3. Our most discerning testers found the Torch 3 to be slightly warmer than the Western Mountaineering Antelope MF.
The Torch 3 weighs in at 43.8oz, with an excellent warmth to weight ratio, and still includes many excellent features while keeping the weight down. The lightweight 10 denier filament shell appears delicate, almost see-through, but it endured plenty of stuffing and zipping without any rips or tears.
That being said, we still suggest keeping an eye out for rocks and other sharp objects when sleeping in this bag, as well as taking extra care when cramming gear on top of it in a backpack. The Torch 3 is heavier than the Antelope, the Sonic, the Versalite, and the REI Co-Op Magma 10. It is 10.9oz lighter than the best buy award-winning Rab Ascent 900 and is warmer than all the bags above.
Our testers loved snuggling into this lofty cocoon. Back sleepers rejoice, this bag is most comfortable for those who spend their nights in the supine position. Its dimensions are 59" at the shoulders, 53" in the hips, and 38" at the foot box, offering ample room to cross the legs or slightly bend your knees, but not spacious enough to create "dead air" cold spots.
The Torch 3 scored a solid 8 in the comfort metric because its hood is deeper than the Western Mountaineering Antelope and the Feathered Friends Snowbunting, allowing for a better side and belly sleeping. It did not score as high as the Big Agnes Storm King 0 or the Marmot Col, which have wider shoulders and deeper hoods. A little extra room also means you can store water bottles, clothing, or anything else you'd like to keep warm through the night with you in the bag.
The 800 fill down and a lightweight shell make the Torch 3 one of the more compressible bags in this review. It compressed to the same size as its similarly weighted competitors, the Western Mountaineering Antelope and the Feathered Friends Snowbunting, and was only out-compressed by the Western Mountaineering Versalite. The Torch 3's included stuff sack is the best of the manufacturer stuff sacks, featuring compression straps to help you maximize the room in your backpack.
The Torch 3 is loaded with features while still being one of the lighter bags in this review. It has two stash pockets located on the left shoulder area on the inside of the bag. One pocket has a zipper closure, the other a velcro, perfect for stashing a headlamp, batteries, watch, or a small phone.
The hood cinch features two cords - a flat webbing cord and a round cord, so you can easily differentiate the cord that tightens around the hood from the cord that tightens around the chin, even in the dark. This locks the hood in place, so you can even turn your head to the side without the hood sliding over your face, sending you into a claustrophobic panic. The Torch 3 has a draft tube that runs the entire length of the zipper and does an adequate job of keeping cold air and moisture at bay. The zipper itself works well, but you have to be mindful; pull the draft tube away from the zipper (while you are getting in and out of the bag). The zipper tends to snag if you are trying to make a quick exit in the dark. Make sure you pull the whole zipper is pulled taught, unzipped slowly, and you'll be able to avoid most nighttime snags.
The lightweight, almost see-through shell of Torch 3 repels water with ease. Water beaded off the bag like water off a duck's back, keeping our testers dry, without any water absorption. This makes it difficult to speak to properties of the hydrophobic down treatment. The shell fabric works so well that it is hard to actually get the down wet. Even in our submersion test, the bag absorbed only a small amount of water. It absorbed slightly more water than the Feathered Friends Snowbunting. The Torch absorbed significantly less water than the similarly rated Big Agnes Storm King 0 and the Rab Ascent 900 and dried out much faster than either of these bags.
The Torch 3 is a great bag for backpackers, climbers, and ski tourers looking to save weight without sacrificing sweet features like stash pockets and a roomy hood. If you're a cold sleeper, you may prefer the slightly warmer Feathered Friends Snowbunting. Alternatively, warmer sleepers may find the lighter Western Mountaineering Versalite to do the trick. Both of these bags aren't as comfy as the Torch.
$600 gets you a lightweight, well-constructed bag that will keep you warm on many adventures if properly cared for. Mountain Hardwear offers a limited warranty for the "practical life of the product", which could be a long time if you always keep it stored fully lofted in the included storage sack. Check out our Buying Advice for more tips to help your bag have a long and lofty life.
This bag is a great option for those interested in a lightweight cold weather bag for when temperatures dip into the upper single digits. It is slightly roomier than its closest competitors, the Western Mountaineering Antelope and Feathered Friends Snowbunting, and nearly as weather resistant. While not as well suited for true arctic expeditions as the Marmot Col or the North Face Inferno, this bag will fit the bill for most snowy adventures in the lower 48. It was a tough field of competitors with lots of high-quality options, but the Torch came out on top as our favorite.
— Matt Bento