Hands-on Gear Review

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 20 Review

18 ounces of 900 fill-power Q.Shield down equals a winning combination!
By: Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 3, 2018
Price:  $580 List  |  $457.46 at Backcountry - 21% Off
Pros:  Warm, tons of high quality down, water resistant, great anti-snag zipper
Cons:  Expensive, underneath side of bag uses sewn through construction, on the heavier side, fragile
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Warmth - 30% 9
  • Weight - 25% 4
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Features - 10% 7
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Top Pick Award

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 20 is our Top Pick as the Best Ultralight Mummy Bag because it features a super warm and comfortable design combined with an excellent set of features. This bag is filled with a whopping 18 ounces of 900 fill-power down, ensuring that you are surrounded by heat-trapping loft. Not only that, but the down used is Q.Shield treated, meaning it doesn't absorb water and lose its warmth retaining capabilities like traditional down, an attribute that will allow you to bring this bag with you no matter what climate you are traveling through. As part of their top-of-the-line Ghost Whisperer series, this bag uses the same Whisperer 7D x10D Ripstop fabric and attention to detail found in the extremely popular and award winning, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded down jacket, a recipe for success!


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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If it wasn't for the relatively low score we gave this bag for weight, it would have probably been the top overall scorer in this review. Of course, those few extra ounces come with a direct benefit to warmth, which is well worth it if you want a bag that can handle temperatures below those found only in summer. While many people prefer the versatility and lack of weight that comes with choosing a quilt for ultralight missions, we have found that when temperatures and weather get tough, being able to completely enclose oneself in a mummy style bag is worth the extra constriction and slight bump up in baseline pack weight. Simply put, this is a lightweight bag for those gnarlier missions to colder, wetter places than an average summertime fastpack.

Mountain Hardwear claims that this bag is perfect for alpine climbing, and we would agree as long as you are using it in conjunction with an insulated sleeping pad, and not for exposed bivies on route. The Feathered Friends Vireo UL is probably a better choice if you are hauling kit up the wall, as it's lighter and works better in conjunction with your belay jacket (the Ghost Whisperer 20 is a little tight with a jacket on). Staying tied in while sleeping can also be an issue with this bag, as the cord must run out through the face opening, in contrast to the two-way zipper that easily facilitates sleeping while tied in found on the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30. We would instead recommend the Ghost Whisperer 20 as a backpacking or trekking bag for higher altitudes, colder climates, and shoulder seasons.

Looking for Different Options?
We tested the regular length Ghost Whisperer 20, but it also comes in size long, which adds $30, less than one ounce of weight, and six inches of length. For those who like the design but want an even lighter bag for warmer temperatures, check out the Ghost Whisperer 40, which weighs just over 1 lb. for a regular size, and costs nearly $200 less.

Performance Comparison


The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 20 drying out in the sun after a chilly night in the western Colorado desert camping next to the Dolores River. This is our Top Pick for Ultralight Mummy Bags.
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 20 drying out in the sun after a chilly night in the western Colorado desert camping next to the Dolores River. This is our Top Pick for Ultralight Mummy Bags.

Warmth


The Ghost Whisperer 20 is EN rated with a comfort rating of 32F and a limit rating of 20F. It is filled with 18 ounces of 900 fill-power Q.Shield treated down, the most down filling we have seen in an ultralight sleeping bag. Its not surprising, then, that we awarded it the highest rating of any bag for warmth.


What was surprising to us is the way that the down is distributed throughout the bag. On the top side the down is held in place using box baffle construction — the warmest and highest quality type of baffle sewing for this purpose. However, on the underside of the bag we found less down held in place by sewn through baffles, which do not distribute the down as evenly, and are known for being less warm due to the gaps that form around the seams. It seems that Mountain Hardwear took a page out of the down-quilt philosophy that insulation on the underside is wasted weight, and so used much less of it there. The implications are that in order to stay optimally warm in this bag, especially in colder conditions, you will need to consider the insulating properties and R-value of your sleeping pad, much like you would if you were sleeping in a quilt such as the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30. This is another reason that we don't recommend this bag as highly as the Feathered Friends Vireo UL for exposed bivies on alpine climbs, because it doesn't have a uniform insulation map like that bag does.

Shown here is the sunlight shining through the underside of the Ghost Whisperer 20  which uses less down than the top in sewn-through baffles  as opposed to the box baffles on the top of the bag.
Shown here is the sunlight shining through the underside of the Ghost Whisperer 20, which uses less down than the top in sewn-through baffles, as opposed to the box baffles on the top of the bag.

Other features that contributed positively to the warmth of the Ghost Whisperer 20 were a deep and heavily insulated hood that easily fit over the entire head, an adequate zipper baffle that helped to keep out drafts, and a snug profile that minimizes the amount of space within the bag that must be kept warm. While the temperature ratings were similar to the Zpacks Classic and the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20, the fact that it was a fully enclosed, hooded mummy gave it the nod in functional warmth.

Weight


Our regular length bag weighed in at 26.5 ounces, about an ounce lighter than the stated weight on the manufacturer's website. There is no doubt this is heavy to be considered "ultralight", as the Sea to Summit Spark I, the lightest bag in the review, weighed less than half as much. Even a comparable bag in terms of warmth, the Zpacks Classic, was six ounces lighter.


That said, we feel that if the warmth provided by the extra weight of this bag is needed, then clearly it is worth it. We also found it interesting that minus the 18 ounces of down fill, this whole sleeping bag is made of only 8.5 ounces of material, a testament to the quality of the Whisperer Ripstop fabric used. We were also impressed that it comes with a very small, highly compressible compression stuff sack that ensures it will be one of the smaller items in your pack when you set off. We awarded 4 out of 10 points for weight.

While this was one of the heavier bags in our UL review  we really loved how it came with its own compression stuff sack that ensures it packs down really small and easily fits in your pack.
While this was one of the heavier bags in our UL review, we really loved how it came with its own compression stuff sack that ensures it packs down really small and easily fits in your pack.

Comfort


We found this to be a very comfortable sleeping bag. While hooded mummy bags are often knocked for feeling claustrophobic once fully zipped up, this one allowed us plenty of room to lie however we wanted. The size regular bag was more than long enough for our 5'11"+ head tester, which couldn't be said about a couple of the regular sized bags that we tested.


The little details found on this bag also added to its comfort level. Unlike the hood found on the Western Mountaineering HighLite, this one was plenty big to easily wrap over our entire head, covering it all the way down the forehead without the need to tighten the draw cord. Speaking of which, there is one next to the head that lives on the outside of the bag, so the cord never dangles in your face when sleeping. We awarded it 8 out of 10 for comfort, and have almost nothing to complain about.

Not only is this bag spacious enough on the inside  but the hood is deep and perfectly wraps around the head without needing to tighten the draw cord. We also loved how no cords  zippers  or velcro hang in your face as you try to sleep. No doubt this was a comfortable mummy bag!
Not only is this bag spacious enough on the inside, but the hood is deep and perfectly wraps around the head without needing to tighten the draw cord. We also loved how no cords, zippers, or velcro hang in your face as you try to sleep. No doubt this was a comfortable mummy bag!

Versatility


For a hooded mummy bag, this one is pretty darn versatile. The use of Q.Shield treated down throughout the bag, combined with an effective DWR coating applied to the outside material, means that you can bring it along on missions to rainy, wet places, and not automatically end up sleeping in a sopping pile of feathers. Additionally, the fact that it is very warm and packs down super small means that it is a great choice for shoulder seasons, high altitude, or colder missions that 40 degree UL sleeping bags simply don't handle as well.


On the other hand, it is a mummy bag with only a ½ length side zipper, making it difficult to ventilate on hot nights. Compared to the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL, which optimally allows for use as a blanket, a foot enclosed quilt, or a hoodless mummy, there is less temperature range that one is likely to feel optimally comfortable in this bag. We awarded 6 out of 10 points.

For a mummy style bag  this one is really versatile. We used it for camping on warm nights in the desert  as well as during colder winter weather on climbing trips. However  it isn't as easy to ventilate on those really warm nights as a quilt.
For a mummy style bag, this one is really versatile. We used it for camping on warm nights in the desert, as well as during colder winter weather on climbing trips. However, it isn't as easy to ventilate on those really warm nights as a quilt.

Features


Most of the features of this awesome sleeping bag, including its deep hood, treated down insulation and included compression stuff sack, have already been positively documented. However, it has one more unique feature that we have never seen before that is worth a look.


The snag resistant zipper glows in the dark (so it is easier to find without your headlamp) and is ridiculously easy to thread and pull without getting caught on the fragile liner material, as often happens with sleeping bag zippers. Unfortunately, it also loves to come apart at the base when you fully unzip it, so it's a good thing it's really easy to thread together! Taken as a whole, we awarded the features on this bag 7 out of 10 points, very similar to the Marmot Phase 30.

The anti-snag zipper is one of the more unique features on this mummy bag. Not only does it glow in the dark so you can find it easily without a headlamp  but it is super easy to thread  and doesn't catch on the fragile interior fabric of the bag.
The anti-snag zipper is one of the more unique features on this mummy bag. Not only does it glow in the dark so you can find it easily without a headlamp, but it is super easy to thread, and doesn't catch on the fragile interior fabric of the bag.

Best Applications


The Ghost Whisperer 20 is the ideal sleeping bag for thru-hikers, backpackers, or climbers who want the warmth and security of a fully enclosed mummy bag that is simply lighter than what they are used to. It is also a great choice for those who sleep cold and are thus scared away from quilts. Due to the fragile nature of the very light fabrics used, we recommend saving this bag for those special trips when it is really needed, and not using it on regular old car camping weekends where it might get ripped.

Due to a torn meniscus and subsequent surgery  we were forced to test this bag extensively while car camping. We would recommend reserving it for those special adventures that require both warmth and light weight  and not risk damaging such an expensive bag by using it every day.
Due to a torn meniscus and subsequent surgery, we were forced to test this bag extensively while car camping. We would recommend reserving it for those special adventures that require both warmth and light weight, and not risk damaging such an expensive bag by using it every day.

Value


This bag retails for a whopping $570-$600, depending on the length that you need. This is a lot of money for a three season sleeping bag, and is far more expensive than virtually every other lightweight bag we tested. However, you cannot argue with the quality of construction or materials used. While this is a great sleeping bag, compared to the others in this review, it is hard for us to call it a good value. The budget-conscious should look elsewhere.

The Ghost Whisperer 20 is very warm  very comfortable  and fits great for a person who is 6'0" tall. It also offers the best combination of down fill power treated with Q.Shield. If only it was a little less expensive...
The Ghost Whisperer 20 is very warm, very comfortable, and fits great for a person who is 6'0" tall. It also offers the best combination of down fill power treated with Q.Shield. If only it was a little less expensive...

Conclusion


The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 20 is a very high quality, and very expensive, lightweight sleeping bag. It pairs top of the line fabric with 900 fill-power down that is hydrophobically treated to resist absorbing water. It also offers superior warmth and comfort, making it our favorite hooded mummy ultralight sleeping bag.

Andy Wellman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 4, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 5
 (2.0)

0% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 50%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)

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   May 4, 2018 - 12:48am
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA

I got a great deal on this bag so I ordered one to compare with my WM Alpinlite. I ended up returning it without ever using it. Mainly due to the sewn through construction on back and sides (only the top is box baffled - and the MHW website does not state this). This construction will create cold spots if you roll around at all and I can't see how it is considered viable in a 20 degree bag.

The WM Ultralite has very similar specs (temp rating, total weight, list price, and total oz of down), AND it has box baffle construction throughout so the down can fully loft with no cold spots - AND it is made in the US. I have a WM Ultralite that is about 5 years old and put it side by side with the brand new MHW GW20 - the loft on the 5 year old WM bag was clearly better, construction was better, etc. No brainer for me to stick with the Alpinlite, as it is clearly a superior bag at nearly the same weight and cost.

The Marmot Phase 20 is also lighter and costs less, and is highly rated in the OGL Backpacking bag review. The FF Hummingbird 20 is also lighter and likely warmer. I'm not sure why OGL hasn't reviewed that one since 2012, it was the editors choice back then but seems to have fallen off the radar. https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/backpacking-sleeping-bag/feathered-friends-hummingbird-20



Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


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