In Fall 2019, Mountain Hardwear released the updated Ghost Whisperer 2 Down Hoody, and it continues to be a great ultralight down layer for when you need to go light but need a warm layer. A few things have changed; most notably, the price dropped. They moved away from hydrophobic down, and the weight, unfortunately, went up a few ounces. This jacket once held Editors' Choice and Top Pick for Ultralight Warmth but recently got edged out. However, it's still a fantastic down layer for the ultralight crowd. If you want a super light jacket, this one should be one of your main considerations.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight
Cons: No hood cinch, some slightly heavier jackets are much warmer, waist cinch leaves cord hanging below the waist
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Down Hoody is a great jacket that compares well to the other ultralight style options in our test. It's worth a closer look, even if it doesn't take home an award in this year's review.
The Ghost Whisperer 2 may not replace your heavy belay jacket, but it makes the perfect shoulder season climbing jacket. It's one of our favorite jackets, and consequently, got tons of use on cold days, especially as a lightweight belay jacket on days (when the R1 pullover didn't cut it). In the past, we tested it very high up in the mountains of New Zealand, where it easily held up to the blustery damp of the Southern Alps. It also performed well in Antarctica, where it was a perfect layering piece for the dry, cold, and windy terrain.
It performs equally well as part of a layering system or as a super-light outer insulation piece. How warm it will keep you is relative; you're not going to use this jacket alone for high-consequence alpine endeavors, but it will serve you well for a few pitches in the shade when Rocktober comes along. While it's not the warmest down hoody in our review, it will serve as the perfect insulating layer for all but the coldest days out.
This jacket uses 800 fill-power down, and the ripstop nylon does a great job of resisting the wind, a crucial element in keeping out the cold with such a thin jacket. We wished that it had a cinch-able drawcord for the hood. The outer edge (brim) has an elastic band, but still doesn't quite seal off the elements well enough for our taste if it's cold or windy out.
The Ghost Whisperer 2 weighs 9.2 ounces for a size men's large, and last year's version was 8.6 ounces on our scale, showing a slight increase in weight with the new version. With no drawcord in the hood, two handwarmer pockets, ultralight zippers, and no reinforced areas, the minimalist design of the Ghost Whisperer 2 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 buttery soft 7D X 10D ripstop fabric is so specialized that only one mill in the world makes it. Not only is this fabric super light, but it is also the softest, most buttery feeling material in our test.
The 7D X 10D is incredibly strong for an ultralight fabric but is more susceptible to tearing than a more robust ripstop. Down is the most efficient insulator per gram available, so naturally, it is the material of choice when designing the lightest jacket possible. However, the combination of an ultralight exterior and down insulation can result in some hasty and necessary field repairs if you get bad enough tears. While we have not dealt with any tears in the past couple of years of testing, stories abound on the internet. Be careful and realize that you are buying lightweight, not super durable.
Previously, the Ghost Whisperer incorporated hydrophobic down, but with the new version, they made the switch and now use a standard, albeit ethically sourced 800-fill down, possibly resulting in the subtle price drop.
The nylon outer fabric, combined with a DWR coating, does a decent job of beading up and shedding water, better than many of the other jackets we tested. Although we aren't sure whether the chemical composition of the DWR coating has changed in recent years, it seemed to perform better in our testing than it had in years past.
When it comes to fit, the Ghost Whisperer 2 fit much more snuggly and close to the body than most, but in a good way. Although there was still enough room beneath it for a light layer, this jacket was clearly designed with movement in mind, and there was less extra material.
The cut of this jacket allows excellent mobility in the shoulders, upper back, and chest. It has sleeves that are plenty long, no matter what the arm position. If you intend to wear this jacket while moving, as we did, it presents an ideal fit.
This jacket belongs on your ultralight climbing gear wish list. The Ghost Whisperer virtually disappears into its pocket, making it easy to clip to the back of a climbing harness for the shady belay above.
The down regains its loft quickly after being compressed. Throw it in your pack and forget about it until the cold reminds you that its time to layer up. It takes up less space than any insulated full-featured jacket we've tested, which is a huge advantage.
The Ghost Whisperer is defined more by what it doesn't have than what it does have. The elastic edge of the hood and cuffs have no adjustability. This provides adequate protection and performance, which helps keep the weight down, but you won't find them to offer a tight wind-blocking seal.
The two handwarmer pockets are placed high enough on the body of the jacket not to get buried under a pack hip belt or climbing 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 sometimes wished this jacket had some internal stash pockets, like many of the other warmth layers we tested, and certainly, we lament the fact that the hem drawcord leaves a loop of bungee cord hanging down below the waist for gear or brush to get caught on.
If we had one over-riding complaint, it's that we know the light zipper lacks durability, as we have had issues with this jackets zipper in the past. Being an ultralight style hoody, many basic features are left off to keep weight down, resulting in the lower rating in this metric.
This jacket has a steep price tag. However, 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. It can also function as part of a larger layering system with other jackets. This makes a great go-to jacket for fast and light backpacking trips.
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hoody is a very light-weight, super packable jacket that has surprising warmth for being such a thin garment. While we hold a special place in our heart for this jacket, 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 serious cold as that found in Alaska or the high Himalaya. Also, with its thin shell fabric, it's one of the least durable in our test. It is best used for active pursuits in moderately cold temps, having the versatility to serve as an outer layer or as a warm mid-layer. This jacket truly embodies the ethos of innovation in a lightweight package.
— Adam Paashaus