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Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Review

A surprisingly warm jacket that is super-light, thin, and provides excellent versatility for technical adventures
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2
Photo: Backcountry
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $325 List | $324.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic down
Cons:  No hood cinch, no chest pocket
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
By Buck Yedor & Adam Paashaus  ⋅  Nov 3, 2020
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88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Warmth - 30% 9
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Fit - 15% 9
  • Compressibility - 10% 9
  • Features - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody claimed the coveted Editors' Choice award for the best overall down jacket. What makes this jacket such a standout is its high versatility and warmth in such a lightweight package. It weighs only 8.5 ounces and is highly compressible; it can be stuffed into your pack without a second thought. This jacket includes an insulated hood and a hem drawcord to keep in your body heat and despite these features still weighs less than nine ounces. With its athletic and form-fitting design, we love it as a stand-alone jacket to ward off cool evening breezes in the summer just as much as we love wearing it underneath an alpine shell while winter climbing or skiing. While it doesn't come cheap and its light weight comes at the loss of a few missed features, this versatile jacket is easily one of the best we have ever worn, and one we highly recommend to you.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $324.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$350 ListCheck Price on REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$399 List$339.00 at Feathered Friends
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Pros Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic downWarm, hydrophobic down, comfortable, large pockets accommodate use while wearing a harnessLightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratioWarm, feature laden, compressible900+ fill down, warm, lightweight, incredibly compressible, competitively priced
Cons No hood cinch, no chest pocketExpensive, non-adjustable waist hem, poor compressibilityExpensive, not super durableHeavy, bulky fitHood a little tight to fit over a helmet, no hood adjustment
Bottom Line Offers high versatility, comfort, accommodation of movement, and light weightThis is a high-end coat ready for the mountainsIf you are looking for a warm, light layer for a trip where ounces count, this jacket is a great selectionThis belay parka will keep you warm on the coldest daysThis no-nonsense performance model has everything you need in a lightweight package
Rating Categories Ghost Whisperer/2 The North Face Summit Down Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody Patagonia Fitz Roy Hooded Feathered Friends Eos
Warmth (30%)
9
9
6
10
9
Weight (20%)
9
7
10
6
7
Water Resistance (15%)
8
8
7
7
7
Fit (15%)
9
9
9
7
8
Compressibility (10%)
9
8
10
7
8
Features (10%)
8
8
8
9
7
Specs Ghost Whisperer/2 The North Face... Arc'teryx Cerium... Patagonia Fitz Roy... Feathered Friends...
Down Fill 800 fill RDS certified, down insulation 800 fill goose down 850 fill goose down 800 fill goose down 900+ goose down
Total Weight 8.5 oz 14.43 oz 7.6 oz 22.3 oz 13 oz
Baffle Construction Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles
Main Fabric Recycled polyester ripstop, DWR finish Nylon pertex Arato 7 nylon Recycled nylon ripstop, Pertex Quantum with a DWR Pertex Quantum
Compression Method Zips into pocket Stuffs into pocket Included stuff sack Stuffs into pocket Stuff sack
Pockets 2 zippered hand 2 hand, 2 internal, 1 chest 2 zippered hand 2 hand, 2 internal, 1 chest 2 zippered hand
Hoodless Option? Yes No Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Built upon the success of the original Ghost Whisperer, this new and improved version does not disappoint. Made from 100% recycled ripstop nylon that is DWR (durable water repellent) treated and stuffed with ethically sourced 800 fill goose down, there is a lot of good stuff going on with just the skeleton of this coat. While some companies will try to entice you in with all sorts of special features and gimmicks, this jacket excels by keeping it simple.

With only two zippered hand pockets and an adjustable waist hem, the Ghost Whisperer is about as simple of a design as modern outerwear comes. What's not simple is how well-tailored this jacket is for both movement and layering; combine that with its incredible weight to warmth ratio, and you really can't ask for more. While its water resistance is comparable to most of the other downs we looked at, this jacket excels in the dry cold.

Performance Comparison


The hi loft down used in the Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody will keep you...
The hi loft down used in the Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody will keep you warm when the temps are cold.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Warmth


The Ghost Whisperer 2 is a surprisingly warm jacket. The amazing weight to warmth ratio quickly made this a tester favorite. Whether they were looking for extra warmth for cold belays or gearing up for pre-dawn approaches, our review team quickly latched onto this piece as a must-have part of their kit. As a stand-alone piece, this coat works for temperatures down into the upper thirties, especially if you're on the move.

If you plan on using it a belay coat, i.e. standing still for long periods of time or spending much of your day in sub-freezing temps, you will almost certainly want to layer this piece over a fleece midlayer. If temps are getting into or below the single digits, you will want to think about upgrading to a more serious cold-weather option.


It performs equally well as part of a layering system or as a super-light single insulation piece. In terms of its warmth-to-weight ratio, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything better.

The athletic fit of the Whisperer 2 Hoody makes it the perfect down...
The athletic fit of the Whisperer 2 Hoody makes it the perfect down for climbing, skiing, or any other athletic pursuit.
Photo: Buck Yedor

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. We don't think you will be disappointed.

Weight


The Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody weighed a mere 8.5 ounces for a size men's medium on our scale; a close competitor, the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody, weighs in at 7.6 ounces. With no drawcord in the hood, no Velcro on the wrists, two handwarmer pockets, ultra-light 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 this coat.


Made entirely from recycled materials, the ripstop nylon used on this coat is incredibly strong for an ultralight fabric but can still be susceptible to tearing. 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 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 when you opt for going the lightweight route, it comes at the cost of durability. Regardless, for offering such a lightweight and warm down, this jacket received top marks in the weight metric.

Don't need a hood? Check out the jacket version!
The Ghost Whisperer Jacket is similar to this model, but without the hood. The main difference is that jacket is a little lighter than the hoody and saves you some money. 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. We highly recommend both models.

Water Resistance


In our testing, we found that the recycled nylon outer fabric, combined with a DWR coating, does a pretty decent job of beading up and shedding water, better than most 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 the past, and the down is Q-shield hydrophobic down. After subjecting the jacket to our spay test, we found that after a continuous stream of water was applied, the down would eventually soak through and lose much of its warmth-trapping loft. You'll be fine in a passing shower, but as soon as you find yourself in persistent rain, you'll want to throw on a rain shell.

The Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody relies entirely on its DWR coating for...
The Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody relies entirely on its DWR coating for any amount of water proofing.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Fit


When it comes to fit, the Ghost Whisperer fits much more snuggly and close to the body than most, but in a very 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 no hint of extra space or bagginess.


We found that this jacket allowed great mobility in the shoulders, upper back, and chest, and also had sleeves that were plenty long enough, no matter what the arm position. If you intend to wear this jacket while moving, as we did, we think it presents pretty much a perfect fit.

The fit of the Ghost Whisperer is very sleek, which makes it ideal...
The fit of the Ghost Whisperer is very sleek, which makes it ideal for layering over the top of, or wearing while being active. As you can see the hem and sleeves are plenty long, and we found there to be no restricting parts anywhere. This was easily one of the best fits of any down jacket.

Compressibility


This jacket belongs on your ultralight climbing or hiking gear wish list. The Ghost Whisperer 2 is highly compressible and packs away into one of its zippered hand pockets, leaving you with a tidy package that's small enough to clip to your harness. It was the smallest compressed hoody in this review, better than both the Arc'teryx Cerium LT, which came with its own stuff sack, and the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, that similarly stuffed into its own pocket.


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 takes up less space than any other full-featured insulated jacket that we've tested.

The two most compressible jackets in this year's review stuffed down...
The two most compressible jackets in this year's review stuffed down about the same size as a Nalgene, or a little bigger. On the left is the Ghost Whisperer Hooded, stuffed into its own chest pocket. On the right is the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody, stuffed in its own included stuff sack.

Pro tip: Store this jacket in the closet and not in the bottom of your pack if you want to extend its lifespan, and don't be afraid to wash your down!

Features


The Ghost Whisperer 2 is defined more by what it doesn't have than what it does. This piece is a minimalists dream and will make others redefine what "essential" features really are. The elastic hood rim and cuffs lack adjustability but have no trouble keeping out drafts and keeping in body heat. This provides adequate protection and performance and keeps the grams down. In truly horrid squalls of wind, you might want the adjustability of a cinchable hood like that of the Rab Microlight Alpine, but overall we didn't find ourselves missing this often unutilized feature.


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. Our testers also didn't care for the fact that the hem drawcord leaves a large loop of bungee cord hanging down below the waist for gear or brush to get caught on.

The Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody's small zipper can he hard to use in...
The Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody's small zipper can he hard to use in bulky gloves.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Other than the lack of pockets and the long drawcord, our other biggest complaint is how small the zipper is. This only becomes an issue while wearing bulky gloves, but nothing is more obnoxious than not being able to easily work a zipper when it's cold enough to be wearing gloves in the first place.

Despite having no draw cords to help cinch up this hood, the elastic...
Despite having no draw cords to help cinch up this hood, the elastic rimmed face opening was well sealed against the cold, and fit very comfortably.

The Ghost Whisperer is designed for technical use — think climbing or backcountry skiing. It thrives in moderately cold temperatures where it can spend some of the time in the pack, and where the thickest and warmest of outer layers are not necessary. At the same time, the clean silhouette and athletic fit make this a great piece for cold weather streetwear.

On a frigid fall day, hiking out to the upper gorge area to do some...
On a frigid fall day, hiking out to the upper gorge area to do some climbs in the sun and out of the wind. The Ghost Whisperer was the perfect active layer for this long hike.

Due to its thin construction, this is a good option for actually exercising in, rather than just waiting out the cold. We also thought it was a great choice for mountain use in the summer when temperatures can fluctuate drastically, and a lightweight warmth layer can be very handy.

As a highly technical layer that features only the very highest...
As a highly technical layer that features only the very highest quality materials to make it as light as possible, the Ghost Whisperer does not come cheap. Sometimes quality is worth its price, however, and this is certainly one of those times.

Value


This jacket retails for a reasonable price, which is cheaper than the most expensive jacket in this test, but also quite a bit pricier than most of the rest. 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 ultralight, it became the go-to jacket for our testers and will be for the foreseeable future. Since we think it's one of the best overall jackets in this year's testing, we are happy to say that it presents a good value.

The Ghost Whisperer moves as you move and was an ideal choice for...
The Ghost Whisperer moves as you move and was an ideal choice for chilly evening hikes in the fall, as we took here with Chip the dog to the backside of Smith Rock State Park, OR.

Conclusion


The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody is easily one of the best overall down jackets on the market. It is very light, super packable, and shows surprising warmth and water resistance for such a thin garment. While we think it was one of the best jackets in this review, 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 consistent single-digit or below zero 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.

Buck Yedor & Adam Paashaus