Hands-on Gear Review

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $350 List | $262.50 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly light, compact, warm for its size and weight, effective hydrophobic down
Cons:  No hood cinch, some slightly heavier jackets are much warmer, waist cinch leaves cord hanging below the waist
Bottom line:  A surprisingly warm jacket that is super-light and thin, providing excellent versatility for technical adventures.
Editors' Rating:   
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Down Fill:  Q.Shield 800-fill moisture resistant down, certified to Responsible Down Standard
Total Weight (Men's size tested):  7.7 oz (M)
Baffle Construction:  sewn-through quilt patterned baffles
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear

Our Verdict

Once awarded our Editors' Choice award for best overall lightweight down jacket, this year we are happy to call the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded our Top Pick for Lightweight Warmth. Although it doesn't have as much heat-trapping loft as many heavier jackets, there is one thing that makes this jacket super unique and a must have — it's incredibly lightweight. At a mere 7.7 ounces and compressing down nearly as small as a tennis ball, how could you not bring this life-saver along? This jacket includes a protective hood and a hem drawcord and still weighs nearly four ounces less than its closest hooded competition. With its 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 compromises a bit on durability to achieve such a mind-blowing light weight, this versatile jacket is easily one of the best we have ever worn, and one we highly recommend to you.

Don't need a hood? Check out the jacket version!
The Ghost Whisperer Jacket is similar to our Top Pick but without the hood. The main difference is that jacket is a little lighter than the hoody and saves you $30 (the jacket retails for $319). 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.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Down Jackets for Men of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Monday
December 18, 2017

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Very little has changed on this award-winning jacket in the last few years, which is a good thing in our opinion. Too often companies mess with something that is already super awesome, and we applaud Mountain Hardwear for sticking with what works! Weighing a meager 7.7 ounces for a men's size medium, roughly four ounces lighter than its next closest competitor, the Ghost Whisperer retains all the necessary features to be a fully functional, stand-alone piece. This jacket was designed with climbers in mind, but also became a go-to for our testers because of its pack-ability, water resistance, and lightweight. Though pared down, you likely won't miss any superfluous features. The single drawcord at the waist keeps the warmth in and the wind out, and the elastic cuffs and hood rim do an effective job despite their lack of adjustability. We tested this jacket in both very wet and very dry environments. Though it would certainly be more at home in the desert or high mountains away from the rain, it fared better when wet than most of the other down jackets we tested, further cementing its legacy as an incredibly versatile and well-loved technical down jacket.

Performance Comparison


See how the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded compared to the competition in our overall rankings.

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a super light down jacket that is great for pleasant days like this one below the Three Sisters volcanoes in Oregon  or as a base warmth layer on much colder days.
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a super light down jacket that is great for pleasant days like this one below the Three Sisters volcanoes in Oregon, or as a base warmth layer on much colder days.

Warmth


Though the Ghost Whisperer will never replace your heavy belay jacket, it is the perfect mid-altitude shoulder season/summer climbing jacket. Our testers found this to be a favorite and consequently it got a lot of use on some cold days, especially as a lightweight belay jacket on days when a simple R1 was not enough. In the past, we have 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 single insulation piece. How warm it keeps you is all relative. You're not going to climb Denali with this as your only warmth layer, but it will do for more than a few pitches in the shade when Rocktober comes along. In terms of its warmth-to-weight ratio, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything better.

While it wasn't one of the warmest jackets we tested  for how insanely thin and light it is  the Ghost Whisperer is surprisingly warm! We loved it as an active under layer or as a stand alone when it wasn't too cold out.
While it wasn't one of the warmest jackets we tested, for how insanely thin and light it is, the Ghost Whisperer is surprisingly warm! We loved it as an active under layer or as a stand alone when it wasn't too cold out.

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. While it wasn't by any means as warm as the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody or the Rab Microlight Alpine, we still found it to be just as warm as the far heavier Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded. We don't think you will be disappointed. 5 out of 10 points.

Weight


The Ghost Whisperer Hooded weighed a mere 7.7 ounces for a size men's medium on our scale, four ounces lighter than the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody, its closest hooded competitor. Even the hoodless REI Co-op Magma 850, which used 850 fill-power down, couldn't match the low weight of this technical jacket. 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 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 7D X 10D ripstop Ghost Whisperer fabric is so specialized that only one mill in the world makes it.


The Whisperer 7D X 10D is incredibly strong for an ultra-light fabric but is more susceptible to tearing than more robust materials. 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 ultra-light 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 years of testing, stories abound on the internet. Be careful and realize that you are buying lightweight, not super durable. Regardless, for setting the bar impossibly high when it comes to weight, we give it a perfect 10.

Water Resistance


With the development of hydrophobic down technology, the playing field may be tipping in down's favor, regardless of weather conditions. The concept is fairly simple: coat individual plumes of down in a Durable Water Resistant polymer. The results have been impressive, and the Ghost Whisperer is a prime example of how effective this technology can be.


In our testing, we found that the Whisperer 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. Speaking strictly about this coating, we found it to be more effective than that found on the Marmot Tullus Hoody, and roughly the same as the coating on The North Face Morph Hoodie. We also tested this jacket in a full-on dousing in the shower. After this test, we noticed virtually no compression of the down or loss of warmth-trapping loft. Although this wasn't a highly scientific test, we nevertheless found the Q.Shield down to be fairly effective, as advertised, and so bumped up the water resistance score to an exemplary 9 out of 10, on par with the Rab Microlight Alpine as the best of the bunch.

The Ghost Whisperer had one of the best DWR coatings that we tested  shown here working to cause water to bead up without absorbing into the nylon face fabric. Underneath  the 800-fill power down is also hydrophobically treated to resist water absorption.
The Ghost Whisperer had one of the best DWR coatings that we tested, shown here working to cause water to bead up without absorbing into the nylon face fabric. Underneath, the 800-fill power down is also hydrophobically treated to resist water absorption.

Fit


When it comes to fit, the Ghost Whisperer fit 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 like we found in the REI Co-op Magma 850.


In stark contrast to the fit of the North Face Morph Hoodie or even the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded, 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. 9 out of 10.

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.
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 gear wish list. The Ghost Whisperer virtually disappears into its own pocket, forming a package about twice the size of a 7 mm, 15 ft. cordelette (meaning super small), and clips handily onto a 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 insulated full-featured jacket we've tested, a huge advantage. 9 out of 10 points.

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 Mountain Hardwear 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.
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 Mountain Hardwear 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 is defined more by what it doesn't have than what it has. The elastic hood rim and cuffs lack adjustability, but suction cup themselves over heads and gloves. This provides adequate protection and performance and keeps the grams down, although by no means will you get the tight, adjustable seal that is to be found on the cinch-able hood of the Rab Microlight Alpine.


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, and certainly 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.

Perhaps one of our only complaints against the Ghost Whisperer revolves around this zipper  which is very small gauge to save weight. For us it was quite sticky and often had a hard time undoing it fully  pointing out that for the very lightest weight  sometimes a small price must be paid.
Perhaps one of our only complaints against the Ghost Whisperer revolves around this zipper, which is very small gauge to save weight. For us it was quite sticky and often had a hard time undoing it fully, pointing out that for the very lightest weight, sometimes a small price must be paid.

If we had one over-riding complaint, it was that the front zipper was pretty sticky and liked to get caught on the nylon fabric surrounding it, and we question the durability of this super thin and lightweight zipper, as we wouldn't want it to ruin a pretty expensive jacket. Overall we thought this jacket has better features than the almost completely devoid Marmot Tullus Hoody but thought that every other jacket outperformed it. 5 out of 10.

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.
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.

Best Applications


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.

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.
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 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.
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 $350, 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 ultra light, 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 chilly evening hikes in the fall  as we took here with Chip the dog to the backside of Smith Rock State Park  OR.
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 Hooded is easily one of the best overall down jackets and as such was an easy choice as a Top Pick for Lightweight Warmth. 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 such crazy 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.
Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: January 23, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

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

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
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2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
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2 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jan 23, 2018 - 02:31pm
goochisdrunk · Skier · MD
I own a version of this same jacket, without the hood. It is incredibly lightweight and packs down small into its own pocket. Due to its size and very light weight, this is great for throwing into your pack when you are going out and the weather is nice, but you are expecting it to get cold. Or vice-a-versa. Also makes a great insulating layer when worn under a loose shell. I have not worn it in the rain, so can not comment as to how it does when wet. I don't plan to either. My only concern with this jacket is durability. The fabric is so thin and light, it is almost unsettling. However, I fell hard on some ice and dragged my arm against a hard surface. I thought for sure the sleeve was ripped, but not only did it hold up, you cant even see any abrasion or wear. So it is at least a little tougher than it looks and feels. Time will tell how it holds up but so far this has been a great buy.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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