The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a longtime favorite at OutdoorGearLab. It is extraordinarily light and compressible, making it one of our top picks in our climbing jacket quiver.
On the peaceful, cool coast with the Ghost.
The Ghost Whisperer is not the warmest jacket in this review, which can be a confusing detail. It has some of the highest quality down in the review, but because it is a thinner jacket, it still just isn't all that warm compared to others in our fleet. The down in this jacket is very high quality, making it very warm for the weight, giving it excellent loft for the overall amount of down used, but this can't compensate for the fact that there just isn't a whole lot of insulation in this jacket. That said, it still scores well because when you put this jacket on, it feels much warmer than you probably assumed—that's due to the very high-quality materials, and high quality down.
When compared with a Top Pick winner, the Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody, which nearly looks like an expedition parka, the Ghost looks like a wispy little dress shirt. And if it were white and loose fitting, you might be mistaken for a ghost on Halloween. But this jacket packs some serious heat.
We liked to layer this jacket under our hardshell for those extra cold days.
The Ghost makes an excellent midlayer insulating jacket. It slides imperceptibly beneath a hard shell jacket, or even another, bigger, burlier, puffier down jacket, like the Feathered Friends Eos, the Arc'teryx Cerium SV, or even The North Face Summit L3. We used to have only fleece jackets to fill this "midlayer" niche, but it turns out down is breathable enough with the right face fabrics to do a much better job—and it is so much lighter and versatile for trips where every ounce counts (so long as you can keep it dry).
The down in the Ghost is certified Responsible Down Standard 800 fill power Q.Shield down, treated with fluorine-free NIKWAX hydrophobic down. This helps it resist moisture, making it wick better and therefore operate very well as an insulating midlayer.
The baffles are smaller which creates potentially more cold spots in the jacket, so this again points to the optimal use of this jacket—as a midlayer below a shell jacket. But the 7 and 10 denier nylon ripstop resists wind and the snug, and adjustable fit keeps warm air trapped inside.
We're not sure how much a ghost weighs, but maybe it's 6.5 ounces, like this jacket in size small.
That's so light it's hard to tell it's even there, except for the cozy warm feeling around you. So maybe it's a friendly ghost. This is by far the lightest jacket in this review, and while that also means it is not the absolute warmest, it certainly is the warmest for its un-contested light weight; this weight savings comes from the excellent 800 fill down, the ultra-lightweight 7 and 10 denier fabric, and a meticulous, streamlined set of features. It is relatively minimalist in the Features metric, discussed below.
Light enough to clip to the back of your harness: Climb on!
The Ghost got our top score for weight in this category, earning 9 out of 10. A perfect 10, we said, would mean the jacket was weightless. This is obviously unattainable, but this award-winner comes alarmingly close. Another jacket in this review that is surprisingly warm for its weight is the Feathered Friends Eos, the Editors' Choice winner, as well as The North Face Summit L3 and the Arc'teryx Cerium SV.
This Ghost Whisperer finally had some competition in this category for this year's update! This year, the Ghost was challenged and narrowly beaten by the lighter weight version of the Cerium, the LT. This is another outstanding lightweight down jacket and another Top Pick winner in this review.
These two were our favorites for long rock climbs because they were so light and compact that when you clip it to the back of your harness when you leave the belay anchor, you barely notice it's there—then it deploys quickly and easily when you get to the top of the pitch, helping you keep that well-earned body heat while you belay your partner up the pitch.
In terms of impressive compressibility, you might like The North Face Summit L3, slightly warmer and barely bulkier than the Ghost and Cerium LT. A step up in warmth from these would be the Feathered Friends Eos and one step warmer would be the Arc'teryx Cerium SV.
The Ghost is a spectacular mid-layer jacket for extremely cold conditions; given how light and compact it is, it is hard to justify not taking it along on every adventure. We consider this jacket to be the wind shirt equivalent of the down jacket world: it is so small and light and compressible, you'll take it everywhere.
The Ghost Whisperer, second from bottom right, performed very well in our compressibility comparison, as did the REI Magma, fourth from the bottom right.
The Ghost is a minimalist jacket, so it does not have any extraneous features. It is simple, streamlined, no frills, but highly functional.
Mountain Hardwear managed to streamline the necessities of a very comfortable and useful down jacket such that it has everything we need and nothing we don't. We do miss the chest pocket, as that is our favorite feature for stashing our phone, so the battery doesn't get cold and die, or for a couple of small snacks that we don't want to get cold, but the jacket is so well made that we forgive the lack of chest pocket.
We love the soft, snug cuffs on the Ghost.
The Ghost packs easily and quickly into its own hand pocket, revealing a loop that you can clip to the back of your harness. This was our go-to jacket for late fall desert tower rock climbs, those steep and strenuous climbs where every ounce counts. It packs down so small that we hardly noticed it hanging from the back of our harness, even when we were pulling steep roof moves.
This jacket also features raglan sleeves, which extend to the collar. We like this sleeve style, as it accommodates a broader range of shoulder widths, and improves freedom of movement. This is an excellent feature in a climbing jacket.
The Ghost Whisperer stuffs nicely into its own hand pocket.
As expected, this award-winner is made of some of the lighter materials in this review: 7D and 10D ripstop nylon. These ultralight materials are ultimately less durable than heavier weight materials. If light weight is your top priority, this is probably not a big issue. But we would also contend that this jacket is not penalized much in the durability metric for the gains made in the weight metric. We climbed sandstone towers with this jacket, both wearing it in cold conditions and carrying it clipped to the back of our harness—and produced no holes. The slippery fabric seemed to help it glide over abrasive surfaces, and the svelte shape kept it close to our body to help prevent it from snagging. This jacket is durable for what it is, but it's a very lightweight jacket. If you want something that's still relatively light and compressible, but more durable, we liked the Rab Microlight.
A down jacket is not meant to be waterproof—that is the job of a good hard shell jacket. But if you're out for a week and your down jacket gets wet on day two, you could be in a dangerous situation. And in some of our field tests, we were in cold enough conditions that if we got damp at all, it could be serious. For this reason, we appreciate the Q.Shield hydrophobic down in the Ghost Whisperer.
This jacket resisted moisture from the outside, keeping us dry when we got covered in snow or dripped on while climbing ice, or hiking. It also resisted moisture from the inside; when we got going a little too fast, and our body heat climbed, this jacket didn't absorb any sweat, it wicked right through, protected by the NIKWAX hydrophobic down treatment. Great news for staying warm and dry—once we got out of that sweaty base layer.
Down jackets are not meant to be waterproof, but since down loses its insulating properties when wet, it's good for the jacket to have some water repellent abilities. Others that tackled this issue well include both Arc'teryx Cerium LT and SV.
The Ghost Whisperer is a magnificent midlayer insulating jacket for very cold conditions or a standalone down jacket for summer trips. We loved pairing this jacket with the Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody for cold winter ice climbs. It served us very well for late fall desert rock climbs with lots of sun but dipping temperatures. And it can also be a great jacket for midsummer mountaineering objectives in the temperate Cascade Range of Washington. This is probably not a "quiver of one" down jacket, but it will quickly become a favorite in your quiver of two or three, offering utility in all of the seasons—and climbs—of the year.
Falling toward the pricier end of the spectrum, the Ghost Whisperer will cost you $350. But we think the craftsmanship and technology make this award-winner a great value. It has hydrophobic down, excellent, lightweight materials, fit, and features that add up to an excellent, versatile, and very comfortable down jacket.
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer truly is as light as a ghost. We loved this as an active, aerobic climbing layer for cold ice climbing or hiking days, and as a fast-and-light summer mountaineering jacket. It is light enough for rock climbs and ultralight enthusiasts.
We loved rock climbing in the Ghost Whisperer, itâ€™s light, breathable, and has an excellent athletic fit that allows full range of movement.