The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a longtime favorite at OutdoorGearLab. It is extraordinarily light and compressible, making it one of our favorites in our climbing jacket quiver.
The Ghost, award winner again.
The Ghost Whisperer is not the warmest jacket in this review.
When compared with a Top Pick winner, the Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody, it looks like a wispy little dress shirt. But for its size, it is impressively warm, due to the high quality 800 fill down, and the thoughtful shape and features that keep warm air inside.
We liked to layer this jacket under our hard shelf for those extra cold days.
The Ghost Whisperer is excellent as a midlayer. In fact, this jacket was our favorite to combine with the *Arc'teryx Cerium* on those frigid days. The Ghost is not unlike its namesake: you hardly know it's there. It earns most of its warmth points due to its snug fit, elastic hood and cuffs, and drawcord bottom hem, which keep warm air inside. The fabric is also impressively wind resistant for how thin it is, which also helps reduce heat loss. This jacket scored above average, earning 7 out of 10, not because it was the warmest in the review, but because it maximizes warmth with a variety of high-quality features and attributes.
We're not sure how much a ghost weighs, but maybe it's 4.5 ounces, like this jacket.
All we know is that's light. Really, really, light. Almost like it's not even there. We're not sure how you can make such a warm jacket this light, but Mountain Hardwear did—and they have been for some years now.
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.
This Ghost Whisperer compressed into the smallest package in this review. It is important to note that it is not the warmest model in this review, though it is made of the highest quality down—it would need to be much thicker to provide enough warmth to be considered a proper winter jacket.
It is spectacular as a mid layer jacket for extremely cold conditions, and given how small 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. Holy wow, this is an amazingly compressible jacket. The only one that came close was the REI Magma, though it doesn't have a hood!
The Ghost Whisperer was the most compressible jacket in this review.
This is a minimalist jacket, so it does not have any extraneous features. We gave the Ghost another relatively high score of 7 out of 10 in this category due to the thoughtful features that are included.
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.
Simple and functional hood design, with or without helmet.
We like how easy it is to pack this contender into the right-hand pocket and clip it to the back of a harness; and, in fact, this was our go-to jacket for late fall desert tower rock climbs. 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. One feature we miss is a zippered chest pocket, as it is quite possibly our favorite non-essential feature on a down jacket. It is so useful for your phone (camera, navigation app, topo, route photos, etc.), and helps keep it warm, so the battery doesn't drain as fast; putting a phone in a hand pocket often interferes with a harness. A chest pocket is handy for snacks, too, or paper maps, compass, etc. We think it might be worth the half ounce to put a chest pocket on this jacket.
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 affords greater freedom of movement. This is an excellent feature in a climbing jacket. We also appreciated the way the Ghost Whisperer stuffed into its pocket. It also has a clip loop, making it easy to stow it in a compact package and clip it to the back of our harness. For this reason, this was our go-to jacket for long and strenuous rock climbs where we wanted to minimize the amount of gear we were carrying and limit ourselves to only the things we could clip to our harnesses.
Excellent cuff design: stays put and is soft to the touch.
As expected, this award-winner is made of some of the lighter materials in this review: 7D and 10D ripstop nylon. As such, these 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 2, 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. 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. Great news for staying warm and dry—once we got out of that sweaty base layer.
The Ghost Whisperer looks like a badass climbing layer.
If you live in a mountain town or an outdoor savvy area, we think you'll look cool—but it's not designed with urban fashion as a top priority. The baffling is very flattering, as well as the shape. Otherwise, this is a simple jacket.
Silky smooth and light weight.
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.
At $350, this jacket is on the pricier end of this review. 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 is truly as light as a ghost. We loved this as an active, aerobic climbing layer for cold ice climbing days, and as a fast-and-light summer mountaineering jacket. It is light enough for rock climbs and ultralight enthusiasts.
The Ghost Whisperer: our top pick for sunset ascents of desert towers.