Want to stay warm outdoors, but don’t want to carry that heavy incompressible wool sweater your least favorite relative got you for your birthday last year? Looking to keep up with the latest and greatest fashions of the outdoor industry? Just feel more comfortable knowing that you have a bunch of (hopefully not live-plucked) goose feathers in your pack?
Looks like you need a down jacket (or puffy if you want to sound like one of the cool kids).
When I was getting together gear for my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, I knew I would need a jacket of sorts to fend off the cold come night, weather, or winter (and of course, to fit in). I found myself a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, and haven’t looked back (except to make sure nobody is following me).
Besides being the suspected feathers of the non-avian dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs (might have) had feathers – you didn’t get the memo?), down feathers are incredibly lightweight and warm (and sexy) making them excellent candidates for jacket (and sleeping bag) fill.
Perhaps the two most looked at factors when investigating down jackets are warmth and weight. As with everything in the world, people want the best of both (PSA: “cheapest” and “best” are commonly at odds with one another). The Ghost Whisperer delivers on both fronts. Using magical plumes of epidermal growth (down), Mountain Hardwear has created an incredibly warm and lightweight jacket that has become one of my favorite pieces of gear (so much so that I purchased a second after losing my first in an unfortunate night out in Sweden).
- Weight: 7 oz. / 197 g.
- Pockets: 2 handwarmer pockets – no chest pocket
- Wrists: Elastic
- Waist: Drawstring
- Center Back Length: 27″ / 69 cm
- Body Fabric: Whisperer 7D x 10D Ripstop
- Body Fabric Content: 100% Nylon
- Insulation: Q.Shield Down 800-Fill
FROM THE MANUFACTURER
- Q.Shield DOWN resists moisture and retains maximum loft even when wet
- Low profile quilt pattern to create heat trapping down channels for extra warmth
- Lightweight warmth makes it incredible for layering
- Single interior toggle hem for easy adjustment on the fly
- Soft, “Butter Jersey” cuffs have elastic binding to seal off cold and moisture
- Zips into its own pocket for compact storage
- Built-in secure loop for carabiner attachment to harness when stuffed
- Stowable in pocket
NOTE: This jacket comes in both a men’s and women’s and can also be purchased either with or without an attached hood. This review is based on my experience with a large men’s Ghost Whisperer without a hood).
THE WARMTH | First and foremost a down jacket has to be warm, and the Ghost Whisperer delivers. I have used this jacket thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, backpacking in the Himalaya, and as casual wear in the winter months. Thanks to the nylon shell and the treated down, I am also comfortable wearing this jacket in light rain or snow. Being an ultralight jacket, it’s not going to keep you warm in temperatures too far below freezing, but I’ve been comfortable wearing only the Ghost Whisperer and a base layer in below freezing temperatures.
THE PACKABILITY | I really don’t see how the packability of this jacket could be improved upon. For starters, anyone who still bothers to bring along jacket stuff sacks, your problem with losing them has been solved: the Ghost Whisperer packs into its own pocket. If you’re not a fan of packing the jacket into a neat little rectangle (I’m not), then rest assured that I have never had a problem shoving it down into my pack and fitting it around whatever else happens to be along for the ride. It also doubles as an excellent pillow (provided you have a warm enough sleeping bag).
THE TEMPERATURE REGULATION | I have had many jackets that do an excellent job of keeping me comfortable outside in the cold, but I couldn’t always say the same thing once I got myself inside and out of the elements. The Ghost Whisperer does a great job of keeping me warm outside, and amazingly doesn’t turn into an oven once I make it inside or to warmer temperatures. Not having to worry about taking off and putting on this jacket to keep comfortable is a big plus.
THE WEIGHT | When I first picked up the Ghost Whisperer, I was shocked by how light it was. I still am. It’s tempting to not hand the jacket to people and say “feel how light this is!”. It is literally one of the lightest down jackets you can get. Describing the feeling of wearing the jacket as being one of “wearing warm air” has become a favorite selling point of Mountain Hardwear and Ghost Whisperer fans. Personally, I prefer the less metaphorical, more direct approach of telling people instead that “this jacket is really fucking light”.
THE POCKETS | I don’t have any real gripes with the two front zipper pockets, but I am not in love with them either. If I try to open them only halfway to get my hands inside, then I just end up inadvertently pushing down the zippers and fully opening the pockets and letting in extra air. Are they too big? No, but maybe too tall? Also, I would have loved to see the inclusion of a large inside stash pocket (I don’t know why, but I have an affinity for them). No chest pocket is a bummer since the front pockets become useless with a pack on, but that would also mean making the jacket heavier and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?
THE CUFFS | I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I am pretty sure (60%?) the cuffs of this jacket have loosened up over time. When I first purchased the jacket I remember the cuffs fitting snug to my wrists, but now they noticeably sag. If I throw on a pair of light gloves or liners the problem disappears, but it would be nice to know that the elastic in the cuffs is going to keep my shield of hot air from escaping.
THE BREATHABILITY | If you’re really working up a sweat, then you might want to first question what you’re doing with a jacket on, but if you conclude it to be necessary, then you may find the breathability of the Ghost Whisperer to be lacking. I regularly hike in the jacket on cold mornings until I warm up enough to brave the elements in a shirt or a base layer and have not had a problem with moisture buildup. That being said, I have had condensation issues when wearing the Ghost Whisperer below a shell in extremely wet conditions (the down became wet and stopped doing its one job) – but that really isn’t what this jacket is built for.
THE COLORS | Personally, I love the colors the Ghost Whisperer is offered in (they may be a bit bright for some of you squares out there). Unfortunately, I lost my first jacket, and when I went to purchase my second, the color of my original had been discontinued (this legitimately made me sad). It seems that Mountain Hardwear tweaks the colors of this jacket regularly, so if you see a style you like, it’s probably best to jump on it before you lose your chance to look fabulous.
THE FIT | The fit of the Ghost Whisperer (and many of Mountain Hardwear’s products) is a point of contention for many owners of the jacket. The words “trash bag” and “overweight” are thrown around a lot but unhappy Ghost Whisperer purchasers, but don’t let that stop you from trying this out for yourself. Personally, I never noticed anything strange with the fit. Even if I did think the fit was strange, the jacket does everything it is promised to do (is lightweight/keeps me warm) and this is more performance wear than fashion (although you should still select your color carefully).
THE DURABILITY | This is an ultralight product made from ultralight materials, and one of the things you sacrifice with these materials is durability. The jacket feels incredibly fragile (probably because it’s so lightweight) and although I have yet to do any damage to it or to see it coming apart anywhere, I am always worried about a branch jumping out and tearing my it asunder. A lot of people have also complained about the zipper’s durability, but I have had no issues as far as any of the zippers are concerned. In spite of the fragility of the jacket, I have not observed any noticeable wear from my extended abuse (except for the cuff issue noted above).
Em fim, for those of you looking for an ultralight down jacket that won’t sacrifice warmth for weight, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer has to be among the finalists in your search (if it isn’t, then you haven’t been doing very good research).
It’s incredibly compressible, lightweight, and above all, warm. I really don’t know what else to say about this jacket other than you should just pull the trigger and buy one.
If you’re worried about the price, I ask you to remember just one thing: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” –Maybe Benjamin Franklin
Check out Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer here.
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