Review - Mountain Hardwear - Ghost Whisperer Hooded Jacket

MSRP $400 CAD

Pros:

Extremely lightweight and packable, 800-fill waterproof down, warm for its loft, still good after 3 years of heavy use, has insulated hood that has enough space for layers underneath, looks good in the city and around a campfire, insulated zippered pockets for your hands

Cons:

Not abrasive resistant, price, thinner than you would expect for the price

Fit:

Slightly tapered. Gives athletic look

Would I recommend?

Absolutely! One of my favourite pieces of clothing. Has come with me on every trip I’ve been on over the last 3 years (except that climbing trip to Thailand).

Alright, let’s get right into it. This jacket rocks. It’s a pretty specialized piece of gear and it’s definitely not on any “bare necessities” list for an average trip. However, if you’re at a point where you’re looking for a thin, EXTEMELY lightweight jacket that’ll give you that extra warmth while belaying in spring/summer/fall, moving hard in cold environments, or while sitting around a campfire, this is the jacket. Plus, with waterproof down, it’s a tough jacket to beat.

I’ve had the pleasure of playing with this thing for 3 years and I’ve pretty much taken it into its most extreme conditions: I’ve taken it up into the Arctic at -35 Celsius, I’ve taken it straight through some trees, and I’ve spent a full day outside in 2 Celsius and rain for a full day, just to really test Mountain Hardwear’s claims (P.S – the only thing worse than 2 degrees and rain is 1 degree and rain). This thing definitely has some limitations, but if you understand and respect those limitations, this is legitimately a kick ass jacket.

To start with the good, this jacket is shockingly lightweight. It only weighs ___ ounces, which is the equivalent of ____ cups of water. It packs down to nothing and I have not yet found a situation where I had to leave this jacket behind because I had “packed too much stuff”. The jacket is made of this space-aged fabric that Mountain Hardwear calls Ghost Whisperer, and I don’t think a company has ever come up with a more appropriate and fitting name for anything, ever. Even the thread used to stitch this jacket together is lightweight!

On top of that, it’s filled with this 800-fill down that’s coated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) treatment so that each individual strand of down is essentially waterproof. Now, the obvious way in which this is amazing is when you accidentally get caught in some rain or that terrible wet snow that sticks to everything. You no longer have to worry about trying to dodge each and every flake (though, that too can be fun). I have spent a day in the rain in 2 degrees, just to test out how waterproof the down actually is. After a full day in the rain and cold, I was definitely wet (this is not a rain jacket by any means), but I wasn’t cold, and the down hadn’t compressed, except for at my elbows where I was constantly bending. Needless to say, I was pretty blown away by this.

The not-so-obvious way in which that waterproof down is awesome is that this means the down isn’t impacted by your sweat anywhere near as much as old-school down. You being sweaty and gross is what causes your down jackets and sleeping bags to lose their warmth over time. As more and more sweat and oil sticks to the down, it causes the down to be less able to expand effectively, and therefore their insulation properties diminish. Having this waterproof down increases the life of this jacket tremendously. As I mentioned above, I have had the pleasure of playing with this jacket for 3 years now, I bring it on every trip I go on (which, with much gratitude, is many), I have never retreated it, and it is still performing exceptionally well.

As for abrasion resistance, it’s got very little. The Ghost Whisperer material is made from this 10-denier fabric. A higher denier means a higher resistance to ripping/tearing, and this thing has the lowest denier created for public use. Mountain Hardwear recognizes this and the jacket has rip-stop stitching, so if the jacket does get punctured or does get snagged on a branch, it doesn’t continue ripping while you throw on a patch. That said, please don’t go running through trees if this jacket is your outermost layer unless you have to.  

But how warm is it? This jacket is really interesting because for $400, you expect a monstrous puffy thing that’ll make the Michelin man look tiny. You don’t get that. As such, this is not the jacket to use as your belay jacket while ice climbing. What this jacket is incredible for is being that warmth that you need while moving in extremely cold environments, or to throw on once you stop moving in reasonably cold environments, or just hanging out in chilly environments. I took this jacket into the Arctic on more than one occasion and spent more than a week each time hanging out outside in temperatures that went up to negative 20 degrees, and would drop down to negative 50 degrees with 77km/h winds. What I found was that whenever I was moving, I would only need this jacket to stay warm. On the warmer days and nights (you know, when the temperature went up to negative 20 celsius), I found that sometimes this jacket was too warm with all the layers I wore beneath it, and I had to unzip it to keep myself from overheating. That said, soon after I stopped moving, I definitely had to throw on my larger down jacket, or I would get too cold.

Overall, I have been exceptionally happy with the performance of this jacket, and would strongly and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a lightweight down jacket. Although definitely more expensive than other jackets in the “thin down jacket” category, the extreme lightweight and waterproof down factors thoroughly justify the cost.

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