Mountain Hardwear’s new Ghost Whisperer may just be the coolest thing since sliced bread – this ethereal puffy is loaded up with premium 850+ goose down, Q.Shield hydrophobic down treatment and a wickedly light 7D nylon weave. The Ghost Whisperer is built around the idea of shedding every available ounce while keeping the designation ‘full-featured jacket’
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Features:
- Q.Shield™ down protects individual down fibers from moisture so they keep you warm even when wet
- Quilted construction holds insulation in place
- Two front handwarmer pockets
- Jacket stows in pocket
- Lightweight single pull hem drawcord
- Full elastic cuffs slide easily over layers to seal in warmth
- 7.26oz (size large) on my scale
- MSRP: $300
First off, I think it’s important to define what a ‘full-featured’ down jacket is. For our purposes, this is a jacket that has two zippered pockets, elastic cuffs, hem drawcord, a full-length zipper and a zipper garage. There are indeed lighter down jackets than the Ghost Whisperer, namely the Montbell Ex Light that weights 5.7 oz. The Ex Light is certainly light, but it’s not a ‘full-featured’ puffy in that it lacks any pockets and requires a separate stuff sack.
I used the Ghost Whisperer for a mix of mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cold-weather layering systems and daily use. The Ghost Whisperer’s remarkably light 7D x 10D nylon has the added benefit of being fairly breathable, making the Ghost Whisperer a really valuable component to a layering system. I particularly enjoyed using the jacket in conjunction with a backless laminate hardshell which perfectly complimented the Whisperer’s enhanced breathability.
Initially, I was concerned that the lightweight 7D nylon would be too delicate for the demands of the mountains. During testing I intentionally abused the fabric to push it to its limits – rough Nevada granite and the cold, hard Aspen branches in the winter both got their chance to snag the Ghost Whisperer. To my surprise the fabric has yet to snag or tear–despite my intentional abuse. Granted the fabric is designed to be light rather than durable, but I was actually quite surprised by how robust the nylon proved to be; it’s just something about the term ’7D nylon’ that makes me think of tissue paper strength. For reference, most down jackets use a 10D nylon weave, whereas tents use between 20-40D nylon.
Baffle design is straightforward but effective – quilted construction holds the down in place while allowing insulation to move away from hot areas like the inside of the elbows and armpits. Hardwear’s DWR coating hasn’t shown any sign of flagging yet and it does a good job of beading water as a first line of defense.
Mountain Hardwear’s Q.Shield down is their own proprietary hydrophobic treatment designed to keep feathers lofty, dry and warm when exposed to rain or sweat. We’ve already looked at hydrophobic down in Sierra Design’s Tov puffy and both of these technologies perform well. In aerobic conditions, treated down remains lofty longer and doesn’t absorb as much sweat and body oil. In light rain, the combination of DWR-treated nylon and Q.Shield down can fend of moisture for hours of hiking – rain may work through the seams, but these jackets handle precipitation far better than jackets without hydrophobic down. Is Q.Shield better than DriDown? No, there’s really no noticeable performance difference. Bottom line is, these technologies let down retain warmth while wet.
The jacket is fairly utilitarian when it comes to features – simple elastic cuffs keep drafts sealed out (there are no thumb holes), the YKK zippers pull easily and the collar is cushy and comfortable. My only gripe is the fabric loop for hanging up the jacket which irritates my neck after extended use. I love that the jacket stows inside of its own pocket rather than requiring another stuff sack to float around my pack. The drawcord hem only has an adjustment on the right side of the jacket and uses a very narrow gauge shock cord to save weight.
The Ghost Whisperer’s foundation is the fantastic 850 fill down that Mountain Hardwear selected. This is basically the gold standard of insulation and it’s even better with the Q.Shield hydrophobic coating. 850 fill is really amazing stuff; the whole thing packs down tight into its pocket, resulting in a bundle roughly 3/4 the size of a Nalgene. Furthermore, feather leakage is almost absent because the 850-fill down fibers are so fine.
The jacket is quite warm for its weight but it’s definitely not the warmest down jacket around – I’d recommend it for fall or spring weather, or cold weather aerobic activities like snowshoeing. Its slim profile and superior breathability pairs very well with a technical shell, making it an ideal layer for backcountry skiing.
The Ghost Whisperer’s only performance shortcoming is that the wind cuts right through it. This is an unfortunate side effect of the 7D nylon and the overall minimalist design, but for all that it’s something that affected the jacket in the field. I ended up doing a lot of testing with a windshirt underneath rather than a hardshell on top since that allowed me to experiment with Q.Shield’s performance; either one is a great combination.
- It’s the lightest full-featured down jacket on the market
- 850-fill down is just as good as it sounds
- Collar is cushy and comfortable, as a down jacket collar should be
- Q.Shield hydrophobic down gives the Ghost Whisperer a big advantage over untreated down
- Fairly trim fit, but still comfortable enough for layering options
- Packs into its own pocket
- Very little feather leakage
- Breezes can cut through the jacket
- Scratchy fabric loop for hanging the jacket irritated my neck
The Bottom Line
The Ghost Whisperer is the lightest full-featured down jacket on earth, ’nuff said. The great thing about this jacket is that you forget you’re wearing it – not just because it’s so light, but also because it’s so comfortable and well-designed. Even at $300 MSRP (which is pretty good for 850-fill down) it’s easy to recommend this puffy, though not everyone needs a jacket this light. A hooded version with Q.Shield will be available in Fall 2013.
Buy now: Available at MooseJaw.com