At a Glance
- The Ghost Whisperer is a popular ultralight down jacket first released in 2012. Recent updates make the Ghost Whisperer 2 more sustainable and more practical in wet weather.
- It’s not the warmest down jacket out there, but it packs down impressively small and its warmth-to-weight ratio is hard to beat.
- I’ve been using my Ghost Whisperer for fast-and-light backpacking and bikepacking since 2014! I still love it for moderate conditions, but when temps drop into the low 40’s F it’s not quite warm enough for me.
If there’s one down jacket classically coveted by the ultralight adventure crowd, it’s the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. For many years this impossibly light puffy has been warming thru hikers, climbers, bikepackers, and anyone else seeking the best-available balance of warmth and minimalism. If you like to go far, fast, and light, the Ghost Whisperer is probably at the top of your list (and not just because of its awesome name).
The original Ghost Whisperer was first released in 2012! It was a hit from the start, and Mountain Hardwear has had plenty of time to fine-tune it. My original blue Ghost Whisperer (pictured throughout this review) is from 2014, and I recently got my hands on a newer version to compare.
The look and feel of the jacket haven’t changed much, but Mountain Hardwear has made a handful of important updates since my model: the latest Ghost Whisperer/2 boasts a moisture-resistant outer, longer hem, and more sustainable materials. But the overall fit, design, minimalist features, and best-in-class weight savings remain as tried and true as ever.
I’ve tested the Ghost Whisperer extensively over years of backpacking, thru hiking, bikepacking, and more. In this review I’ll help you decide if this spendy but featherweight jacket is right for your adventures.
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Overview: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
Price: $330 (jacket), $360 (hoody)
Weight: 6.9 oz (women’s jacket), 7.8 oz (women’s hoody)
My rating: 4.3 / 5 stars, serves its purpose well, but a few compromises
Shop Ghost Whisperer jacket at:
My conclusion: The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (and updated Ghost Whisperer/2) ultralight down jacket is a long-time favorite of thru hikers and other fast-and-light adventurers. I love mine for its impressive warmth-to-weight ratio, small packed size, and thoughtful minimalist features, but it’s not quite warm enough for the chilliest shoulder-season days.
Reasons to buy:
- Lightest full-featured down jacket available
- Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
- Packs down extremely small
- Made from ethically sourced down and recycled materials
- Available both with and without hood
Reasons to avoid:
- Not high in absolute warmth (though warmth-to-weight ratio is good)
- Shows wear faster than more durable jackets
- Relatively expensive
Hood or No Hood?
The Ghost Whisperer is available as both a jacket (hoodless) and hoodie. It’s nice to have the choice. Which one is right for you?
I prefer the jacket without a hood. My sleep system includes a standalone hood that I wear with my quilt at night, and I can also wear it with a jacket during the day. I also sometimes wear a merino sun hoody. Between these two options my head is already covered and I’d rather save weight and bulk by not having a hood on my puffy jacket.
If you do prefer the hoody version of the Ghost Whisperer, know that the hood is snug and probably won’t fit over a helmet.
This is where the Ghost Whisperer really shines, its raison d’être, so to speak. The Ghost Whisperer/2 weighs in at an unmatched 6.9 oz for the women’s jacket (no hood) and 7.8 oz for the hoody.
I’m not aware of any other down jacket this light. If you’re willing to step up to the 10-12 oz weight range you’ll find a few other premium options, and many down jackets weigh 15 oz or more. Nothing more to say about this, except the Ghost Whisperer is light.
The Ghost Whisperer packs into its own rather small pocket, which is nifty. Most of the time I simply stuff it into whatever nook or cranny is available in my pack. It takes up an impressively small amount of space, which makes it perfect for ultralight backpacking or minimalist bikepacking.
The Ghost Whisperer manages to be moderately warm while weighing very little, thus it has an impressively high warmth-to-weight ratio. But that’s a ratio, not an absolute warmth measure. If you’re concerned about being warm enough in near-freezing temps, the Ghost Whisperer may not be your best option.
I run very cold; it’s probably my biggest weakness in the outdoors. For me the Ghost Whisperer is my go-to summer mountain jacket when temps stay above the mid-40s, or when I need extra warmth while staying active in very cold weather (like skiing). For backpacking and bikepacking in chilly shoulder-season weather, where I need to keep warm while not active, I reach for my warmer Arc’teryx Cerium.
If you’re set on the Ghost Whisperer but occasionally need more warmth, a versatile option is to pair it with a synthetic fleece for cooler trips and use it alone when conditions allow.
Insulation and Fabric
The Ghost Whisperer/2 gets its warmth from 800-fill-power RDS-certified, fluorine-free goose down. RDS stands for Responsible Down Standard, a global standard for ethical down based on animal welfare requirements. The insulation is kept in place nicely with narrow horizontal baffles. Both the outer and inner fabrics are 10-denier nylon, the outer being ripstop, recycled, and DWR treated to repel light moisture.
Shape and Fit
The Ghost Whisperer fit is comfortable and unremarkable, in a good way. It runs wider compared to my Cerium, but still layers well over midlayers and under a shell. The women’s version uses a slightly different baffle pattern than the men’s, a nice touch that gives it a smidgen of an hourglass look.
I’m 5’5″ and 120 lbs with trim build and small chest. My Ghost Whisperer is a women’s small, my usual size, and it fits just right. My husband has a broad torso and more muscular build, and his usual size medium fits him well too.
My older Ghost Whisperer is cut a bit too short for my taste, which is especially noticeable under a pack hipbelt or harness. I recently got my hands on a newer version to compare, and sure enough, the modern hemline is about an inch lower. This follows clothing fit trends in general and should also make the new versions more functional.
In the picture above you can also see some minor design improvements in the newer women’s version. Overall the current design is a bit more feminine and stylish than my old one, though the basics are still the same.
Features: Pockets and Drawcord
Despite its crazy-light weight the Ghost Whisperer still manages to have a full set of features: hood (on the hoody versions), two zip hand pockets, and a minimalist hem drawcord to reduce drafts. The hand pockets are large, well-positioned, and fit my phone with room to spare. No complaints here.
Standard wisdom says lightweight gear is less durable and requires more careful handling. This does apply to the Ghost Whisperer and you’ll have to treat it somewhat gently. This is not a jacket you’ll want to rub against granite or snag on bushes, though honestly this is true for most down jackets.
That said, my Ghost Whisperer has held up fairly well. It’s retained most of its feathers and loft throughout the years (I do try to wash it as infrequently as possible). The main signs of wear are only cosmetic: the logo has disintegrated and there is some discoloration and loss of loft around the cuffs and collar.
Down jackets should always be protected from moisture since they lose most of their warmth when wet. You’ll definitely want to cover up with a reliable rain jacket for wet weather, but the Ghost Whisperer 2 does its best to be robust to a little bit of moisture. The outer fabric is DWR treated to resist a light drizzle, and the first baffle at each cuff (an area that’s hard to keep dry) contains synthetic insulation.
Price and Value
The Ghost Whisperer is designed for ultralight gear enthusiasts who are usually willing to pay extra for a lighter and more streamlined setup. If you’ve already worked on reducing your base weight and have a relatively light “big three” (assuming you’re backpacking), shelling out for a jacket like the Ghost Whisperer is a reasonable next step.
If you’re not particularly concerned about every ounce, you can find more affordable jackets that weigh more and don’t pack down as small. If you sometimes adventure in colder weather and don’t want to buy two down jackets, a warmer and slightly heavier choice may suit you better.
A good way to bridge this gap and make the Ghost Whisperer a little more affordable: wait for sales. All the major retailers have them periodically, and I’ve seen some screaming deals on the Ghost Whisperer. Used gear is also a good option, though with a down jacket I’d make sure it was very lightly used before you buy.
Though the hoody and jacket are by far the most popular, Mountain Hardwear offers a few interesting variations on the Ghost Whisperer:
- Ghost Whisperer S: Unique design with offset zipper intended for better layering
- Ghost Whisperer Snap: If you hate zippers (perhaps you’re often wearing gloves) this is an interesting idea.
- Ghost Shadow: A different model entirely, combining the Ghost Whisperer’s ultralight approach with synthetic insulation for a less expensive jacket that holds warmth better in the wet and is designed with climbing in mind.
The Ghost Whisperer has one goal and one goal only: to be the lightest down jacket that doesn’t require major sacrifice in terms of comfort and features. It accomplishes this mission admirably with an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio and a packed size that nearly disappears into your pack.
If you know exactly how much each piece of your gear weighs, and you don’t spend too much time sitting around in near-freezing temperatures, you’ll probably be happy with the Ghost Whisperer as you enjoy many miles of lightweight adventuring.
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