A pinnacle product in the lightweight “down puffy” category, the Ghost Whisperer Hooded Down Jacket from Mountain Hardwear also includes a pinnacle price tag of $300.
That may look high for a jacket with few features and a simple design. But the Ghost Whisperer excels because it’s pared down, including its close-fitting cut, thin fabric, and the super airy, extra warm down insulation inside.
It weighs about 7.5 ounces, which is among the lightest available for this kind of coat. An athletic fit, not a shapeless cut that sags, allows a wearer to snowshoe, ski, or even run in the jacket on cold days.
I have been wearing the Ghost Whisperer for almost two months for a variety of activities. Last week, for example, I did a 5-mile training run on snow in the jacket.
It was a whole 2 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the sun was setting. I wore a single thin merino wool base-layer underneath, and for the entire run the jacket kept my body temp regulated.
Puffy jackets are not normally meant for aerobic activities. But I’ve found this one to be versatile across many scenarios. It’s great for climbing, skiing and hiking. You can wear it under a shell jacket as a layer for serious warmth.
Caveat: This puffy is made to move in, not built for stationary wintertime tasks — this is not a “belay jacket” or a piece designed for standing around. It is made for winter lovers who stay active no matter how far the mercury drops. (Beyond winter use, it’s a great insulator for spring and fall, including for camping, hiking, or backpacking, when you need a lightweight layer.)
I’ve been testing the jacket in the “Sherwood” green color this winter. In addition to comments on the design, people seem drawn to touch the shiny fabric, which is baffled and stuffed taut with down.
But Mountain Hardwear built the Ghost Whisperer for the wilderness, not for looks. It balls up as small as a grapefruit and weighs almost nothing in a backpack.
As I noted in a post about Mountain Hardwear last month, the Ghost Whisperer Fabric was developed during a project with the climber Ueli Steck. The slippery, thin material is windproof, down-proof so feathers won’t poke through, and water repellent.
Unfurl the jacket and you get instant heat. The hood fits close and is better than almost any hat. The goose down is a fluffy 850-fill, which is near the top of the scale that measures the heat-trapping properties of goose feathers.
Further, the company uses down with a water-repellent technology. Usually, down feathers collapse and lose their insulating quality if they get wet. But an added “nano-chemical” treatment, which is made by DownTek and branded Q.Shield Down at Mountain Hardwear, keeps the fine plumes from absorbing water.
I tested the jacket in the field as well as under a faucet. Even when soaked through purposely with tap water the down kept some of its shape (and thus some of its insulating warmth). It then dried out and reconstituted faster than normal down as I hiked.
Granted, water-resistant down is no panacea. This jacket is not a shell, so don’t use it in the rain or wet snow. The feathers flattened some when completely soaked but did not seem to want to absorb water like regular down does. But the water-repellent treatment is a great upgrade that should become industry standard.
Buy the Ghost Whisperer if you’re looking for a premium lightweight winter jacket. For me this year, across a range of temps and activities outside, the jacket has been like a second skin.
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of Gearjunkie.com.