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Jacket Reviews

Editors’ Choice 2021: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Hooded Down Jacket

Barely any weight, but plenty of warmth: The Ghost Whisperer UL is in a class by itself.

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Over 9 years, the Ghost Whisperer has become as much a status symbol as a midlayer. It’s the top-of-the-line jacket for the weight-obsessed. And though it’s only gotten lighter (and better) through each new iteration, Backpacker has never given the jacket an award (we know, we’re embarrassed, too). Ultralight puffies is a crowded field and still the Ghost Whisperer has outlasted all competitors, so we’re finally correcting our oversight.

The new UL version might sound redundant—after all, the Ghost Whisperer set the standard for featherweight puffies—but it deserves the name, as it’s the lightest full-featured down jacket on the market. The key to its airiness? Designers stuffed the UL with ultrapremium 1,000-fill goose down, and paired it with a 5-by-7 denier nylon face fabric. The result: Even with hand pockets, a (nonadjustable) hood, and a full-length zipper, it weighs only 6.7 ounces and packs down to the size of a softball. (The Ghost Whisperer/2, which we also like, comes in at 8.8 ounces and $325.)

All those specs wouldn’t matter if the jacket didn’t perform, though, and it hits the mark for shoulder-season warmth. During a late-summer backpacking trip in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the Ghost Whisperer UL over a fleece vest kept us warm down to 40°F as we relaxed in camp. On an ascent of Washington’s 9,131-foot Mt. Shuksan—during which upper mountain temps were as low as 30°F—it paired with a fleece to prevent us from shivering, and the long sleeves never rode up.

All ultralight jackets have concessions, and the flimsy zipper in the Ghost Whisperer line has long proved a common failure point in dusty environments, but we didn’t find any issue with this one over six months of use. While the diaphanous face fabric hasn’t torn yet, we wouldn’t wear the UL while ‘schwacking. Still, that’s about the only place we wouldn’t take this jacket: It’s light and warm enough to come along on any other trip.

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