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deep puff

By ccrossen | April 16, 2008

The Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down Jacket: impressive. A downright lightweight, warm, and compact jacket, the Phantom really surprised me with its ability to disappear in the pack, and yet, when I really wanted the warmth, it was there, no questions asked.  This jacket really blows everything else away in its category, hands down. There’s just no comparison when it comes to the loft and warmth. And while I really like some of the slightly lighter weight options out there, if you ski/climb/backpack/explore cold, or know that there’s a chance you’ll truly be cold, get this jacket.


Weighing in at 15 ounces, the Phantom is a little heavier and bulkier than some of the other lightweight options available, most notably Patagonia’s down sweater. The Phantom is not a sweater, however, it’s a super-warm jacket that compresses very well and offers a lightweight profile similar to some climbing and mountaineering soft shells. The marketing material supplied by MH boasts 800-fill down insulation surpasses other insulated jackets with similar warmth and weight. Well, it does.

On a recent trip to Chamonix, I opted to take the Phantom over some other jackets, mainly because I wanted something that would be very warm at altitude and in high winds, yet would tour well. I was very impressed, and the jacket has gone to the top of the rotation. The secret ingredient is the down: Mountain Hardwear uses 800-fill down from older European geese, resulting in larger down clusters than the cheap Chinese down many companies use. The down fill found in the Phantom is the same used in the Everest-topping Absolute Zero Suit, but the quantities are reduced to comfortable proportions in a box quilt construction that won’t leave you feeling overheated near sea level. That said, this jacket is really warm, and in town, I found myself wishing for something a little lighter-weight. But this is not really your around-town jacket, even though it can fit that bill as well. 

Some other added bonuses include:

Fleece-lined pockets and a micro-chamois lined collar.
Superlight 0.85-oz.15-denier high-tenacity nylon shell fabric and lining treated with a DWR finishHigh quality 800-fill
100% European goose down insulation in a box quilt constructionInternal zippered pocket and external zippered chest pocket
Laminated front zipper flap and laminated cuff tabs with Velcro closures
One-hand hem drawcords
Weight: 15 oz. (440 g.)

MSRP: $230

The only real complaint that I have is with the overall styling and color scheme. These jackets have the old mountaineering jacket look, big blocks of color, basic stitching, etc. Not that fashion dictates how a product should function, but I think a lot of more people would be interested in this jacket if it better-reflected current aesthetics. 

The overall fit on a Medium was a little snug, especially with any layers; not that you really need any. But for quickly throwing the jacket on over a shell during the de-skin/snack or for a belay, it is a little tight. 

Bottom-line: if you need an ultra-light jacket, don’t sweat the extra ounce or so; they’re well worth it. The Phantom performs like a 30 ounce jacket.

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