For cold belays when it appears your climbing partner is going to be awhile or for those late fall or early winter evenings around the camp or cabin when a fleece just isn't enough to ward off the chill, there's nothing better than slipping on a cozy down jacket. Trouble is, many down and synthetic-filled jackets have left our team coping with the standard debate -- too bulky, too heavy, too â€¦well â€¦ too much to think about so we'll just leave it behind. And that Michelin man feeling sometimes isn't what we're after.
The Mountain Hardwear Men's Phantom Jacket changed all that, though -- it's so scary light it practically sneaks into our packs. It's so light, in fact (16 ounces is the listed weight for a men's large), we're not sure whether to classify the Phantom as a down sweater (it feels too lofty and well-insulated for that) or a down jacket (and it's certainly too light and compressible for that). The 15D high-tenacity nylon ripstop shell is coated with an excellent DWR (durable water repellent) treatment that adds an adequate level of water-repellency -- won't turn back rain, but it does mean the jacket won't easily wet out in a light snow or mist. The 800 power-fill down is the secret sauce behind the weight-to-warmth ratio -- higher quality down means a more compressible and better insulating garment. Indeed, the jacket compresses easily into its own 10 inch by 4.5 inch stuff sack.
Unlike other down sweaters or jackets that seek to shave ounces by shedding features, the Phantom we tested (a men's small, so we can't speak to the fit, features and feel of the women's version) is feature-laden. It boasts two zip-closed handwarmer pockets lined on the front side with microfleece for that extra cushy touch. One outside chest pocket and one inside pocket (both zip-closed) along with microfleece touches on the collar (keeps the chin from getting rubbed the wrong way), comfortable laminated Velcro cuff tabs, lower-back cinch adjustment and dual-hem drawcords add well-thought-out features that just made our tester smile.
Though we know it is not designed for this, our tester swears that tucked inside a fleece hat at night, the Phantom makes the ideal camp pillow -- cradles the noggin while at sleep, and ready to slip on first thing in the morning to chase away the dawn chill without having to stray from the sleeping bag and bivy sack.
Quibble? Just a few minor ones. Our male tester would like to see (OK, OK, so he likes to be pampered) microfleece on both sides of the handwarmer pocket, rather than just the front. Also, the cuff closures on our jacket open of their own accord if we happen to brush the Velcro tab just right -- not a serious issue, but possibly irritating nonetheless.
Overall, though, the Mountain Hardwear Phantom has become a favorite piece in our tester's gear closet -- one that goes with him on every outing whenever there is the possibility of chilly evening temps that might require something cozy to slip into to ensure comfort. That's assuming his female companion doesn't swipe it first.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $225
For more information:www.mountainhardwear.com