Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Review: Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Anorak

The Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Anorak is a splurge. Yes, it only weighs 2oz and packs down to nothing, but do I *need it*? For years I'd been keeping an eye on these super lightweight jackets, and the answer always came back to 'no, no I don't need it.' Then REI did me a favor and put the Ghost Whisperer Anorak on sales (most likely to make room for the new version), and at half off (still a steep price for a windbreaker), I could no longer resist.

I've now had the jacket for a couple of months and have put it through it's paces. When I was shopping for the jacket I had three questions: (1) is it really that lightweight? (2) will it hold up? and (3) will it be of any use? Let's see how it did.

Is it really that lightweight and compact?

Sure is. Consider this comparison between an REI lightweight/minimalist rain jacket, the Ghost Whisperer, my key chain and my wallet:

As you can see, the Ghost Whisperer absolutely delivers on size, and you'll have to take my word for it that at 2oz it's super lightweight. The jacket is compact enough that last weekend I carried it in the back pocket of my jeans. So the size is a win. It means that if I'm not sure I'm going to need a jacket, I can grab it and there's no penalty for doing so.

And here's how the jackets compare when expanded:

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: the REI rain jacket serves its own purposes and comparing the two isn't really fair. The Ghost Whisperer isn't even windproof (it's not only water resistant, but it's considered wind resistant - a term I'd never heard before), much less waterproof.

OK, it's lightweight. Is it fragile, too?

Obviously, at 2oz, the material needs to be super, ultra thin. And it is. It's basically translucent. Yet, it hasn't been particularly fragile. I suppose that's where the extra cost really comes in: it's both lightweight and seemingly durable. Now, this isn't the jacket I'd bushwhack in (subjecting it to thorns and such). But, I haven't been treating it with kid gloves either.

But is it useful?

This was the big question for me. What good is a fancy jacket if I can only wear it a few days a year. I'm finding, however, that if I wear a long sleeve shirt and am doing any sort of activity (even walking), the jacket provides both wind protection and maintains extra heat. In other words, it's an effective shell. It's not the jacket I'd want to stand around in on a cold day. But, as temperatures dip around DC, I'm finding that I'm still using it on 50 and high 40 degree days.

For hiking the jacket is a no-brainer. The zipper is long enough that you can get some quality venting when it's unzipped, and when I do finally get warm enough, I can take it off, and it disappears into my pack or pocket.

I hadn't really planned on it, but I'm finding that this is because essential gear for my running. As I said, we're just dipping into chilly weather, so I often over dress for runs. With the Ghost Whisper jacket I can run in a t-shirt, shorts and jacket, and once I'm warmed up, take off the jacket and wrap it around my waist. At 2oz, it doesn't impact the rest of the run. Still, having that 10 or 15 minutes of warm-up time is a definite luxury, and one I wouldn't want to give up anytime soon.

While I love high-function-low-cost-gear (like this, this, this and this), every once in a while a splurge is totally worth it. For my purposes, the Ghost Whisperer falls into this category.


  1. Andrew7:40 PM

    You wrap the jacket around your waste? It's good to be environmentally conscious and all, but why not just tote your waste in a ziploc bag? Haha, just giving you a hard time. Great, informative review!