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Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket vs Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Parka vs Rab Zero G

Original Post
Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 498

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket is sort of a standard in ultralight down hoodies. My wife and I have owned a few of them over the years, and we've considered them standard kit on moderately cold days. There are now a few other options worth considering.

The Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket (Men's) is a trim-fitting jacket with fairly high set handwarmer pockets. It specs at 2.8oz of 800-fill down (Q-shield DWR down), which works out to 2240 cubic inches of down. It is fairly long cut, with the back of mine extending to cover my butt. The hood and cuffs are simple elastic. The fabric is a 7d x 10d ripstop. The main zip is a small coil. My men's size medium weighs 235g/8.2oz, and the women's small weighs 216g/7.6oz. Retail price is $350, but deals can be easy to find as it is so widely distributed.

The Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Parka is probably the closest direct competitor to the Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket. It has a similar feature set and a slightly wider cut. The cuffs are simple elastic, and the zipper is a small coil. The hood does have a wire stiffener, and it is more adjustable than the Ghost Whisperer's. The Plasma Parka specs at 3.4oz of 1000 fill down, which works out to 3400 cubic inches of down, or slightly over 50% more than the Ghost Whisperer. As far as I can tell, the down Montbell uses does not have any DWR treatment. It features Montbell's 7d Ballistic Airlight ripstop fabric. The weight for an XS is 221g/7.8oz. Retail is $379, and deals are basically non-existent.

Comparing the Plasma 1000 Parka to the Ghost Whisperer, the Plasma is puffier and undoubtedly warmer. The main body material is definitely "crinklier" on the Plasma, but I suspect that that will diminish over time. The women's Small Ghost Whisperer and the unisex XS Plasma 1000 are within 10 grams of each other in weight. The Plasma has slightly more features and significantly more down. Besides price and availability, the Plasma is definitely the "better" jacket for us.

The Rab Zero G is another competitor to these jackets. It has a slightly longer and trimmer cut than either and a richer feature set. It comes with a stiffened brim on the hood like the Plasma. It has an additional hook and loop tab on the back of the neck to sort of roll and store the hood. The cuffs are much nicer, featuring smooth elastic, stretch woven cuffs similar to the great cuffs on the Arc'teryx Atom LT. The zipper is a beefy and reliable Vislon. The handwarmer pockets are set high to stay out of the way of a harness or pack waistbelt. It specs at 4.5oz of 1000 fill down, which works out to 4500 cubic inches of down. Rab uses Nikwax Hydrophobic Down in all its down products. Its fabric is 7d Pertex Quantum GL, which feels softer to me than Montbell's Ballistic Airlight. The weight for a Medium is 289g/10.2 oz. This is 54g/1.9 oz heavier than the Ghost Whisperer, but the Zero G contains 51g/1.8oz more down specing at twice the total volume (2240 cubic inches vs 4500 cubic inches). Retail is a hefty $550, and deals are moderately hard to find.

Which jacket is best for you? All are probably equally durable. All have fairly similar body coverage. If price is a consideration, the Ghost Whisperer remains a solid choice. It is light, warm, packable, and can be found relatively cheap. The Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Parka has a slightly richer feature set than the Ghost Whisperer for a nearly identical weight, and it is a warmer jacket. It is more expensive than the Ghost Whisperer, and that cost difference may not be worth it to you. Nevertheless, it is probably the overall best deal/performance ultralight down jacket available from the big manufacturers. The Rab Zero G is probably the most luxurious feeling jacket of the 3, and it is the warmest. Basically all of its 2 ounce weight penalty over the other two jackets is extra down. Its astronomical price makes it unlikely to be the jacket of choice for most of us. Having said that, you might be able to find a deal on the Zero G making it similar in price to the Plasma 1000 Parka. The Rab Zero G and the MHW Ghost Whisperer both feature DWR down, though its efficacy is uncertain. That may be useful to you.

Billcoe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 655

Excellent reviews Brian! The Ghost Whisperer stuffs into one of it's own pockets for compact stuffed carry while climbing, and has a nifty carabiner loop so that you can clip it off on your harness. Stuffed size must be @ 3" x 3" x 4". How do the RAB and the Montbell compare for stuffed carry while climbing? 

Also, waterproof down, like the Q-Shield Mountain Hardware uses is all I will buy any more. It's a deal breaker as where I live, when that jacket gets deployed it's not uncommon that's it's due to a rain squall. The MH and Montbell both claim waterproof down but not the RAB it appears. That's a deal breaker. I have a couple of non-waterproof RAB down bags, and they make good product, never again will I buy non-waterproof down. Has anyone compared waterproofing of down? 

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 498

Thanks, Billcoe!

Even though it is not listed, Rab uses Nikwax Hydrophobic Down in all its down products:

I have now added that to the review. However, I am unable to find anything about Montbell using DWR or Hydrophobic down.

I always carry my down jacket in a pack and didn't think about the stuff size. Neither the Zero G nor Plasma 1000 is designed to stuff into its own pocket, but each comes with a stuff sack:

As down makes up the bulk of all of these jackets, neither the Zero G nor Plasma can be expected to stuff as small as the Ghost Whisperer. However, those included stuff sacks are too big, and I can still easily compress each to about half its size:

The XS Plasma and Medium Zero G can each be compressed to a bit smaller than a 5" sphere, though that would require buying a proper size stuff sack. If harness carrying size takes precedence for you, the Ghost Whisperer is probably the right choice

Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 100

Great review - have either of you tried the Arcteryx Cerium LT? Or is that not quite ultralight?

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 498

I haven't used the Cerium LT. It appears to use a 10d fabric. I'm wary of the zoned Coreloft areas, as even though it may work better in damp conditions, Coreloft loses its insulating ability fairly quickly. In fact, Arc'teryx CS has stated that they've seen Coreloft destroyed in 3-4 months when a Coreloft jacket has been compressed by a seat while driving 1-2 hours daily. That said, if you don't compress it, it might last longer than the outer fabric.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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