I get cold easily, often struggling to stay warm even in somewhat mild temps. During the fall in the Utah desert when nighttime temperatures fell to below freezing, I was able to stay comfortable in a long-sleeved baselayer, lightweight fleece, midweight fleece, and the Phantom Hooded jacket. During the Colorado winter, I stayed comfortable in temperatures down to about 0ºF while wearing a baselayer, midweight fleece, a Patagonia Nano Air Hoody, and the Phantom jacket.
And just to clarify, the situations I mentioned above were all during time spent at base camp or other sedentary activities when I was not moving around much. I have not needed to wear the Phantom while moving around and being active, as it was too warm. Generally speaking, I think that those folks capable of normal thermoregulation will find that the Phantom works great as a “base camp” jacket, for very cold temperatures and sedentary activities. As such, it is not a very breathable jacket, or one that you would want to wear during heavy activity, like the Patagonia Nano Air.
The Phantom Hooded Down jacket has a few useful features, but not so many that it feels over-engineered or adds significantly to its weight.
The sleeves have soft, stretchy, synthetic cuffs with thumb holes to keep your palms warm. Personally, I find the thumb holes a little bit superfluous. It can be hard to get gloves to fit well over these extended cuffs when using the thumb holes, and they seem just a little too small. However, the cuffs do help to keep cold air from seeping in through the wrists.
The hood is helmet-compatible, with simple and effective drawstrings around the front hem of the hood. There is no additional drawstring on the back of the hood, however, like on the Patagonia Fitz Roy. This limits how much you can adjust the hood, but I haven’t found this to be as big of an issue as I had originally imagined it might be. I can still tighten the hood enough to stay on over hats and helmets.
The brim of the hood also has a flexible wire inside (like the Rab Neutrino Endurance), to help shape the hood exactly how you want it. I’ve never found this to be of crucial importance for my adventures; however, you can shape the wire into a point and then practice your best bird impersonation, which undoubtedly adds to the jacket’s utility by boosting your group’s morale…
The Phantom Hooded jacket has five pockets total. Three pockets are on the inside of the jacket; two are made of stretchy mesh and without any closure at the top, and one closes with a zipper. This gives the user tremendous pocket-stowing capabilities. The two large internal pockets work great for stowing hot water bottles.
The outer two pockets are both zippered, and the right-hand pocket serves as a packable pocket. This pocket has a double-sided zipper, allowing the pocket to turn inside out and serve as a stuff sack for the whole jacket. Admittedly, it is a little challenging to fit the entire jacket into this single pocket, but when finished, the jacket is compacted to a tiny ball that can easily stow in your pack.
The front hand pockets are both large and have long zippers, making it possible to access them when wearing a harness or backpack over the jacket. They do not have any fleece lining, like the Patagonia Fitz Roy, which makes putting cold hands inside just a little bit less inviting. This does help keep the jacket’s total weight low, though.
Unlike the Fitz Roy, Cold Forge, and Neutrino Endurance jackets, the Phantom does not have a belay-compatible front zipper (one that can be unzipped from the bottom). This makes it much less ideal for belaying on ice or alpine climbs.
The Phantom Hooded Down is an awesome jacket. For such a serious insulator, it is wonderfully light, and utilizes quality down with high fill power to provide optimal insulating capability that can withstand damp conditions. It also strikes a great balance between being usefully featured, and functionally simple.
Mountain Hardwear has successfully balanced high warmth, low weight, and a highly functional down treatment with this jacket. The Phantom Hooded Down Jacket is an excellent option for adventures in cold, humid climates and constantly changing conditions.