Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32: Packs Like A Peanut

Posted on: March 21, 2011


MSRP: $290.00

Weight: 1 pound, 7 ounces (640 grams)

Packing for a climbing trip in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming last summer, I carried 20 extra coffee packs, 10 extra chocolate bars and one more sip of whiskey than my usual load. I had switched to a no-frills sleeping bag that cut down on both the weight and size of the gear in my pack and afforded me these few luxury items. But with light-and-fast sleeping bags come concessions in durability and warmth. Fortunately for me, Mountain Hardwear's Phantom 32 is an exception to the rule.

Weighing just 1 lb., 7oz., this down-filled sack has no frills. No Gore-Tex or other waterproof coatings to repel moisture and no extra, hidden pockets for your snicker bars. It's just a simple pairing of paper-thin nylon and 800-fill down. While I almost always prefer simplicity, I had a few concerns about the Phantom. Is it really as warm as those heavier, classic models? Will it shred to pieces when I'm stuffing it into my pack? Will the zippers blow out and let in the cold?

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I handled the bag gently at first, worried it would rip if I didn't. But after rolling it out into the rock bivies around the Grand Teton a dozen times, it held up just fine. In fact, the bag remains in perfect condition. I'm sure it would puncture or wear a more readily than other, burlier bags, but I was impressed with its durability despite its delicate material.

Most of my backcountry use pushes the limits of any 32-degree bag. My summer was cold. I camped out in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in the Brooks-Range Mountains of Alaska, open-bivied in the boulders on Wyoming's Grand Teton at 11,000', slept in the Cirque of Towers in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, and spent autumn nights in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains of Alaska hunting moose. In this variety of chilly environments, layering became a necessity to staying warm. I was cold on a few occasions at below freezing temps in an open bivy, but just chilly, which is perfect. I pulled on the drawcords with my added belay parka to cork the mummy shut and I warmed up to snoozing temps in no time. In colder temps, the bag functioned better as an assault weapon than a luxury hibernator.

Something just as important as the warmth rating is the ability of a sleeping bag to manage moisture. Down is extra light and breathable, so this bag is inherently far more comfortable to sleep in than any synthetic. But on some occasions I was challenged to keep it 100-percent dry, because of a more humid environment. In these situations, a synthetic sack would have been a better choice. However, with rigorous care and some sunshine I was able to keep it dry.

As an aside, I'm thankful Mountain Hardwear didn't skimp on the zippers. Most every zippered piece of nylon I own ends up with a zipper problem first. This is one place I am glad they did not shave too many ounces.

The Phantom packs like a peanut and holds up well to open-bivies. Overall, I think this bag is a perfect way to lighten my load on extended trips, or to add to my alpine climbing pack as an emergency bivy option.

Pros: light; packable; durable for its composition.

Cons: some durability sacrificed for light weight.

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