The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 features 15 denier shell fabric, 800 fill power down, a full length zipper, and a sculptured hood. Weight is 23.1 ounces (measured) for size Regular.
A three-season down sleeping bag is a core item for ultralight backpacking because it offers the best combination of warmth, light weight, and seasonal versatility. I prefer a mummy style bag rated at around 30 F for mountain backpacking. The mummy design eliminates drafts, I can wear extra clothes inside and "mummy up" to extend the bag’s warmth on cold nights, and I can open it up and use it as a quilt on warm nights.
The popular Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 sleeping bag (with a temperature rating of 32 F) has been around a few years. Its main features are 15 denier (0.85 oz/yd2) shell fabric with DWR, 800 fill power down, a full length side zipper, and a six chamber sculptured hood.
It has received a few refinements along the way, and Mountain Hardwear deserves kudos for keeping the upgrades nearly weight neutral. The original Phantom 32 had a 2/3-length side zipper and weight of 22.7 ounces, while the current bag has a full side zipper and weighs 23.1 ounces. Weight saving refinements throughout the bag nearly offset the added weight of a longer zipper.
The Phantom’s lightweight shell fabric has a very soft hand, and its taffeta lining is very durable. The #5CN YKK zipper auto locks, so it doesn’t open when you expand the bag, and it operates from outside or inside the bag.
I measured the bag’s average double layer loft to be 4 inches (single layer 2 inches), which agrees with the manufacturer’s specification and is similar to other bags with the same temperature rating. From our table of estimated temperature ratings based on measured loft (read our Backpacking Light Position Statement on Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings), 1.8 inches of single layer loft translates to about a 30 F rating, so the Phantom 32 has a little extra loft. Please take the time to read the referenced article and note that sleeping bag warmth depends on a number of factors.
Mountain Hardware describes the Phantom’s sizing as a "snug mummy fit." Size Regular fits a person up to 6 feet tall; that’s my height, and it fits me perfectly. When looking at sleeping bag dimensions, I look for adequate shoulder girth. A snug bag is good for staying warm (no excess volume inside to warm up), but it also has to be roomy enough inside to wear extra clothing without being too tight. I found the Phantom 32, with 60 inches of shoulder girth, to be just right for me.
I tested the Phantom 32 on seven late spring, summer, and early fall backpacking trips in the mountains of southern Colorado. Nighttime temperatures ranged from a cool 38 F down to a frosty 15 F.
Although the Phantom 32 is not the loftiest bag around with a 30-32 F temperature rating (see comparison table below), I found it to be quite warm. In my field testing, my methodology was to wear my basic sleepwear (dry wool socks and microfleece top, bottom, and cap) inside the bag initially, then add insulated clothing later in the night if I got cold, noting the time and temperature when I got chilly. On most nights down to freezing, I stayed adequately warm in my basic sleepwear, although I got a little chilly when the "4:00 a.m. freeze" occurred. I noticed that the temperature when I felt chilly varied somewhat, from 30 to 35 F, depending on weather, shelter, and metabolic activity. I felt the coldest when I was hungry during the night.
There is a small Velcro tab at the top of the zipper to further insure the zipper doesn’t open unintentionally. The right tab includes a patch to park the Velcro so it doesn’t catch on clothing. The Velcro doesn’t stick to the bag’s fabrics.
The "single-handed drawcord" on the hood (left) actually requires two hands to operate: squeeze a small cordlock with one hand and pull the drawcord with the other hand. There are actually two drawcords: an elastic drawcord in the lower part of the hood and a grosgrain drawcord in the upper half that are tied together and tighten simultaneously when pulled. The hood (right) has six down chambers that wrap around the head and covers the face well, and places a breathing hole right at your mouth.
On three really cold nights – down to 19, 18, and 15 F – I wore my insulated camp clothing plus my rain jacket and pants inside the bag all night, and managed to stay warm. On the 15 F night I was camped at 12,500 feet following the passage of a cold front that produced 45 mph winds the night before that had me hanging onto my Tarptent. I knew it was going to be a cold one, so I wore everything in my pack at bedtime, and ate some nuts to generate metabolic heat. It worked and I managed to stay warm at 15 degrees in a 32 F rated sleeping bag. On warmer nights I unzipped the bag and used it as a quilt. That’s the versatility of a three-season down mummy bag – with a little resourcefulness I can use the same bag to comfortably sleep with nighttime temperatures ranging from 50 down to 20 F, and occasionally colder than that when you have to.
The Phantom’s shell is quite downproof; I observed very little down coming through the shell fabric or stitching during my testing.
The following table compares the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 with some popular 30-32 F rated ultralight mummy style down sleeping bags. All of the bags have baffled construction. Data are manufacturer information for a size Regular bag.
|Manufacturer||Model||Temperature Rating (°F)||Single Layer Loft (in)||Weight of Down (oz)||Fill Power||Total Weight (oz)||Cost US$|
|Mountain Hardwear||Phantom 32||32||2.0||10||800||22||290|
|MontBell||Spiral Down Hugger #3||30||1.9||10||800||20||229|
|The North Face||Beeline||30||2.4||10||850+||22||279|
As you can see from the table, the Phantom 32 compares favorably to similar sleeping bags in loft, weight, and cost. The Western Mountaineering SummerLite bag is three ounces lighter, but it costs a bit more too. The MontBell Spiral Down Hugger #3 appears to be the best value.
Although the bag has a narrow grosgrain strip on each side of the zipper to create a channel for the zipper to glide in (left), it simply does not work very well. The zipper snags easily and frequently (right) on the grosgrain strips, draft tube, lining, and outside shell. It helps a lot to straighten the zipper before zipping it.
The stuff sack provided has two drawcords to stuff the bag down to bread loaf size. It’s simply too tight. In my opinion, the two drawcord design is overkill, extra weight, and overstuffing may damage the down over time. I prefer a stuff sack that does not overstuff a down bag, although it takes up a little more room in my pack.
Overall, the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 is a highly refined sleeping bag. It’s filled with 800 fill power down and has good loft, but it’s not the loftiest among its peers. It has a number of important factors on the positive side of the ledger: snug sizing (but has adequate room to wear clothing inside), down filled draft collar, two-way locking zipper that operates from the outside and inside, excellent hood, lightweight downproof shell, durable lining, and no Velcro damage to fabrics. However, there is a negative side too: the zipper snags badly, and the stuff sack is over-engineered.
From an ultralight point of view, its full length zipper may be a drawback too. Personally, I am content with a one-third or one-half length zipper, or none at all. A short zipper still allows easy entry and exit, and allows the bag to be unzipped and used as a quilt on warm nights. However, manufacturers seem to perceive that consumers want a full length zipper; even Western Mountaineering puts a full length zipper in most of their bags. What do you think? Post your opinions in the attached forum.
|2009 Phantom 32|
|Hooded mummy with full length zipper|
|Sleeping bag, stuff sack, mesh storage bag|
|800 fill-power down, 10 oz (283 g) size Regular, 11 oz (312 g) size Long|
|4.0 in (10 cm) average double-layer loft, manufacturer specification 4.0 in (10 cm)|
|32 F (0 C)|
|7 x 10 in (18 x 25 cm)|
|Size Regular tested |
BPL Measured Weight: 1 lb 7.1 oz (655 g)
Manufacturer Specification 1 lb 6 oz (624 g)
|Regular fits to 6 ft (1.83 m)|
Long fits to 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
|Shell is 15d Superlight 0.85 oz/yd2 (29 g/m2) high tenacity nylon with DWR, lining is 20d 1.2 oz/yd2 (41 g/m2) nylon taffeta|
|Full length two-way auto-locking zipper with anti-snag panel and down filled draft collar, zipper pull operates from inside or outside, small Velcro tab at top of zipper, six chamber sculptured hood with down filled face gasket, single handed elastic/grosgrain drawcord on hood, comfort footbox|