Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review

A warm, refined sleeping bag, but not the lightest in its class.

Overall Rating: Above Average

The Phantom 32 is a good solid ultralight sleeping bag. It gets high marks on the main factors: shell, down, loft, hood, and sizing. However, the zipper snags easily and the stuff sack is too small. From an ultralighter's perspective, the shell fabric and lining could be a bit lighter, the zipper could be shorter, and the down fill power could be higher. From a lightweight backpacker's perspective, the Phantom 32 is spot on, meaning it's an excellent balance of warmth, light weight, and durability. If it were not for the snaggy zipper, the Phantom 32 would easily earn a Recommended rating.

About This Rating

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by Will Rietveld |

Description

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review - 1
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.

Performance

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.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review - 3
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.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review - 6
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.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review - 2
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.

Comparisons

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
Western Mountaineering SummerLite 32 2.0 10 850+ 19 315
Marmot Hydrogen 30 2.0 11 850+ 25 319
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.

Assessment

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review - 5
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.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review - 4
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.

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Mountain Hardwear

  Year/Model

2009 Phantom 32

  Style

Hooded mummy with full length zipper

  What's Included

Sleeping bag, stuff sack, mesh storage bag

  Fill

800 fill-power down, 10 oz (283 g) size Regular, 11 oz (312 g) size Long

  Construction

5-inch baffles

  Measured Loft

4.0 in (10 cm) average double-layer loft, manufacturer specification 4.0 in (10 cm)

  Manufacturer
Claimed Temperature Rating

32 F (0 C)

  Stuffed Size

7 x 10 in (18 x 25 cm)

  Weight

Size Regular tested
BPL Measured Weight: 1 lb 7.1 oz (655 g)
Manufacturer Specification 1 lb 6 oz (624 g)

  Sizes

Regular fits to 6 ft (1.83 m)
Long fits to 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)

  Fabrics

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

  Features

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

  MSRP

Regular US$290
Long US$305


Citation

"Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/mh_phantom32_bag_review.html, 2009-11-10 00:02:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review on 11/10/2009 15:24:35 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review

christopher shive
(cms432)

Locale: Along the AT in PA
Zipper Length on 11/10/2009 19:35:14 MST Print View

Regarding zipper length. I think I would be most content with a 3/4 length zipper that stops at about the knee or a little higher. Enough of a zipper to open the bag up like a quilt and allow for easy entry/exit. My Mont-Bell super stretch zips down to mid-shin level, and I never feel the need to completely unzip the bag.

chris

Matthew Dunn
(Boddunn) - F

Locale: Kirby Muxloe
Cumulus 200 on 11/11/2009 03:27:04 MST Print View

I've got a Cumulus 200 bag and I'm pretty impressed, no hard figures but I've had it down to around 0 degrees (30F) and it's preformed pretty well, mine weighs 550 grams including the stuff sack (not the 495 advertised) and it cost me £165 (about $270 at present exchange rates); definitely worth considering.
As for the zip, it's full length but I agree a 3/4 length would be better to save weight and make it easier to stay covered when using it in summer.
Here's a link.

Johnathan White
(johnatha1) - F

Locale: PNW
Re:Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review on 11/11/2009 09:02:06 MST Print View

Great write-up Will!

One thing I would love to see though is the comparison grid you have, but with the girth of the bags included.

I.e. a 62" bag with 10oz of 850+ down vs. a 57" with 10oz of 850+ down will obviously have different loft depths.

Alan Little
(AlanL) - F

Locale: Bavarian & Austrian Alps
Re: Zipper Length on 11/11/2009 09:20:13 MST Print View

I often find it comfortable in not too cold conditions to sleep with my torso zipped up but my feet sticking out.

I'm currently on the lookout for a new down bag, and find that the Valandre Mirage looks impressive in many ways, but the 3/4 zip is a concern for my sweaty toes.

Maybe I'm just weird. Should I perhaps be looking at using a quilt upside down?

Edited by AlanL on 11/11/2009 09:20:55 MST.

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
"Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review" on 11/11/2009 09:46:10 MST Print View

Great review
I was already thinking of getting this bag to outrank my DIY down quilt. This is lighter (my quilt is about 28 oz and very warm), and I already bring primaloft clothing. I've also been moving away from the quilt idea in my thinking, as it is less thermally efficient with drafts and all, and a mummy bag can still be used as a quilt anyway.
Thanks.

Don Root
(doninmarin) - F
Good review on 11/11/2009 09:55:23 MST Print View

I have this bag and used it for the first time on an 18-day trip in the Sierras last summer. The zipper is definitely a drag, and the stuff sack was so obviously ridiculous I replaced it before going on the trip. I also agree that 850+ fill down would be better--the insulation seemed a little wimpy, even for a 32 bag. Better to save weight with a down quilt, I'd say. I got this bag on sale, and for the sale price, I guess it's OK. But if I were buying today I'd keep looking. Gotta be something better out there.

aarn tate
(aarndesign) - MLife
full length zipper on Phantom 32 on 11/11/2009 10:22:48 MST Print View

Either a 3/4 length or a full length zipper that is available in left and right versions (so 2 bags can be zipped together) is essential for me to sleep ultralight with my partner. I also need zip compatability with other bags in the same manufacturers range so i can zip a warmer bag with a cooler bag as my partner needs more insulation than me. Using a 2 bags together saves weight as we can use lighter bags.

Aarn Tate

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Zipper Length on 11/11/2009 11:22:06 MST Print View

"Maybe I'm just weird. Should I perhaps be looking at using a quilt upside down?"

LOL.

Zipper length will always be controversial. Some tough folks Like Glen Van Peski can cope without any zip! I am OK with a half zip, and two half-zip bags mated together works well for us too, bit I prefer full length. Of course some folks get offended at the presence of any zips (ie quilters). I too like to have my feet hanging out while the rest of me is covered, and a full length zip (or quilt) is essential for this (as is NOT zipping together with someone else).

Anyway, from where I'm sitting the MH bag doesn't look very tempting. In fact, not even a little tempting!

Christopher Kuzmich
(obchristo2) - F
Zipper length on 11/11/2009 13:05:57 MST Print View

I often sleep with a foot sticking out from my covers at home, and do the same while camping. The ability to drape the bag as a quilt, let a foot out, or zip fully up is essential for me.

For me, a full length zipper is non-negotiable. Same with a full length pad.

Sleep your own sleep!

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Zipper Length on 11/11/2009 13:07:17 MST Print View

I have both the old -no zipper- and the new -half zipper- NF Beeline bags. I actually prefer the no-zip version. The zipper on the newer -half zip- version is too short to be of much use.

Edit: I don't consider myself "Tough like Glen Van Peski"

Edited by redleader on 11/11/2009 13:08:36 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Zipper Length on 11/11/2009 13:32:02 MST Print View

"I don't consider myself "Tough like Glen Van Peski""

Good point. How could anyone that carries something called a "LUXURYLITE" be a tough guy, though I'm sure Glen enjoys his little luxuries as much as anyone else.

Perhaps I should have called him "really dedicated to pushing the boundaries of SUL" rather than "tough guy"?

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
zipper on 11/11/2009 14:13:33 MST Print View

They must have changed the zipper guard design when they went to a full length zipper because it looks nothing like the one on my Phantom 0 with a 3/4 zipper. I have had no trouble with snags, though I will admit, that the design isn't as good as the one on my Western Mountaineering Bags.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
BaH! HUMBUG! on 11/12/2009 00:20:50 MST Print View

I owned a Phantom 32 and realized, without trying it out, that it sorely lacked loft. Others, after trying it, felt the same and posted their complaints on various sites.

I returned it to REI and bought a WM Megalite by mail order. Never been happier with a bag. I've had it down to 25 F. in the high Sierras with poly long johns and was fine. I seriously doubt the Phantom 32 would have kept me warm in those temps. I think the Phantom is misnamed.
42 F. maybe but 32 F., nope, not unless Mt'n. Hardware has greatly increaseed the fill.

Eric

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: BaH! HUMBUG! on 11/12/2009 10:41:51 MST Print View

Well, according to Will, it has 2 inches of single layer loft which should indeed make it warm down to freezing. Maybe you have an older model, or MH has some quality assurance issues?

Interesting observation on the Beeline!

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I don't doubt the loft... on 11/12/2009 14:02:14 MST Print View

My Phantom 0 has the advertised 7.5" of loft, I would assume that all of the Phantom series bags would be as advertised as well, but I could be wrong.

I also noticed that it is rated at EN 13537 standards at 38* for the average woman, and 29* for the average man, which seem to indicate that it does indeed have 4" of double sided loft. For comparison, the Marmot Hydrogen rated at 39* for the average woman, and 30* for the average man. It probably has similar loft, but didn't preform quite as well due to its larger girth (62" vs 60").

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth on 11/12/2009 15:11:27 MST Print View

Bradford,

Your post was a nice job of adding some objective science to a largely subjective frequent-forum-topic. The Marmot Hydrogen has 1/2" higher loft than the MH Phantom 32 and yet the lab measurements show the Hydrogen has less thermal resistance.

Is there anyone who no longer believes the often repeated axiom, "The Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth"?

Loft

Edited by richard295 on 11/12/2009 17:10:10 MST.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth on 11/12/2009 15:41:20 MST Print View

"Is there anyone who no longer believes their often repeated axiom, "The Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth"?"

I believe it...All else being equal...

Problem is that all else is seldom equal.

Jim

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Loft and other considerations on 11/12/2009 16:09:07 MST Print View

I tried one UL sleeping bag and found out very quickly that the air permiability of the fabric made a big difference-- the cold wind went through it like a screen door. If the loft isn't there, you're gonna get cold and if the loft IS there, you need a resonable seal to keep the cold air out and the heat in.

I wonder about the relative density of the lofted material and how much it controls heat transfer. For example, a denser material may slow air currents and pumping from the sleeper's movements, where a light fluffy material might allow more air movement, taking heat with it or moving colder outer air to the inner warm layers, etc. Just impressions and thinking out load on my part.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Re: Loft and other considerations on 11/12/2009 16:25:09 MST Print View

"I tried one UL sleeping bag and found out very quickly that the air permiability of the fabric made a big difference-- the cold wind went through it like a screen door. If the loft isn't there, you're gonna get cold and if the loft IS there, you need a resonable seal to keep the cold air out and the heat in."

You ought to try hammocking. If you aren't able to make something yourself, you are forced to freeze with the commercially available underquilts. Plain old ripstop nylon does nothing more than just hold some down in place, when it's not leaking it out.