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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Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag Review
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Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re: Loft and other considerations on 11/12/2009 16:44:33 MST Print View

Interesting point, Tom. I find my Arc Specialist quilt very warm compared to bags i have used with similar loft and rating. I ordered my quilt with the Epic shell. It's the first time i've ever used a bag or quilt with an Epic shell, and i've wondered how much of a part the shell played in how warm it felt. I also have a bag with a Pertex Endurance shell (Rab Q250), and it too feels warmer to me than other similar bags.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth on 11/12/2009 17:29:32 MST Print View

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

Richard,

I missed something along the way. What is relative loft?

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth on 11/12/2009 17:31:57 MST Print View

Tom,

It is the approach where you determine which of two bags is warmer by comparing the loft of the two bags. In other words, the loft "relative" to the other bag.

Edited by richard295 on 11/12/2009 17:33:42 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Relative Loft ALWAYS Determines the Comparative Warmth on 11/12/2009 18:01:02 MST Print View

"In other words, the loft "relative" to the other bag."

Thank you, Richard.

My guess then would be that the weight required to achieve that loft would go down as fill power increased? Along with the price?

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 vs 45 on 11/12/2009 22:09:43 MST Print View

Great review Will

I've been interested in getting either Phantom 32s or Phantom 45s. I'm wondering if anyone knows how the design details differ on the 45?

In the pic on the Australian website, it looks like it has a 2/3 zipper, similar to the pic with the Phantom 32. Is this a design/model difference here (ie with the Australian model, or did Will have a full-zip or older version)? If these zippers are different, I wonder if they don't snag or have been improved?

Any ideas anyone?

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
MH on 11/12/2009 23:26:19 MST Print View

MH has had their Phantom series EN tested (look on their site) and their recommended temp ratings are supported, no matter what brand you prefer. These are excellent bags.

Johnathan White
(johnatha1) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 vs 45 on 11/13/2009 10:12:17 MST Print View

One main difference is I believe the 45 is quilt stitched and does not have raised baffles in between the panels.

Edited by johnatha1 on 11/13/2009 10:13:00 MST.

jim draucker
(mtnjim) - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah Valley VA
re: MH bags on 11/13/2009 10:43:31 MST Print View

Hello

I have both bags. I will do a side by side comparison and post later.

Jim

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 vs 45 on 11/13/2009 10:50:58 MST Print View

Interesting that the 45 is 6 ounces lighter than the 32 yet it only rates at 3 degrees cooler. Looks like the 45 is slightly under rated where the 32 and 15 are both over rated.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: MH on 11/13/2009 11:21:54 MST Print View

In a recent duscussion with a manufacturer I found out that not all laboratories, licenced to perform the EN-testing, use the same manikin nor the same temperature sensors, so every result from the EN-test should be regarded with some suspicion.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
FUD on 11/13/2009 12:21:04 MST Print View

There is a 5% m2K/W maximum variance using the old EOG guidelines. Using the current EOG guidelines the worst case variance is 3%.

National laboratories, such as NIST, would expect to measure an insulation material at ambient temperatures and obtain agreement to ± 1%, accredited laboratories within ± 3%, and industry test laboratories, such as mine, to within ± 5%. Accredited lab fees start at $500 - $600 per sample. National laboratories cost about 100X per sample. If you want your favorite cottage industry manufacturer to afford an EN13537 test, please consider the above.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) is a classic marketing maneuver used by companies in an attempt to have consumers ignore objective scientific data and accept THEIR subjective marketing messages.

Isn't my color prettier?
Doesn't mine LOOK warmer?
My style is more fashionable.
Mine was featured on a TV show.
We (Marketing Dept) rate this as a 0F bag. The EN 13537 standard LLimit rating is only 22F but you know what? Some of the labs use different thermal dummies and temperature sensors which don't yield the same result.

Edited by richard295 on 11/13/2009 13:49:49 MST.

Scott Toraason
(kimot2)
FUD on 11/13/2009 13:34:04 MST Print View

Richard, I had to read your post twice, well said on multiple levels.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: FUD on 11/13/2009 13:51:29 MST Print View

Scott,

Thank you.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: FUD on 11/13/2009 13:57:56 MST Print View

+5 on Richard's post!

Cheers

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Hmmmm... on 11/13/2009 23:18:14 MST Print View

I've seen Phantom 32s in two other stores and all were low on loft. I still contend the Phantom 32's temp rating is optimistic, just as the Megalite's rating is conservative.

That said I have a VERY warm, high-lofting Mt'n Hardware minus 20 F. bag of Polarguard Delta that IS warm at that temp, and a bit below. Heavy and bulky but really WARM.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
I have to ask ... on 11/14/2009 16:47:43 MST Print View

What would you rather have, the bag with the highest loft or the bag that was the warmest. While high loft is likely to be the warmest, other factors dictate it's not always so. What I find lacking in this review is any objective, scientific measure I can use to compare with other bags.

How about for every bag you test, you include a test where you put a bag length tube full of hot water in the bag starting at some consistent temperature, and also some consistent ambient temperature and meausre how long it takes the water temperature to drop 10 degrees? Or find some other objective test methodology that suits you.

I haven't heard of the EN test, but I think some cheaper litmus test such as I've suggested would be useful for comparing bags.

Edited by herman666 on 11/15/2009 19:00:44 MST.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Phantom on 11/14/2009 17:05:54 MST Print View

Eric - you have never tried a Phantom but believe the temp ratings are optimistic?

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: FUD on 11/15/2009 15:05:36 MST Print View

Perhaps I'm reading this the wrong way, so if I do my apologies, but it's not about a manufacturers specific test vs the EN-test but variance between the results of the EN-tests, depending ong the lab that performed the test.

While I know that every tempaterure indication should be met with some suspicion, so also the temperatures given by the EN-test, I at least thought that one advantage of the En-test was that all bags that were being tested could be compared. Now, at least I get the impression that even that isn't the case since the different labs that are licenced to perform the test, can stay inside a legal framework while still differing quite a lof in how they perform the test. And apparantly, the different labs that perform the test have come together to discuss the issue. Although I don't know the outciome of that discussion, it does seem to mean that there is something going on.

Or, in other words, if one lab tested a sleeping bag with a manikin that differed in size and in weight and with almost half as many temperature sensors as another lab, should or should we not exspect a noticible and significant difference in temperatures? An open question and I hope to find the answer here?

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Loft and other considerations on 11/17/2009 11:45:15 MST Print View

I am still trying to get my head around the difference baffling makes to warmth. If two bags have the same loft and same fill, but one is sewn through and the other is baffled, how do we work out likely differences in warmth between them...or is there a difference?

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 vs 45 on 11/17/2009 12:00:54 MST Print View

FWIW, the Phantom 45 is baffled, not sewn-through. The Phantom jackets, however, are sewn-through.

Richard has pointed out the (2.8%?) differential in warmth up to a nominal level of insulation. Once you get more significant loft, though, there becomes more of a difference.

When sleeping bag loft is measured, it's basically taken from the highest point... so although a sewn-thru bag might have 4 inches of loft and a baffled bag might have 4 inches of loft, the baffled bag will have a consistent 4 inches of loft. The sewn-thru bag, on the other hand, will only have that 4 inches (2-inch single side, for sake of argument) at the middle of the down chamber. At each stitch line the loft will be zero. If you were to divide a 5-inch spaced compartment in half, then, you'd have 2 inches in the middle ending 2.5 inches later in 0. That might not be as important in a 40 or 50 degree bag (although when my 40* sewn-thru bag gets into the mid-40s I can quite distinctly feel the cold through the stitch lines), but when you get into warmer bags and more loft it can become significant.