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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Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Sewn-through: Diminishing returns. on 11/17/2009 12:26:46 MST Print View

A sewn-through bag is basically uninsulated at the stitch line. To determine heat loss you can't just average the thickness. I've done energy calculations for buildings and you quickly reach a point where no amount of wall insulation will make up for uninsulated surface such as single pane windows. An extreme example for visualization would be a sleeping bag where one end is 4" of down and the other end is just a sheet. You need to put insulation on the "sheet" end before adding to the 4" end.

Sewn-through only performs well in warm conditions (probably above freezing) or with synthetic insulation where one batt is sewn to the outer shell and another batt is sewn to the inner shell, and the stitch lines are offset.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Sewn-through: Diminishing returns. on 11/17/2009 13:33:35 MST Print View

Well, yes, that all makes sense to me, but when Richard commented on the relative warmth of the Nunatak Skaha versus a PHD minimus, he seemed to discard the difference in construction and rated the Minimus as being slightly warmer. This 'baffles' me, as I know from personal experience that the Skaha is warmer. I ask here, as some of the other similar rated bags available, such as the Caribou, use sewn through construction. How do we compare these to a bag like the Phantom?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: FUD on 11/17/2009 13:39:36 MST Print View

Hi Tom

I am going to stick my neck out here and answer your question without hard supporting evidence. You be the judge.

There are two competing standards for the assessment of sleeping bags: the European EN one and the older American ASTM one. (That doesn't count the off-the-planet guessing done by marketing departments.) The results of much careful EN testing has been the revelation that many American bag ratings are just so much pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. That does have hard evidence, btw.

What would you expect the reaction would be from some aggrieved American companies? A public admission that they were misleading the public, or a FUD campaign?

The claim that different labs can get different results under the EN standard is correct of course. I say 'of course' because the science and Standards communities know that ANY measurement carries with it some measure of uncertainty. (eg: What's your GPS position?) To claim that the EN standard gives different results depending on which lab you use and *therefore is unreliable* is a classic ploy for FUD merchants.

How many temperature sensors you use on a copper manikin is not critical. What matters is whether the sensors are calibrated. One calibrated sensor is infinitely better than half a dozen uncalibrated ones.

An indication of the reliability of a measurement is that an uncertainty figure is quoted. Which would you prefer out of:
* 20 F with an unstated uncertainty of +/- 20 F
* 25 F with a stated uncertainty of +/- 5 F
Me, I would believe the 25 +/- 5 F figure, but I strongly suspect the 20 +/- 20 F figure would be very strongly biased in just one direction! That is, the real result was somewhere in the 20 - 40 F range. A cynic would believe the 40 F end of the range.

That labs performing EN testing should get together to discuss results is quite normal, and happens right across the spectrum of Standards testing. It is standard practice to have 'round trials' between the labs as well - been there, done that.

I have also seen some vendors quoting the EN Extreme rating for their bags as the normal or typical rating. Apparently Joe Public is not expected to have any brains.

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 11/17/2009 13:46:25 MST.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F - M
Re: re: MH bags on 06/20/2010 18:27:15 MDT Print View

Jim,

Did you ever post a side by side comparision of the Phantom 32 and the Phantom 45?

Manfred

M Stein
(a.k.a.) - F

Locale: Northern California
Phantom EN Ratings on 07/15/2010 18:20:06 MDT Print View

Manfred,

The EN Ratings for the 32 and 45 are as follows:

Phantom 45
41 F / 5 C
32 F / 0 C
3 F / -16 C

Phantom 32
37 F / 2 C
28 F / -2 C
0 (or -2) F / -17 (or -18) C

The good news is that despite protestations by several buyers on this forum that the Phantom 32 isn't warm enough, the series in fact beats the EN norm for the advertised temp rating.

The bad news is that a number of Mountain Hardwear sleeping bags CURRENTLY fall short of the EN norm. A good number of their ratings were only roughly on par with EN norms. They'll have to do some beefing up in coming years. For instance, take a look at the Ultralamina 0 on any European retailer site, and you will find the EN Limit rating is tested to be 14 F. The Ultralamina 15 tests at 23 F. The Ultralamina 32 tests at 36 F. (Note that the Ultralamina 45 comes in at 43 F.)

The Mountain Hardwear bags that do beat the EN ratings are the Conness 32 (24), Lamina 35 (32) and 45 (41), Merced 32 (25), Phantom 32 (28)and 45 (32), Piute 20 (12), and Switch 35 (30).

Edited by a.k.a. on 07/15/2010 18:22:26 MDT.