We test jackets for months at a time, in the burliest of conditions. With the Marmot Fordham, however, it was love at first sight. The comfort and price of the Fordham set the tone for the rest of our assessment. In our testing at OutdoorGearLab, we see the price at purchase (and, unlike most reviews around the internet, we purchase all of our products at retail) and we immediately don the jackets upon receipt. A closer look revealed good insulation, warm protection, durable construction, and a compelling suite of features. Put all this together, and we get a straightforward Best Buy Award winner. For greater wet weather protection, we like the Arc'teryx Fission SV. For no-holds-barred warmth and style, our Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun is top of the heap, at a premium price. There are super warm jackets like the Canada Goose Expedition and svelte lower latitude options like the Columbia Mission Air Interchange 3-in-1 in our comprehensive winter jacket review.
Marmot Fordham Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Durable, warm, super comfortable
Cons: Limited wet weather protection due to non-sealed seams
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Fordham jacket from Marmot has its pluses and minuses. As compared to the best of the best, there is no real comparison. The Fordham is a budget product in a field led by no-holds-barred products. In the end, however, the performance is more than acceptable, and the price is bargain basement for what you get. As a comprehensive, full-function, all-around winter jacket, there is no other product in our test that is a better value. It is for this reason that we granted it our Best Buy Award.
First, some background. Jackets, no matter how much insulation you put in them and no matter what that insulation is made of, are not warm on their own. It isn't until a living human being gets inside that the warmth begins. The jacket's job isn't to make you warm; it is to keep you warm. Get in a jacket cold, and you'll still be cold. Generate heat, and have a jacket that holds that heat in, and you will be warm. The Fordham keeps your heat in with high quality, 700 fill power down insulation.
The market describes down regarding how much space a given weight of down expands to. More area per weight of down is better insulation value and is more packable due to compactness and lower mass. The scale of down that appears in modern jackets goes from 550 fill to about 1000. At 700 power, the insulation of the Fordham is near the middle. For a model that is less expensive than most, this is good down. It is not clear exactly how much down they put in, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is plentiful. For winter conditions anywhere short of the most arctic environments, the Fordham is warm enough.
In some ways, the Marmot Fordham and Outdoor Research Whitefish are comparable. Both are affordable, down-insulated, casual parkas. However, the Fordham is more insulating than the Whitefish.
This favorite jacket of ours is also available as an excellent layering piece, the Marmot Fordham Vest. The vest is a steal at $200 and would serve as an excellent addition to your layering quiver.
The other Best Buy winner we chose, The North Face McMurdo III is a little more expensive but much, much warmer. For those facing arctic temperatures or those prone to being cold, the McMurdo is a budget option. For absolute no-holds-barred warmth, we like our Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition Parka.
Weather resistance in a winter parka is a function of design and materials. We look for waterproof shell material, sewn together in a way that protects the seams, with wrist, waist, and hood interfaces securable. The most weatherproof jacket in our test, Top Pick Arc'teryx Fission SV, is smooth, rugged, and made with excellent materials optimized for weather protection.
The Marmot falls short of the best weather resistance. The fabric is tight and resistant, but the jacket is constructed with numerous unsecured seams. In extended wet snow or rain, the Marmot wets through. The Velcro cuffs and generous hood block the wind, but the stitching is the first vulnerability. The good news is that most users of a jacket like the Fordham will minimize the time they spend in genuinely abysmal wet and windy conditions. For sprinting to the car or walking to the bus stop, the Fordham is plenty protective.
Every tester's first impression of any jacket is its level of comfort. In that regard, the Fordham had early universal appeal. The heavy, hugging feel, the soft fabric, and the soft down fill combine to make a very comfortable jacket. Especially nice, and unique in the field, are the fleece-lined cuffs. Beneath standard Velcro closed shell cuffs, are stretchy, "gasket" style cuffs that seal in heat and lend a very welcoming feel. The main drawback of the fleece cuffs is that gloves meant to be worn under the wrists of your jacket will not fit well.
Among the tested jackets, it is fair to say that the Fordham was the most comfortable of the fully featured jackets. If the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun had a softer shell, it could be a contender. If the REI Co-Op Down Hoodie were thicker, it would carry a higher level of comfort.
The Fordham has just the right selection of features. The fleece cuffs mentioned above are welcome, the pocket selection is nice, the hand warmers are effective and fleecy, the hood is tight and removable. All in all, this jacket has an average selection of features. Up at the top of this metric is the Canada Goose Expedition Parka with all the standard features we expect and many options we wouldn't even think of in this category. At the other end of the spectrum, the REI Down Hoodie has a minimal insulating layer with very few features.
Across this entire category, neutral styling is more common than any statement. The Fordham is also neutral. None of the products stand out in any ostentatious or obnoxious way. The Fordham's color options are muted, although a brighter red colorway was added for 2017-2018. The styling is casual. The only thing about the Fordham worth commenting on is the shorter cut. The McMurdo jacket, the Canada Goose Expedition and the Arc'teryx jackets are all at least a little longer in the waist than the Fordham. Some like the shorter cut, while others prefer longer. The Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber is even shorter than the Marmot.
Down insulation and heavy shell fabrics on the Marmot product combine to make a relatively long-lasting product. Our test did not last long enough to truly tax the construction and durability, but we are confident that our intense use and wear and tear have given all the jackets a run for their money. In this intense testing period, we had no issues with any construction or material attributes of the Fordham. With down-filled jackets, a single tear can compromise the insulation.
With synthetically filled jackets, the puff power of the insulation degrades, sometimes alarmingly. The most durable jackets in our test use fleece insulation. Fleece insulation, like that used in The North Face Arrowood and the Top Pick Columbia Mission Air is long lasting, but it isn't incredibly warm, to begin with. Choose fence for value and durability, not for warmth. For long-lasting warmth, the down insulation of the Fordham is just right.
We heartily recommend the Fordham as an all-purpose, long-lasting, budget-friendly winter jacket for almost anyone. There are warmer jackets, there are more weatherproof jackets, and there are less expensive products. But in balancing all these criteria, the Fordham comes out on top.
By this point, the value of the Fordham should be self-evident. We grant our Best Buy Award to the best value in our roster. The Fordham is an easy choice, with excellent materials, intelligent design, and a reasonable price.
Choose the Marmot Fordham for its durability, warmth, and low price. For the wettest of conditions, look elsewhere to something like the Arc'teryx Fission SV. For all other winter use, the Fordham is just right.
— Jediah Porter