The North Face McMurdo Down Parka is right up there with the warmest of jackets in this review. It is packed with high-quality down, incorporates a warm faux-fur hood, and is constructed with waterproof, breathable fabric to keep the elements out. It has an understated yet refined style not found in every jacket, plenty of practical pockets, and feels built to last. And it comes at a reasonable price, making it a great choice for those living, traveling, and playing in the coldest climates. Some jackets may be better all-around or better in wet conditions, but there is no better budget insulator.Editor's Note: The North Face McMurdo Down Parka review was updated on February 23, 2022. We now provide additional information on product comparisons and which jackets we would buy.
The North Face McMurdo Down Parka Review
Cons: Bulky, faux fur hood is polarizing
Manufacturer: The North Face
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|Pros||Warm, long hem, comfortable hood, great features||Warm, lightweight, comfortable||Warm, weather resistant, durable||Durable, warm, super comfortable||Comfortable, heavily featured, stylish|
|Cons||Bulky, faux fur hood is polarizing||Not that durable, minimal features||Not very breathable, limited color options||Limited wet weather protection due to non-sealed seams||Not very warm, marginally weather resistant|
|Bottom Line||A warm, stylish, and budget-conscious jacket for those in the coldest regions||A warm, comfortable, and lightweight down parka that is ideal for winter hiking and outdoor activities||A versatile and high-performance winter jacket with plenty of warmth and weather protection, at a great price||This jacket offers comfort, warmth and durability at an attractive price||A solid, inexpensive, all-around winter parka with just minor fit issues and limited wet weather performance|
|Rating Categories||The North Face McMu...||Rab Neutrino Pro||REI Co-op Stormheng...||Marmot Fordham||The North Face Goth...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Specs||The North Face McMu...||Rab Neutrino Pro||REI Co-op Stormheng...||Marmot Fordham||The North Face Goth...|
|Down Fill Power||550||800||850||700||550|
|Total Weight||3.55 lbs.||1.38 lbs.||1.94 lbs.||2.75 lbs.||3.10 lbs.|
|Pockets||2 chest height, zippered handwarmers, 2 exterior top-entry Velcro flap pockets, 1 sleeve, 1 interior media pocket, and 2 side-entry waist handwarmers||2 zippered hand, 1 internal chest||5 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal)||2 zippered handwarmer, 1 flap chest pocket, 1 zippered internal media||6 (2 zippered hand, 2 patch chest, 1 patch arm, [internal] 1 zippered media)|
|Hood||Yes (removable)||Yes||Yes||Yes (removable)||Yes|
|Hood Adjustments||Rear drawcord||2 side drawcords, rear velcro||3-way adjustable||Adjustable drawcords||Adjustable|
|Baffle Type||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric||Twisted arm baffle||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric||Sewn-through||Sewn-through inner layer|
|Main Fabric||DryVent 2L 100% nylon||Pertex Quantum||HydroWall 2L||MemBrain 2L 100% polyester||DryVent 2L 100% nylon|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face McMurdo Down Parka is an expedition-weight jacket at a reasonable price. With sharp urban styling, this jacket will keep users warm on the coldest winter days in the coldest cities on earth for a fraction of the cost of jackets that are only slightly warmer.
In overall scoring, the McMurdo is right near the top with jackets that cost two to three times as much. The main attribute that pushes that overall score up so high is the warmth. The jacket trades some comfort, mobility, and weather protection in achieving such warmth at a low price. For the coldest climates, though, the McMurdo is a great value and superb overall choice if you like the style.
The McMurdo kept our testers warm on the coldest winter days, primarily due to the massive amount of high-quality down used in the baffling. 550-fill power down is packed into the jacket's large footprint, and it earned a near-perfect score in this metric. The roomy hood is lined with faux-fur around the facial opening, which helps seal the space between the user's face and the hood, preventing any airflow and keeping the user's head and neck warm. If the hood itself isn't enough for you, there is enough room to throw a beanie on underneath. Thick down baffles continue through the wrists to create a snug seal at the arm openings.
The jacket's hem is longer than most in the review, preserving warmth through the trunk. Pockets are placed with down baffling beneath them, ensuring that there are no cold spots, and a robust front zipper closure flap prevents cold breezes from penetrating the front of the jacket. Overall, this is one of the warmest jackets on the market and the warmest by far for the price.
The McMurdo earned a lower score for weather resistance. It is essential to keep in mind that we are primarily talking about rain and wet snow when we talk about weather resistance. However, these conditions predominate in the relatively warmer winter climates, and this jacket is mainly targeted to the coldest of temperatures and conditions. In that regard, it isn't as important that the McMurdo blocks out the rain as it does such an excellent job of blocking the cold.
Even though you won't face much liquid or near-liquid precipitation in the temperatures the McMurdo is designed for, the waterproof shell is appreciated and valued.
We have little to note about the comfort of this winter jacket. Super warm jackets like this are inherently confining, but this contender isn't as bulky and restrictive as the Canada Goose. Other jackets are certainly more comfortable, but not nearly as warm. There is plentiful insulation to ensure the McMurdo is as warm as it is. Luckily down insulation is more free-moving than synthetic.
A synthetic jacket this warm would be very constricting. Also, the McMurdo is made with an extended cut in the hem. This feature completely covers your behind and upper thighs. A long hemmed jacket can also be somewhat confining, but this is mitigated by opening up the front zipper from below. First, the McMurdo's main zipper doesn't start until about six inches from the hem. You can't zip it tight to the bottom, but we consider this a pro. Additionally, the main front zipper can be opened from below, allowing the user to tailor the amount of freedom there. When standing, you can zip it all the way down for the greatest protection. You can unzip it a little for more freedom of movement when walking. When sitting, zip it even further up, and the hem hangs to the side of your chair. In short, this award winner is as comfortable as we'd expect a model this warm to be.
The seven pockets in this highly affordable jacket are relatively standard in the category. The detachable fur hood lining is a nice feature, but other warm jackets also have removable hoods. The feature that stands out the most on this contender is the handwarmer pockets. There are two pairs of handwarmer pockets, one with a side entry slot that is always open and one with a Velcroed top entry, and both are fleece-lined. At your chest is a set of side-entry, zippered pockets lined with fleece and sitting outside the insulation. They would be even more helpful if they were inside the insulation, but your chest would be vulnerable to greater drafts.
The most intuitive solution would be to insulate both sides of the handwarmer pockets. Prior and current versions of the McMurdo have had this same dual set of handwarmer pockets. The latest version has chest handwarmer pockets that are still outside the insulation and lined with fleece, but they sit farther from the jacket's center zip. At this height and on a coat this bulky, it's challenging to get your hands into these pockets. Only those with excellent shoulder mobility will be able to take advantage of this otherwise intelligent addition. Even those that can reach them won't be as comfortable in the chest pockets of this jacket as they would have been in the previous version.
Complementing the chest-high hand warmers on the McMurdo is a pair of waist-high, fleece-lined, uninsulated pockets on the waist. You could much more easily put these inside the insulation than the chest-mounted ones. We dig the unprecedented four handwarmer pockets (we only have two hands… how decadent), but we wish that the hand warmers were insulated all around. In addition to the hand warming pockets, we dug the unobtrusive and straightforward utility of the integrated face mask on the McMurdo jacket. This additional layer of fleece dramatically enhances weather protection and warmth, but if you need extra protection, there is room to layer up.
This winter jacket comes with great looks. We enjoyed the utilitarian yet refined piece that feels at home in both high-class environments and everyday situations. This current version is a step up in style from previous editions, with more sleek seams and lines.
Down insulation and beefy shell fabric combine in this winter jacket to make for a piece of clothing that should easily withstand normal wear and tear. We had no issues whatsoever with the McMurdo in our intense testing period. Our initial selection process is thorough enough that we rarely have issues with durability with any of our tested products. We simply don't test products known for poor performance in any metric. Our extensive experience with outdoor clothing allows us to make reasonably accurate generalizations about the integrity of different materials and construction styles, even when we lack the time it would take (years in some cases) to test a piece of clothing to failure.
Should You Buy The North Face McMurdo Down Parka ?
We have selected two different Best Buy winners in this review, and the McMurdo is more of a specialized choice for the Best Buy Award. It scores near the head of a pack of carefully selected jackets and costs less than half of some of its closest competitors. It is a budget choice for consumers in unusually cold climates that require excellent insulation and durability.
What Other Winter Jackets Should You Consider?
This North Face jacket is an excellent value for a specialized, cold-weather piece. The only winter coats less expensive than this contender are far less protective. The REI Co-op Stormhenge Down Hybrid Parka is a close competitor in this price class and is arguably more weather resistant. However, the McMurdo is just enough warmer to tip the scales. If budget is not a restriction for you, the Patagonia Frozen Range is a similarly styled parka with high scores in both warmth and weather resistance, giving you the best of both worlds.
— Jeff Dobronyi
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