The North Face McMurdo Down Parka Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Warm, long hem, comfortable hood, great features
Cons: Bulky, faux fur hood is polarizing
Manufacturer: The North Face
Compare to Similar Products
The North Face McMurdo Down Parka
|Price||Check Price at REI|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$245.19 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$134.55 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$189.50 at Backcountry||$72.00 at Backcountry|
|Pros||Warm, long hem, comfortable hood, great features||Durable, warm, super comfortable||Comfortable, heavily featured, stylish||Warm, durable, good style||Affordable, weather resistant, comfortable|
|Cons||Bulky, faux fur hood is polarizing||Limited wet weather protection due to non-sealed seams||Not very warm, marginally weather resistant||Poor weather resistance, bulky feel||Unremarkable style, not as warm as other jackets, not fully waterproof|
|Bottom Line||A warm, stylish, and budget-conscious jacket for those in the coldest regions||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||A warm and durable winter jacket for dry conditions||A good all-around winter parka at a great value|
|Rating Categories||McMurdo Down Parka||Marmot Fordham||Gotham III Jacket||Patagonia Maple Gro...||Columbia Boundary B...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Specs||McMurdo Down Parka||Marmot Fordham||Gotham III Jacket||Patagonia Maple Gro...||Columbia Boundary B...|
|Down Fill Power||550||700||550||600||Synthetic|
|Total Weight (pounds)||3.55 lb||2.75 lb||3.10 lb||3.46 lb||2.86 lb|
|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 handwarmer, 1 flap chest pocket, 1 zippered internal media||6 (2 zippered hand, 2 patch chest, 1 patch arm, [internal] 1 zippered media)||2 handwarmer, 2 cargo, 1 external chest, 1 internal chest||2 handwarmer, 2 external chest (buttoned), 1 internal chest (zipper)|
|Hood||Yes (removable)||Yes (removable)||Yes||Yes||Yes, removable|
|Hood Adjustments||Rear drawcord||Adjustable drawcords||Adjustable||3 adjustable drawcords||2 side drawstrings|
|Baffle Type||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric||Sewn-through||Sewn-through inner layer||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric||Discontinuous quilting|
|Main Fabric||DryVent 2L 100% nylon||MemBrain 2L 100% polyester||DryVent 2L 100% nylon||67% Cotton 33% Polyester||100% Polyester with Omni-Tech|
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 days of winter in the coldest cities on earth, for a fraction of the price of jackets that are only slightly warmer.
In overall scoring, the McMurdo is right near the top with jackets that cost twice to three times as much. The main attribute that pushes that overall score up so high is the warmth. In achieving such warmth at a low price, the jacket trades some comfort, mobility, and weather protection. For the coldest climates, though, the McMurdo is a great value and awesome overall choice, if you like the syle.
The McMurdo kept our testers warm on the coldest days of winter, due largely to the massive amount of high-quality down used in the baffling. 550-fill power down is packed into the jacket's large footprint. The roomy hood is lined with faux-fur around the facial opening, which actually helps seal the space between the user's face and the hood, preventing any airflow and keeping the user's head and neck warm. 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.
When we talk about weather resistance, we are primarily talking about rain and wet snow. Rain and wet snow predominate in the relatively warmer winter climates. This jacket is mainly targeted to the coldest of climates and conditions. In that regard, it is important to somewhat discount the importance of weather resistance. It isn't as important that the McMurdo blocks out rain as it does such a good 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 valuable.
We have little to note about the comfort of this winter jacket. Super warm jackets like this will be inherently confining. This contender isn't as bulky and restrictive as the Canada Goose. Other jackets are certainly more comfortable, but not nearly as warm. To ensure the McMurdo is as warm as it is, there is plentiful insulation. Down insulation is more free moving than synthetic.
A synthetic jacket this warm would be very constricting. Also, the McMurdo is made with a long cut in the hem. This completely covers your behind and upper thighs. A long hemmed jacket can be somewhat confining, but this is mitigated by opening up the front zipper from below. First, the McMurdo's main zipper doesn't even start until about six inches from the hem. You can't zip it tight to the bottom. This is good. Next, the main front zipper can be opened from below, allowing the user to tailor the amount of freedom there. Standing, zip it all the way down for greatest protection. Walking, unzip it a little for freedom of motion. When sitting, zip it even further up and the hem of the jacket 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 fairly 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. If they were inside the insulation, they would be even more useful, but your chest would be vulnerable to greater drafts.
The most elegant solution is 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 jacket of this bulk, it's difficult 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. These could be much more easily put inside the insulation, as compared to the chest-mounted ones. We dig that there are an 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 simple layer of fleece dramatically enhances weather protection and warmth.
This winter jacket comes with great looks. We enjoyed the utilitarian, yet refined style of the 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 short, yet intense testing period. In fact, our initial selection process is thorough enough that we had no issues with durability with any of our tested products. We simply don't test products known for poor performance in any metric. With extensive experience with outdoor clothing, but lacking time to test any one piece of clothing to failure, we can make reasonably accurate generalizations about the integrity of different materials and construction styles.
For a specialized, cold-weather piece that this is, it is an excellent value. The only jackets less expensive than this contender are far less protective. In this price class, the Marmot Fordham is a close competitor, and is arguably more comfortable. However, the McMurdo is just so much warmer.
We have selected two different Best Buy winners in this review. The Marmot Fordham is our primary pick, with all-around functionality, lasting materials, and a cut that is extremely comfortable, while the McMurdo is more of a specialized choice for the Best Buy Award. It is a budget choice for consumers in cold climates and with lots of need for insulation.
— Jeff Dobronyi