The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The North Face McMurdo Parka III Review

A budget-conscious jacket for those in the coldest regions.
Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $330 List | $329.80 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Warm, long hem
Cons:  Bulky, small hood
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 16, 2017
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 14
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Style - 20% 6
  • Features - 10% 8
  • Durability - 5% 9

Our Verdict

The North Face McMurdo III is right up there with the warmest of jackets in this review. This is a budget-conscious jacket for those living, traveling, and playing in the coldest climates. Fairbanks, Chicago, and Winnipeg residents alike will appreciate the warmth and understated style. There are products we reviewed that may be better all around, or better in wet conditions, but there is no better budget insulator.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $329.80 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$649.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$699.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$384.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$516.75 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
73
100
0
83
100
0
78
100
0
75
100
0
75
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Warm, long hemDurable, clean looking, warm, weather resistantFashionable, warm, weatherproofThree jackets in one.Wet-weather ready with the best handwarmer pockets in the review
Cons Bulky, small hood“Crinkly” shell fabricExpensive, controversial hoodRelatively confining fit in combined mode for the amount of warmth it provides.Synthetic insulation will break down with time
Bottom Line A budget-conscious jacket for those in the coldest regions.Near perfection in a winter coat, at a premium price.The best choice for a fashion-forward and high-performance winter jacket, with a high price tag.A unique product in a crowded field, the Tres stands out for great construction and modular versatility.A moderately insulated, wet weather thorough-bred, the Fission SV is purpose built for wet and cold climates.
Rating Categories McMurdo Parka III Arc'teryx Camosun Parka Patagonia Frozen Range Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka Arc'teryx Fission SV
Warmth (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
6
Weather Resistance (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
Comfort (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
Style (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Features (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Durability (5%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
Specs McMurdo Parka III Arc'teryx Camosun... Patagonia Frozen... Patagonia Tres... Arc'teryx Fission SV
Down Fill Power 550 750 700 700 Synthetic Coreloft
Total Weight (pounds) 3.55 lb 2.14 lb 2.76 lb 2.94 lb 1.99 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 security 2 zippered handwarmer, 1 external zippered chest, 1 interior drop-in 5 (Outer Shell: 2 zippered hand-warmer, one external chest. Inner: 2 hand w/zip, 1 interior w/zip) 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh
Hood Yes (removable) Yes (removable) Yes Yes (removable, uninsulated) Yes
Hood Adjustments Rear drawcord 3 adjustable drawcords One rear drawcord 3 adjustable drawcords 3 adjustable drawcords
Baffle Type Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric Interior baffles Sewn-through innner layer Synthetic batting
Main Fabric DryVent 2L 100% nylon N150p-x Gore-Tex 2L Shell: 4 oz 75-denier 100% recycled polyester Gore-Tex 2L, Lining: 100% recycled polyester ripstop with DWR finish H2No Performance: 2-layer, 6.7-oz 100% polyester stretch twill N40r GORE-TEX 2L
N70p GORE-TEX 3L

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face McMurdo III is an expedition-weight parka at a reasonable price. For the coldest climates, for sedentary use, the warmest jacket is necessary. The absolute warmest jacket in our test is the Canada Goose Expedition Parka. That comes at a premium regarding cost and bulk. It is for this reason that we grant the McMurdo a Best Buy Award. The McMurdo is the budget choice for the coldest of climates.

Performance Comparison


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 III is a great value and awesome overall choice.

Winter approaches Wydaho  and the McMurdo keeps us cozy.
Winter approaches Wydaho, and the McMurdo keeps us cozy.

Warmth


We evaluated the warmth of all our tested jackets by using them in the coldest temperatures we could find in the Teton region, in late autumn New York, and in the high altitudes of California's Sierra. In these testing scenarios, we found a strong correlation to warmth with the type and amount of insulation, the length of the jacket's hem, and the hood and wrist seals. In each of these categories, the McMurdo is strong.

While gearing up for winter activities  the McMurdo keeps you warm and snug at a reasonable price.
While gearing up for winter activities, the McMurdo keeps you warm and snug at a reasonable price.


The parka is insulated with plentiful down insulation. Of the three major types we tested (down, synthetic, and pile), down is the warmest. The hem is as long as almost any other jacket in our review. Finally, the hood is good enough to trap heat in one's vulnerable head, though we wish it was larger. The North Face has updated the McMurdo over the years, and we have always dug it. The latest iteration, the third, has a hood that is smaller than the previous. If you don't like the style of the fur trim, you can remove it. However, you then leave your forehead more exposed than you might like. Updated hood notwithstanding, the whole combination makes for a super-warm jacket. The Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun comes close but is twice the cost of the McMurdo.

Only in the absolute coldest of conditions is the McMurdo maxed out. In those conditions only the Canada Goose Expedition might do better.
Only in the absolute coldest of conditions is the McMurdo maxed out. In those conditions only the Canada Goose Expedition might do better.

Weather Resistance


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.

When foul  cold weather threatens  the McMurdo can be battened down.
When foul, cold weather threatens, the McMurdo can be battened down.

Comfort


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, like the The North Face Arrowood Triclimate, 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 generous down insulation of the McMurdo jacket  captured in large  sewn-through compartments.
The generous down insulation of the McMurdo jacket, captured in large, sewn-through compartments.

Features


The eight pockets in this Best Buy Award Winner are fairly standard in the count. The removable hood with detachable fur is standard on a jacket of this warmth. The cuffs are Velcroed, and the hem can be cinched for greater butt protection. The feature that stands out the most on this contender is the handwarmer pockets. There are two pairs of handwarmer pockets! 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.

Early winter in "Wydaho" in the McMurdo jacket from The North Face
Early winter in "Wydaho" in the McMurdo jacket from The North Face

The most elegant solution and one employed in the Arc'teryx Fission SV 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 numbered 3, 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.

The integrated neck gaiter is one of our favorite features. We wish more companies included this low-cost  low-bulk accessory.
The integrated neck gaiter is one of our favorite features. We wish more companies included this low-cost, low-bulk accessory.

Style


This winter jacket is a practical piece. The bulk and warmth and length aren't particularly fashionable, but it does the job. The style is not at all offensive, but it isn't sophisticated, either.


The tested black jacket is bland around mountain towns, but fit right in for our lead tester visiting New York City. Even in the sophisticated fashion climate of the Big Apple, the McMurdo jacket fit right in on the coldest of days.
Times Square in the McMurdo jacket. Lead Test Editor Jed Porter  shown here  crisscrosses cold and blustery North America testing gear so you get exactly the advice you need.
Times Square in the McMurdo jacket. Lead Test Editor Jed Porter, shown here, crisscrosses cold and blustery North America testing gear so you get exactly the advice you need.

Durability


Down insulation and beefy shell fabric combine in this winter jacket to make for a piece of clothing that should last the user years and years. 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.


The long hem keeps you warm  while the separating zipper allows range of movement.
The long hem keeps you warm, while the separating zipper allows range of movement.

Value


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.

The velcro cuffs of the McMurdo do the job  but aren't as sophisticated as those on the more expensive jackets.
The velcro cuffs of the McMurdo do the job, but aren't as sophisticated as those on the more expensive jackets.

Conclusion


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.


Jediah Porter