We Tested the Best Flannel Shirts for the Outdoors

If you’re looking for the perfect trail to tavern mid-layer check out these button downs
We tested the best flannel shirts.

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Flannels are a popular fall and spring outer layer and a winter mid-layer. While the original flannels were made of wool, now they come in cotton and synthetic materials, too. If you want a really warm flannel, look for fabric that has been brushed to open up the fibers to trap more warmth. The best flannel shirts are durable and attractive to add warmth and character to your cold weather layering system. I tried out some of the top flannels to help you narrow down your search, and start a collection.

How I Chose the Best Flannel Shirts

I focused on outdoor-oriented brands making quality flannels from a range of materials for this test. Fashion-focused flannels might look good, but they won’t have the warmth or durability outdoors people expect from their apparel. But, the best thing about flannels is their ability to go from hiking or hunting to town. However aesthetic versatility can’t be compromised by the materials and construction. So find out which of the best flannels will fit your active lifestyle in the woods and around town below. 

Best Flannel Shirts: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Icebreaker Merino 200 Dawnder Long Sleeve Flannel Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Material: 100 percent merino wool

This 100 percent merino wool flannel is the best overall because wool has natural temperature regulation, odor resistance, and flame resistance. It’s a great cut, and has a chest pocket just big enough for my iPhone 13. This machine washable wool button down is stylish and functional. It makes a great layer for hiking, working outside, or running around town in the cold.

Best Insulated: Patagonia Insulated Organic Cotton Mid Weight Fjord Flannel Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to XXL
  • Materials: 100 percent organic cotton shell, 100 percent recycled polyester twill with a PFC-free DWR finish lining, and 60 grams Thermogreen 100 percent recycled polyester insulation

This organic cotton flannel is lined with 60 grams of recycled insulation. It’s an awesome shirt jacket that isn’t too hot indoors, yet still keeps you warm and cozy outdoors. In brisk and even windy conditions, this jacket will trap enough heat to keep you outside. I think the button closures and deep pockets are great features. If you’re looking for a lightweight puffer jacket with the aesthetic and durability of a flannel, this is the best insulated flannel.

Best Synthetic: Outdoor Research Feedback Flannel Twill Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Material: 100 percent polyester fabric

Outdoor Research’s Feedback flannel is an oversized layer with four pockets that works great as a loose shirt or a jacket. The Feedback is highly versatile and the fabric is wicking, breathable, and UPF 50. This flannel doesn’t only come in plaid, with solid options available, too. It’s best for shoulder season adventures and traveling.

Best for Women: Roark Amberley Shirt Jacket

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Materials: 61 percent polyester, 17 percent wool, 14 percent acrylic, 8 percent other

This is the best flannel jacket for women thanks to its perfect cut, wool blend, and four pockets. The cut isn’t too long and puts the slip-in pockets at a handy height. There are also two buttoned chest pockets and the front is snap closures, making it easy to take on and off, or wear open. The Amberly shirt jacket is made with wool for added warmth and brushed polyester for a cozy feel. The fabric is thin, but traps warmth and holds its shape without feeling stiff. It doesn’t keep wind out, but it’s a versatile mid-layer or the ideal jacket on a mild day spent outdoors working, foraging, or walking.

Best for Men: Kuiu Field Flannel Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: M to XL
  • Materials: 90 percent cotton, 10 percent wool blend

Kuiu’s organic cotton and wool blend Field flannel is utilitarian and comfortable. The cut is great, not too long, but long enough for good coverage. It has two buttoned chest pockets and the wearer’s left features a drop in pocket large enough for your phone. It’s closed with buttons and comes in a bunch of color ways, some stealthy enough for scouting. This shirt is functional, durable, and lightweight. If you want to layer underneath, I’d size up. The men’s medium fit me well and I usually wear a women’s medium.

Roark Alpine Long Sleeve Flannel

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Materials: 60 percent organic cotton, 40 percent repreve

Like the Amberly, Roark’s Alpine flannel is a perfect cut for women, and it’s made from eco-friendly materials. It’s extremely soft and made from organic cotton free of pesticides, herbicides, or other toxins harmful to farmers, makers, consumers, and surrounding ecosystems. The rest of the garment is made from Repreve which is a textile made from recycled water bottles. The Alpine is extremely soft and breathable with two buttoned chest pockets and snap front closures. Roark also makes flannels for men. While I didn’t test Roark’s men’s flannels, the women’s versions I tested have a superior fit and design for women.

Outerknown Blanket Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS/S, M/L, and XL/XXL
  • Material: 100 percent organic cotton

The Outerknown Blanket shirt has a unique, heavy knit giving it that blanket-like feel. It’s made from organic cotton with buttons made of tagua palm nuts gathered from the forest floor. The comforting heft makes this a great nighttime layer whether you’re by the water or sitting around a fire. It has two buttoned chest pockets and comes in a lot of colorways. 

Filson Alaskan Guide Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to 3XL
  • Material: 100 percent cotton

Filson’s Alaskan Guide shirt is the thickest flannel on this list. It’s stiff and durable with a long cut. I got the small and as a women’s medium, it fits me more like a jacket only without the convenient pockets. There are two buttoned chest pockets and the fabric is brushed on both sides for added warmth and softness. This thick and durable shirt is great for breezier conditions and working or relaxing outdoors.

Pladra Leon Workhorse Flannel Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS-3X
  • Material: 100 percent cotton
Pladra's flannels feature nature-inspired designs on the cuffs.
Pladra’s flannels feature nature-inspired designs on the cuffs. Pladra

Pladra’s flannels incorporate nature designs on the cuffs. The Workhorse is made of unbrushed cotton resulting in a stiff and durable garment that holds its shape. The thick material and long cut make this shirt feel more like a jacket, but without the convenient pockets. There are two small drop in pockets on the chest, but that’s it. The tailored fit and sleek look of the unbrushed material makes it great for working outside because it’s durable and less likely to catch on anything. 

Pladra Every Day Flannel Shirt

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Key Features

  • Sizes: XS to 3X
  • Material: 100 percent cotton
Pladra partnered with wildlife artist Ryan Kirby to design this whitetail deer design.
Pladra partnered with wildlife artist Ryan Kirby to design this whitetail deer design. Pladra

The Every Day flannel from Pladra is softer than the Workhorse thanks to cotton that’s brushed on both sides, but shares the long, fitted cut. Pladra partnered with artist Ryan Kirby to create one of the natural designs under the cuffs, collar, and back yoke. This pop of pattern adds a great aesthetic to the flannel, but the interlocking fell stitch on all side seams and triple-needle stitching on shoulder seams means it’s also durable enough to withstand outdoor endeavors.

Read Next: How to Layer for Hiking

Things to Consider Before Buying One of the Best Flannel Shirts

When you’re deciding what flannel is best for you, consider where and when you’ll be wearing it. If you’re working outdoors, chopping wood, mowing the grass, etc. I’d recommend a durable flannel that won’t tear catching a branch like the Filson Alaskan Guide shirt or Pladra Workhorse. If you plan on doing some strenuous shoulder season hiking, I would recommend the Icebreaker Dawnder or Outdoor Research Feedback because the fabric is designed to wick moisture and protect you from the elements. If you plan on mostly wearing these in the front country, around the fire, or at the beach, the Pladra Every Day and Outerknown Blanket Shirt are the coziest.

FAQs

Q: How often should I wash my flannel shirt?

This depends on where and when you wear it. If you work up a sweat, the cotton shirts may need to be washed. However, I’d recommend wearing at least an undershirt under the best flannels which provides a good buffer from sweat. If you’re wearing your flannel as a jacket or mid-layer, you shouldn’t have to wash it after every wear. Those made of wool should also naturally resist odor.

Q: Should a flannel shirt be tucked in?

This is mostly a style preference. If you’re operating heavy machinery, consider tucking in your shirt to limit the risk of it getting caught. Tucking in your flannel could make you warmer, too. I find that the very long flannels wouldn’t tuck in properly because of excess fabric, so if you want to tuck, take the cut of the shirt into account.

Q: Is flannel too hot for summer?

While subjective, I’d say flannels are a great summer outer layer. If it gets chilly at night or on the water, a flannel can serve as a great lightweight jacket. If you’re working outside and want some sun protection, cotton, wool, and performance synthetics can be very breathable. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Flannel Shirts

Flannels are a versatile, durable, and warm layering option for any season. Treat them as jackets in the summer and shoulder season; wear them under a coat in the winter to trap heat. While wool will offer superior temperature regulation, cotton is also very breathable and the heavy knits mean the best flannels will withstand working or recreating outdoors.

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Ashley Thess

Assistant Gear Editor

Ashley Thess is the Assistant Gear Editor for Outdoor Life, where she edits and writes gear reviews. Originally from Missouri, she now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she keeps an unruly gear closet.

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