Flannel up this fall to hike, operate the tailgate grill, or wield an axe for firewood. We’ve found the best classic wool flannel, organic cotton, and technical button-ups for fall weather in the outdoors.
Today’s flannel is a far cry from the mean streets circa ’90s Seattle or Paul Bunyan’s tack shop. More technical, less scratchy, and all-around comfortable, there are endless options for purveyors of plaid. We took a spin through the aisles to see what’s in style this season.
PART 1: The Best Flannel Shirts
Classic Flannel: L.L.Bean Signature 1933 Chamois Cloth Shirt ($70)
A GearJunkie reader favorite, L.L.Bean has been outfitting the American outdoorsman since 1912. Occasionally, the brand opens its archives to tap into its wealth of timeless patterns.
Designed as a durable camp shirt, the no-fuss Chamois Shirt was founder Leon Leonwood Bean’s original design. Still sporting that soft cotton feel and flashing double-breasted pockets, the Vintage 1933 chamois is a slimmer take on the straight lines of that original shirt. And if you love hoodies and flannels, check out the hooded version of the Chamois Shirt ($74).
Best Budget Flannel: Legendary Whitetails Buck Camp Flannel Shirt ($25-38)
The lowest-priced flannel on this list, the Legendary Whitetails Buck Camp Flannel Shirt is one of Amazon’s best-selling products. The Buck Camp is made entirely of cotton, with corduroy accents on the cuffs and collar.
Even though this shirt isn’t highly technical, we’ve been impressed with how well it’s lasted. Available in a variety of colors, these flannels look classic. And with the low price point, it’s not the end of the world if you wear out the elbows or get a tear.
Classic Wool Flannel: Pendleton Guide Shirt ($139)
Flannel can come in and out of style, but Oregon’s classic Pendleton woolens hold the bar when it comes to classic flannels. Made with 100 percent machine-washable wool, the Guide Shirt sports classic buffalo plaid patterns.
Wear it to work or wear it for chores, the Guide Shirt rides the line. And it’s a perfect candidate for burgeoning lumbersexuals in the city and beyond.
Sustainable Flannel: Mountain Khakis Pearl Street Flannel ($90)
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to recycle/reuse materials. This year, we’ve seen a few new products constructed from recycled water bottles and — wait for it — oyster shells.
Mountain Khakis’ latest flannel sources fabrics that use calcium extracted from oyster shells discarded from the food industry and blend with PET plastic to create “sea wool,” and is reputed to mimic 98 percent of wool’s properties (hence the name).
The material has a little give for active pursuits should you want to swing an axe. But because it’s Mountain Khakis, you know it’s going to have a classic western vibe that wears well at the office punching the keys.
Made for Biking: Club Ride Shaka Flannel ($90)
Ride in flannel? The sportiest shirt in our lineup, Club Ride’s Shaka Flannel is sewn from a breathable, woven fabric that wicks moisture and dries quickly. It comes kitted with reflective tape and a zippered rear pocket.
Mesh swatches are sewn under the arms to dump BTUs once you heat up. We pulled double duty in the Club Ride at work and on rides in the Idaho foothills and found it a capable on and off the saddle.
Lightweight Flannel: Orvis Flat Creek Tech Flannel ($98)
The Orvis name is synonymous with fly fishing. Woven with 3 percent spandex, the material yields a little give when flicking lines across the river.
The yarn is one of the lighter in our lineup, making it an ideal flannel for early fall and spring before things really turn cold. A small patch of microfiber is sewn into the hem to clean your polarized shades. And you can even stow those sunglasses away in the pencil pocket. A vertical tech zippered pocket hides behind the left pocket and can holster a phone or tin of flies.
Reviews share its sizing is average. We agree, but the Flat Creek has a boxy cut that allows it to layer well over a long sleeve shirt.
Wool-Poly Blend: Fjallraven Ovik Re-Wool Shirt ($160)
If you find yourself splitting wood or raking leaves while the neighbors are still sipping their morning joe, the Ovik Re-Wool Shirt might be for you. Fjallraven is a GearJunkie staff favorite, and the Ovik Re-wool exemplifies why. The 80-percent-wool, 20-percent-poly blend has a distinctly robust “felt” feel while carrying over wonderfully clean design.
The tight weave blocks wind and deflects light rain. The craftsmanship is impeccable — all hems are folded and flat stitched —exactly what you would expect from Scandinavian design. The elbows and shoulders are overlaid with stout nylon reinforcements, so you don’t have to worry about shouldering tools on weekend chores.
If you can get past the sticker shock, the Ovik is a great fall wardrobe investment.
Merino Wool Flannel: Icebreaker Lodge Flannel ($190)
A far cry from your dad’s wool flannel, icebreaker’s Lodge Flannel is a tailored shirt made entirely from merino wool. Like traditional wool, merino resists odors, breathes well, and while it doesn’t entirely remove the scratch, it’s much softer than traditional wool yarn.
One of the most expensive shirts on the list, the Lodge is form-fitting, will last for years, and just might be something your son will gladly
take steal as a hand-me-down.
Softest: Backcountry Rockport SeaWool Flannel ($100)
In 2018, online retailer Backcountry released a house brand of clothes. This fall, it adds its own spin on flannel with this SeaWool beauty. Offered in a classic solid gray, the Rockport flannel has a boxy cut that fits when layered over a light sweater or t-shirt. The SeaWool is so soft, it might be the most comfortable flannel against the skin.
With two hand pockets, the Rockport bridges our flannel lineup into the shacket category (see below). It can be worn as a jacket all fall and layered up during the coldest days of winter.
PART 2: Best Shirt Jacket Flannels
The past few years have marked a spike in flannel’s expansion beyond the shirt and almost into the jacket territory.
Meet the shirt jacket, also known as the “shacket,” an overshirt that has enough room to layer over a hoodie (or flannel) and yet is slim enough to wear under an overcoat. With nearly every flannel brand offering a version, here’s a quick look at five pieces we like.
Wool Blend: Dakota Grizzly Fairbanks ($158)
For durability, style, and warmth, check out the Dakota Grizzly Fairbanks jacket. The wool-polyester blend will keep you dry and stink-free no matter the adventure. The zipper makes taking it on and off a breeze. And the microsuede trim earns major style points.
Front pockets keep hands warm, and double interior pockets keep essentials close at hand. It will easily stand up to years of use and abuse.
100% Organic: Outerknown Blanket Shirt Jacket ($168)
Kelly Slater’s brand Outerknown crafts the Blanket Shirt Jacket with 100-percent organic cotton. It uses a durable and “butter-soft” double-brushed blanket fabric for durability and comfort. For functionality, it has hand pockets low on the jacket and two buttoned pockets. Wear this one over a shirt or sweater for extra warmth during the fall and winter.
USA-Made, Bountiful Pockets: California Cowboy High Sierra Flannel ($148)
Unique to the list thanks to big pockets on the back and a thick thermal liner, California Cowboy calls this the “first and only shirt ever designed specially to enhance your ability to destroy apres ski.”
We’ve had a couple in the office for a month and, while our Après has not yet kicked off for the year, we do love this flannel jacket. It’s super warm. It has pockets everywhere, including a secure zipper pocket and a rad little stash pocket. And this cotton (read non-technical) flannel is even made in the USA.
Quilted Favorite: Mountain Khakis Moran Insulated Shirt Jacket ($120)
When leaves start to crunch under boot and the sky only occasionally flashes blue, the Moran bridges the gap. The 100-percent cotton exterior is insulated with SeaWool and backed with a nylon liner that’s instantly comfortable to wear (and one people like to touch — introverts an hug-o-phobes beware)!
Generous hidden side hand pockets are a nearly invisible but large enough to carry a tape measure, stuff a phone, and warm the pockets. Wear it for fall, wear it après ski, the Moran’s warmth and classic styling transitions as fluidly as the seasons.
Fleece Flannel: Duluth Trading Co. Flapjack Fleece-Lined Shirt Jac ($90)
The Duluth Trading Co. Flapjack Fleece-Lined Shirt Jac quickly became one of our favorite fall essentials. It’s a 7-ounce-weight shirt with 100-percent polyester fleece on the inside. Underarm gussets provide freedom of movement, and it has zippered handwarmer pockets for holding your keys or keeping your hands toasty.
Have a favorite flannel we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.