Best Survival Overshirt / Work Flannel for Preppers

by Tommy Grant

Layering is key to being able to adapt to a wide range of weather conditions, and the humble overshirt excels at that. An overshirt can be whatever you wear over your undershirt- whether it’s a flannel or just a long-sleeve tee, but for survival, we’re looking for the best. Between fast fashion and a huge range of outdoor clothing brands- there are a lot of options out there so finding the best survival overshirt can be tough.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best overshirts for survival and prepping, tested them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade pick. If you need a rugged, layer-able overshirt, one of our suggestions will have you covered.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Overshirt

Fire Hose Flannel

Tough, Comfortable, and Well Made

Dual-layer protection works wonders for this overshirt that brings the best of comfort and durability to an everyday overshirt.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Duluth is a well-known workwear apparel company, and its overshirts hit the mark when it comes to durability, comfort, and value. With an extremely durable 13.3-ounce dual-layer fabric, it fends off abrasions and inclement weather like it’s nothing.

Here is everything you get with this overshirt:

  • 11 size options, 4 color options
  • 8-ounce Fire Hose, 5.3-ounce flannel, 100% cotton
  • Metal snaps, 6 pockets
  • Water-resistant, abrasion-resistant
  • 1-year no questions warranty, unlimited No Bull Guarantee (defect warranty)

With great quality paired with high durability, it’s easy to see why the Duluth Trading Fire Hose Flannel Shirt Jacket tops the rest.


Budget Work Flannel

Buck Camp Flannel

Simple, Inexpensive, and Comfortable

This lighter-weight and budget-friendly overshirt helps you layer up or down for any situation.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Flannels are always a good start for that overshirt mid-layer for all seasons. Legendary Whitetails keeps it simple and under budget with their Buck Camp flannels. While we prefer solid colors, there are plenty of traditional patterns available too.

Here is how this basic but durable flannel measures up:

  • 13 size options, 5 color options (10+ with patterns)
  • 5.1-ounce flannel, 100% cotton
  • Single pocket with pencil slot
  • Corduroy-lined collar and cuffs

If you are looking for an inexpensive flannel that will keep up, the Legendary Whitetails Buck Camp Flannel is the best option.


Upgrade Survival Overshirt

Randolph Shirt Jacket

Gray-man, Tactical, and Versatile

This overshirt seamlessly works anywhere on the homestead, the office, the shooting range, or in the woods.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Rugged and simple on the outside, but packed full of thoughtfully engineered tactical storage on the inside. 5.11 steps it up a notch with this overshirt that will perform anywhere- from work on the farm to the urban grind.

It’s on the heavier side of the overshirts we reviewed, with 9.5-ounce fabric, but it’s comfortable with the minor stretch built-in and the side vents, making it perfect for layering. The only downside is that we wish it was available in a wider range of colors and sizes.

Here are the specs:

  • 5 size options, 3 color options
  • 9.5-ounce flannel, 98% cotton 2% elastane
  • Metal snaps, 7 pockets, side vents
  • Water-resistant, abrasion-resistant

With a robust but comfortable design, the 5.11 Randolph Shirt Jacket is the best choice for those serious about everyday carry and the gray man concept.


Everything We Recommend


The Shirts We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to a few brands and types of overshirts that we compared: Duluth, 5.11, Patagonia, Whitetails, Columbia, Fjallraven, Outdoor Research, Carhartt, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of shirts that we would layer between an undershirt and jacket, and there are a lot of options out there. Heavier-weight fabrics tended to perform better as long as they were not cumbersome or movement-restricting.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have an overshirt that you’ve had success with, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best survival overshirts have a few features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Comfort
  3. Durability
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find the perfect overshirt for the suburbs, inner city, or deep in the woods. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the shirts that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like clothes shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. There is a wide range of prices in just our picks, so there is no need to spend beyond your means.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially when it comes to clothes. It’s better to diversify your spending to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Comfort

Comfort should always be first and foremost with clothes that you are intentionally buying. You might think you could tough it out, but anything that fits poorly or just isn’t comfortable isn’t worth it. Most places will let you exchange or refund based on comfort, so try another look if it isn’t working out.

The military has long shown that uniforms that aren’t comfortable get altered or not worn consistently. You’re overshirt will be in the same boat, and if you don’t wear it- what’s the point?

Durability

While a base layer wicks moisture and protects your skin, an overshirt is supposed to provide some durability. It may not be a full-blown waxed canvas jacket that can shrug off branches, but it shouldn’t get a hole in it on your first walkabout.

Most durability is related to the fabric type, weave type, and fabric weight. Some of it is also related to the construction quality, like the stitching and seaming.

Size & Weight

The weight of an overshirt is related to the pocket count and textile weight. We saw overshirts with fabric weights between 3 ounces and 15 ounces, and up to 10 pockets- so there is a lot of variability.

It is a garment meant to hit the middle ground- too light and you might as well have a base layer. Too heavy, and you’ve got a full-blown jacket.

Versatility

Versatile overshirts have convenient features, like snaps and vents- but they also have pockets. A lot of pockets. Overshirts (as we know them today) were first used by industrial workers and held their tools providing easy access and storage.

There is no reason we can’t do the same today with our overshirts.


Layering Systems

We’re not recommending technical gear here for a daily survival-use overshirt, but one of the strong suits is just how versatile one is as part of a layering system.

History has long shown many civilizations using an overshirt, although they often call it by a different name. In the mid-17th century, a doublet was standard and a requirement to be comfortable under armor.

After that, 19th-century overshirts were common with skilled trades and craftspeople who used the pockets to store tools.

Overshirt fashion may come and go, but having a resourceful garment that can slot in between your jacket and shirt that insulates, protects, and holds stuff is always going to be a winner for survivalists.


Who Needs an Overshirt?

We don’t have overshirts down as a necessary item, as they may not be needed depending on the climate and environment. It’s my personal opinion that they make a great addition to anyone’s wardrobe, but they still aren’t as important as a base layer or jacket, which we’ve reviewed separately:

Overshirts are a little too bulky to be included in a skivvy roll, but plenty of people still roll with them in their kits.

The most common is seasonally having one around in your:

Although we don’t consider them essential, don’t overlook their usefulness in a wide range of survival conditions and everyday living.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best survival overshirt are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Good, A. (2013). Dressing and Undressing in the History of Discovery. The Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries. Volume 39. Issue 1. Pages 83 – 100. (Source)

Lee, Y., et al. (2007). 3D quantification of microclimate volume in layered clothing for the prediction of clothing insulation. Applied Ergonomics. Volume 38. Issue 3. Pages 349 – 355. (Source)

McBarron, H. (1941). American Military Dress in the War of 1812. Military Affairs; Lexington, Virginia. Volume 5. Page 138. (Source)


The Final Word

Whether it’s part of your everyday wardrobe or the perfect hobby shirt, a survival overshirt can keep up. They really shine in the fall and spring when layering is a good idea to get through the day comfortably.

Here are a few other gear reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our testing found the Duluth Fire Hose Flannel to be the best option given its value, comfort, durability, size/weight, and versatility.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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