Brassiere, over the shoulder boulder holder, the unmentionables, double-barrelled slingshot. I have heard a lot of different names for what we know as the Bra. It doesn’t matter what it is called, all I know is that sometimes these things are painful – especially when you are hiking with a full backpack.
Straps digging into your skin, sweat is caught up with nowhere to run, and oh the chaffing! You simply can’t win when it comes to bras and hiking, or can you?
Not too long ago I had posted an article I wrote on “Underwear for hiking”, and a reader asked me what bra would I recommend. When I do my research on a product I always make sure I have tried and really road-tested the product myself. On this occasion, however, I am relying on a large group of experienced hiking women to help me as this is a item that needs thorough research, from a wide range of women of varying sizes as we are all so different. The responses I got from these ladies were pure and honest, and there were some excellent suggestions as well on great bra options.
Fabric – the good the bad and the stinky
Wool – Merino – Fabric of choice
As with your hiking clothes, merino gives the best results for moisture wicking and breathability, though the bras on offer made from Merino often lack the necessary support for larger busted women. Merino is know for:
Moisture wicking – keeping the body dry and cool
Antimicrobial – reduce the tendencies for a build-up of odour.
Luxuriously soft next to skin
Breathable and temperature regulating
Nylon/Elastane – generally offers more support
The bras that are made with Nylon/elastane fabrics are going to give larger busted women far better support, though suffer in terms of sweating and breathability.
Cotton – no go
Cotton came up as a big No for hiking. Just like your clothes it isn’t conducive to hiking, doesn’t breathe, takes forever to dry and stinks.
‘My cotton crop top sports bra soaks up everything and is either like a soggy mess when I take it off or it makes me feel cold when I stop for a break. Can’t quite get away with going braless but tempting’.
The best hiking/sports bra is one that is going to give us girls the following
Comfortable while providing great support
Will wick away moisture
The Ultimate Design should include
Wide comfortable band around your torso that doesn’t dig in. Preferably in a mesh and fabric that is breathable and dries quickly.
Shoulder straps that are wide as well as slightly padded to protect your shoulders from the backpack straps
Support for the breast from the bounce but not too much that your breasts are squished against your body.
Material in the cup made of a breathable fabric that helps with moisture wicking and dries very fast.
Fasteners at the front or back. Tank styles don’t seem to work well especially for the larger women as trying to get them off can prove to be quite difficult especially when they are wet.
Some of the recommended brands by hiking women
Berlei Sports Bras
Berlei offer a huge range of sizes and styles. The fabric is mostly a blend of Polyester/Nylon/Elastane, so it’s breathable, and some do have mesh on the torso band, this helps as well. Dries reasonably quickly and will give you a few days without the sink.
Suggestion: Bereli Full Support Non-Padded Sports Bra – $79.95
ï Ventilation zones and use of breathable fabric delivers cool comfort.
ï Comfortable shaped and padded straps convert to crossback to provide additional support, while reinforced cup side panels support and shape the bust.
Berlei Support Factor 2 – Medium Impact. Reduces breast bounce by up to 45-50%.
Hestia Sports Bras were also recommended for their range of sizes
‘Berlei sports bra has always worked ok for me. I’m a 14 D so quite large. I do find the underwire to break free and dig in after a while, and as they do have cotton in the fabric I don’t feel they breathe terribly well, making them sink after a few days but all up they are ok’.
Limited range to choose from and sizing is listed as Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, which may be an issue for cup sizing. The plus-side is they a lightweight 170gsm single jersey MicroMerino®, knitted using 18.5 micron 96% full-fleece Australian Merino wool knitted and 4% elastane, so the breathability is there. On further research, if you are larger than a ‘C’ Cup or a size 14, then this may not be the bra for you. Also, only comes in a ‘Tank’ style. If you are a smaller breasted girl, this may be good for you. Prices average around $50 AU
Suggestion: ZODIAC CROP TOP $50.00
Extremely comfortable razor back and body hugging shape ensures no neck strain or pulling
Flexible and soft elasticated bottom band that offers support and keeps the top from riding up
Tag free and anti-chafe flat-lock seams
Superior 18.5 micro soft and lightweight Micromerino® provides a luxurious next to skin feel
Other brands recommended that use Merino were Icebreaker & Ibex
‘I have a wool sports bra for backpacking. It’s the Ibex brand and is a wool blend, so it has some support but also wicks very well and gives you a few extra days of NO STINK if you are on a long hike. I have not found it to be itchy; it’s a pullover, not my favourite, but there aren’t many options out there yet in wool. The material is the most important thing for me, and I just wore it for a 40day thru-hike on the Colorado Trail’.
Here is a brand for the larger busted girls! The styles are quite varied and sizing generous with some styles going up to H Cup! The fabric is mostly a blend of Polyamide/Polyester/Cotton/Elastane, so the support is there. Pricing around $70 AU and they do ship.
Suggestion: PANACHE Wired Sports Bra
This award-winning sports bra has gel wire-casing to give really firm support, leaving you free to get active without worrying about the bounce factor! It gives a smooth shape under your sports top and the straps can be left as they are or converted to racerback. D-J Cups, Padded and partially adjustable straps.
3 hook fastening: D-J cups
Main: Polyamide | Polyester | Elastane
Straps: Partially Adjustable Straps
“The back is snug but not restrictive, and the lining fabric is soft and comfortable. Super supportive, comfortable wide straps and in tons of colours. It doesn’t look like the traditional parachute plus extra straps of most sports bras, and my ladies are supported rather than squashed together. No uniboob here!”
Thanks to all who have shared their bra wisdom and I hope that this article will shed some light on an issue that affects all women in the hiking community. For me my conclusion is that size does matter here in the choices you make, and if you can get a wool bra with the support, then you will be one Happy Hiker Girl.
Happy Hiking !