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A rant about Bras.

Has anyone ever had the thought, "Gosh, I'm moving around so much, that I'm super-glad my boobs are squished together in one big sweaty mass." ?

Seriously - why do they still make sports bras that don't have separation?

For my most recent canoeing trip I picked up a pair of new sports bras at Walmart for about $12 a piece that did a wonderful job. Separation, support, lightweight, wicking fabric, and good colors/design you wouldn't be embarrassed of should you be caught in a less-than-private changing situation.  One had underwire, one didn't. For canoeing, I'd rate them about equal, but for backpacking, I tend to make sure there's no wires involved. Rubbing can get brutal.

For anyone with a C cup or larger, I don't understand how you can stand having the girls pressed together. Even for high impact sports like basketball and ultimate frisbee, I find it just leads to excess sweat, and sometimes even breakouts. For my friends who are B cups and smaller it seems like a good supportive shirt with a shelf does the trick - especially with lower impact activities like paddling, backpacking, and biking.

So why do companies like Patagonia, EMS, The North Face, and Arc'teryx still make these uniboob monstrosities? Can anyone explain this to me? 

Do you agree/disagree?

What do you think is most important feature when buying a bra for adventuring?

I'm just looking for some discussion because this isn't the kind of thing I usually get to discuss with people. Thanks!

I can't help you, but your first sentence made me laugh out loud.

cant speak from personal experience.  One of my daughters is an athlete and a hiker.  she is larger on top.  her priorities are support first, ventilation 2d.  she doesn't wear sports bras from any of the outdoor companies, she'll wear nike sometimes, but the first choice is a company called Freya - which don't really create the situation you're talking about. 

Pictures would really help.

Kristin Hostetter, Gear Editor at Backpacker Mag, raises the same issue in the latest edition of the magazine (Oct 2015 p.78). Unfortunately she doesn't have a good answer either.

I didn't the October issue yet! Thanks!

Hi Siltloam,

I agree that there are a lot of issues and challenges with sports bras. And what complicates it is that what one person loves others hate, and it also depends on our different sizes and shapes, what activity you're doing, how much you sweat, etc.

I am a heavy sweater when running and always need a good supportive bra for high impact activities, because a (cute but simple) shelf bra would not work for me.

So, my priorities are support for long distance running, along with wicking, then the cut, looks etc. I've had some major chaffing issues with long, hot, sweaty runs of multiple hours, but for me the chaffing has always been in spots you'd have on any model of bra, like the band or straps, not due to the squish factor.

While you list some good outdoor brands up there, I tend to buy sports bras from companies that devote a lot of focus to them, like Moving Comfort (and randomly some ones from Champion I found at Dick's Sporting Goods).

All of my sport briefs are Patagonia Active Hipsters though, because once I find something that works I don't mess around. The same is true for sports bras. When something is working I buy a couple and wear just them till I need something new.

For sports bras, I don't care too much about separation as I do about support and wicking/chafing, which can be problematic and cause me much more discomfort than any squishing (but everyone's different). And like lots of gear, I think it's the question of tradeoffs: you can have X but not Y, or you'll have to pay this much more...etc.

I think there are some options out there though.

Moving Comfort has some sports bras that offer separation and major support, like the Maia (but it also has an underwire and an outer shelf bra).

You can browse here:

Also, if you go to Moving Comfort's sports bra finder there is a spot to find models with "contoured cups," which may be worth a try. They're not cheap, but if you find one that works they are good quality and last a long time.

I hope that helps!

I'll have to go find my October Backpacker now to read that article (thanks, JR).


My wife does not wear a sports bra when we backpack, only when she goes to the gym.  ON the trail she wears a normal bra.

Balzaccom's post reminds me, for short, low-impact activities (like a short, local day hike), I will occasionally wear a regular bra too, rather than the squishy sports bras.

I've also done it a few times for alpine skiing at a resort (when there's no uphill sweating factor and I'm not out in the backcountry), because (I admit) it looks better under baselayers than a sports bra.

The limiting factor is that the comfortable regular bras tend to be cotton, so that's no good if I'll be sweating much (I could get some in merino though, I guess).

If it's for running or anything where I'll be gone overnight or out for a long while and/or sweating, I wear a sports bra.

Alas, women have very similar issues with the girls as men do with the boys.  Loose fitting outer wear and frequent under garment changes when things get hot and sweaty has been the only thing that works for me.  Otherwise embracing the sweat seems the only alternative.


whomeworry said:

Alas, women have very similar issues with the girls as men do with the boys.  Loose fitting outer wear and frequent under garment changes when things get hot and sweaty has been the only thing that works for me.  Otherwise embracing the sweat seems the only alternative.


Good points, Ed. And, it's great to see you here commenting!

Siltloam, yesterday after reading this thread, I coincidentally saw a (non-outdoors) fashion magazine that had an article on different bras types to have. I flipped to the sports bra examples, and there was one that talked about separating. It was the first one below from Calia by Carrie Underwood (I know, it's odd to even write that):

I know nothing about this brand, but wanted to mention it as an example since there are some sports bras out there working on this issue and you or others might find it helpful.

Wow, thanks, Alicia! I hadn't even heard of Moving Comfort. You've given me a lot of things to check out!

Siltloam, your issues with bras reminds me of the story behind Spanx Hosiery, headquartered here in Atlanta. The founder, Sara Blakely was not happy with her pantyhose, so she designed her own to address those issues, and the rest is history. Now her net worth is over $1billion.

When she first signed a contract with QVC in 2001, she sold 8,000 pairs in the first six minutes of the show! A very cool success story!

Of course, getting on "Oprah's Favorite Things" didn't hurt either :)


Moving comfort was the only company to ever come to the EMS I worked at to give a bra fitting clinic. They educated the whole staff, both men and women, on fitting and selling bras for active outdoor use. 

Seth, you have the best jobs!

Just the experience of getting people the gear they need to go out and have fun was awesome. Though bra-fitting occupied about .0000001% of my total time, it was probably one of the more important services we provided. It's one of those important topics that gets totally overlooked. Thanks to Siltloam for bringing it up!

Once at an Outdoor Retailer show I was meeting with a male brand rep, who in addition to the outdoor brand we were meeting about took me over to another small brand at its first show that was trying to get into the outdoor market.

The brand made wool baselayers, including women's sports bras, and I ended up listening to a few minutes of this guy explaining the benefits of this sports bra and how it worked during activities while thinking, "I'm pretty sure I understand this better than you." (Not because he wasn't educated about the product, he was actually a very good brand rep, but because there are some things firsthand knowledge trumps.)

I think he was embarrassed by the entire exchange of explaining a sports bra he'd never use to a woman who uses them daily.

August 15, 2020
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