While hiking, mountaineering and climbing can be extremely physically demanding accomplishments, they are merely low to medium-impact activities in terms of the strain/bounce they expose your chest to (depending on the terrain and your tempo). This may cause some to opt out of the traditional sports bra which is more meant for short-time high-impact activities (running, martial arts, aerobics etc.) and thus can feel too constricting when you are hiking for several hours – or days. Your everyday bra is, however, often a poor solution as it might not be adequately supportive and without moisture-wicking properties. In the following we are reviewing the best five hiking bras which are most suitable for low to medium-impact activities. In our search for medium support bras for hiking we have scoured brands which specialize in hiking clothing as well as traditional sports brands and lingerie manufacturers. A similar amount of support can be achieved by wearing a tank top with a built-in sports bra; you can check out our review of such tops here. If you are looking for more support you might find something that suits you in our selection of the best high-impact sports bras.
1. Buying a Medium Support Hiking Bra – What is important?
The prototype for the first proper sports bra, the Jogbra, was created in 1977 by three women by combining two jockstraps as they envisioned that the same type of support for bouncing body parts should be available for women when doing sports activities. Most sports bras today utilize the same method of support by having a tight-fitting elastic top pressing your breasts against your chest wall (compression), but there are also models – especially with larger-chested women in mind – which use the method of encapsulating each breast to inhibit bounce. Finally there are bras which combine the two methods.
The support of a sports bra comes from three different parts in its structure: the straps, the cups and the band (including the side panels). The most important is the band which should be relatively wide (at least 2 cm) and fit very snugly under your breasts as it provides as much as 70% of a bra’s support for your chest. Sports bras usually have either a full racer back (sometimes with cut-outs for ventilation) or straps running straight down (sometimes crisscrossing) – almost like on a normal bra. The racer back is a very popular feature as the straps will not fall down over shoulders as you are moving. The cinching in the back also entails that the straps press the bra closer to the body and thus offer more support. On the other hand, the racer back can be annoying to some if they feel as though too much weight is being carried on the trapezius muscle rather than further out on the clavicle. Adjustable straps on a sports bra can both be a blessing and a curse; they tend to be thinner than non-adjustable straps (thus causing a poorer division of weight) and the very hardware which make adjusting possible can rub against your skin and cause irritation and redness – but it is also nice to be able to adjust the length of the straps; not least after a period of use where the elasticity in thinner straps might have become weaker.
A lot of women wear the wrong bra-size for the majority of their life which is not hard to understand due to the many sizes available and the variation from brand to brand – or even from model to model. Women tend to wear too big a circumference and too small a cup (this writer for example wore a B75 for years before realizing that C70 was a better fit). You might get away with that for a normal bra, but if you are looking for a sports bra for hiking, you should be extra aware of getting the correct circumference as you will otherwise not get the needed support from the band. Many sports bras are categorized by “regular” sizes such as S, M, L etc. rather than cup sizes, but that does not necessarily make sizing much easier. If you are buying a sports bra online, do yourself a favor and measure the width of your chest at its widest (as well as your circumference below your breasts) and familiarize yourself with the sizing scale of the brand and model you have your eyes on in order to optimize your chances of making a great – and great-fitting purchase. We have done the footwork for you in the table below; here you will find which cup sizes or circumference (of the chest at its widest) the listed models cover respectively according to the official brand websites.
Here we are not just talking about how much of your breast is exposed, but also if the shape of your nipples can be spotted through the fabric at any time – the so-called “headlights” or “doorbell” syndrome. If you are very prone to stiff nipples whether due to temperature or sensation, you might feel less self-conscious wearing something padded or with cups if you are only dressed in thin layers over your sports bra. However, padding or cup inserts can feel annoying to some women, so the choice is yours.
It is important that your hiking bra is made of a fabric which is breathable, moisture-wicking and preferably quick-drying if it should get wet – which are all criteria that most everyday bras cannot live up to. As the skin on the chest and around your armpits can be quite sensitive, it is also important that the fabric feels smooth and comfortable.
All the sports bras reviewed below, except the Playtex Outgoer, can be machine-washed at low temperatures as long as you steer clear of softeners and avoid tumble-drying them afterwards – otherwise you might decrease the lifespan of your sports bra.
2. The Best Hiking Bras – Medium Support Review
- Champion Curvy Show-Off Sports Bra
- Ibex Balance Bralette
- Playtex Play Outgoer Sports Bra
- Under Armour Eclipse Sports Bra
- Icebreaker Sprite Sports Bra
|Feature/Product||Champion Curvy Show-Off Sports Bra||Ibex Balance Bralette||Playtex Play Outgoer Sports Bra||Under Armour Eclipse Sports Bra||Icebreaker Sprite Sports Bra|
|Material||88% Polyester, 12% Spandex||72% Merino,|
|89% Polyester, 11% Spandex||89% Nylon, 11% Elastane||96% Merino, 4% Lycra|
|Sizes fit following busts according to official brand website.||S= 32-34A/B/C|
XL= 40B; 38-40C; 36-38D
*bust measured at fullest
|S= 36-38B; 36C|
M= 38C; 36-38D; 36DD
L= 40B/C/D; 38DD
XL= 42B/C/D; 40DD
2X= 44B/C/D; 42DD
|XS = 28’’*|
S = 30’’-32’’
M = 34’’-36’’
L = 36’’-38’’
XL = 38’’-40’’
*bust measured at fullest
|XS = 32’’*
S = 34’’
M = 37’’
L = 39⅟2’’
XL = 42’’
*bust measured at fullest
|How to put on||Pull-on||Pull-on||Hook||Pull-on||Pull-on|
1. Champion Curvy Show-Off Sports Bra
Champion was established in America almost a century ago and while many might primarily associate it with basketball (and thus hiphop) jerseys in the 1990’s, the brand has produced many kick-ass sports bras in the recent years. Therefore it wasn’t hard to decide that the Champion Curvy Show-Off sports bra had to be included in our selection of the best hiking bras. Not only does it feature power mesh panels for ventilation, a wide bottom band for added support and molded foam cups for modesty and shape – it has a flattering and feminine design without compromising its functionality in offering medium support. The Curvy Show-Off bra comes in various bright color combinations and should officially accommodate cups up to a 38D – but there have also been satisfied reviews from buyers with DD-cups and above.
2. Ibex Balance Bralette
- Everyday use
It does not get much more comfy than the Ibex Balance Bralette! The cut of the bralette makes it a lot more comfortable than other compression sports bras, but also prevents it from offering sufficient support for anything but small to medium-sized busts (34’’-40’’ in circumference at fullest). The hybrid fabric combines the best of both worlds by mixing Merino wool (breathability, softness and odor-control) with light-weight Spandex and Nylon (fit and stretch) in a double-layer, so you will feel supported. Ibex informs that their sizes run a bit small and thus you might want to size up. If you are looking for more coverage and support, but don’t want to give up on Merino wool, Ibex also makes a more conventional racerback sports bra which should offer sufficient support for female hikers with larger breasts. Both sports bras are available in black and four pastel colors; sand, sky blue, mint and soft pink.
3. Playtex Play Outgoer Sports Bra
- Everyday use
The Playtex Outgoer Sports Bra looks like a normal bra in many ways. However, there is more than meets the eye. The All Day Dry wicking fabric keeps you cool and dry throughout the day and the bottom band flexes smoothly for ease of movement. The higher sides of the bra prevent “spilling over” and sideboob, while the padded cups take care of coverage, shape and support. The adjustable straps are quite broad and thus give a better weight distribution on the shoulders (vital for those with larger chests) and are adjustable in the front rather than in the back for convenience. According to Playtex’s sizing scheme, the size 2X can accommodate up to a 42DD but satisfied buyers have also reported that cups DDD and even up to G can be supported comfortably among the available sizes. The Playtex Outgoer Sports Bra is available in several classic neutral colors.
4. Under Armour Eclipse Sports Bra
The Under Armour Eclipse sports bra offer a bit more support (mid-impact) than the Seamless Essentials model (low-impact) we recommended in our list of the 10 best gifts for female hikers as its material contains more Elastane for support and compression. Both bras feature Under Armour’s Signature Transport System to wick away sweat and keep you cool and dry. However, the Eclipse model also has breathable cup inserts for coverage as well as a unique sexy back with quite some skin left bare by the crossed adjustable straps. Unlike the Ibex Balance Bralette, the straps of the Eclipse cannot be unhooked and adjusted to run straight down in the back instead of crisscrossing. If you love Underarmour but would like to avoid adjustable straps altogether, we recommend the UA Mid Breathe model which is more feminine and well-designed than the usual Mid model. The Eclipse comes both in solid colors as well as various prints.
5. Icebreaker Sprite Sports Bra
- Everyday use
The Icebreaker Sprite sports bra has the classic cut of a compression sports bra with a racer back. But rather than being made of synthetic materials which may or may not be breathable and moisture-wicking, the bra is made of 96% Merino wool with only a touch of LYCRA for support and fit. The Merino used in this top weighs a mere 150g/m2 so it performs well in all seasons of the year, both in terms of keeping your natural body temperature and being odor-resistant. When it comes to sizing, the Icebreaker Sprite will also accommodate larger chests but be aware that as the fabric is as light-weight as it is, it cannot compress as efficiently as thicker fabrics. Women with larger chests than D might be happier with the Icebreaker Rush sports bra which is made of a 260g/m2 Merino wool and has a slightly different cut. The Icebreaker Sprite is available in some of the same color combinations as the Icebreaker Sprite hipsters – featured in our list of the best hiking underwear for women.
3. The most attractive product in the review
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