Choosing the Perfect Sports Bra

There I am in my perfect sports bra.

There I am in my perfect sports bra.

Like most people planning a thru-hike, I spent the winter before my departure meticulously analyzing various gear options.  How much does it weigh?  How much does it cost?  Will it last for my entire hike?  Is it absolutely essential?  Those were all important questions.

By early February, I had ordered my pack, chosen a sleeping bag, and knew which tent I would take with me.  I had a running skirt, a synthetic base-layer shirt, and various pairs of wool socks.

One thing was missing though…  The perfect sports bra.

A great bra was perhaps the most difficult gear item to select.  A bra that is worn all day everyday, has to live up to much higher standards than a sports bra that is worn for an hour long work out or a push-up bra that only gets worn on Saturday nights.

What are these impossible standards that the perfect sports bra must live up to, you ask?

  • Comfort.  This one is pretty obvious, but here we are.  You’re going to be wearing this bra all day, everyday.  Make sure it doesn’t give you a backache or dig into your skin around the straps.
  • Supportive, but not too tight.  This is a difficult balance to strike.  The bra must serve it’s purpose, but it should also be stretchy enough.  Chances are, there are going to be nights that you’re too lazy to take your bra off or the weather will be so hot that you choose to sleep only with your bra on top.  Don’t buy a bra that’s going to leave red marks on your skin from being too tight.
  • Doesn’t flatten boobs.  Most sports bras make the wearer look flat-chested.  This is fine if you’re going for a run or hitting the gym.  Maybe you even think it’s fine for a thru-hike.  I personally did not want to spend 6 months feeling like my chest was disproportionate to the rest of my body.
  • Doesn’t match skin tone.  I had to learn this the hard way.  I originally started my hike with a sports bra that was perfect in every way, except that it was beige.  The first time I tried to hike without my shirt, I realized that from a distance I looked like I was completely topless.  I would also get the double-takes at campsites when changing my shirt because people clearly thought that I was getting naked.
Patagonia's almost perfect bra.

Patagonia’s almost perfect bra.

So what bras do I recommend?

Patagonia’s Barely Everyday Bra ($45)  is perfect!  Except that it only comes in beige and white.  If you don’t care if people think you like to hike in the nude or if you don’t think you’re going to be hiking shirtless often, this bra is a great option.  On a side note: Patagonia, if you’re reading this, please make this bra available in darker colors!

**Update: The Patagonia bra comes in black now!

Under Armour Seamless Essential Sports Bra  ($29.99) has won my heart.  Not only does it fill every one of my sports bra requirements, but it is also a reasonable price.  It earns bonus points because it comes in teal and pink.

While your pondering the perfect bra, fill out this  It takes less than three minutes.  Emily is surveying people on their their outdoor adventure literacy skills.

5 thoughts on “Choosing the Perfect Sports Bra

    • These sports bras worked well in all weather types. They dried pretty quickly, so sweating wasn’t really too much of an issue in cold weather. I also have a tendency to put on a jacket immediately after I stop hiking when the weather is cold. As far as merino wool sports bras go, I haven’t actually tried one just because merino wool tends to be more expensive, and I like doing things on the cheap. Let me know how it works for you!

  1. Thank you for the recommendations! Both look like they are best suited to B/C cups – do you have any fellow gear reviewing ladies who might be able to weigh in on good options for D+ ladies?

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