I sent The Rebirther, a boulder problem in Yosemite, second try. I heard it has taken far better climbers a week. My beta: a boob jam.
Boobs can be a girl’s best friends, but like any friendship, they require attention. One male climber friend says he’s heard so many women complain about the lack of good sports bras, he figures, Either no one has figured out how to make a good bra, or women are never satisfied with anything.
Hey, women wear bras every day. Unfortunately, many sports bras are either uncomfortable breast binders or shapeless fabric flaps from which bigger breasts spill out the top and sides, or that turn those less endowed into flat-chested uni-boobers. Climbers’ bodies differ from those of most other athletes, and the word among women at the crags is that there is a dearth of bras that fit our broad shoulders and lats.
Inspired by the apparent lack of decent climbing lingerie, I ordered as many sports bras as I could find in hopes I’d discover the Busty Grail. A good bra should be supportive, comfortable and breathable.
Audrey Dr. Bra Kirkland at Moving Comfort explains that modern bra engineers incorporate two containment characteristics in their designs: compression, which holds breasts against the chest wall to reduce motion; and encapsulation, meaning that a bra surrounds and supports the breasts (also adding shape). Compression-style bras usually work well for A to C cups. For C to DD sizes, encapsulating styles that separate and support can be more comfortable.
I enlisted a group of women climbers and divided them into three body types: Straight Up & Down Girl, Well-Endowed Girl and Wedgeback Girl. Thirty-one bras, seven testers and 14 boobs later, after demoralizing whippers and glorious sends, running between alpine link-ups and swimming in mountain rivers, we decided what we want is a well-rounded brassiere. Stacked up against the rest, these eight were our favorites. They’re comfortable, versatile and good-looking enough to let the straps peek, or even to rock solo.
MOVING COMFORT LILA
Price | $40
This was the overall favorite for women of every shape and size in our group of bosom buddies. Worn during everything from sport climbing to long alpine days, this compression bra with racerback straps allows all climber contortions, is supportive enough to run in, and is really comfortable. Its wide straps didn’t chafe or dig into our shoulders, and the pretty patterned material in the straps and back is a sturdy mesh that reduces bouncing and, owing to the company’s DriLayer system, manages moisture well. This bra has a modest, attractive cut, and we never worried about falling out of it. The Lila, however, is harder to pull on and off than others.
Price | $24
It’s like being naked, one of our testers said. Another group favorite, the silky, lightweight Daisy is super comfortable, even for women with grander tetons. Its thinner straps are flattering, yet still supportive enough for approaches. The thin material sits unnoticed under a pack, and the low-profile racerback is unrestrictive, a good option for those times you’re so tired you fall asleep at night without even taking it off. We took the Daisy sport climbing and dragged it up a long route in the Black Canyon, it hung in there and still looked cute, even full of lichen and dirt. Our complaint: it’s slightly see-through, especially when wet.
PATAGONIA ACTIVE MESH BRA
Price | $35
This has been my old steady for years and is an excellent all-around workhorse. The supportive mesh is breathable, wicks well and is stretchy enough to put on (and take off) in public via the technical through-the-sleeves changing method. The straps have never chafed me and the V-shaped back allows unhindered movement. However, after a long day, it does feel a little tight and restrictive. The Well-Endowed climbers seem to like this bra, while the Wedgebacks and Straight Up & Downers complain it cuts and chafes on their lats and traps.
PATAGONIA ACTIVE BARELY BRA
Price | $28
One Straight Up & Down tester has climbed in this nearly every day this summer and swears by it. For A and B cups, this minimalist piece is very comfortable, though it offers nearly no support. This bra has low-profile adjustable straps and a flattering, feminine cut, and its wearers can sleep well knowing they’re in a recycled polyester blend.
Price | $26
The Lorelli is hot. It runs small, though, so our advice is to buy it a size larger than normal. You’ll still be bustalicious, regardless of your size or shape. This sexy cotton number comfortably goes sport climbing and bouldering; however, larger cups should beware the potential for boob slippage, droppage or poppage. It fits strong shoulders well, especially those of the Wedgebacks and Straight Up & Down Girls, and its stretchy straps cross in a neat X between the shoulder blades. Verve is promising a piece for C to D cups soon.
IBEX SEAMLESS SPORTS BRA
Price | $49
If being made from soft New Zealand merino wool wasn’t enough of a departure from other boob bucklers, the poetry stitched into the Seamless Sports Bra sets it even further apart. Its comfortable design uses compression, thick straps and full-front coverage for support. And the wool? Sheep have been developing it for thousands of years, and it’s still the warmest, coolest, wickingest material available. One Well-Endowed tester complained the straps rode too close to her neck, and the front came quite high, preventing her cleavage from airing out.
Price | $40
Well-Endowed gals liked the soft material of this compression bra, the full front coverage and the thin, adjustable straps that cross in the back. The Wedgebacks and Up & Downers thought it wicked well and was supportive enough for running, but noted it rubbed under the arms while climbing. We also had mixed feelings about the strap adjusters, which were useful for fitting different sized shoulders, but weren’t comfortable under a pack.
MOVING COMFORT DORI
Price | $44
The Dori offers excellent support through encapsulation, has wide, stable straps, and looks great on medium to large-breasted women. One busty Wedgeback says the Dori holds you soundly, encouraging any high-impact sport, and wicks like a fiend. Our consensus was that its molded spacer fabric and empire silhouette band were shapely and flattering, but the racerback was too wide and rubbed the shoulder blades. Also, its fabric is opaque everywhere except the circles over the breasts, creating a reverse She-Ra warrior effect. The encapsulation accentuates curves, and the bra looks nice under a shirt. The Cameo ($35), another ecapsulation-style bra from Moving Comfort, shares a similar cut to the Dori but is slightly lower-profile. The Cameo is also supportive and comfortable for a wide range of sizes. Its vertical seams look nice when the bra is worn alone, but show as weird ridges under clothing.