August 13, 2011
Question of the Week: “Help! I love to hike, but my backpack and my sports bra seem to be locked in combat! Please help me restore harmony with a hiker-friendly bra!”
I’ve done my share of hiking with a full pack strapped to my body, so I feel your (back and shoulder) pain! Even without a backpack on, bouncing up and down a bumpy trail can put the best sports bra to a major support and perspiration test. Add the pressure and hotness of a loaded backpack sitting right on top of key comfort zones, and the fun factor of being outdoors can take an annoying dip!
Here’s my personal short list of hiking joy-killers, and the simple antidotes to turn grumpy shoulders and backs into happy campers:
#1 Joy-Killer: Pressure and chafing on your tender shoulders and trail-weary back
Antidote: Friendlier straps and fasteners. Wider sports bra straps will help decrease pressure per square inch on your shoulders. To avoid chafing from fasteners, just make sure any back hooks are well-cushioned, and that any metal, plastic or Velcro strap adjusters are located away from the top of your shoulders where backpack pressure is the strongest.
• Gear Tip: Use a waist belt on your pack to take pressure off your shoulders and transfer it to your hips (also makes you less top-heavy when you’re trying to run across that log bridge over a roaring stream without falling in!).
#2 Joy-Killer: Drippy, soaked shirt and back
Antidote: Respect your sweat zones! T-back or racerback sports bra styles can add a thick layer of bra fabric on the sweatiest, most covered-up part of your back. To lighten the sweat load, look for mesh fabrics, key-hole cutouts, and more conventional over-the-shoulder straps for better venting.
• Gear Tip: Pick a hiking shirt with stay-dry wicking fabrics, and look for a ‘ventilated’ backpack with special fabrics/channels to let cooling air circulate between it and your sweaty back.
#3 Joy-Killer: On the trail, your sports bra takes DAYS to dry!
Antidote: Fast-forward drying speed! To keep your sports bra from feeling clammy or chilled after a rest stop (or the next morning when you’re trying to pull it on in!), sleuth out super quick-drying synthetic fabrics (NO cotton). It’s hard to get any hefty, double-layer bra to completely air dry overnight, so the fewer layers the better, as long as your ‘girls’ get enough support.
• Gear Tip: Don’t leave your stuff outside your tent overnight—it will collect the dew and be even damper and wetter when you try to struggle into it in the morning…Yikes!
#4 Joy-Killer: Stinkarooni!
Antidote: If your hike is going to stretch over multiple days with no laundromat in sight, those same super-wicking, fast-drying fabrics are your best weapon against odor-causing bacteria in your sweat.
• Gear Tip: Stash stinky laundry in a mesh pocket on the outside of your backpack during the day to give it a chance to air out a little.
#5 Joy Killer: Your backpack is so heavy with all the stuff you need for a day’s activities
Antidote: Multi-task it! When you’re traveling with all your possessions on your back, every piece needs to play multiple roles. If your sports bra is sporty and colorful, you’ll be able to take it into a mountain lake (brrrrr!) for swimming and freshening up at the end of an exhilarating, sweaty day of hiking!
Until next week, happy trails!