|The merino wool Ibex Balance Seamless Sport Bra. Front view in burnt orange and back view in warm green (also available in black).|
The magic of a thin wool layer – its ability to help prevent over heating in the heat and reduce flash off when stopping high output activities in the cold – only works if it’s next to your skin. I converted to a wool base layer for cool to cold weather backpacking a few years ago. My dilemma has been that some of the effectiveness of my wool top is blocked by my synthetic bra. The solution for bra wearers is a wool bra. Ibex is now offering a line of wool under garments for men and women in their Balance line. I tested the Ibex Balance Seamless Sport Bra.
The Seamless Sport Bra is made of 18.5 micron merino wool, so will be itchless to all but a few princesses. The only seams are on the shoulder straps and these are not at the peak of the shoulders where a pack might rub. "Body mapping" with different stitches gives shape to the cups and a secure, snug fit to the sides. The bottom band is just over an inch wide and keeps the bra in place even when swimming.
I wore the Seamless Sport Bra on four backpacking and/or packrafting trips in Idaho, North Carolina and Arizona. In August floating down the St. Joe River in Idaho, I couldn’t resist trying out a rope swing over a deep pool. I wore the Sport Bra during my swim then put my sun shirt back over it as I continued rafting down the river. The bra dried comfortably without feeling clammy. Unlike my other favorite, the CW-X Sport Support Bra, the Ibex Balance Seamless Sport Bra won’t double as outerwear for the modest, especially when it’s wet.
The Ibex Sport Bra is very comfortable. Even after wearing it for six days and nights straight I didn’t feel chafe spots and barely noticed it on my body.
My trip in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina was a wet one, with light rain on two days and hard rain the last night. A light, steady rain fell as I climbed up the eastern flanks of Mt Mitchell on the third day of my trip. With the temperature in the high 40s F, even a light wind jacket was too warm hiking up hill. I stayed very comfortable in the rain with just the bra and a thin wool top. When I stopped for a long lunch break I threw on a puffy jacket and kept from chilling. Both bra and top dried under a wind jacket as I hiked the next level section.
The Seamless Sport Bra helped keep the chill off pulled on over damp skin as I quickly dressed after swimming across the narrow Blue Ridge Reservoir in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest in late November.
Other options to let nothing come between you and your wool:
- Skip the bra, just wear a wool base layer.
- Wear a thin wool tank (SmartWool, Icebreaker) or camisole (Icebreaker) as an "undershirt."
- Icebreaker will introduce a wool Cross Back Tank Top with integrated shelf bra in spring/summer 08.
An alternative for summer hikes might be the I/O Biocompatible Women’s Contact Top which is a wool sport bra lined with cotton. In hot weather, the heat sucking properties of wet cotton could have cooling consequences.
Features and Specifications
- Manufacturer: Ibex
- Year/Model: 2007 Ibex Balance Seamless Sport Bra
- Material: 86% 18.5 micron merino wool; 10% nylon, and 4% lycra
- Sizes: Small – large
- Recommended For: A, B and C cups in medium-low impact activities, all seasons
- Features: Body mapping for comfort and support
- Quotes on the inside of the bottom band of my sample:
- I am sick of four walls and a ceiling.
- I have a need for the sky.
- I have business with the grass.
- Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g) size M/L
- Available: December 2007
- MSRP: $49.00 US