Gear Review: Stonewear Designs Cross Back Top

At the Philadelphia Rock Gyms - East Falls location for testing
Our outdoor gear and apparel purchasing choices are incredibly personal. As much as I value the opinions of my peers, other reviewers and gear store staff, ultimately, it has to be the right piece for my needs. I'm willing to ever so slightly compromise perfection on what I deem non-essential gear, but when it comes to next-to-skin layers, the piece has to feel like it was designed for me.

After writing an extended sports bra buyer's guide for Trek Tech, I realized I'm a pickier underwear shopper than I thought. Whether I'm on a hike, a long bike ride, climbing a mountain or pushing through punishing WODs at CrossFit Love, every sports bra I wear has to excel in a combination of specific areas. And the Stonewear Designs Cross Back Top does just that.

First Area: Support

Many sports bra retailers have an array of options based on bust size and activity level. The Cross Back Top is on the low-impact end as far as support goes, which works for me based on both bust size (full disclosure, B cup bras fit me best) and activity level. I've worn it to CrossFit, running, hiking and climbing and find it provides enough support in a variety of situations. The top is thick enough and tight enough to keep me feeling secure. But if you're in need of more support, you might need to look elsewhere.

Second Area: The Right Amount of Fabric

When I'm shopping for a sports bra, I look for options that won't suffocate me, but won't make me feel exposed either. I'm partial to bras with more fabric around the bust circumference for support, but if it feels like there's too much fabric to breathe, it's not the right option for me. The Cross Back Top is the perfect balance. There's enough material around the bust for compression where it counts and none of the seams chafe. It's a medium coverage bra, which is what I gravitate toward.

Third Area: Straps in the Right Places

Being able to move my arms freely is essential for comfortable hiking, climbing, running and CrossFit workouts. The straps on the Cross Back Top hit me in exactly the right places and they're the right length. I've never found a sports bra with non-adjustable straps that are the perfect length - until now. Having a relatively short torso means I'm usually stuck with straps that are too long, and unless they're adjustable, I'm not comfortable. The Cross Back Top's straps are also the perfect thickness; straps that are too thick can pull down on my traps, which is never a good feeling.

Fourth Area: Comfort

Support, the right amount of fabric and strap placement all contribute to a sports bra's overall comfort, but it also has to move with me and let my skin breathe. I'll frequently come home from humid summer hikes completely soaked in sweat (gross, I know), and it's easy to overheat with improper layers. But some wicking materials can chafe when they're next to skin. The Cross Back Top is designed with wicking material that's soft and comfortable. My skin can breathe and I've never had any issues with chafing.

Fifth Area: Style

I'd like to say that my outdoor gear and apparel purchasing decisions are governed exclusively by function, but let's be honest - style matters. We need to feel good in what we're wearing, even if it's a piece of your outfit no one will see. The Cross Back Top is flattering on and I love the Cool Stripe patterned version Stonewear sent me for testing. I'm comfortable climbing and powering through CrossFit workouts shirtless with the Cross Back Top because of the fit and the pattern.

Bottom line? If you're an A-B cup active woman, the Stonewear Designs Cross Back Top is a perfect option for just about every activity. I'm planning to grab one in black, but as of this posting, the Cool Stripe, Hot Stripe, Lavender, Grass and Poolside versions are on sale here. Many thanks to Stonewear for sending me the Cross Back Top for testing. As always, these opinions are my own, are the result of careful and thorough testing, and are no way influenced by the fact that the product was complimentary.

What are some of your ideal sports bra's characteristics? Which one is your current favorite? Sound off in the comments!


Katie BouĂ© said…
Yeaaaah, climbing! Love the sports bra, it looks like it's functional, but still maintains a great style.
Katie said…
Yeaaaah climbing, indeed! If a sports bra can be comfortable and functional for everything from climbing to CrossFit, it gets an "A+" in my book. It's awesome.
Heidi Henry said…
Super cute. Great review Katie! Being a larger chest girl I've found that having the right bra is a dealbreaker when it comes to running and adventure.
Katie said…
Thanks, Heidi! Sports bras are such a personal choice and I'm sure support is absolutely essential with larger cup sizes. Because I'm broad shouldered, I often feel confined when the straps are too wide and the bustline is tight, so this one's perfect for me!