Let’s Discuss: Bareback Pads

I am a big fan of riding bareback. Especially for long walking hacks, or those super hot summer days where it’s just too hot to be bothered to tack up, or even sometimes for dressage rides to get a better feel for what the horse is doing and my own aids. I’m convinced that it’s really beneficial when it comes to highlighting bad habits or position flaws. I ride bareback pretty regularly, at least a couple times a month even up to a couple times a week in the summer, and I feel like I would definitely do it more often if I had a good bareback pad. Right now I use a half pad or a saddle pad, which does the job comfort-wise but tends to slip and slide around, tending to become more of an impediment if you want to travel above a walk. It’s annoying.

I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I should invest in a good bareback pad, but so many other things have always come first. I think I’m finally to the point where my other tack situations are well-managed (or, uh… overmanaged) and since we’re not so much in major competition mode right now and I’m sitting on some Visa gift cards, it seems like it might be time. Except… holy crap there are SO MANY bareback pads on the market. Since I’ve never owned one, trying to choose has been really daunting.

Image result for overwhelmed gif

Here’s what I know:

  • I know that I don’t want one of those cheap fake fleecey ones that have the girth attached way too far forward. I don’t like the material and they don’t stay in place well and everything about it fills me with hatred.
  • I know that I want one with a generous contour cut, to allow for high withers. Because thoroughbreds.
  • I know that I prefer one with english girth billets, so that I can use my own girths.
  • I know that I don’t want a “treeless saddle” or stirrups/stirrup attachments on the pad.
  • I know that I need enough padding to where when Henry inevitably spooks, he won’t break my vagina with his aforementioned high withers.
  • I know that the only bareback pads I’ve ever tried before are the cheap fleecey ones and the Thinline, and I didn’t like either one.

Beyond that, I know literally NOTHING.

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ah, 2008 Colin Farrell

So I’ve been scouring the internet for a while, looking at all my options. When I found ones that looked interesting, I emailed or messaged the company to ask for more information. Most were really helpful. Some never responded. I think, from all of my obsessive stalking, I’ve narrowed it down to four contenders. They vary a lot, both in style and in price.

My old faithful Riding Warehouse does have a decent selection of bareback pads. The Horsedream and the Stargazer, while plush and dreamy AF, are massively over my budget. But they do carry the Best Friend pads, which I’ve found generally good reviews for. It comes in navy (always a bonus), it isn’t fleece, it has a little contour to the topline (I’m not convinced it’s enough, but maybe), and I think the girth is attached far enough back to work. Of course, it does have the western cinch style girth, which I don’t want, and it’s not as padded or structured as I had in mind. But, at $65 it’s the cheapest of my options.

Going to the next price point, I found the Barefoot Ride-On pads at $185ish. Still has about the same amount of padding, but it’s a little more structured, has the english billets, and also has some dees if I wanted to attach a breastplate or something. Unfortunately this is the only company that didn’t respond to my messages/questions, which bums me out. Also the color options are boring/awful. Not sure the good things are enough to be worth 3 times as much as the Best Friend, and the lack of communication from the company bothers me. A lot.

Image result for barefoot bareback pad

If you bump up the price point to $280 we get to the Brockamp pads, which are beautiful. The US Brockamp dealer answered all of my questions in a lot of detail and was super nice, which means a lot. Brockamps are made in Italy, and the foam is structured to give the rider more stability as well as give the horse’s spine more clearance, which prevents rubbing or binding. Really important qualities for Henry in particular who is really bothered by both of those things. The Brockamps seem to be very popular in Europe and thus are perpetually back-ordered. They come in a huuuuuge range of colors, and the US dealer has a few in stock, although not in either color I would want (navy or dark green), so I’d have to wait 2-3 months for the next shipment to come in to get one of those colors. But they DO have every feature I’m looking for, albeit in a bit higher price point than I had in mind (still nowhere near the Horsedream or Stargazer range though!). Then again, if I had a pad like this I’d probably ride bareback a lot more.

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Good padding and structure
brockamp
NAVY
brockampcolors
I love rainbows

And then, because if there are beautiful and expensive things in the world I will definitely find every single one of them, there are the Trailmaster pads. They start around $250 for synthetic or $350 for leather, varying according to what exactly you want (I actually like the synthetic more – small miracle). They’re handmade in the USA completely custom, with just about any colors and fabrics and features you want and available in high wither cut. I mean come on. They are just gorgeous. More minimalist for sure than the Brockamp, a bit less padded and without as much structure for the rider. I love that they use wool felt topped with a thin layer of memory foam. I feel like it would put me closer to the horse for flat work, with the tradeoff being that it’s less secure. Hmmmmm. The owner of the company was again helpful at providing info and answering my questions.

Trailmaster Bareback Pad Original (synthetic fabrics)

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I’m torn. My wallet says to go with the cheapest option, but after seeing the really nice ones it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the others. I do think I ride bareback enough to justify a nice pad, and if I had a nice pad I would probably ride bareback even more. Plus a good one should last for quite a long time. But then again, it’s not a small chunk of change. And if I did opt for a nice one, I’d have to choose between the Brockamp and the Trailmaster.

Halp me.

58 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Bareback Pads

  1. I have a Thinline, and it’s just OK. I use it weekly for short rides when I’m too lazy to actually tack up, and it works fine for my low-withered guys. If I were buying again, I’d probably go with the Brockamp one, just based on the structure. I do like the wool underside on the Trailmaster, and of course supporting a US company is always a good thing.
    Good luck!

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    1. Yeah the Thinline definitely underwhelmed me. Not really enough contour and the padding was just meh and I didn’t like the girth part. If it was half the price it would be more likeable maybe. But yeah it’s definitely nothing like the Brockamp types.

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  2. The Trailmaster has too many seams for my liking. If I was riding in shorts on a hit summer day, would one of those seams (which do not look like they are totally flat) rub a hole in my leg?
    I like that the Brockamp has the anti-slip bottom. Both pads mention using other pads under them. Treeless pads aren’t cheap so that may be an added expense.
    There’s something about that Brockamp that I really like the look of. If I knew I was going to ride bareback more than once every 5 years, it would be my choice.

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    1. Riding in shorts definitely isn’t even a consideration for me, I’m always going to be in breeches and boots. Worst case scenario jeans and boots. It’s a good point for those that do wear shorts, though.

      Not worried about using other pads under them, I have tons of regular pads that could be used for that purpose, it doesn’t have to be a specific treeless pad since they’re not being used as treeless saddles.

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  3. I have the Best Friends one! And I have it on an Arabian x Saddlebred so the withers are high on my guy and it definitely works. It’s not the fanciest but I love that it isn’t fleece and it doesn’t budge at all which is ideal because I like to do occasional bareback jump work and need it to stay put. It does the job for me at a great price point!

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  4. (Also – while bareback over fences is only occasional, I use it for hacks/flat work way more often! Especially in the winter when it’s cold enough that I want to enjoy my horses body heat haha)

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  5. I never thought I wanted a bareback pad (have only ever seen junky ones) until I saw the brockamp in your post! I also have a high withered guy and am often stacking pads in order to ride him bareback comfortably. The brockamp looks gorgeous and worth the money and wait.
    Would people really use a pad under? That seems overkill and I’ve never seen anyone use a pad under a bareback pad…

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    1. The idea of using a treeless saddle pad underneath is that these pads have a channel down the center that takes pressure off the spine, which is not built to be weight bearing. When riding bareback you end up sitting on the spine. If you were using a bareback pad for extended amounts of time this might be a consideration. Toodling around occasionally, not so much.

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      1. Right. A treeless pad isn’t necessary if you aren’t riding in it all the time and if the pad already has spine relief/contour built in, which is what most companies have also said when I asked. Basically – for ultimate spine relief and comfort, use a treeless pad underneath, but it’s not necessary. If I used a pad underneath it would mostly to protect the bareback pad from sweat and dirt or to keep the horse’s skin from getting irritated by the non-slip material.

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    2. This is what they said about that:

      “The Brockamp Special Pad is filled with foam and padded stronger in the front and back to give more structure. It is anatomically formed, unlike most bareback pads that just lay over the back like a blanket. It is designed to provide the horse the best possible spine clearance a bareback pad without a solid structure can give! Due to the shape it has been refreshing for people with TB’s and horses with withers to have a pad that doesn’t just flatten over the withers. We use a treeless saddle pad underneath. Of course you can also use the Brockamp bareback pad without a saddle pad underneath.”

      From what I’m seeing, people that are heavier or ride exclusively in the bareback pad or ride for long distances/time tend to prefer it with an additional padding and spine clearance underneath. If you’re using it more recreationally, it’s not necessary.

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  6. Just curious, why do you use a pad and not just bareback?

    I ride bareback all the time but have never considered a pad. But maybe I’m missing out on a whole world between bareback and saddle.

    I also rarely ride bareback in the summer because of the sweaty butt issues, but maybe a pad would make it less disgusting. But I love the warmth of bareback in the winter (probably not as much of an issue in Texas though).

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    1. 1. Sweat. This is Texas, even in the winter the horses are sweating. It was 80 degrees yesterday.

      2. Dirt. I don’t want my breeches coated in dirt after every ride.

      3. Human comfort. Henry has a massive wither, and it’s extremely uncomfortable, especially when he spooks/leaps sideways and it bangs you in the pubic bone.

      4. Horse comfort. There’s just no way my seat bones can feel that great, especially at speed or on particularly long rides. Giving the horse a little more padding seems to be appreciated.

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  7. I use a shitty fleece pad several times a week. It’s pretty much the only “saddle” I use on Pig. The girth does blow, but mostly bc of Pig’s huge retired ass hay belly. I’ll be honest, though. My only interest was finding something with more cushion (old man’s topline isn’t FEI capable anymore, and those bones are … there) that would give me a little extra grip when the oldster launches a tiny creek like it’s Cottesmore Leap. I also wanted something just as easy and fast as grabbing a saddle pad… otherwise what’s the point of a bareback pad? The shitty fleece gets it done for me in all of those regards. Plus, despite his generous withers, Pig doesn’t seem to mind the pad. 🤷‍♀️ I wish you the same happiness with whatever you find!

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  8. I haven’t ridden in any of those pads (not even sure if my current ride has ever been ridden bareback), but we have one of the Best Friend pads in the tack store where I work. I have considered taking it home on multiple occasions, but I really can’t justify the expense of a bareback pad when I ride bareback 3 times a year. Comparing the ones you listed, one thing stands out to me other than the style of the girth: I don’t think I would want to ride on nylon covered seams if it were something I was using regularly. That combined with the materials of the various pads, I think my top choice would be Brockamp.

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  9. I have had a Best Friends for over 14+ years and use it regularly doing dressagey stuff and trail riding. I didn’t have a saddle for an entire year (long story) and the bareback pad was all I used. Well padded but you can still transmit your aids effectively, easy to clean, grippy for shorts, breeches, or jeans. I have no complaints with it at all. Probably has over 1000 rides on it and it’s still going strong. Originally cost $200 and was worth every penny.

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  10. Some of those look more like bareback saddles than bareback pads, haha! A few friends have the Best Friends one and they love it. It isn’t fancy, but it works, especially for sporadic bareback rides!

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  11. I’ve had the western version of the Best Friends pad for several years. I’ve done a few longer (2-3 hour) trail rides with some areas of steep terrain (for Indiana) with no problems for me or the horse. However, I’m also riding round, wither-less haflingers.

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  12. I’ve had a drooly crush on the Horsedream one forever. From your other options, I’m most drawn to that Brockamp one. I like that it provides a little extra security.
    I have the thinline one. It’s fine, but I mostly only use it on Shiny and walk around in it, so not much of a test. And you already know you don’t like it.

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  13. My husband and I both use the Best Friends pad and they’re quite nice. Definitely helpful with the slipperiness of riding bareback and providing padding. My husband once spent 3 months riding in just that pad when he was between saddles. I really want the Horsedream sheepskin bareback pad for myself, but $$. The Best Friends is a great buy for the cost.

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  14. Another ‘best freinds’ pad user here. I have the ‘western’ version cuz cup holder = win. I have a TB will a hell of a wither and a topline that is always on the struggle bus, so I use a barn-mates’ old Diamond Wool contoured endurance pad under it. very comfy, have no slipping issues, but we just toodle around at the walk.

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  15. I tell myself that over all of the years I will use an expensive piece of tack, I won’t be sorry that I threw in an extra $100 for the better one. Of course this keeps me poor and not eating out at restaurants. So that in a few years I won’t be wishing that I had got the better tack now. If that makes any sense!

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    1. I realized after I published this that I have enough money sitting in my Paypal balance to cover the more expensive pad options, and everyone knows that Paypal dollars don’t count as spending real money, so…

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  16. I love my trailmaster pad! I got it a couple of years ago, when they were a bit cheaper and it was on sale. I’ve been using it occasionally since, and it’s held up beautifully. But those Brockamp pads are sure beautiful too.

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  17. I think the Brockamp would be the way to go. It is the only one that looks like it would actually fit a higher wither.
    So much so I might want to invest in one too lol. Tall + long withers make things impossible. I had no other option but to use a thinline bareback pad when we started coming back to work and it was the slipperiest thing I have ever sat in and did NOT fit her withers at all.

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  18. To be honest, based on your responses to comments it sounds like you already have your mind made up about getting one of the expensive ones 😂

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    1. Well like I said, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the cheap ones after you’ve seen the nice ones. LOL. I was hoping someone would talk me into or out of something, but so far it’s just confirmed the direction I was already leaning.

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      1. Well, minus that everyone is saying They really like the Best Friends! But I imagine it’s one of those things where if you hear someone say what you should do, you get that gut feeling of if it makes you happy or not. So if you’re hearing people say you should get Best Friends and it doesn’t make you happy, then get the other ones!

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        1. Hmmm… definitely not everyone. There are some dissenters, several people that have to use it with other pads, and people who only use it for rare rides or walking, which isn’t what I’m going for. I’ve also had a couple people message me saying the things they don’t like about it are exactly the things I’m concerned about.

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        2. “Pro tip: the Thinline bareback pad is a contract product, and it’s essentially a Best Friend pad with some Thinline slapped on it. So if you don’t like one, you probably won’t like the other.”

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  19. I found one of the Best Friend pads on eBay for next to nothing ($30). It does the job well enough for me, though I will admit the workmanship isn’t primo. It’s easy enough to toss a saddle pad underneath it for more cushion if you need; when my horses went through a lean period last year, I did this quite often with great success. For the price point and what it offers, I really like this pad and would buy again. But that’s mostly because I simply can’t bring myself to splurge on an item that gets used once a week or so on average; there are so many other things I’d rather put my money towards.

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  20. I’ve had the horsedream for around nine years now and I still love it. It’s well worth the investment. It’s used once a week, if not more and has held up well. The sheepskin is the best quality sheepskin I’ve ever had. We also have one of their half pads, purchased at the same time as the bareback pad that is still going strong and has outlived every other sheepskin pad we’ve had. It’s a lot of money but it’s worth it. I’m currently having some neck issues and shouldn’t be riding but with this pad, I can feel every movement of the horse and still be comfortable. It’s the only way I’m currenlty able to ride with limited pain. I know it’s a lot of money but you’re not going to have to buy another one in many, many, many years.

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  21. I use the Best Friends pad, sometimes with a woolback pad underneath. I have replaced mine once since the pad and girth got really coated in dirt/sand/sweat and I wasn’t able to clean it off without tons of work. I do ride round and witherless Haffies, but have done multiple multi-hour rides in these pads. Our trail rides can veer towards more extreme hills and water crossings and terrain. No complaints. I have another one waiting at home for the day I am comfortable riding Polly bareback.

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  22. I don’t have my own, so I steal my BO’s Best Friends pad and love it. It’s fit over both P’s and Leo’s withers (P his ginormous withers), and both have always seemed comfy in it. I typically use a non-slip pad under it, because if I’m riding bareback, it’s usually because I’m hacking and that means hills. Or I’m in a dinosaur costume and want to be somewhat secure.

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  23. I have the best friends one and love it. I think I even left a review on it on the riding warehouse website. I would go for one a little bit more expensive however, since you seem to ride bareback more than me. Hope that helps!

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  24. I used to be a “bareback means bareback” and would rather ride without a pad at all. But then I got shark-finned Cosmo. I haven’t used the best friends pad on him, but I’ve used it on other withery TBs and it had pretty good contour. Also, not sure how you’ll feel about this option, but I also use a half pad under the bareback pad for extra cushioning (and I’ll throw a regular saddle pad under that to keep it clean), which really gets away from the bareback is bareback philosophy. But I still feel it’s cooler than a saddle (or maybe it’s just less work to throw over and therefore I sweat less??) and I can use my regular, fully cushioned half pad.

    Another vote for the best friend’s pad: maybe it’s the western version, but it has a water bottle holder/koozy that will also fit an adult beverage for evening trails n’ ales strolls with friends…

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  25. Great, now I want a Brockamp pad 😂, I bought a best friends pad a few years ago at the world horse expo and I’ve never used it, I tried to use it once last year or the year before and my mare was being an idiot and wouldn’t stand for me to get on(shes 16hh and I’m short and not flexible with a bad ankle) I needed her to stand next to the tall table that’s in the ring and she was like “nope, fuck off lady”…but that looks so cozy and secure, once Mark is back in work, I would totally use it on him 😂

    I need to stop reading your blog, I already have an impulse control problem with shopping and you are not helping lmao

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      1. I saw on their website they offer financing of sorts, but do I want to be put on the waitlist for a purple (my favorite color) or get a turquoise which is Mark’s color and I like that color also…Mark is a dark bay, almost black and Bella is the same shade of bay as Henry. Not sure how well she could pull off the turquoise but Mark definitely pulls off purple well….but turquoise is in stock so could potentially have it sooner, even tho I wont use it till spring anyway 😂

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          1. and now I have sent them an email, I decided I really like the turquoise, and to be completely honest, I highly doubt I will use it on Bella anyway, I don’t trust her enough to not have a saddle, I haven’t even ridden her in a year and a half because she’s just so difficult more often then not lol. Mark is much more predictable under saddle so I would probably actually use it on him lmao

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              1. Really? It worked for me and they replied in less then a half hour, which I thought was really crazy since it was about 10:30pm when I sent it lol. So now I’m currently paying off a turquoise pad which I should have by the time I start working Mark again lol

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  26. I got the thinline pad over 10 years ago when my other options were pretty much the cheap crappy ones. It was a life saver, Emma is built like a saw horse so more than 10 mins bareback without a pad equalled blisters in my butt crack. Like I needed Boudreaux’s butt paste to get through a shower, bad. An untied pad was just a death wish for hitting the ground. It was a life saver then but these options are so much better. That Western cinch will rub your legs raw in shorts FYI. I use at least a baby pad under mine for easy cleaning.

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  27. Just pointing out that there’s even a more expensive option. I have one of the Christ pads and I don’t regret a penny of it. So darn comfy, everyone that uses it loves it and it’s done a great job of protecting my vagina from TB withers. So if you go with the Brockamp pad, you’re being fiscally responsible!

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  28. my barn owner has the barefoot ride on pad. she got extra panels (?) on it bc her horses are withery spiny lady killers. It is so freakin comfortable. however it’s really thick and doesn’t feel like bareback anymore.

    I have the thinline pad. I really like it, it has a nice close contact feel. But I do wish it had dressage style billets and it COULD have better wither relief, but I’ve never had an issue with rubbing or soreness. The thinline gives me the closer contact feel I LIKE about bareback pads. If spicy didn’t have a mondo spine I wouldn’t use a pad at all. Buuuut I pinched my tailbone once on indy and it was the worst thing that ever happened.

    I think if I got another one I’d get the little joe bareback pad. it has the things I’m interested in without putting too much ‘fluff’ so I can still get the contact I like.

    and it comes in purple (important things)

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  29. You’ve already made up your mind, but I’m chiming in in favor of the Best Friends bareback pad. I don’t have your spending budget and refused to pay more than $100 for something I thought I would only use occasionally. I wanted something that wouldn’t slip and would give me a little padding + protecting my mare’s back from my seat bones, while still feeling like I was riding bareback: I didn’t want a super thick layer of felt/wool/whatever between my mare and myself.

    Well…I bought the Best Friends 3 years ago, and it’s all I ride in now. I’ve ridden in a saddle maybe 5 times since buying that pad. All I do is dressage. My sessions are anywhere from 30-60 minutes in length. That thing is still going strong after all this time. Hose it off, let it dry if it gets dirty. No issues with the girth or the material. In summer I just ride in shorts in the pad. It has more than exceeded my expectations: best $60 I’ve ever spent, and I would buy again.

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    1. Yeah I just couldn’t make myself love the girth and the shape, so I went for it and ordered the Brockamp. Especially when someone said that the thinline one is a collab with BF, and I already know that one didn’t work for me. :/ We shall see! It seems like the BF suits a lot of people’s needs. Lots of people love the Thinline too! Luckily there are plenty on the market to choose from.

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