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Japanese Layering System
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Japanese Layering System on 02/03/2010 09:47:00 MST Print View

I've been pondering the layering system developed by the relatively new Japanese outdoor clothing company "Finetrack. Finetrack originally was started by a group of outdoor enthusiasts who worked for MontBell, but wanted to develop clothing specifically suited for sawanobori (creek climbing), which tends to be very cold and wet and aims to be as light as possible because of the climbing gear needed and the swimming in frigid and dangerous mountain pools. They've since rethought how layering is done and come up with some very interesting and unconventional clothes to match their system.

In the above example they first list the order and purpose of each layer in their system:

1) Dry Layer
2) Comfort Layer
3) Thermal Layer
4) Mid Shell
and, if it is raining hard 5) Outer Hard Shell.

It sounds very similar to the base, windbreaker, insulation, rain shell system advocated here in BPL, but the big difference are the first two layers.

Finetrack makes a very fine, highly water-resistant mesh base layer that you wear directly on your skin on your torso, as underpants, and inner socks. This layer breathes very well and lets out all your perspiration, but moisture from the outside doesn't get in (you can run water over its surface and it will run off like water on a duck's back). It thereby stops any remaining water from outside that might have made it past the two outermost layers (thermal and mid shell.

Over this layer goes the comfort layer, which consists of Finetrack's merino wool spun with spirals of hydrophobic polyester stands, making it quick drying. This is a fine layer that spreads any moisture from the inside or the outside over a broad surface where it evaporates and prevents your skin from feeling clammy. Finetrack has its proprietary "Spilfil" fabric, but I suspect traditional merino wool baselayers do just as well (though they don't dry as quickly).

Then is the thermal layer, which consists of a thin, highly breathable, strongly wicking layer that acts like a light outer shirt. Its outer surface blocks any moisture (including perspiration) that made it out from inside, or any mist that might have gotten past the mid shell layer. It is a 3D fabric and has a brushed surface, giving it a slight, 100 weight fleece-like warmth.

And finally the Mid Shell layer which is basically a water repellant windbreaker layer over which further insulation, like a fleece or fiber fill jacket can be worn, or a rain shell. Finetrack's proprietary mid shell is the Pneumo Wrap, which in person feels and looks like a stretchy, athletically cut Frogg-Togg-like jacket with a slick outer surface. It even has nearly the same lightness as Frogg-Toggs, but is stronger (it can take the abrasion of the pack). It's not as waterproof as Frogg-Toggs, though, and doesn't have taped seams. If you look at the bottom of the web page you can see comparison charts of the advantages and disadvantages of four different shell systems, Pneumo Wrap, Gore-tex, windbreaker, and softshell. The Pneumo Wrap's strong points are its wind-shedding and "inner perspiration...controlling ability. It is not waterproof, but it is almost as light as a windbreaker, controls body humidity much better than a windbreaker, and doesn't wet out as easily as a windbreaker.

The beauty of this system is that it is extremely light, yet protects against most rain and allows you to do strenuous exercise without getting inundated with sweat.

The site provides a number of different configurations of the system, for different times of the year, 1) a Fall/ Winter, above freezing configuration;


2) a Deep Winter configuration;

Deep Winter

3) a Creek Climbing configuration (the first example is for very frigid water, the second image is for warmer months);

and 4) a Hot, Humid Summer configuration (it uses a special water-retaining fabric for the shirt so that it cools the body off).

I was skeptical when I first saw this system, but have been using it for about three years now and it really works! The only problem is that clothing sizes were specifically designed for Japanese people so the pants especially don't fit at all. Which is too bad, because their Storm Gorge Alpine Pants are some of the best mountain walking pants I've tried.

I wish they would market to non-Japanese and provide their site in English.

Tomorrow I'm going to trying out their Skin-Mesh base layer with an Icebreaker 150 shirt on top, thermal layer Drought Sensor jacket, and LiteSpeed Windbreaker, and below, their Drought Sensor thermal layer tights with a pair of Montane Light Speed Wind Pants, Skin Mesh inner socks with Smartwool socks, a Montbell Thermawrap jacket (in the pack), and a Paramo Velez Adventure Lite Smock. I'll be walking at 1,500 meters so it will be cold, but not frigidly so. We'll see how the system works...

Edited by butuki on 02/03/2010 22:34:08 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Japanese Layering System on 02/03/2010 10:50:39 MST Print View

The mesh dry layer is intriguing and definitely worth looking into. If one wears both the dry layer and the comfort layer together anyway... then I wonder if the mesh dry layer can be fused into the underside of the comfort layer -- in other words, an improved base layer?

As for the shell, it's usually either the wind/water repellant shell or the wp/b shell for me -- and not one on top of the other. Wonder if the mid-outer shells combo is there to further retain body heat with very little added weight?

Edited by ben2world on 02/03/2010 11:30:25 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: A Japanese Layering System- perhaps a new way to keep warm and dry? on 02/03/2010 18:11:52 MST Print View

From what the website says, first they ask whether you are still using a fleece layer for insulation. Then they go on to explain how the fleece is bulky and hot and wet from perspiration when you walk. They then explain that by using the comfort layer, thin wicking thermal layer, and mid shell (by mid meaning that it can all be layered under a warmer jacket if needed) you no longer need the fleece layer and can travel at a wider range of temperatures, at substantially lower weight and bulk. I think the system closely mirrors what Mallory used on his last attempt of Chomolungma (I truly hate calling that mountain "Everest"! Just like I hate calling Denali "McKinley"), which consisted of many very thin layers with very little bulk.

I'm not sure about fusing the mesh layer with the dry layer. I think one thing they intend is something versatile, so that the comfort layer can be removed. In all their examples the dry, mesh layer is always present, but the comfort layer changes according to the season and temperatures. In very hot, humid summer the Spilfil comfort layer has been replaced by a "Ramiespin" fabric for evaporative cooling.

Yesterday at the store the clerk explained to me that for most weather, except heavy rain, the mesh dry layer, merino comfort layer, thermal layer, and mid shell are all that are needed, taking on a very wide range of temperatures. It seems the mesh layer is crucial for the system to work. Women have been using this for a long time with their nylon stockings (and American football players use nylon stockings when they play in the winter), but the concept here includes the whole body. Somehow the mesh layer helps keep the body warmer... when I bought a pair of the mesh sock liners the other day I was very surprised by how warm they were alone. If you look at the bottom of the layering concept page you will see two diagrams explaining the difference in heat retention between a fleece/ outer shell system and a mid-shell/ outer shell system. The mid-shell, since it also has a windbreaking surface, coupled with an outer shell serves to preserve the body heat at two points, keeping the body warmer. But the mid-shell is much lighter and thinner than the fleece layer.

I think a MYOG version of the mesh layer might be made by washing nylon stockings and (if it's possible to find such things) shirt in waterproofing.

So I guess wearing a windbreaker under your outer shell allows you to wear less overall. That's how it's worked for me... usually I only wear a merino wool base layer, a windbreaker, and if it's raining, an rain shell. That's kept me warm in a wide variety of temperatures. If I added the water-repelling mesh layer I could probably go into even colder temperatures without adding a lot of extra weight.

For a long time I've been searching for a MYOG alternative to the Paramo waterproofing system that has separate layers (with the pump liner and shell separated) and wonder now if this might be it. Wash nylon mesh layer, comfort layer, thermal layer, and mid-shell layer in Nikwax DIrect and I wonder if you get a completely waterproof system? Have to give it a try.

That's the theory anyway. I still have to try out the system in more variety of weathers!

Edited by butuki on 02/03/2010 18:27:08 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: Re: A Japanese Layering System- perhaps a new way to keep warm and dry? on 02/03/2010 19:26:07 MST Print View

Hi Miguel,

Very interesting idea. I ran the web site through a translation program and now I am translating the translation.


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: No Interest?!?! on 02/03/2010 21:38:01 MST Print View

Are Ben and Bill the only ones interested in this? Really??? I thought it was truly fascinating!

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Japanese Layering System on 02/03/2010 21:45:31 MST Print View

Miguel - I am completely smitten by this and have been looking at the Japanese website this evening. I'm such a hot hiker, especially when gaining elevation, I'd be interested in knowing how it has worked for you in warmer temperatures. Even in the winter my merino base layer and windshirt or ID rain jacket with pit zips wide open are still too warm for me, especially around 33 degrees when the precip is trying to decide whether to be rain or snow. If it's as good as it says it is, I see lots of potential here.

Re: Re: No Interest?!?! on 02/03/2010 23:21:44 MST Print View


Dude that was awesome!! Iwas combing through it 3 times to get it down right. The Japanese are sick with it in so many areas...

Montbell's Exlight Down...WHAT!!! Snowpeak Ti...

Its great to see a company put thatinto their concept/scheme.

I really only wear fleece when cragging, traveling, or around the city. When I first started weighing gear and analyzing the #s I realized fleece is super heavy (for its warmth to weight ratio), durable, and cheap (price wise). Therefore I relagated it to certain areas/activities where I want the durability and not so concerned with weight. Even then I only mess with 100 weight fleece.

Great article/ thread!


Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
No Interest?!?! - yes on 02/04/2010 00:22:20 MST Print View

Hi Miguel,

How do the sizes run? Can the Japanese sizes convert to something like our S,M.L? I tried to buy cloths when I was in Japan but was to big for what they had in stock. I would need a US size L for short sleeve shirts, M for next to skin pants. Long sleeve shirts would take a "longer" sleeve then I expect this stuff would come in. Socks in US size 10 to 11.

I would like to see the skin layer things if you can take some pictures.


Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: No Interest?!?! - yes on 02/04/2010 00:34:48 MST Print View

Hahah this is finally the time where it pays off not being a giant like all the rest of you mutants!

Everybody on this forum besides myself is like 6'10" 300lbs built like a tank, and needs x-long sleeping bags. WTF?

Seriously though, this is cool, and doesn't surprise me at all. Thanks for the info.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: No Interest?!?! - yes on 02/04/2010 01:14:48 MST Print View

Hi Bill,

Unfortunately Finetrack clothing is made for Japanese consumers and therefore most of it will not fit western users well at all. For men's the sizes are like TWO sizes too small! I had to try on a pair of XL pants that would fit lengthwise, but the material around the thighs is too wide and waist too big. I normally wear an American M size. Same for their shirts. In the States I wear size M, but with Finetrack I wear XL. Women's sizes are probably substantially smaller than American and European women, especially around the hips and bust.

Skinmesh example

Notice the way the t-shirt over the Skinmesh spreads the water out... that's a desired effect for hot weather, from what the information explains.

Here is the Finetrack YouTube video showing the Skinmesh fabric's water repellancy:

And here are some Japanese sites showing the Skinmesh in use:

Edited by butuki on 02/04/2010 01:18:01 MST.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Japanese Layering System on 02/04/2010 12:41:10 MST Print View

Looks REALLY interesting, if fact just about ideal for wet conditions but since it's evidently not available anywhere near this hemisphere it gets kinda WTF if you know what I mean. Hard to get any trial and error/experiential feed-back.
I followed your link to the designers website but Japanese characters make Cyrillic look simple. ( At least with cyrillic the characters look like something you've seen before if only above the entrances of Frat/sorority houses! And Cyrillic ( for ex.)does progress horizontally from left to right. )

Can you read Japanese Miguel? Can google translate a page like that? Anyway I'll try to imagine how it might work in practice but I hope you'll keep up the info on this. The skin contact layer looks especially interesting.There's got to be a better system than the Paramo "

Edited by obxcola on 02/04/2010 12:44:53 MST.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 02/04/2010 12:49:39 MST Print View

does anyone know an inexpesive source for a skinmesh live base layer in NA?
We used to use something like that growing up and it was fantastic. Would like to try it again, sounds like the system could really work.
Only issues would be swetting too much in the summer and the cotton shirt chaffing, but it sounds like the skinmesh solves that problem!

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Finetrack skinmesh on 02/04/2010 17:37:58 MST Print View

The bottom link posted by Miguel for bphiro's blog has a translation link towards the bottom right of the page. The translation is a little awkward but it looks like the bloggers there are asking about the same questions you would.

Stuff looks sick

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Finetrack on 02/04/2010 17:54:36 MST Print View

I checked out the t-shirt in the fine-track website with random assistance from google translator. The T costs @ $44.00 but I was stymied upon reaching the pages where the rubber meets the road in terms of payment and etc.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Prices? on 02/04/2010 23:05:29 MST Print View

Yeah, the next step is to get a ballpark idea of what these layers cost, especially the skin mesh. Then how to order them if the prices aren't too breath-taking. My Japanese is about as good as my Greek.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Re: No Interest?!?! on 02/05/2010 04:41:10 MST Print View

Hi Miguel

I was only allowed to bring a few catalogues back with me - but the Finetrack catalogue made the trip.


Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Japanese Layering System on 02/05/2010 21:03:18 MST Print View

Miguel - have you tried the pneumowrap? Is it as great as the webpage says, in particular with controlling perspiration on the inside with decent water resistance on the outside? I think the price calculates to be about $269 US. Ouch. Is there something comparable already on the market in the US? I noticed the word Windstopper on the page. I have not had good luck with windshirts being water resistant enough to use them instead of a full-out rain jacket in the PNW climate where I am. And the rain jacket gets overloaded rather quickly from rain from the "inside."

By the way, I'm really enjoying Google's translations of these pages. They remind me of the poetry we used to write in the 60's.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Rosie Rabbit on 02/05/2010 22:16:42 MST Print View

By the way, I'm really enjoying Google's translations of these pages. They remind me of the poetry we used to write in the 60's.

I'm off to bed with a chuckle and a smile :-)

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Japanese Layering System on 02/05/2010 23:09:57 MST Print View

Hi Everyone,

Sorry to take so long to reply. I was away.

Before I answer questions, let me reiterate that most non-Asian people (and this includes Asians who grew up in the West and have bigger bodies) will find the sizing of Finetrack very frustrating, and most likely too small or oddly-proportioned. The legs are too short or the arms are too short or the torso too long or the waist too big. I had to sew an extra strip 1 and a half inch of nylon fabric to the hem of my large sized Storm Gorge Alpine Pants (medium is too small at the waist and the inseams far too short, though I wear medium in US sizes, and usually do well with large size in regular Japanese pants from regular Japanese clothing companies) just to make them long enough. The X-Large version was far to flappy in the rear of the thighs. And the Spilfil sized X-Large long-sleeved base layer shirt just doesn't fit right, no matter how I try to pull and pinch at it. Also three years ago I bought one of their Breezewrap jackets, in size X-Large and it has always been too short in both the arms and length (I use it now for running and it does very well in that capacity). If you still want to order one of these, don't say I didn't warn you!

Bill, I'd be happy to go buy whatever you want and then reimbursed later (I don't use PayPal, due to their losing quite a large sum of my money about 6 years ago. 2CheckOut is what I used in the past). One problem that might come up is that many outdoor stores in Japan only have certain selections of gear, and often in limited offerings in sizes (don't ask me why... I've never seen such a frustrating retailing system anywhere else). So it might be that certain items that you want are not immediately available (though you can special order them).

Kathleen, this stuff is VERY expensive, since it is a small company in Japan, where everything is expensive. MontBell can get away with their prices because they are so big. Plus, you also have to consider the exchange rate, which is simply awful right now for Americans.

The PneumoWrap is made in two versions, one without, and the more expensive "EX" version with, Windstopper. It really does deal very well with moisture, and that, more than waterproofness, is its main focus. The material has a very smooth, spongy feel to it. I think it would be perfect for the PNW (I lived in Eugene, Oregon for 10 years, so I'm very familiar with the climate there), since it is mostly just endless drizzle rather than epic downpours like here in Japan. You would use it for most of the time you are out there, except downpours, when a very light, waterproof shell would stop the worst of it. I haven't bought the Pneumowrap because I can't afford it and right now am trying to cut down on my gear.

Arc'teryx's Epsilon AR softshell jacket seems very similar, with a similar hand and spongy stretch to it.

The main reason I posted information on this layering system was to get people talking about the layering system we already use and introducing a new way of thinking about it, then coming up with our own ways of implementing the new system. As Arapiles can attest to, Japanese sizes can often seem to cater to one tiny section of the population, with no thought at all given to any variations.

As alternatives to the models that Finetrack offers I'd like to propose these alternatives to try to make the system work:

A. Dry Layer: modified, very thin, sheer nylons, in both lower and upper body garments, all washed in wash-in waterproofing
B. Comfort Layer: 150 weight Merino wool garments
C. Thermal Layer: Highly wicking, lightweight, but slightly brushed surface, synthetic layer. I think a Power Dry garment, like Patagonia's R1 Hooded Fleece, would be a good substitute for Finetrack's Droughtsensor offerings.
D. Mid-Shell Layer: Any thin soft shell with a good water-repellant outer shell, or a pertex-pile layer (like Rab's Vapour Rise series or Marmot's Driclime jackets), or Paramo Nikwax Analogy (which would eliminate the fully waterproof layer)... all perferably washed in wash-in waterproofing (though this supposedly ruins pertex pile).

So far all this is just theory. I have yet to go out and try my non-Finetrack gear to see how it works.

Kathleen, those translation really do seem like something dreamed up by people on acid, don't they?

Edited by butuki on 02/06/2010 02:41:03 MST.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Re: Japanese Layering System on 02/05/2010 23:30:01 MST Print View

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Miguel.

I have imagined a system like this in the past and am pleased to see that it is indeed a functional reality.