Buy branded or knock-off gear vs rent gear in Kathmandu?! That is the question. And there is no simple answer that would fit all trekkers. Below is some information that would help you decide.
1) Where are you coming from: Over the years, we’ve learned from previous trekkers that buying branded outdoor gear in Australia, England, Russia and Europe is relatively more expensive than buying them in the US or in Nepal. Sometimes up to 30% more expensive. And hence a lot of trekkers from these countries buy gear in Kathmandu – T-shirts, trekking pants, down parkas etc. There are North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Sherpa Adventure Gear, Outdoor Research and Black Yak stores in Kathmandu. Some have outlets in Pokhara and Namche Bazaar too. But if you come from the US, it is better to buy branded gear in the US as many of these companies do offer seasonal discounts too. The stores in Nepal offer annual or bi-annual discounts but the SALE are usually in August and/or December which is regarded as the off-season for trekking in Nepal.
Besides the above brands, another up-and-coming brand is SONAM: http://sonamgear.com/
This is a Nepali brand with quality products and not as expensive as the Western brands.
2) Not keen on paying a hefty amount for gear especially because it would be a one-time use? Consider buying North Fakes (not North Face). There are a lot of knock-offs available in Thamel (the back-packer district) of Kathmandu. Some good buys include fleece jacket (around Nepali Rupees 1,000), sleeping bag (ranging from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 12,000 depending on down fill), down jacket (Rs. 5,000), T-shirts, convertible trekking pants etc.
3) Always bring your own hiking boots because hiking boots need to have been broken in prior to use in Nepal. This will help prevent blisters. Skip bargains and purchase a reputable brand.
4) Most of the gear available for rent in Thamel are technical climbing gear such as harness, carabiners, ascenders, descenders, helmet, ice-axe, crampons etc. Rentals on these cost around Rs. 60-100 per day. But these equipment are usually older and have seen much use. Also available are down-jackets and sleeping bags. Choose wisely. There are many rental shops so if you have the time, you can go from one shop to the other looking for the correct gear in good condition. Of course, these shops will require a deposit for the gear.
We hope the above information will help you make a decision on whether to buy or rent gear in Kathmandu.