Buying or renting trekking equipment in Kathmandu:
A common question first time trekkers often ask is “Should I rent or buy my equipment for my trek, and where should I buy, Nepal or at home?” Generally, I’d suggest bringing your trekking gear from your home country so that you have gear that you’ve already used and are familiar with. In most Western countries, you can buy the latest model of a down parka or a trekking pole; and if you are like me, wait for the next online or store sale to pounce on a great deal. However, if you do forget anything you may still buy and/or rent almost anything and everything in Kathmandu. There are stores that sell branded outdoor wear and equipment including the North Face, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear and some good Korean and Chinese brands such as Black Yak and Kailas. There are also a couple of Nepali brands that sell good quality outdoor wear including Everest Outfit and Sonam Gear.
There are also a lot of local shops that manufacture their own gear including down-jackets and sleeping bags. A down jacket can be purchased for around US$50 and a good heavy sleeping-bag for around US$80. These are the North Fake’s of Nepal that will still bear the North Face, Patagonia etc logo on their products. But because these gear are locally produced without any strict quality check procedures, it is important to closely inspect these items before you purchase them. Check the zippers by carefully opening and closing them. If the quality doesn’t look right at first glance, it probably isn’t. Carefully check the stitching. Are the threads loose and are the seams straight? Then check the material. Goretex and Vibram trademarks are loosely used on products in Nepal. We would NOT suggest you buy locally produced rain-proof or wind-proof wear in Nepal. Also do NOT buy boots of brands you are not familiar with.
Buy branded or non-branded? That is the question.
Should I buy branded or non-branded gear is a question that most first-time or new trekkers have. Obviously buying branded gear brings with it the guarantee of quality and reliability. Most big companies do spend a lot on Research and Development. However, one should be prepared to dole out at least three times the amount on a branded item compared to a non-branded item. So, if you are new to hiking and aren’t very sure that hiking is something you will pursue, you may buy items such as down jackets, sleeping bags, duffel bags, cotton and polypropylene T-shirts, mid-layers, fleece jackets, sun and warm hats, gaiters, socks, trekking pants etc. that are made in Nepal or China. But it would be best not to go cheap on at least two items: a hiking boot and a rain/wind parka. On the other hand, if you think hiking is something you would like to pursue, you should invest in good brands. They are definitely worth the extra cost. Ask any experienced hiker.
Buy vs Rent?:
Again the answer lies in whether you think you will trek/hike just the one or two times or if you will pursue hiking as a hobby/lifestyle. If you don’t hike/trek regularly, it may be wise to rent instead of buying gear for your trek. For as little as $1 USD per day per item, you can rent items such as down jackets, sleeping bags and backpacks. As a Crystal Mountain Trek client, you will be able to rent a down jacket, sleeping bag and duffel bag at no cost to you for use on the trek.
Where To Shop
To buy International Branded Gear:
Almost all the Branded Gear shops are in one street in Thamel opposite the Sanchaya Kosh building. See google maps directions for the Mountain Hardwear Store. On this one street, within 50 meters, you can shop at two separate North Face Stores, Rab, Outdoor Research, Black Yak, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia etc. The Black diamond store is located a bit further away North of Thamel.
To buy Nepali Brand Gear:
Do check out Everest Outfit. They have a store at the Astrek Park in Thamel. They do have some high quality outerwear which are an excellent value. They even make the down suits that climbers use while climbing Everest. Started by two Sherpa guides who have an International Mountain Guide certification, all of their clothing are designed and tested by outdoor professionals of Nepal.
Sonam Gear has several stores all over Kathmandu. But their quality is OK at best.
To rent gear
Most gear rental stores are in the backstreets of Thamel. Unlike the branded stores, these stores cannot pay the big rent on stores. JP Marg and the vicinity near Potala Guest House is a good place to rent gear. It’s best to go with your trekking guide as they know the best places to rent gear. They can also vouch for you and in most cases the shop will not require you to leave a deposit for the rentals. These places rent out sleeping bags, trekking bags, down jackets and climbing gear such as ice-axe, helmet, ropes, harness, crampons, climbing boots etc.