Kathmandu is a great place to buy camping equipment and outdoor wear if you are not looking for major name brands. The same down jacket that you might buy in the United States for $300 can easily be obtained for $50 in Nepal. In fact, I always wait until my next trip to Nepal to shop for these types of things. That said cheap knock-offs abound and the quality of the gear varies quite a bit from shop-to-shop. If you do buy a jacket that is labeled North Face or Patagonia it’s almost guaranteed to be fake unless you are buying it from the actual outlet in Kathmandu. For the best shopping experience forgot about the labels and focus on the quality of the actual product you are buying. Here are a few things to look at;
1. Zippers – Test the zippers on whatever you buy carefully by open and shutting them a few times. Make a careful visual inspection as to the strength and ask yourself if it will hold up after use. Bigger zippers are usually stronger but not always. Lots of loose stitching around the zipper is also a bad sign.
2. Stitching – Carefully inspect the stitching and sewing. Is the thread loose or hanging? Is it of a durable material? Are the seams in straight lines?
3. Straps and Clips – If your buying a backpack make sure to check the stitching where the straps attach to the pack. Give it a pull and see if it feels strong. If the stitching here looks weak then forget it.
4. Material – Don’t get fooled by labels which say Gortex, Capilene or some other branded material. Check the weight and stitching of fabrics to see if they will tear easily.
5. Touts – Don’t let anyone take you into the shops as they will generally be getting a commission and your bill will go up. If you do want some help ask one of the Himalayanwonder staff to take you to a few shops.
6. Bargain – Don’t be afraid to offer a low price. If a jacket is priced at $100 it would be okay to offer $50 as an initial price and then settle somewhere in the middle. Whatever you want be ready to walk away and go to another shop. The best deals are made when the shop keepers knows you are already in love with the purchase or are in a hurry to buy before the trek.
Once you start looking at actual quality and have visited a few shops your sure to find some excellent buys. Test out your bargaining skills on small items before moving to larger ones. Some items like wool hats and mittens are exceptional buys as they are made locally. Overall, shopping in Thamel is fun and if you spend some time hunting you can walk away with great deals and good gear.