Shopping in Kathmandu
We arrived in Nepal with almost no suitable clothing for trekking in the Himalaya. The good news is that the tourist area of Kathmandu (Thamel) has hundreds of shops selling almost every piece of equipment you could need.
Yesterday, we weren’t really sure on what clothing we needed. We don’t know the temperatures for most of the walks, nor the base camps. We can get temperatures for the start of the walks and some temperatures from the top of the walks, but nothing accurate for the length of the route. The shop keepers will sell you the item you are looking at, no matter what it is and tell you that is fine. There is no expert advice, so we had to know exactly what we wanted.
We wandered around the shops asking about different items, writing down the prices and just getting a feel for what we do and don’t want. In one shop we were told the down coats would be too warm, but in many other shops we were told to buy down. We had planned on renting a coat, sleeping bag and rucksack each, but we are going to be trekking for about 42 days, plus travel and rest time in between, so maybe 50 days. After asking the prices of these items on a per day basis it was hardly any extra (and sometimes cheaper) to buy the items. By the end of our first day wandering we knew most of what we wanted, a reasonable idea on which shops to get it from and what to research that night in the hotel. We found that during the day temperatures were warm, shorts and t-shirt weather, only at night, early morning and in the evening was it cold. So a good warm down sleeping bag and thermal underclothing would be good at night. The synthetic coats for morning and evening would be good enough. And long sleeved t-shirt plus micro fleece would be warm enough for most days (we will be walking and carrying stuff so won’t need extremely warm clothing).
Our second day we headed out and bought almost everything we needed. Here’s what we got:
2x down sleeping bag: 10,000 rupees.
2x synthetic coats: 4,500 rupees
1x (real) North Face trousers: 6,499 rupees
1x (real) North Face micro fleece: 7,499 rupees
1x fleece hat: 150 rupees
1x long sleeve t-shirt: 810 rupees
1x sunglasses : 700 rupees
1x thermal underclothes: 1,900 rupees
2x Diamox packs: 190 rupees
1x water purification tablets: 130 rupees
1x hiking boots: 4,500
Total: 36,900 rupees. ($370, £240)
Along with the above we got a free pair of socks (in lieu of a discount) and a free water bottle (proof that we overpaid for the other items). We also bought some decongestant tablets and washing powder in the supermarket. We were going to rent a rucksack each, but we decided to to use our main rucksacks which are 58 litre and empty them of all the usual stuff and leave that in the hotel and pack just what we need for the trek. We bought two items in the North Face store, which cost almost half the total amount, but we want those to last for longer than Nepal so we were willing to pay far more for the quality. The rest is all fake branded gear which will last the time in Nepal and probably not much more. In most stores everyone was open that obviously everything there was fake, the prices were a tenth the price of The North Face store. But they were also honest about how long the items would last and what to expect. It was funny that the branding would change between sizes, for example the coats we bought, the small was Mammot but the medium was The North Face. A different colour might also mean a different brand. Almost everything is branded as The North Face or Mammot. In almost every store nothing has a price, everything is open to negotiation. This means that we probably could have paid less than did and other people possibly got a better deal if they are better at haggling than us, but we feel OK with the price we have paid so we’re not going to worry about it.
Annemarie bought a pair of hiking boots because her walking shoes are rapidly running out of tread (7 months of daily usage). I disagree with her decision, the guy in the store said they were good for about 4 treks only. We have 9 months of travelling left! They are low cut boots and will be too warm for the rest of Asia (assuming they last that long). They might be OK till Hong Kong where Annemarie can buy a pair of real branded shoes that will last the rest of the trip. Having said that I don’t have a better alternative… She has a few days in Kathmandu and another few days in Pokhara to wear them in, which is not a long time.
We also bought the trekking permits and registration cards today. The prices were a little higher than expected:
2x TIMS card : 4000 rupees
2x Langtang National Park Permits : 6000 rupees
Total: 10,000 rupees ($100, £60)
We only have a couple of things left to buy now. A map, compass and chocolate (it’s £2.50 per Lindt bar). That can easily be sorted in the morning along with the bus tickets to the start of the walk.
We met an Aussie girl, Kitty, travelling alone this morning. She wandered into the shop as we were buying the sleeping bags. She was in about the same state as we had been the day before, not exactly sure what to buy or where from. We gave some advice and said about what we had decided was good for us, obviously everyone is different so what is good for us might not suit everyone. We then stayed together for the whole day, she ate lunch and tea with us and we shopped together all day. The highlight of the day was one shop, we went in to look at some shoes and left 3 hours later. In that time both Annemarie and Kitty bought a pair of hiking boots and we had sat down and over a cup of masala chai discussed a huge range of topics. The Nepali manager knew a lot about the general economy of Nepal, what was going to improve and what was stuck in the past and he had plans for coming to Europe for business and leisure. A very interesting chat.
We are now almost totally kitted out and ready to go trekking; Kitty is closer to been kitted out…
Posted from Kathmandu, Central Region, Nepal.