What do you do when you are schedule to leave on a trek and all of your gear hasn’t arrived? Well, you get to go check out the markets of Kathmandu and find some new stuff. Our quest for gear took us to Thamel, which is a maze of streets filled with shops, cafes, and hotels catering to trekkers and climbers. Once you get over the sheer sensory overload, it is quite a neat place. One shop in particular stands out in my mind – it was set back in a corner and was swarming with Nepali customers, which was really odd considering that most shops were full of international tourists. This little shop is the best kept secret of Thamel and has the best prices… the catch is that you have to hunt for what you want. Across the street and up 3 flights for, the storefront is where the real shopping happens. There are rooms full from floor to ceiling with bags and bags of jackets, pants, thermals, liners, waterproof layers, and fleeces. In each room was also a crowd of Nepali people, digging and diving through the stacks trying to find what they wanted. Of course, this was all rather intimidating, but after collecting myself I too dove into the madness.
The most amazing part of all of this is how extraordinarily cheap all the hiking shops are in Thamel. A “north face” down jacket costs 1000Rp which is a whopping $10. A four season sleeping bag can be rented for 50Rp a day. Granted all the north face, mountain hardware, and patagonia logos are just sewn onto otherwise cheap Chinese knockoff gear. When all was said and done we were each able to get a full set of gear (albeit it quite minimalistic) for <$100.
Hindsight being 20/20, there are two things I desperately wish I had from my gear back home. The first is socks. Good socks are impossible to find and wool socks are a figment of your imagination. The best “hiking ” socks to be found were still 61% cotton which is a recipe for disaster on long hikes. The second thing I wish I had from home was underwear. Again, the concept of sports underwear does not exist. Nowhere to be found are the sturdy, moisture wicking, comfortable tings from home. All that they have in Nepal are 100% cotton Calvin Klein knock offs…. at the very least, I will be chafing in style!
Despite the struggle of getting together all the things we needed, we were able to pull it off. In the end, it was all sort of funny as we had spent so much time in the U.S. collecting gear and making sure we would have every little convenience only to recreate the packing list in a couple of hours in a foreign country. Sure, we will be missing some of the creature comforts, but we have everything we would need to complete the trek safely and warmly. Now, it is up to our legs to carry us to the top!