Shopping in Kathmandu for trekking clothes, gear and equipment is an overwhelming experience for the first timer. So here’s our guide to making it easy. After 11 months on the road, living in the same two pairs of trousers and four t shirts we had to buy some trekking gear in Kathmandu. To cut a long story short, we ended up in Shona’s Kathmandu Nepal buying virtually everything there!
UPDATE: 21st October 2017 – Thanks to Jeff DuPilka for confirming that Shonas Kathmandu is still in operation (despite having no internet presence) and that Andy and Shona are both well and continue to sell great gear for your treks! (My 2014 thermals are still going well!)
We’d frozen our way round Darjeeling, but we’ve arrived in Kathmandu overland from India to Nepal specifically to head off on a trek and therefore we need something a little more substantial than the Karrimor and Go Outdoors T-Shirts we’ve been living in. We needed to go gear shopping in Kathmandu.
If you want to see what we trekked with – here’s our Trek Gear List. Our plan was to supplement the stuff we’d been travelling with for 10 months, buy only what was needed and donate what we did not want to carry afterwards. Therefore we were on a budget.
What Trek Are We Going on?
We are doing the Everest Circuit via the Cho La Pass. It is an 18 day trek that starts with us flying from Kathmandu to Lukla. We then head up to Namche Bazaar, then towards the Gokyo Lakes, over the Cho La Pass to Everst Base camp and return via the Tengboche Monastery.
Trekking Gear to Buy in Kathmandu
Boots for a start – there is a very high likelihood that we’ll need crampons as well as just boots. You can also imagine that our warm weather gear just isn’t going to cut it.
You can find our entire Trek Gear List here – including what we brought with us, and what we donated to Nepali Porter Charities too.
We’re in Thamel, Kathmandu
We’re staying in Thamel, the tourist, backpacker area of Kathmandu, at a great cheap hotel – it’s easy to find cheap places to stay in Kathmandu, but you’ve probably arrived here after a long trip, so we recommend booking your accommodation before you get here.
Where to Stay in Kathmandu
Karma Boutique Hotel
Jyatha Marg, Thamel, Thamel, 44600 Kathmandu, Nepal
Great location, friendly staff and very clean
All rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV. Some rooms have a seating area where you can relax. Every room includes a private bathroom. For your comfort, you will find slippers and free toiletries. Karma Boutique Hotel features free WiFi throughout the property.
There is a hairdresser’s at the property.
- Free Wifi throughout
- Private bathrooms
- Slippers and free toiletries
- Flat screen TV
- Some rooms have seating areas
Yatri Suites and Spa
Amrit Marg(Manang Plaza), Thamel , Thamel, 44600 Kathmandu, Nepal
Great location with 24 hour reception, gift shop and bar.
- Some rooms have seating areas
- Free Wifi throughout
- Flat screen TV and AC in each room
Chaksibari Marg Thamel, Thamel, 44600 Kathmandu, Nepal
Boutique hotel with airport shuttle service.
- Breakfast served daily
- 24 hour desk
- Great location
- Wifi throughout
- Air conditioned rooms
- Rooms include private bathrooms and flat screen TV
- Rooms have fridges, kettles and a desk
- Allrooms have a seating area and some have a terrace
- Luggage storage
Every other store is a gear store. And then there are restaurants and cafes and bars.
And if you’re short on tie dye, hemp, woven handmade crafty things, then you’ll be in your element here.
Shopping in Kathmandu – the shops
There are legitimate brand stores here in Kathmandu. You’ll pay only around 5% cheaper than you would at home. If you’re looking for legitimate branded gear, then you’ll find most of the brand stores on the road into Thamel, from Durbar Marg. This road is called Tridevi Sadak. Here are the brand stores that you’ll find there.
- Red Fox Kathmandu: Narayanhiti Path, Lal Durbar Marg
- Sherpa Kathmandu: Narayanhiti Path, Lal Durbar Marg
- Black Yak Kathmandu: Narayanhiti Path, Lal Durbar Marg
North Face Kathmandu Store
You’ll find the official North Face Shop in Kathmandu at Tridevi Sadak, 44600, Nepal. It’s in Thamel near the Garden of Dreams.
Mountain Hardware Shop Kathmandu
You can find Mountain Hardware in Kathmandu on Tridevi Sadak.
Shops selling fake branded trekking gear in Kathmandu
In all the other shops we’re of the opinion that everything is a fake. Some better than others. There are legions of shops here. Legions. There are no prices on anything. It can be completely over whelming.
Some stores have a good reputation for non branded, locally made gear. One of those is Shonas Alpine Kathmandu, Nepal. We recommend Shona and Andy who run the shop. They won’t rip you off and you’ll get decent enough gear for your trek. This is one of the best place for buying trekking gear in Kathmandu. Shonas Rentals is another service that they provide – they provide trekking gear rental in Kathmandu. You can even rent sleeping bags, down jackets and tents from them. If they don’t supply the specific trekking equipment that you’re looking for then they’ll tell you where you can get it.
What to Pay for Trekking Gear in Kathmandu
We have a list of what we need to buy. We spent all of yesterday figuring out what starting prices were, as we’d met our guide, Ramesh, who told us that we should expect to pay 60% of what folks start at. It’s pretty difficult then, when we found the same gear – a thermal top for instance for a starting price of 2,100, 2500, and 3,500 Nepalese Rupees in three successive stores.
It starts off as amusing going into a store, when clearly the person trying to sell you something is making the price up on the spot. The look of concentration that passes across their face as they size you up, they look at what you’re wearing, what you’re carrying and presumably the look of desperation on your face before they then stare into the middle distance and pull a number out of the air.
Too a certain extent the cost of trekking gear in Kathmandu depends on what you’re prepared to pay and how good a negotiator you are, especially if you;re going to the knock off/fake shops.
Don’t buy Nepalese Fakes..
This is what we were told in one shop. “You don’t want the Nepalese fakes said one guy. You want the Chinese fakes. They’re better. Nepal = bad. Chinese = good quality.” Make up your own mind, if you haven’t brought your own gear with you.
And that was amusing in itself. I never really thought that there would be knock offs of the knock offs. Neither did I consider that I’d be considering Chinese knock offs to be good quality.
I have no idea how to check what is a Nepalese fake versus a Chinese fake. We checked the gear that we bought as much as we could. Trying to pull it apart, looking at the seams. On our boots we tried the soles, looked at the inner soles. Got a general sense for the quality of the kit.
We also bought duct tape, super glue and a sewing kit in case we needed them. We didn’t. All our gear that we bought in Kathmandu in 2015 worked for our trek. I’m still using the thermals, gloves and hat today in 2019.
After a full day of this. It’s less than amusing. We were chased out of several stores with folks screaming, “well how much do you want to spend?” and with the price halving from the back of the store to the front – and these are tiny stores.
Little wonder there are so many bars here. Never have I found shopping so much hard work. The shopping list now seems endless.
Shona’s Store – Kathmandu
The Internet in it’s wisdom had told us of a British Expat called Andy Griffeths, married to a Nepalese woman called Shona. They have a store – “Shona’s Alpine Kathmandu” that several blogs raved about. Honest, said many of the sites, Trustworthy said others. Near Thamel said yet more, “just ask any local, they all know where Shona’s is”.
Four locals down and we were still none the wiser. Add to that the fact that the locals call the streets different names to what Google maps does and the depression about having to buy gear continued until, trudging towards our hotel in defeat, there she was. On a pale blue signboard, SHONA’S in white lettering.
Perhaps it was the accent – Andy might have left the UK 40 years ago – and as well as Nepal he calls Perth, Western Australia home now – but there’s still a strong brummie accent there. Or perhaps it was the no nonsense advice as to what we’d need for the trek – including what we definitely didn’t need it was all just so easy. Add to that no bargaining (and the price we paid seemed fair compared to all the other stores we’d visited).
And so, less than an hour later, we walked out with 95% of our list of gear satisfied – with at least 5 items not even purchased – he’d told us how we could manage without – Andy used to be a guide and we’d explained which company we were going with (World Expeditions) and which trek (The Everest Circuit and Cho La), so you can add me to the list of folks who will now recommend him and Shona.
Of course, most of their items are of a Nepal/Chinese origin but the prices are fixed and cost about 60% of the asking prices of other stores seem about right.
How to Find Shonas in Kathmandu
So on the off chance that you’re in Kathmandu searching for gear, here’s how to find them.
First of all you need to be in the Thamel area of Kathmandu. Then you’re looking for a road that runs parallel to Thamel Marg. The locals call it Jyatha Marg. Google calls it Amrit Marg. If you leave Tridevi Sadak and turn to the south, down Amrit Marg, then Shona’s is on the right hand side (spot the vertical white on blue sign on the lamp post). Just past the turn down for Rumdoodles. Easy.
We wanted gear that wasn’t going to break the bank, that would last the trek and that we could donate to our Porters when we were finished and Shona’s ticked all the boxes for us.