When some travelers first get to Thamel they think they are surrounded by great deals on trekking gear. To even a casual observer though it becomes very clear that the North Face and Mountain Hardware logos, which occasionally are both present on a single product, are not authentic. Almost all of the supplies in these shops are Nepali made, and much of it is of dubious quality. The trick is to know what you can get and what you can’t, what will work and what items will fall apart.
Many of the items here will last you a single trek if that is all you need them for. Things of great importance that will be in constant hard contact with your body, like shoes and backpacks, should be avoided as you are just asking for sores and blisters. Zippers are the components that I have found often break in Nepal, and the straps lack the correct adjustability and often break after a limited number of uses as well. In fact the key to buying these products is looking to minimize the number of seems, zippers and straps, as these are where the Nepali products break down. I bought a “Polartech” head band back in 2002 and eight years later I still use it as the fabric keeps my ears warm and the velcro attachment in the back end works fine. Other items that stand up a little better to time are fleeces, sleep sacks, water bottles, hats, and travel towels. Be aware that the advertised gore-tex or other specialized fabrics are not as advertised, and many products advertised as waterproof are not. In the instance that an item is actually waterproof you can almost be certain that it will not be breathable.
Recently a couple of official outdoor shops have opened in Kathmandu, and this is where I go if I really need dependable gear. North Face and Mountain Hardware have opened stores on Tredevi Marg, heading toward the Garden of Dreams east of Thamel. These stores sell the real deal but you will also pay real prices for their products, often equal to what you would pay in stores back home. Another quality option is the Nepali based store Sherpa Adventure Gear which has a location just south of the Roayal Palace Museum. These are the places that I visit when I need shoes, tents, and clothing that wiks or has zippers. The key to gear shopping in Nepal is to be aware of what you’re buying and to adjust your expectations accordingly.