Tag Archives: Gore-Tex

Common Souvenir Scams in Nepal and How to Avoid Them

With its combination of bohemian jewellery, exotic spices, scents and trinkets, colourful clothing and cheap prices, Nepal is an ideal place to easily grab gifts from your travels for friends and family back home. As with any destination however, there are a myriad of tricks or scams around to encourage travellers to part with more of their cash than necessary. Take a look at a few of the most common souvenir scams in Nepal, and remember to take a second look before buying when you are next on your travels!

Bone – After spending only a few days in Nepal, chances are you will see anything and everything made out of yak bone, with jewellery and kitchen utensils being the most popular. However it is fairly obvious after awhile that if all the products sold to tourists in Nepal were real yak bone, then there would hardly be any yaks left in the country. In reality, much of the items purported as yak bone is cheap plastic. If you do wish to buy a souvenir made from yak bone, make sure you take a close look at its surface; bone tends to be more porous, and a texture similar to wood. Also, don’t be afraid to give it a light tap with your fingernail, which should tell you whether it is plastic or not.

Cheap branded outdoor gear – North Face for £10? Gore-tex mountaineering jackets for a quarter of the price they charge back home? If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Nepalese tourist companies will often advise visitors to purchase their trekking kit in Nepal, and for some items, like basic ventilation tops, water bottles, etc., it is a good idea. However it is best to be aware that much of the branded items the outdoors stores stock are either knock-offs or are used gear bought off of previous travellers. If you want to buy the real branded gear, several of the most popular outdoor brands like Mountain Hardware and Black Yak have their own flagship stores in Kathmandu, while The North Face also has a store in Pokhara. The prices will be closer to those charged in Western countries, but will still be a little cheaper than back home.

Semi-precious stones and metals – Jewellery is arguably one of the most popular souvenirs in Nepal, whether it is Buddhist prayer beads, pendants with Hindu or Buddhist symbols, or Bohemian-esque earrings, bangles and chunky rings made from semi-precious stones such as amber, turquoise or garnet. Like yak bone though, many of the items touted as ‘semi-precious’ stones are just as likely to be made from plastic, glass or cheap metals, rather than silver. If you are looking to purchase a particular type of stone, do some research beforehand for tell-tale signs or characteristics to look out for before heading off on your trip. Generally synthetic stones are heavier than semi-precious stones as they are more dense. Also, glass stones tend to have bubbles or small scratches in the stones, while synthetic stones will have imperfections inside the stone. If you plan on buying jewellery in the city, take a look at all their jewellery; if you notice a couple of items are fake, there is a good chance other goods will be too.

Pashminas – These scarves are ubiquitous with shopping in Nepal, with practically every store selling some version of a ‘pashmina’. However, many stores take advantage of the fact that very few travellers are knowledgeable about the material and craftsmanship involved in making one of these scarves, and instead the term ‘pashmina’ has given rise to a subversive product made from a combination of viscose, silk, wool or a small quantity of cheap cashmere and produced in bulk lots. In reality pashminas are made from very fine cashmere wool sourced from the extremely rare Pashmina goats in India, Nepal and Pakistan. They are renowned for being very soft and fine to the touch; in fact, they are so fine they can’t hold any embroidery thread. To find out more about the pashmina market in Nepal, check out this very helpful thread from Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum here.  Be aware however that a majority of pashminas in Nepal are fakes, and if you want to see the top quality a store offers, you will need to ask them outright and expect the quality to be reflected in the price tag.

Yak wool – There has been much attention to yak wool in the outdoor media recently, with people questioning whether it is better than merino wool. Many people have jumped on the media bandwagon, and now yak wool is another popular item traveller look for in Nepal. Do some research before buying however, as in some cases in Nepal items purported as ‘yak wool’ are simply brushed merino wool. As far as souvenir scams go, its probably the least annoying one yet and you are still receiving a good deal for an item that would cost a lot of money back home. When looking for yak wool however, keep in mind that some places will sell yak hair as yak wool. Although the two sound the same, yak hair sits on the top of the yak’s hide, while yak wool is the inner insulation layer that yaks grow during winter to keep them warm, and then shed in the spring. Yak hair feels coarse and itchy, while yak wool is soft, similar to that of cashmere.

Have you got any advice for travellers when it comes to buying souvenirs?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Quick Guide to Gore-Tex Membranes

One of the most frequently-asked questions when it comes to waterproof jackets is the difference between all the Gore-Tex selections. As arguably the most popular choice of waterproofing for outdoors brands, the sheer choice of jackets available and individual technical details in each jacket is enough to confuse anyone. Combined with the price difference between each type of waterproofing and jacket, it can make the choice overwhelming. Fear not however, as I’ve included a basic guide to each type of Gore-Tex waterproofing to help you make the right choice for your outdoor excursion.

A quick note beforehand on the construction of Gore-Tex. The best way to describe it would be like a strip of plastic, pulled on all sides until it is ultra-thin. Holes are punched into the membrane, big enough to allow air molecules to pass through easily but small enough that water molecules can’t penetrate the other side. This is the most basic explanation of the science behind Gore-Tex, but if you want more detail about the science and testing behind each membrane take a look at their website at http://www.gore-tex.co.uk/remote/Satellite/content/outerwear-technologies#sec-outerwear-technologies.

Gore-Tex Paclite Shell: The thinnest of Gore-Tex’s waterproof membranes, this is also the most lightweight version. Recently Paclite has been phased off the shelves and replaced by Gore-Tex’s Active Shell membrane, but it is still possible to find Paclite in some stores and on the internet. This membrane is an ideal choice for those wanting a waterproof jacket for highly-aerobic sports, like running, because its thin properties enables it to wick sweat away quickly. Be aware however that because it is so lightweight and thin, it isn’t known for its durability. A number of times people have come to me complaining their Paclite jacket has started leaking, and it turns out they’ve been wearing it whilst carrying a twenty-kilo bag on their backs for six months. Repeated rubbing and strain on the membrane, particularly around areas like the shoulders, will cause the membrane to leak. Remember: Paclite membranes are intended for highly-aerobic sports only, not for any gear-carrying excursions. If that is what you choose to use it for, then fine, but understand it will not last very long.

Gore-Tex Active Shell:  The membrane set to replace Paclite, the Active Shell is a popular choice amongst runners and mountain bikers for its breathability and being lightweight. Active Shell is thicker than the Paclite membrane, which gives it greater durability without losing any breathability. More importantly, the inner lining, Active Shell membrane, and outer layer are all fused together to form one layer, which stops the movement between the layers that would usually cause wear and tear. Much like the Paclite Shell, the Active membrane is not built for heavy equipment use like large rucksacks and will wear out prematurely if used for that purpose. However if you are looking for a jacket for highly aerobic sports like running, or activities that are finished in a day such as hiking with a day sack, then this jacket is an ideal choice.

Credit to Gore-Tex for the images

Credit to Gore-Tex for the images

Gore-Tex Performance Shell:  Arguably Gore-Tex’s most popular waterproof membrane, the extra thickness of the Performance Shell lends it more durability than the aforementioned products, without compromising on breathability. As a result, this is a great choice for a range of sports, from multi-day treks to fishing as it doesn’t wear out through excessive strain from heavy rucksacks or gear. Many of the jackets that have the Performance Shell feature a 2-layer construction, meaning the waterproof membrane is fused to the outer shell layer of the jacket, and contains a separate inner lining to improve comfort. For those of you wanting a good waterproof jacket for travels, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, or multi-day hikes, this waterproofing is a good all-rounder.

Gore-Tex Pro Shell: It ain’t called Pro Shell for nothing; this waterproof membrane is meant for the most rugged of outdoors activities. Those of you looking for a jacket to scale mountains, climb up cliff faces with heavy gear, engage in snow sports, or even need a rugged waterproof for careers like tree surgery, should look at investing in this waterproof membrane. Like the Performance Shell, the Pro Shell membrane features a 2-layer construction, but its extra thickness offers more durability than any other Gore-Tex membrane. Be prepared to empty your bank account for one of these however, as the Pro Shell membrane is usually reserved for the most technical and expensive of waterproof jackets.

Gore-Tex Windstopper: Last but certainly not least, the Gore-Tex Windstopper membrane is slightly different to the previous ones. Instead of the thin plastic with holes business, imagine standing behind a small shrub in the desert. The wind blows, but the twisting branches of the shrub manage to divert the wind in different directions away from you. Essentially this is what the Windstopper membrane does: small pathways on the surface of the membrane divert the wind from reaching your skin, but still allows moisture to be wicked away from your body. The construction of the membrane also makes it water resistant as well. This membrane works particularly well in cold and windy conditions for highly aerobic activities, such as cycling, running, or snow sports. Although it is fairly durable keep in mind it was also constructed to be lightweight and packable, so don’t expect it to have the same durability as a Pro Shell.

 

Are there any other questions you might have about the different Gore-Tex membranes? Have you ever used any of these waterproofing technologies? Talk about your experiences below!

Tagged , , , , , , ,