Having worked as professional mountain guides for a decade, one problem always plagued Tenzeeng Sherpa and Passang Geljen Sherpa. Working in the high mountains, they always needed high-class climbing gear. But, with everything in Nepal overpriced or overrated, they always had to ask clients or friends to bring them from abroad.
Every time they climbed together, they always talked about starting a brand that would sell outdoor gear at a reasonable price. But, as they spent most of their time trekking or climbing, they hardly had time to do so.
However, things changed in 2020. After Covid-19 halted all tourism-related activities, the two friends decided to go for broke. Having done their research about mountain wear for two years, the two, who had already registered their company in 2019, officially started Everest Outfit in December 2020.
“We dreamt about this project four years ago,” says Tenzeeng. “We’ve put in a lot of effort into this, hoping to make a difference. So far the response has been good, but we know we have a lot to improve.”
Their main aim through Everest Outfit it to make state-of-the-art clothing wear, especially for mountaineers. Through this, they hope they can help fellow friends and mountain guides by providing them with cheaper alternatives to brands like North Face or Mountain Hardware without compromising the quality.
Costs and compulsion
“People disrespect us by saying we work in the mountains. But, they do not know how much it costs to be there in the mountains,” says Tenzeeng.
Buying proper clothes for the mountains is not cheap. Apart from the gear, clothing can alone cost up to Rs 100,000. Having realised this, Tenzeeng and Passang started Everest Outfit to cater to the needs of the mountain community and other adventure enthusiasts who want to travel to the high mountains.
“At high altitude, without proper gear, we might die. We don’t want that to happen, which is why we have been trying to make clothing cheap and accessible so everyone can be safe up there,” says Tenzeeng.
Tenzeeng says if one wants to climb even a small trekking peak, they need a lot of gear for it. When many go buy them, they get demotivated, looking at the price. Through Everest Outfit, they want to change this as most of the items they are selling come at a relatively reasonable price. But, apart from the price, they offer another thing that sets them apart when it comes to clothing wear in Nepal: tests.
“We test these products in the mountains. We have been giving our clothes to mountaineers who go up 6,000 and 7,000-metre peaks and getting feedback from them. Through that feedback, we improve our products accordingly,” says Passang. “No Nepali company does this. We are probably the only one who test their product on the mountain itself. This is something North Face and Mountain Hardware do regularly.”
Going higher soon
Believing them in their vision is Kami Rita Sherpa, 24 time Everest summiteer and record holder. He is their brand ambassador and is planning to wear their clothing gear when he goes to the summit of Everest later this year.
“Having someone like Kami Rita dai believe in us is proof that we are doing good. But, that said, we are not going to be overconfident because we know we have a long way to go,” says Tenzeeng. “We are working on a down suit just for him.”
Apart from Kami Rita, there are others from the mountaineering community who have been testing these products.
“It’s great,” says Vinayak Malla, mountaineer and IFMGA guide, an Everest Outfit athlete. “It’s comfortable and warm. I wore it while I was attempting Manaslu in the winter. I am quite happy with it.”
Malla says that he orders most of his gear from abroad as he does not trust the brand in Thamel. Even though the brands in and around Thamel are cheap, people like Malla do not trust them as they do not want to risk anything.
“I trust these guys. They wouldn’t want to put people like us in harm’s way and sell us below-par products.”
Good research means better results
A reason why people like Malla trust Everest Outfit is the research the two have done. Tenzeeng says that in the past year, they spent over eight hours a day researching and designing products. In the two years, they have tested a lot of fabric both for the mountains and for the city. In that time, they say, they have spent over Rs 15 million on research and development and say it will continue to take place regularly.
“We don’t think we have a finished product. We aim to improve these products every year because we want to set a benchmark,” says Tenzeeng.
They currently sell two types of clothes. Around 30 per cent of their products are specifically for the mountains while 70 per cent is for everyday use. The mountain products include a light down, sleeveless down, hardshell wind and waterproof pants and jackets, insulated pants and light hoodies.
“For everyday use, we have t-shirts, comfy trousers and even stretchable jeans. These can be worn to office meetings or on hikes. We aim to give people options,” he says.
But, there are challenges and the duo have tried to remain as positive as they can. The first challenge is selecting the correct fabric. But, to do that, they still have to order at least 1,000 metres as the supplier does not send less than that.
“Sometimes, we just want to test, but sadly, that option is not available,” says Tenzeeng.
Apart from that, they also faced problems due to Covid19 as they did not receive shipments on time. Tenzeeng says that a zipper which they import from Taiwan took nearly two months to arrive while it normally took 20 days.
“Travel restrictions have also halted our progress as we haven’t had the opportunity to go to foreign countries to look at products.”
Last, they have also had a hard time finding workers, due to which they have been outsourcing their work to various tailors.
So far, the response they have got is good, but they want to do more. In the next five years, they want to start producing accessories like tents and even scale up and make shoes and set up stores in Lukla, Pokhara, Damak and different places in India.
“We want to give out our franchise to interested people. But, let’s see where we go from here. Right now, we are just a toddler. But in 10 years, we want to become a household name.”
Photos: Everest Outfit