30 August 2017
When deciding what to pack for our trip to Central Asia, whether or not to take our camping gear was something we deliberated over for weeks.
Would lugging all that equipment around for four months really be justified by the potentially 1 or 2 weeks we would actually use it?
In the end, we decided not.
Though having a tent may have saved us a few dollars along the way, the only time we really needed it was when we arrived in Karakol and prepared to do a 3-day hike into the mountains.
Luckily though, you can rent almost all the camping gear you need in Karakol.
Admittedly, a lot of the equipment we found was perhaps not as compact or lightweight as you might expect from Kyrgyzstan’s premier trekking region, but it was affordable and certainly got the job done.
If you’re planning a dedicated trekking trip to Kyrgyzstan or Central Asia and already have a suitable set of camping equipment, we’d probably recommend that you bring it with you.
If you’re on an extended trip and only plan to hike and camp for a handful of days, hiring your camping gear in Karakol is definitely the easier way to go.
These are the best places to look in town.
Probably the most popular equipment rental company in Karakol, Ecotrek has a wide selection of gear at an affordable price. The equipment was generally in good condition, though arguably not the lightest for hiking.
Per day prices start at 240 som ($3.50) for tents, 140 ($2.00) for sleeping bags and 55 ($0.80) for mats.
Fully supported trips, including guides, horses, porters and cooks can also be arranged.
A slightly more expensive option, Extreme Tour rents out what looked to be a wide range of high-quality camping equipment.
Prices are based on the age of the item, with tents ranging from 400 to 700 som ($5.80 to $10.20) and sleeping bags between 150 and 500 som ($2.20 and $7.30) per day.
Extreme Tour also has a large range of winter sports equipment on offer for those arriving in the snowy months.
If all else fails, many hostels in Karakol also stock at least a single set of basic camping equipment – a tent, sleeping bag and mat.
We stayed at the lovely KbH Hostel who rented out a relatively new tent and sleeping mats for 200 som ($2.90) and 60 som ($0.90) per day.
Check your equipment. Chances are, you don’t want to find yourself half way up a mountain with a missing tent pole or a gaping hole in the waterproof layer of your tent. Check your gear thoroughly before taking it – the zips, the fabric and the number of poles and pegs.
Take the right sleeping bag. It can get rather chilly overnight in the mountains, even in the middle of summer. We had an entire day of snow in late August. Be sure to take the correct warmth of sleeping bag for the conditions you may encounter.
To cook or not to cook. We were only out trekking for 3 days and opted to take food that didn’t need to be cooked for the first night and then eat at the guesthouse in Altyn Arashan on the final night. This meant we didn’t have to bother with pans, gas canisters, cookers or crockery. If you’ll be hiking for a longer period, be sure to factor this extra weight and space into your bag.
You’ll need a deposit. Don’t forget some kind of guarantee when renting your gear. A passport is often the first preference, but an ID card or driver’s licence is just as good.
There isn’t always a huge choice. In peak hiking seasons (July and August), there might not always be a huge selection of camping gear to rent. Turnover is high though with hikers returning and setting off every day, so ask around a few days in advance to see what gear might be brought back before your departure. Also, don’t be afraid to shop around – not all your gear needs to come from one store.
Flying solo. If you’re travelling alone, one man tents are in very short supply in Karakol. Ask around but chances are you’ll end up lugging around a 2 or 3 man tent.