So you’ve arrived in La Paz, ready for an adventure of a lifetime. Passport in hand, money hidden away and a little bit sleepy from all that travel. Then you realise – you’re here but your all important bag isn’t. Seemingly your bag has taken itself on an adventure without you. Never fear there are plenty of options for you to grab a cheaper bargain gear in La Paz as a temporary measure until your precious bag decides to return itself to you.
La Paz is a city full of mayhem, madness, witchcraft and some amazing buildings. It’s not necessarily the first place that you might think of when you are in desperate need of outdoor gear. Thankfully the city has embraced the adventure travel lifestyle and you can easily buy new gear.
Where to find the outdoor stores?
Go for a stroll along Calle Illampu. This street is lined with a variety of stores selling boots, daypacks and hiking packs, gloves, hats, jackets. Really if you need it you’ll most likely find trekking and outdoor gear here for sale. This is also the spot where there is a mix of stores that retail real and fake gear. The majority from what we could tell was real and the price tag does reflect it as so.
You might even be able to find yourself an ultralight sleeping matt.
Yup, there is a place fondly known as Gringo Alley. You won’t find it on Google maps though. You’ll want to search for Calle Sagarnaga. Plonked in the middle of La Paz, Gringo Alley has just about everything else you didn’t know you needed. Think ponchos, badges, socks and coca leaf candy as a bare minimum.
Don’t be afraid to be seen in an alpaca wool jumper. They are incredibly lightweight and comfortable to wear. And adorable too.
Real or Fake?
This is a contentious issue. With multiple outdoor stores and every second door opening to a travel agency and gear store duo it’s rather difficult to tell what is fake and what is not. I spent a full morning exploring the stores and touching all the outdoor jackets. Some were really amazing fakes and most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in their outdoor gear choices. The first indicator is the price. Stupidly low prices generally mean that the item is a fake. Now if you’re only needing a jumper or pants short term then you might want to consider the lower budget item. Especially if it’s an emergency purchase while you are waiting for your bag to find it’s way back to you. It’s an ethical dilemma that you and your wallet will need to discuss.
Northface seems to be the number one brand that is counterfeit in Asia and sent across the seas to South America. But don’t be surprised when you see Mammut, Quecha and Columbia all on sale for crazy cheap. We found a store that retails ALL the fake things. Even some hippy Lululemon yoga wear tops. All albeit without the infamous Lululemon price tag.
As you can see in the photo below there is a clear difference between the outdoor stores at home and the ones here that sell fake gear. 65 BOB or $9.50US for a Northface jacket is kinda a big red flag that it’s not going to be a legit brand. This doesn’t mean that the jacket won’t serve your needs. Do you need a jacket to last you a life time or just one for this trip?
Should you buy your outdoor gear in La Paz or back at home?
We do suggest that you do buy high quality products that will last you and your adventures for many years to come. The quality and variety in La Paz for outdoor gear did vary a lot. If you’re after things like sleeping bags and boots I’d say buy before you fly. High priced items and items that can impact your adventure, like misfitted boots, should be purchased before hand. Then again there is always a risk of airlines loosing your gear. Which is why it’s important to always have travel insurance.
If you need top buy things like gas canisters, jumpers and socks then you’ll have no problem finding what you need in La Paz.
If you’re not ready to buy outdoor gear in La Paz and are prepared to buy before you fly, here are a few of our favourite items to travel with.
Photo by Lesly Derksen on Unsplash
Where else should you go in La Paz?
For shopping? Ah there’s really not a whole lot more. There are quite a few markets and like other big cities in South America, La Paz isn’t a fan of the supermarket. So grocery shopping is usually done at an open market. If you’re after a better meal then there are a lot of great restaurants in La Paz for you to try out.
The best coffee in La Paz
If you find yourself in need of a coffee fix then without a doubt waltz down Gringo Alley and find your happiness at Higher Ground Cafe. A Melbourne style cafe in La Paz. Complete with barista art and Anzac cookies. Bolivian style of course. These guys also do regular TED talk screenings as well as some adventure films. Just ask what’s coming up. The owner was previously a mountain bike guide so is a wealth of knowledge on all things Bolivia and surrounds. He’ll happily chat and help you with any queries you have.
Where to stay in La Paz?
La Paz has a lot of accommodation on offer from basic hotels to some finer establishments. There’s certainly no shortage of unique places to stay. Here’s a few suggestions to help you find the perfect place to stay.
Cheap and cheerful – Greenhouse Bolivia
A little bit fancy – La Casona Hotel, Bolivia
A lot fancy – Atix Hotel
Read here about how easy it is to buy a sim-card in South America.
Bolivia is an under rated and beautiful country.
I couldn’t believe how friendly and how much fun Bolivia was to explore. It’s one of South America’s under rated countries for adventure tourism. Did you know that there was an entire colony of hidden flamingos? As a country it hosts so much raw beauty and delicious chicken.
Have you been to La Paz before and bought anything that you might think was less than legitimate? We’d love to hear your gear fail stories. I can’t promise that we won’t laugh too much.
Or if you have any questions on what sort of gear you can buy ask away. We did spend a good half a day exploring the outdoor stores.
Don’t forget Jean also has an Amazon Store full of amazing outdoor gear. Shop my super helpful Amazon store here.
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Coffee Lover | Travel Blogger | Horse Rider | Adventure Racer | Donut Dame. Generally nice lady-enjoys wine, indie movies & random dance parties in my tent.
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Arriving without bags to a destination is such a scary thing but knowing that you have options to buy outdoor gears can be a saviour. We personally feel that why to pack and carry all these gears with you when you can buy or rent them locally.
The hidden colony of flamingos sure sounds amazing! And thanks for the tips on avoiding the knockoffs!
I hadn’t realized you could buy cocoa leaf candy in La Paz. But it makes sense because of the elevation. I’m leery about being fake items even for emergency clothing because in the US you could lose your Global Entry status and that’s worth paying retail even if the airlines lose my bag. But I could buy it and leave it behind that way it suits my purpose and could help someone else out.
We just came back from Vietnam and were having the same conversation about counterfeit outdoor clothing and specifically North Face. It’s a toss-up. If you need something for a specific activity or your bags don’t show (hope you were able to retrieve your luggage) then something cheap and functional can work. However, in the grand scheme, I’m with you, buy before you fly!
Arriving without your bags – I know that feeling. I had to shop for a couple of things right away and hated it – just hated wasting money on things I actually did not need. However, I appreciate your statement that one should rather go for good quality stuff even though the alternative might be cheaper. Ecologically you are still saving!
So many options in La Paz! I would have no idea what to do if my luggage didn’t arrive, especially in such an outdoor destination like La Paz. Really cool to have so many options by area.
Very helpful tips on shopping for outdoor gear in La Paz, especially on comparing real vs fake goods. Personally, I always like to go prepared on a trip, so that I don’t have any last minute goods to buy when reach.
I have never been to Bolivia and it’s not on my bucket list. But I am changing my mind now.
Really? A post on where to buy gear has changed your mind? 😛
So sorry to hear your bag was lost. But it did offer a unique shopping experience. I understand the challenge with buying real versus fake outdoor wear. But if I were hoping my suitcase would show up, I might choose the fake option as long as it met my current need.
Oh my bag wasn’t lost,
Excellent information! I am a huge fan of Columbia wear and I think the poser in me would be very keen to stock up even if they were fakes. 😉 I could also look like a very generous auntie by shopping for ‘name brand’ Christmas gifts. Since I live in Asia I am well-versed in fake-dom and generally don’t trust anything I purchase here to be real anything. Including unfortunately my Mac computer. Price tags are not necessarily an indicator either. 🙁
Thankfully I’ve never had a bag go astray anywhere I was unfamiliar with the shopping – touch wood! This info is great to have in the back pocket just in case.
Do any of the gear shops sell bottled oxygen?
Yes they do.
This is such a useful post. Packing gear is too bulky, especially for long-term travel so it is good to know where to pick it up locally! Thank you for sharing.
If I ever loose my bag in La Paz now I know exactly where to go. Thanks for the post.