First official purchase for my trek!
Silk sleeping bag liner purchased from Decathalon: 200rmb = $28.91usd.
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Above is some of the gear I am considering from Decathlon, a French company of good repute and high quality; akin to our REI. They carry more general sports items than focusing exclusively on outdoor activities, so I won't be able to find everything I need, but it beats shipping everything from the US or paying a triple markup on US imports on www.taobao.com (the Amazon of China). Items come with multi-year warranties; for example, the backpack has a 10-year warranty. They also carry ultralight gear for trekking! The price is a fraction of what the same quality item would cost in the US, so I am thrilled and relieved! Instead of spending thousands of US$ on gear, I may be able to keep it under $1000usd! The silk bag liner I mentioned above cost 200rmb = $29. The same liner in the US starts at $65! Yep, less than half! Whoo Hoo! Major purchases like a 3-season tent (800rmb), down sleeping bag (1000rmb), sleeping pad (200rmb), trek backback (700rmb), and silk bag liner (200rmb) add up to only $420usd! Yes, I still have a huge list of purchases to make, so perhaps that $1000 mark is too low, but the point remains, I should be able to keep my gear purchase total to less than half of what I would spend if I was purchasing in the US, whether from REI, direct from manufacturers like Salamon or Ahnu, or on Amazon!
I didn't buy anything substantial beyond a sleeping bag liner yesterday, simply because all of the descriptives are (of course) in Mandarin and I want to do a bit more research on each product, especially those that can make or break my trek: backpack, tent, sleeping bag. One of many great aspects about the modern tech here is that QR codes are used for everything everywhere, so I simply scan the item in which I hold interest and it is added to my Decathlon cart. They, like almost all retailers, have a mini-app for phones, so I can get every minute spec on the spot, or save it for later to research at home -- my exact intent. From there, I have the option to order it online and have it shipped to my house if I don't need to return to the store.
Another cool piece of tech is their self-check out box! It's relatively easy to use with a phone translator app that scans Mandarin into English in real time. Even with no app, a friendly clerk will offer guidance to move through the on-screen prompts and instructions! Each item is placed in the box one at a time, sliding it near the interior of the box which has built-in bar code scanning mechanisms. I believe that the box also serves as security against shoplifting by weighing the items before they are removed. Once the Decathlon member card is scanned, the option to purchase a reusable bag is offered. Even for someone like myself who cannot read Mandarin, it was quicker and less hassle than standing in a crowded check-out line! Sweet! One of many things I love about China is their phone app payment system and QR tech!