It may happen that you start traveling in summer and, unintended, are not yet back in winter. Because there was no room in your 70-liter backpack for the thick down jacket, you will just stand there, clueless and freezing. The purchase of winter clothing can be fatal for a small travel budget.
In this situation, it is a good approach to ask locals where they bought their warm clothes. In Russia and some countries of the former Soviet Union, there is, for example, an Outdoor Outfitter of the middle price range, called RedFox.
Here is my experience with RedFox in Bishkek (corner Sovietskaya & Kulatov): The sign is clearly visible from the street. It points to a staircase leading to the basement. Once through the door, you end up in a normal sports store. A sales rep is sitting in the corner, playing Nirvana songs on the guitar. Above, on the wall, there is a picture of Russian President Putin, standing next to a polar bear. The polar bear is lying on the ground. Next to it, a poster says: “Putin wears RedFox “.
“Don’t worry, the polar bear only asleep, not dead,” the sales rep says in English with a broad grin on his face. This is a reference to Putin’s nature conservation-PR machinery, despite the man is well known to be a passionate hunter. I laugh and am pleased that the young sales rep speaks English. This is not his only competency. When I tell him that I am looking for a rain pants, he immediately pulls the right ones from the shelf. They cost about the equivalent of 30 euros .
The pants have zippers on the sides and are easily put on and off wearing shoes. They also keep you dry when skiing. I am very satisfied. The gloves and the thick woolen socks for about 15 euros are also fine. Although, the merino wool socks from Sports Expert (near Ak Keme Hotel) are a good deal warmer. They definitely have the better equipment, but also European prices.
The cut of the RedFox down jacket was not very comfortable. My jacket – probably stuffed with Chinese glass fiber – I ‘ve bought for 20 euros at the Osh bazaar. Surprisingly, it keeps quite warm.
A friend of mine bought Thermo mountain shoes at RedFox. They started leaking water only after a few weeks. He couldn’t get a reclamation.
My warm, Kyrgyz thermal tights, I got for 4 euros in a thrift store.
Conclusion: The RedFox is a low-cost alternative for outdoor equipment. Some things are of very good quality, others less. It is worth to stop by – even if it’s only to see Putin next to the sleeping polar bear and listen to Nirvana.
Here’s an older article on the subject.