Backpack Tax: Is it Time Hikers Pay Their Fair Share?

OK so we all know the sayings: “Cash is King,” “Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t,: ”The early bird gets a face full of spider webs.”  OK, maybe not that last one.  However, the first two are definitely true and, unfortunately, how the world works.  With that being said, is it time for the backpacking community to take a financial stance to support the lands we all enjoy? My answer is definitely maybe, but we will get to that later.  

What is a Backpacking Tax?

First and foremost, I think it would be wise to explain what in the world a backpack tax would look like.  It just so happens there is a framework already set up for this very purpose.  Look no further than the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and the latter Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 (the “Dingell-Johnson Act” is first ballot hall of fame when it comes to naming acts of Congress).  These funds work through an excise tax that is levied on the companies that make gear for the outdoors.  Let us break down the Pittman-Robertson for reference.  The P-R is an 11% tax on items needed to hunt such as firearms, ammunition, or archery equipment.  This tax is not a direct tax on the item, but instead, it’s levied on the companies who sell the products.  Some would argue that these companies then pass on the price increase to the public but that’s neither here nor there.  In the end, the money is put into the fund that is allocated to states for wildlife restoration and hunter safety courses. 

These restoration projects are funded by the P-R with a 75/25 split between federal and state funds, so when Kansas wanted to purchase land to protect prairie chicken roosting and mating grounds, they applied to the P-R fund for help.  The state put up 25% of the cost and the federal fund covered the rest; all paid for by the purchase of sporting goods by hunters.  Similarly, the Dingell-Johnson fund created essentially the same program but for fishing access through the sale of tackle, boats, outboard engines, and even boat gas.  Both of these acts have funded and led to the completion of countless projects as well as research into wildlife conservation. 

So What About Backpacking?

With that long-winded explanation out of the way, what does this have to do with backpacking? Hang in there, I am getting to the point—I promise.  If a similar fund was made in the name of backpacking, this could be a huge source of funds that would go a long way for trail creation, completion, and maintenance.  These are not small numbers that we are talking about here. The Pittman-Robertson brings in $177-324 million annually.  Mind you, this is only from the purchase of firearms, ammunition, and archery gear.  If you think about how many more sleeping bags are sold vs. shotguns, this could boast larger numbers than even the wildly successful P-R fund.  

Implementation

So if I were the czar of this so-called Backpack Tax, first of all, I would come up with a better name like “Quinton’s Fund for Hiking Awesomeness” or something of the sort, but I digress.  A small tax would be levied on the producers of gear in question, including but not limited to: tents, sleeping bags, quilts, sleeping pads, backpacks, trekking poles, cookstoves, finely crafted malt beverages. OK kidding about that last one again, but you get the point. Essentially, everything that you would find in the camp section of your local REI would qualify.  Say 5% MSRP of these items is put into a fund. This fund is then a 75/25 split for states or associations to use protecting and creating trail systems and outdoor recreation opportunities.  That way, if the Ice Age Trail wants to purchase/lease some tracts of land so there isn’t 500+ miles of road walking, they would have federal backing to do so.  Seriously, Wisconsin. Get it done.   

Counterarguments

This is the section of all of my articles where I defend my stance against would-be counterarguments.  It’s kind of like fighting with myself but hey at least I always win, right?

The first argument I imagine coming my way is, “Manufacturers will just increase the price.” My answer to that is a simple, “Yeah probably.” While I’m no fan of prices going up, the increase would be rather minimal, and for the benefit, I think it is worth it.  Of the items that would qualify in my current thru-hike kit, there is about $1500 of gear subject to the tax.  At a 5% rate, that’s only a $75 increase for my entire setup.  Sure, I’ll miss the $75 worth of ramen bombs on trail, but for my $75 I get to directly increase access to outdoor recreation across the country.  In simpler terms, your $300 custom ultralight quilt now costs $315 and you have a trail you can actually use it on.  

Some might call into question, “How do we make sure this money is spent appropriately?” Another simple answer already solved by the Pittman-Robertson fund (smart guys, I tell you).  To get the funds released the state would have to apply with the project proposal and the 25% of funds needed.  This proposal would go to someone high up in either the US Forest Service or the Department of the Interior.  When approved the federal funds are released and the project goes forward. If the project is denied no federal funds are to be allotted and they can retry next year.  If, for some reason, the funds are not allocated after 2 years the money would be released elsewhere. The P-R currently sends its leftover funds to the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, but in this case, I would advocate for the overflow money to be distributed to the various trail associations.  Hey, if too much money for conservation is a problem, I guess that’s a good problem to have.  

So What Now?

Let’s be honest. I doubt any of this will come to fruition anytime soon. Say what you want about congress, but we all know it moves slower than an elevation climb after a double zero. That being said, I would love to see members of the outdoor community pushing for such an act. 

Thank you for sitting through my long-winded and opinionated rant. As per usual feel, free to tell me I’m wrong in the comment section.  Hopefully, I have convinced you it’s time for hikers to start pulling the oars of conservation funding. Cheers!

Featured image photo credit to the wonderfully talented: Anna “Boiling” Peters.

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Comments 105

  • pearwood : Mar 20th

    Sounds reasonable. I did join both the ATC and AMC when I first decided to thru-hike the AT.

    Reply
  • Russ1663 : Mar 21st

    Interesting thought. Or, an annual hiking permit… no, then someone somewhere would want us to take a written test and get a physical. Seriously though, it is a thought provoking idea

    Reply
  • ilosuins : Mar 21st

    Because we don’t pay enough in taxes already? Have you seen what they are spending daily on “defense” contracts?

    Get a handle in your current taxation before asking for more.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 22nd

      I’m am no fan of taxes but this is at least a 100% sure fire way of getting guaranteed money to public lands.

      If we are honestly expecting the fed to stop buying tanks and jets and start spending more on public lands I think we’ll be waiting a very long time.

      Reply
      • Sport : Mar 23rd

        Why don’t you instead just make donations to support public lands or nonprofits who do so? I pay enough in taxes already without idiots like you helping the idiots in Congress figure out more ways to confiscate my income.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

          The isn’t you’re income being taxed. This is only levied on companies. If they raise prices support other companies. Who actually care about public lands.

          Reply
          • Wildsouthland : Mar 27th

            It’s naive to think that companies won’t pass that cost along to consumers. In fact, if those companies are publicly-traded corporations, then they would arguably be obligated to do that or risk violating their fiduciary duties owed the their shareholders. So it is an indirect tax on consumers.

            Reply
        • Ed : Mar 26th

          Do you really pay enough? We have a 24 trillion deficit, which means you have been getting more than you’ve been charged. There is always someone who has paid more who is picking up your “share”

          Reply
      • Joe : Mar 25th

        Yeah just like OHV funds always go to OHV projects? You’re being way too optimistic and opening the door to more areas having limited access.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 25th

          The PR and DJ solve this with an 75/25 split just to apply and the application has somewhat strict parameters for what money can actually be spent on. Honestly this is the least of my worries with an excise tax.

          Reply
      • Charlie : Mar 27th

        Better would be to put this tax on all the non-hiking users of public land, increase grazing costs, and reduce subsidies. Also reduce unnecessary or at least ineffective military spending and increase retention of government labor so that we aren’t paying to train all new govt employees every 5 years. Where should hikers, backpackers, and industry contribute? To a lobby group to protect existing land boundaries and institute right to roam laws in the country. Lobbying for those things will have a greater impact than taxation and direct spending on trail infrastructure until we can fix our government so that congress doesn’t divert or pocket it all via their own contractors.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

          I agree, this is all great stuff. The issue is if things aren’t funded first there is usually little change. I would love to see the changes you outlines but without funding I doubt we would.

          Reply
        • Ed Evans : Mar 27th

          My sentiment exactly!

          Reply
    • Chris Lockeman : Mar 27th

      You know, I appreciate the intent. But as others have mentioned taxes are already out of whack. Maybe if some of the money lost on mining claims and road building for loggers (forest roads are built with transportation budget money not forest service so it skews the economics), maybe if these were straightened out I could support this idea. As it is we already pay to park at trailheads, and pay enormous entry fees to national parks…Let’s work on making sure Bezos and Musk are paying their fair share first.

      Reply
  • Dylan : Mar 22nd

    The problem here is the presupposition that the beneficiaries of a public service should bear the tax burden. Saying that hikers specifically should be responsible for paying taxes that go towards trail maintenance is like saying parents should have to pay taxes on school supplies in order to fund education.

    Besides, coffers aren’t really the issue. It’s a lack of prioritization—in budgeting, in policy—for the nature and environment we share.

    Public services are public for a reason. Trying to offload costs onto the people who want to engage with them will only reduce access for the underprivileged.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 22nd

      This is already a common practice in the US. If you live in a bigger city with many public amenities your tax rates will be higher. Furthermore, if your school district needs more money they increase the mill rate of the people in that district.

      Hunter and anglers already pay for conservation this way and have been since 1937 and 1960 respectively.

      Reply
      • Dylan : Mar 22nd

        Public amenities taxing city residents =/= tax levied on individual purchases in a targeted category. Similarly, mill rates are not applicable solely to parents, but are directed at the broader community because *everybody in a society benefits* from education just as we all benefit from conservation.

        These are false analogies, and the notion that hunters and anglers are “already doing it” so we should too is yet another argument reliant on fallacy. (I would argue too that hunting is significantly more impactful than hiking, since no species have been hiked into extinction, but that’s neither here nor there.)

        Can excise taxes can be used as a workaround for funding conservation? Yes, certainly.

        Does that mean it’s a good long-term solution? Not in my opinion.

        Funding for conservation shouldn’t be a question of how many backpacks were sold in a year by a private company. Just as each individual pays into social welfare programs, we should all be responsible for the maintenance of our environment.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 22nd

          The tax is not levied on individuals in a specific group. It is levied on companies that profit off the access to public resources. Without the public land these companies wouldn’t exist (or at least wouldn’t be profitable).

          I would disagree about hunting being very different. Aside from a few reintroduction efforts nearly all Pittman Roberson project has been about habitat and migration corridors. Sure, hikers don’t bring animals to extinction but there are documented cases of hikers starting wildfires. Our impacts are larger than we would like to think. There is a reason the Forrest service only allots 50 permits per day on the PCT.

          Reply
          • Dylan : Mar 22nd

            People who purchase hiking gear is a specific group—and it’s not even the full subset of people who hike! Pretending that those people won’t pay the manufacturer’s increased costs is a pipe dream… even if the company pays the upfront costs, it’ll hit consumers downstream. If the supply-chain snarls of the last several years have shown nothing else, it’s that large companies will take any excuse to pass costs along to consumers, even when profits are at record highs, simply to drive more revenue.

            I do agree with you, however, that hikers often don’t recognize their own impact on the environment. “Leave no trace” is great as a philosophy, but it’s sadly not true in practice (although I would again point out the destructive legacy of hunting on a great number of species).

            With regard to the excise tax, much of it doesn’t actually go towards direct conservation efforts. It is allocated the following way, as sourced by the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks department:

            1) $8 million is dedicated to Enhanced Hunter Education programs, including the construction or maintenance of public target ranges.

            2) $3 million is set aside for projects that require cooperation among the states.

            3) One-half of the excise tax collected on handguns is set aside for Basic Hunter Education programs.

            The remainder of the trust fund is then divided in half with 50 percent apportioned to states based on the land area of the state in proportion to the total land area of the country. The remaining 50 percent is apportioned based on the number of individual paid hunting license holders in the state in proportion to the national total.

            *It’s also worth keeping in mind that a WILDLIFE RESTORATION act might not have been necessary were it not for the dramatic impact hunters have on the environment. I have no issue with limiting the number of hiking permits distributed—in fact, I support it—but if you think every company in the United States isn’t dependent on public services to be profitable, you should reexamine how public services shape the lives of ordinary Americans.

            Reply
            • Quinton Peters : Mar 22nd

              The P-R fund averages about 250 million annually. It’s been closer to 300 million the last few years. So the approximate 8 million that is allotted to hunter education is a pretty small proportion. This is also a critical aspect of the 3R’s program to support hunting.

              Yes, there are some rough spots in hunting history but since the abolition of market hunting the recovery efforts that are backed by hunters has been incredible.

              I am writing a follow up piece that should explain my position better. Thanks for your feedback.

              Reply
            • Juan Nyguyen : Mar 22nd

              Dude you are probably the one fckn the trails up ,you want people who dont use the trails to take care of them so you can use them please pull your head out of your backside and pay a yearly permit then to hike in public land

              Reply
              • Alex : Mar 24th

                Did you read the article? It goes on companies that produce gear for hiking. It would probably be in their best interest to have better trails because then you have more hikers and more profits. And I bet a lot of the people in outdoor gear companies do things outdoors and the good companies probably just ethically like the idea of more funding for public land.

        • Adam : Mar 23rd

          @Dylan, spot on for each of your responses. Instead of bleeding people for more money because our government isn’t prioritizing they way we want, we should be putting pressure on them or voting them out. What are our taxes going for if not to serve the people’s needs?

          Reply
          • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

            It’s not bleeding people it’s holding companies accountable.

            I would agree and would love for there to universally less taxes but people have been saying this for a long long time and it has gone nowhere.

            Reply
            • Kerry : Mar 26th

              So, just because something isn’t working your response is to suggest more taxes? No offense, but, that’s the stupidest thing you’ve said in this entire thread.

              Reply
              • Quinton Peters : Mar 26th

                What’s the alternative? Let the 20 million in maintenance backlog stack back up?

        • Dane : Mar 25th

          You need to educate yourself on hunting before you argue anything! Hunting is a major contributor to conservation of land and animals we all enjoy. It was hunters that pushed to stop market hunting during the western expansion which caused most of the animals in North America to be decimated. Whitetail, Elk, bear, beaver, ducks, turkey and so on were on the verge of collapse. Hunters pushed for game management which created the first hunting licenses. Which is each states main source of funding for wildlife management. Then the PR tax was welcomed by hunters knowing it will help with the land and the animals not only game animals but all the critters. You enjoy all the benefits that hunters have contributed to for over 100 years. I do agree with this article outdoor gear should have the added tax on it and added to the PR and Dingle fund. On top of that you all should buy a yearly license just like hunters and fishermen do. You said hikers and campers have little impact but as mentioned how about the millions of acres burned and animals killed from these fires have you all caused? And what do you pay annually to help? Instead of worrying about a simple tax as suggested we all need to help conserve what we all love and not sling mud. You truly do not understand the other side and how much is contributed annually. This is a team effort to help our land and wildlife and we all need to help.

          Reply
      • Richard : Mar 27th

        You are ignoring that most land is owned and managed by the federal government, and our taxes are already being spent there.
        If there is a new tax, they will just take the current funds and divert them to some other project, with no added benefit to the the backpacking community.
        Also, what about people that go car camping, but are required to pay a backpacking tax for a new tent.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

          They have legal obligation not to do so since the passing of the 2019 Great American Outdoors act.

          Reply
  • Sean : Mar 22nd

    Dumbest idea yet. How about LESS taxes??? I already pay enough and can barely stay afloat.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 22nd

      While I can appreciate that sentiment, remember this is an imposed tax on companies, not the individual.

      If a company chooses to pass their tax liabilities to the end user you could choose to support a different company. The outdoor industry is a billion dollar industry. These companies are crushing it in sales, and without adequate public lands to use their gear on they wouldn’t be around. I think they are subject to support these lands.

      Reply
      • Kerry : Mar 26th

        I’m starting to see your train of thought here… You are against capitalism. You keep saying the taxes are too be impressed on the manufacturer, not the consumer. And, if a manufacturer *chooses* to pass along this increase, one should simply find another manufacturer to support.

        News flash:. They ALL will pass it along. No manufacturer is simply going to absorb additional costs because it’s for the greater good. That’s a pipedream.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 26th

          Quite the contrary. I firmly believe capitalism is the best economic system. It has some flaws but everything does. My political views lean very libertarian. With that I feel like public lands are one of the few things government is responsible for.

          Reply
          • Kerry : Mar 26th

            You said it – “government is responsible for”. Why not reappropriate fund accordingly, work with your representatives, congressman, senators to divert existing taxes to the programs of most need. Suggesting new taxes is certainly not the best approach to such an issue.

            The US grants billions (with a B) of dollars to programs of much less importance. There is plenty of money out there already being collected. Please don’t fall into the trap of needing more to be collected.

            Reply
            • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

              I 1000% agree and when the Great American Outdoors Act was on the floor I’m sure they were sick of me calling.

              I think it would be awesome to buy a few less tanks or reduce some subsidies in order to fund our public land. I just don’t see that happening. If the last 40 years of gov spending is any indication I’m afraid I might be right.

              Reply
          • Anon : Mar 27th

            You’re missing the point. The consumer doesn’t get to “choose a different company”. The option given is that the manufacturer either voluntarily throws away 5% of their gross revenue (newsflash, that’s quite possibly their entire profit margin), or they pass it on to the consumer.

            All of them will pass it on to the consumer. Period. It becomes a tax on the end user. The only reason P-R is aimed at manufacturers is because it’s far, far easier for the feds to demand the manufacturer submit the check, than try to demand it from all of the end users.

            Reply
            • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

              That doesn’t make sense to me. It would be way easier for the fed to directly tax the end user. That’s what happens all the time when you buy airline tickets for example.

              Per a previous comment I have seen most figures for profit margins on packs around 40%.

              Yes I am asking companies to lose a small portion of their profits. This is to quite literally ensure they have a business in 30 years.

              I’ll turn this one around, if a fussiness ONLY makes money is that really a business we want in the outdoor community?

              Reply
              • wildsouthland : Mar 27th

                Two things. I’m guessing the profit margin you’re quoting is gross profit which is very different than net profit. Outdoor gear companies net profits are nowhere near the figure you quote. For example, for FY 2021, Columbia Sportwear Company’s net profits were 11.3%. So you’re arguing for them to give up almost half of that just because they’re swells guys. Yeah, the shareholders will be cool with that I’m sure.

                Also, for profit enterprises exists solely to MAKE MONEY. That’s their entire purpose. If you’re looking for an outdoor gear company whose purpose isn’t profit, may I suggest you start a non-profit whose aim is to raise and spend money on trail maintenance.

              • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

                Columbia is mostly a clothing company, which would not be subject to the excise tax. Also the tax is based off gross not net so yeah that doesn’t really mean anything.

    • Ryan : Mar 22nd

      Remember this isn’t a tax on everyone, if you can barely stay afloat you’re probably not buying hiking gear.
      Also the us has one of if not the lowest tax rate in the world, so please don’t complain about high taxes unless you lived abroad for a while

      Reply
      • Nate : Mar 23rd

        If you can barely stay afloat, this is the only kind of vacation you CAN afford. I personally think you’re insane for trying to tax nature. It should be free for everybody.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

          Yeah it should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s a reality. If history is any guide the only things that actually get protected are the ones with the funding.

          Reminder, this is a tax on companies.

          Reply
          • Anon : Mar 27th

            It’s not a tax on companies, it’s a tax on the user. To make a statement like that is either A: willful, abject ignorance, or B: intentional deceptiveness. There is precisely 0% chance that the costs are borne by the manufacturers. Take your pick whether you’re reading A or B.

            Reply
        • Alex : Mar 24th

          In an ideal world it’s free for everyone but not everyone puts protecting lands at the highest priority. Companies strip the land for resources and profit off of it. People litter or cause forest fires or kill animals. Maintaining and protecting the outdoors requires manpower and resources that aren’t free.

          Reply
  • AnonHiker : Mar 23rd

    One small flaw in your math is the assumption that companies would pass along a 5% tax increase as a 5% price increase.

    The tax would more likely hit their internal financials as some form of COGS increase for that category. They then have a profit margin to maintain. So if their pricing is typically COGS x 2 … the price increase for a 5% tax is 10% to the consumer.

    Companies would absolutely see increased profits as a result of rising prices.

    In addition, you add a ton of administrative inefficiency for collecting and managing this.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

      I have tried to find one example of a company raising prices due to the Pittman-Robertson or the Dingell-Johnson and I can’t. The PR and DJ both tax at 10%+ so I don’t really think that’ll be as big of an issue. Most manufacturers actually supported the PR at the time of passing.

      A lot of companies already payout some to conservation. Under this model it would centralize that fund for all companies.

      It’s not perfect but nothing really is.

      Reply
  • Backcountry164 : Mar 23rd

    Here’s a counterargument that you missed. Sure places like REI will be able to absorb the extra tax and even pass it on in ways most consumers won’t even notice. But what about the smaller companies? How would this affect them? I don’t buy from places like REI, I purchase my equipment from companies like ULA and Hammockgear. They’re operating on smaller margins, they’ll have no choice but to pass that tax directly to the consumer. The consumer who is already paying a bit more to support these smaller companies. 5% doesn’t seem like much but it’s enough to make the mass produced junk you find at REI seem a lot more appealing…

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

      The tax is only on manufactures not retailers. So the REI brand packs would be subject but not everything REI sells.

      The margins are extremely tight on the firearm industry and they make it work.

      There is some verbiage in the P-R that has to do with scale. Companies aren’t subject until they sell a certain amount. This would have to carry over to protect startups until they reach some commercial success.

      Reply
      • Backcountry164 : Mar 24th

        This is even worse for smaller companies. REI can spread that extra cost out which they obviously would. The consumer won’t even notice the extra nickel they pay for the bag of trail mix they impulse buy at the checkout. And how does this work if REI just stops manufacturing packs and buys all of thier junk from China?

        I buy my packs from ULA out of Utah. They manufacture everything they sell. You can try twisting and turning but these types of taxes ALWAYS place a much higher burden on SMALL businesses. Which, BTW, doesn’t describe a single firearm manufacturer. Small margins are obviously less of an issue for massive companies. Which is probably why we only see massive companies manufacturing firearms. Is that really want we want in every outdoor industry??
        IMHO we need more ULA’s and fewer REI’s. This would be a push towards the opposite.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

          I love ULA as well but I honestly think they would be fine.

          There are plenty of small companies that manufacture firearms. Bond arms is a great example. Only 20 employees and they are crushing it in sales and production.

          Furthermore there is a huge market for custom fishing rods and reels. These are subject to a 10% tax and the industry is doing fine. These are typically small companies making items to order, much like cottage brands.

          Reply
          • Backcountry164 : Mar 24th

            Derringers are a niche market. Hiking gear isn’t. How about an example of a small gun company that produces products that compete directly with the major producers?
            And how many of these small rod and reel companies existed prior to the tax?? How many survived it?? And do these companies compete with REI, or are they offering high end options? A ULA pack doesn’t cost that much more than what you’ll find at REI. Will they still be able to complete? Or does ULA become a brand that rich people buy just to show how rich they are?
            And aside for all of that, none of this addresses my issue. Such a tax has a much greater impact on small companies even if they are able to survive it. That’s literally the basis of your response. “The little guy will probably survive.” Even while the big guy is basically unaffected.

            Reply
            • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

              Disclaimer: this was a google search and I am no expert in the topic.

              A quick search shows pack profit margins for packs tend to range from 30-43%. Most industries have a “good” margin set as 10% and “great” is 20%+.

              I love ULA and use their packs. I seriously doubt a 5% tax is going to break their back. Odds are they already have money set aside for conservation. This would create a central fund.

              Also the D-J was passed in 1960 and 80 years later you can still buy custom rods for well under $200.

              (Bond arms makes more than just derringers and there a dozen more companies I could have mentioned)

              Reply
              • Backcountry164 : Mar 25th

                I’m sorry but I can’t support anything that gives large corporations any further advantage over small businesses. The fact that these small businesses can probably take the hit is irrelevant to me because I don’t want to hit small businesses.
                Here’s an idea, instead of a tax on the manufactur of hiking gear, hoe about we impose a tariff on the import of the same…

            • Dane : Mar 25th

              examples are easy, Howa, Montana rifle, Daniel Defense, Cooper ammo, Pendleton ammo, Alamo precision rifles, Christensen arms, Hill country Rifles…. these are not niche markets these all compete with the each other there are hundreds more just do your research. Your defense of how many are left there are more smaller companies making rifles and ammo and fishing gear then there ever has been. The tax does not hurt them because this tax.

              Reply
        • Anon : Mar 27th

          Actually, *most* firearm companies are extremely small. Outside of Glock, S&W, Ruger, Remington, and Sig, most firearms manufacturers are quite small (as in, employ well under 50 employees).

          All of them pass the 11% Federal Excise Tax directly on to the consumer, however. It doesn’t effect their business that much, the costs just get borne by the customer.

          Reply
          • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

            Source? I legitimately tried to find if any company raised prices after the PR passed and I couldn’t.

            Reply
  • Emory : Mar 23rd

    Not sure if I saw this in the article but every firearm and all types of ammunition is taxed. Not just hunting firearms and ammo. I think even reloading supplies such as primers gun powder and cartridges are all taxed.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

      That is correct. Also arrows, broadheads, scopes, etc. It’s quite a long list. .

      Reply
      • Backcountry164 : Mar 24th

        This further dilutes your comparison to the P-R tax. That tax is paid, in part, by people who aren’t taking advantage of the benefits it pays for. Meanwhile, most of the people I pass on the trail aren’t wearing packs or using anything else that would be subject to such a tax on hiking equipment.
        So in one case the many are paying for the few, while in this case it’s literally the opposite…

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

          This is a valid concern and no system is perfect. I would argue that eventually someone who hikes enough would buy something. And it’s not like most we are all buying 10 packs a year.

          Reminder, this is a tax levied on companies, not the individual.

          Reply
          • Backcountry164 : Mar 24th

            You keep saying this but I think most people understand that, at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a tax on companies. REI isn’t just going to say “oh well, I guess that’s less profit for us”. All of that extra tax, as well as the cost to implement it, is ultimately passed on to the consumer. Taxing the company rather than the consumer directly is just a convenient way for politicians to avoid much of the backlash.

            Reply
            • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

              You should see how much REI already donates. If they really put profits before all they are doing a horrible job of it.

              Reply
              • Backcountry164 : Mar 25th

                Walmart spends tens of millions of dollars every year buying goodwill, er… I mean donating to charities. Pretty sure most people would still consider them to be a greedy corporation. No, REI isn’t as bad as Walmart but the premise is the same. You can afford to buy goodwill when you’re selling a bunch of overpriced Chinese junk. And of course thier donations are a tiny, tiny fraction of thier sales. One third of one percent is the number I found. No where near the 5% markup I’ll be expected to spend on my future purchases. So yeah, not impressed

              • wildsouthland : Mar 27th

                REI is a consumer cooperative. It’s purpose if very different than a for-profit corporation.

            • Alex : Mar 24th

              Yeah, companies that actually care about providing people with good outdoor equipment also probably care a lot about the outdoors. More availability and improvements for outdoor areas = more people and thus more people buying equipment. This is why the companies already donate so much to caring for public lands.

              Reply
              • Backcountry164 : Mar 25th

                Good outdoor equipment?? Some of it. But there’s also a lot of cheap, albeit overpriced, Chinese garbage.

  • Luis R : Mar 23rd

    Not all camping gear is manufactured, sold, or used to/for backpacking or camping in public land. I would hate to see an increase on a already pricey segment. In the other hand I don’t care at all to pay for camping and usage permits, I do believe more permits should be required, like a fishing permit, we should have a hiking permit, including permits for groups and families, where you can take your family or group, without worrying that everyone has their permit…

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

      This is true but on the same note, not all fishing tackle is used on public waters nor all hunting equipment used on public land.

      Reply
  • Nate : Mar 23rd

    You are making an assumption that all people that buy that gear are using public land. What if they’re only using their private land? Should they still pay your tax? Why can’t the people just pay for that tax with their license plate? If they’re parking at a state park or trailhead and need access with the sticker then you’re targeting just the population that you want

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

      People don’t pay the tax, companies do. It’s an excise tax.

      Reply
      • Stephanie Thorson : Mar 26th

        Bad idea!!!!! No reason to apply a “penalty” tax for people wanting to hunt for their own food or enjoy nature. Just when has more taxes been a good idea! How about our government stop its ridiculous spending and apply some effort to our parks and trails. How much have you donated to the park system lately? Exactly.

        Reply
  • Papaw hiker : Mar 23rd

    We already have a hiking tax on many trails in California. It’s called an “Adcenture Pass” and it costs $5.00 every time we park vicinity of a restroom, trash can, or picnic table.

    Keep your additional taxes. Politicians always find a loophole to spend your tax money on things the tax was not intended to cover.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 23rd

      Two things:

      The tax is on companies no individuals.

      The funds have to be approved on public land projects only. This isn’t like the Land and Water Conservation Fund where Congress can play keep away. This is fully vetted and guaranteed money.

      Reply
  • Alec : Mar 24th

    A fund for trail expansion? More like a fund to encourage more Californians and east coasters to get outside and desecrate all that is holy. We need less trails, less accessibility, less everything. Too many idiots venturing outdoors who litter, blow up pristine places on YouTube and Instagram, and don’t trash places once remote and in touched. Your argument reeks of California.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 24th

      Me living in Wisconsin my entire life lol
      👁👄👁

      Reply
    • Alex : Mar 24th

      It’s not a bad thing to get more people outdoors. The funding would probably provide for more protective services to help with littering and people who vandalize stuff. Stop gatekeeping please, I live in Ohio and we don’t have huge national parks where I can go backpacking on nice proven trails. Accessibility is necessary.

      Reply
      • TMA : Mar 25th

        Your choice to live there…don’t punish us with more taxes to increase your access. You can move like I and others did.

        Reply
        • Quinton Peters : Mar 26th

          That’s a rather obtuse solution. Just move where it’s already good instead of trying to fix where you are.

          Reply
  • Tom Belanger : Mar 25th

    I live in BC Canada and I’ll never pay a hiking tax or get a hiking permit. 99.9% of the places I go are far and deep off trail where there is no one or any services. I’m also responsible unlike others and clean up.

    Reply
  • Mike : Mar 25th

    Nope. Sorry. I don’t care if the tax is on manufacturers, it gets passed down to consumers one way or the other. It’s ignorant to think a company would just eat a 5-10% tax and give up those profits altruistically. And the title of your article is “Backpack Tax: Is it Time Hikers Pay Their Fair Share?” Yet in all of the comments, the author points out that this is a tax applied to the companies, not the hikers. So if you tax Black Diamond for a headlamp, aren’t you also affecting campers? Or even a homeowner who knows the value of a headlamp for around-the-home DIY projects?

    In New Hampshire, we have many ways to support the hiking and backpacking community. Some are voluntary, like purchasing a Hike Safe card and state park/conservation vanity plates. Some are mandatory, like purchasing parking/day passes for recreational land use. Tens of millions of tax dollars ALREADY COLLECTED go to land management, conservation, and parks and recreation departments. If more money is needed, then raise THESE already-in-place taxes.

    These existing revenue-generating avenues are achieved by a combination of my direct amount of usage and by the nature that some services are for the general public welfare. Not everyone uses a mountain trail, but we all contribute to their upkeep and maintenance. As a hiker, it costs me more to use the trail system because I need to pay for parking each time I go out. So I pay a little more because (I use the service more. I pay for school services, but have no children. Those who do have children pay more than I do for extracurricular activities, school supplies, etc.) It’s a balanced system as best as can be implemented.

    Quoting the ‘success’ of a 70-year-old act doesn’t justify implementing more government when a solution already exists.

    Reply
  • Travellvr : Mar 25th

    I’m not a fan of more taxes on products. I am in favor of increasing the fees for camping overnight – in parks and forest lands – and increasing or changing the entrance fees to large national parks. But those fees won’t take much of a bite out of the deferred maintenance and repairs that these parks need. I’d also like to see many of the very wealthy (athletes, financiers, techies, whoever!) personally take on some of these massive projects and parks the way many of them used to be very philanthropical by building libraries and donating land to the parks.

    Reply
  • Pedro : Mar 25th

    So how would a backpack tax distinguish between a hiking backpack and a school one?

    Either it would make school backpacks cost more as well, or companies could easily dodge the tax by saying their backpacks aren’t made for hiking.

    So either
    A. Backpacks should be exempt
    Or
    B. Backpacks sold under a certain price point should be exempt.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 25th

      Good point. There are some rules in the PR act that outline what’s subject and what is not. Full disclosure I skimmed that section because it is level 1000 boring.

      IMO it would have to come down to price, capacity, and designed function.

      Reply
  • Dick Banksy : Mar 25th

    I didn’t read it all. Too long for me. But where is the data to say that there are more sleeping bags sold than shotguns? I would guess the opposite of your assumption.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 25th

      Via the North American Camping Report 10 million families camped for the first time in 2020. So that’s at least 1 bag but probably a few per family.

      In the US about 6 million shotguns are sold annually.

      While firearms are typically more expensive, outdoor equipment has more items to outfit. People don’t often just buy a sleeping bag but also a pack, stove, filter, sleeping pad, etc.

      Reply
  • Curtiss Wright : Mar 25th

    Are you nuts? How about the government cuts its employee count by 10%. Why do people keep asking for more taxes? The government has way more than enough already.

    Reply
  • TMA : Mar 25th

    I live in Alaska, have for thirty years, and hike close to 1000 miles/year. None of my miles have been on public trails; I prefer instead to blaze my own because I seek adventure that is seldom found on predetermined paths. Since I don’t use public trails, restrooms, parking lots, etc why would I or anyone in a similar situation willingly pay higher prices to cover taxed manufacturers. Aren’t most lower-48ers already required to pay for parking passes, trail use, and other public use fees? What does that money go for….better facilities and trails, or the hiring of more “office staff”? Taxes and park fees already exist to finance the services and amenities you say this new tax would pay for. Not needed. I recently visited my family in Georgia, and wanting to get some exercise, I was advised to go to Yargo Park. It was winter and I couldn’t believe that I was stopped at a kiosk and forced to pay $7.00…just to go walk. I grudgingly paid the attendant and told her, “In a week, I’ll be back in Alaska where I can walk for free”. Like that $7.00 really went to a good cause…like a new tax would…yeah right!

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 26th

      Yes there are some fee structures but it’s not enough. As of 2019 there was a 20 million dollar maintenance backlog, with 12 million of that being in national parks. National parks all have fee structures but it does not cover the work needed to keep them.

      Reply
      • TMA : Mar 26th

        Is that backlog a result of money shortages or mismanagement of funds? Choose to believe as you wish. But you can throw money at them all day long and they’ll never stop begging for more.

        Reply
  • Nick : Mar 26th

    The challenge here is what would qualify for the tax? Anything sold at REI? What if I want to buy some nice boots but never intend to go hiking? What if I buy a backpack for a trip that I already paid an arm and a leg for a permit that I waited years for? What if the pocket knife I bought was never used outside my garage?

    Hunting and fishing gear is easy to label but it’s completely ambiguous with “hiking” gear.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 26th

      Great question and I should definitely have gone deeper in detail here.

      The verbiage I would like use is something to the effect of: items designed and intended for primary use in outdoor recreation. (Not perfect but I’m not a lawyer lol)

      So this would count in packs over a certain capacity, sleeping bags, tents, stoves, trekking poles, gps devices, and you could probably throw in action cameras in there. That is by no means an exhaustive list but something like that.

      Clothing would have to be out because the intended use and all that would be super complicated.

      Reply
  • Stephanie Thorson : Mar 26th

    Bad idea!!!!! No reason to apply a “penalty” tax for people wanting to hunt for their own food or enjoy nature. Just when has more taxes been a good idea! How about our government stop its ridiculous spending and apply some effort to our parks and trails. How much have you donated to the park system lately? Exactly.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 26th

      At risk of sounding arrogant, I would argue I have spent more than the average hiker.

      I buy the state park pass as well donate to the trail alliance of trail I spend time on (Ice Age and North Country). I joined the PCTA for my upcoming hike.

      Let’s get to the good stuff though. I have purchased several firearms so that’s a few hundred right there. I had a boat and a dozen rods and reels, a ton of tackle. I have a bow and all the arrows and accessories also count. Finally back when I shot pistol completions I would go through a few hundred rounds a day every time.

      Let’s compare that to my hiking gear. I purchased 1 pack, 1 tent, 1 quilt, 1 sleeping pad, 1 stove. I am not in the market for any new gear unless anything fails.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is I already fund this stuff a ton and there is a section of the market that isn’t getting taxed.

      Side note if you’ve purchased gasoline in the last 10 years you have been taxed for conservation as well through the Water Conservation Fund.

      Reply
  • Len : Mar 26th

    No, it’s already expensive to buy everything to go backpacking. Cost already turns new people off.

    I already have to pay 3X as much as I have children, and they grow out of items.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

      Let’s just say you spend $1000 a year on strictly gear. Not boots or clothes or food, but just packs and stoves and bags/pads. That would only be $50 more IF the companies decided to pass along the entire tax.

      For your $50 you ensure the areas you like to recreate are properly funded.

      Personally, I spend less than that on gear annually and donate way more than that to various trail funds and outdoor nonprofits.

      Reply
  • Katie : Mar 26th

    I support the tax. As long as it goes the parks dept for repair and maintenance of our outdoor spaces. I do find it challenging to trust our government allocating money appropriately.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

      100% agree. If the fund is set up like the P-R it should work out fine.

      Reply
  • DMD : Mar 26th

    Do not support the concept at all. The government already receives a significant part of my income and bureaucrats have proven that they cannot manage money. This would be no different.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

      This money would go into a specific fund and can only be spend on public outdoor recreation. That’s how the PR works and it works very well.

      This is in sharp contrast to other acts that have the option to move the money around. Such as the Water Conservation Fund, for which the funds were only actually allocated to the intended place once in 60 years.

      Reply
  • August : Mar 26th

    This is a hard one. A tax sounds like it could help, but does it? Some states and municipalitys claim to care about the environment and yet they manage it like a business and have become dependent on the tax revenue generated from sales and tourist. At the expense of the local population. An example would be the city of Colorado Springs in Colorado. The city continues to hold onto the idea that it is a small city that cherishes the outdoors. Yet everything they have done is for only one thing and it’s not nature. The trails and scenery have been abused by weekend adventures who have no respect for nature and only hike to post on social media and the city council and mayor push the idea that moving here is great for your health while building larger parking lots for people to park thier cars before walking a trail. Sadly a tax won’t improve things instead it encourages waste, special projects more goverment pork and it prices out lower income individuals from the outdoors. And unfortunately it places a larger strain on trails and wild life.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

      These are valid concerns. I think the solution is in the funding allocation. The funds are not managed by local government. They could apply for funding but have to prove their projects would actually help their community and public lands as a whole.

      This also makes funding more equatable. Places like Colorado Springs doesn’t have any more right to the funds than a small trail town that wants to add a public easement.

      Reply
  • Franko : Mar 26th

    First off, public lands belong to us by definition. Secondly, we are required to use trails and can no longer go traipsing cross country. Also, huge revenues are gained by the Forest Service and other agencies from the sale of timber on public lands. Recreational use should come out of those funds. We already have to buy permits to visit national forests even if just to park your car. Our lands are entrusted to the government’s care for our benefit. No additional taxes or fees should be imposed and the existing ones should be dropped.

    Reply
    • Quinton Peters : Mar 27th

      I’m afraid you don’t understand how expensive it is to manage public lands. Even with all the fee structures in place there was a 20 million dollar backlog in maintenance. This was only fixed by the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act. That act has a 5 year plan for this then nothing again and the bills start to pile up.

      Reply
  • Jim : Mar 27th

    My town already has a tax to cover the ambulance costs that tourists scarper on. Not only do volunteers (often) and professional first responders get to rescue them, the tourists then leave their ambulance bills behind unpaid. Tourists covering their own costs would be no bad thing.

    Reply
  • Wolf of the Wind and Wood : Apr 1st

    I already pay taxes that pay for public land. If I choose to use that land more than someone else that is their issue not mine. I will not be paying more for something I already pay for. But then again I probably will because someone will decide taxes are more important than reason. That’s generally the way it goes. In a town close to where I live, they add a cell phone tax to your bill because you are using their “Airwaves”. I suppose I am the crazy one for thinking things should be reasonable and make sense.
    However… there is also a mountain not far from where I live. In my youth it was part of my stomping grounds. It was still actual wilderness mostly untouched by tourism and the like. The population in the area has exploded though and its close enough to new major towms now to where literally everyone and their grandmother flocks to it for a “weekend” in the woods. If you can manage which many people find they cant, making it to the top provides a great view considering where it is. The last time I was up I was jumping over peoples heads from rock to rock to get down. Some areas are only large enough for single file and so many people head up now, you would be waiting hours for a break just to get past some sections of the trail. This area NEEDS heavy trail use tax to make people think twice about whether they actually want to be there. Plus, so many are just in the woods for a day to say theyve been to the woods once in their life. Trail clean up is required practically every day as a result.

    Reply

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