As Outside’s gear editor, I’ll be one of the first to admit that, much to the chagrin of many of our readers, we cover some expensive stuff. Anytime we write about an $8,000 carbon mountain bike or $900 ski shell, I fully expect a deluge of negative Facebook and Twitter comments.
Believe me, I understand the ire. That’s why we seek to balance the reviews of that splurgy, aspirational gear with coverage of more affordable products you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to afford. As for the expensive stuff, we’ll continue to cover it, because it’s our job to showcase the coolest, most capable product out there.
That gear is about to get more expensive. In fact, the price of pretty much every product we cover in the magazine, in our semiannual Buyer’s Guides, and on the website is about to go up. And we have President Donald Trump’s latest tariffs on Chinese imports to thank.
The outdoor industry was largely (but not totally) spared in the initial rounds of tariffs, in March and June, which covered raw materials like steel and aluminum, but also a broad range of consumer products, among them e-bikes and bike computers. Under the proposed new tariffs, things get more complicated: everything from ski gloves and knit hats to titanium stoves and knives will be taxed 10 to 25 percent as they enter the U.S. Outdoor brands have already gone on record saying that the increased cost will be shifted onto consumers. Cycling-advocacy group People for Bikes told Outside last week that it expects prices for bikes and accessories to increase 25 percent. That $8,000 carbon mountain bike I mentioned before? You’re looking at an additional two grand. That’s untenable. “It will force some companies to discontinue popular and profitable products and cease the development of new products that could significantly grow the company and the overall outdoor recreation economy,” Outdoor Industry Association international-trade manager Rich Harper said in his testimony before Congress in August. “And it will put many of these products out of the reach of U.S. consumers.”
It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario for some companies. Brent Merriam, COO of NEMO, told Outside that brands could cope with the tariffs by raising prices and losing business as a result, or charge the same old prices, absorb the additional cost themselves, and go out of business. And, as Harper said in his testimony, it’s the smallest brands that stand to be hit hardest. More expensive gear is also liable to drive consumers away from pricier U.S.–made or distributed gear manufactured from tariffed materials. And as we reported last week, with the de minimus loophole that excludes imported personal online purchases under $800 from taxes, you might be more inclined to buy gear from sites like Amazon, which further undermines smaller U.S. companies and could result in you landing a knockoff—the very thing Trump claims these tariffs are meant to curb.
In the end, the rising expense of gear becomes yet another barrier to getting outside. You could argue that no one really needs the latest, most bomber skis or packs to enjoy nature. But under Trump’s tariffs, the affordable products could soon become the expensive products, and what was once merely expensive will be accessible only to professional athletes and the one percent.
Now’s the time to speak up. The public-comment period for the new tariffs ends Wednesday, and you can submit your feedback to the government here. This administration has made concerted attack after concerted attack on access to the outdoors, from shrinking public lands to forcing up the cost of your camp stove. One of the things we here at Outside have been emphasizing lately is ways to broaden access and inclusiveness. As many of you have repeated in letters and online comments, the outdoors are for everyone, not just those who can afford it.