JanSport, the Seattle-based backpack manufacturer, announced Wednesday that company co-founder Skip Yowell has died “following an illness,” according to a company press release. He was 69 years old.
Yowell founded JanSport in Seattle in 1967 with his cousin, Murray Pletz, and Janice Lewis, a seamstress and Pletz’s wife. (The “Jan” in JanSport is derived from her name.) The company is currently the world’s largest maker of backpacks and is owned by VF Corporation, a global apparel company. Yowell had a hand in JanSport’s innovative panel-load packs, dome tent, and waist suspension flexible frame pack. He also served as a board member of the Outdoor Industry Association intermittently, beginning in 1979.
Yowell was a longtime friend of the magazine and has a special place in Outside’s history, founder Larry Burke said Wednesday. "He bought the first ad in the magazine,” Burke said. “He was the guy that got us going."