Douglas Tompkins, Founder Of North Face, Dies At 72

Douglas Tompkins, Founder Of North Face, Dies At 72
Tug and kayaks, San Jacinto River, Channelview, Texas 0226111300 Patrick Feller / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Founder of North Face, Inc. and conservationist, Douglas Tompkins, died after a kayaking accident in Chile. He was 72.


Tompkins died from severe hypothermia, according to a statement from the regional government’s health department. It further said that the accident occurred on General Carrera lake in the Patagonia region.

Chilean Senator, Juan Pablo Letelier, tweeted his condolences. “Very sad the passing of Douglas Tompkins, a man who stood up to major interests to defend the Patagonia,” Letelier’s tweet said.

Born in 1943 in Ohio and growing up in Millbrook, N.Y., Tompkins was a ski racer, rock climber and alpinist. He founded the California Mountaineering Guide Service in 1963. The next year, he founded North Face in North Beach. The retail company sells high performance climbing and backpacking equipment. In the 1960s, he also started his fashion company, Esprit Holdings Ltd.

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According to Bloomberg, he sold both North Face and Esprit Holdings and acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Chile and Argentina. He and his second wife, Kris Tompkins, dedicated themselves to building parks and preserving wildlife. In 1991, Tompkins bought the Reñihué Farm, spread out over an area of 42000 acres, and founded the Pumalín Project to protect and preserve the land’s native rain forest.

“I’ve never come in personal contact with anybody who could think so big,” his daughter, Quincey Tompkins Imhoff, said. “He had the ability to walk his talk. And the mark he left in terms of conservation and vision will live on. He used to always tell me, ‘Don’t let your imagination get in the way of your potential.’ He is gone, but he will not be forgotten.”

According to SFGate, Tompkins is survived by his wife, daughter, mother Faith Tompkins, brother John Tompkins, daughter Summer Tompkins Walker, and five grandchildren.