Skip Yowell of JanSport, the hippie who climbed the corporate ladder
The hugely popular backpack isn’t what it used to be. It’s much more.
Once the province of hikers and campers, the backpack is now used by just about anybody on the go. The overhead compartments on jetliners are stuffed with them. Some are designed to carry laptops and iPads. Small, stylish backpacks have convinced many women to give up their purses in favor of these hands-free mobile compartments.
One of the leaders of the movement to bring backpacks from obscurity to ubiquity is Skip Yowell, co-founder of JanSport and a frequent Rose Hotel guest. The JanSport name is synonymous with backpacks, as the company long ago became one of the largest designers and manufacturers of the strap-on bags.
Yowell isn’t resting on his laurels. The Kansas native has just released The Skip Yowell Collection, a high-end assortment of stylish and functional backpacks that includes one called Pleasanton, named after the northern California city that is home to The Rose Hotel.
The promotional brochure for The Skip Yowell Collection describes the new line like so: “Authentic packs designed with the versatility to transition from everyday life to unexpected destinations. Engineered for function and grace needed to face the challenges of life in the city.”
The Pleasanton is made of leather and waxed cotton twill, weighs just 2 pounds 10 ounces, and in addition to its main compartment has slots for a laptop and an iPad.
It’s the latest in a long line of successes that began when Yowell left his small home-town in Kansas for Seattle, the first step in a journey that led him to the top of the outdoor industry and around the world. In 1967, Yowell, his cousin Murray Pletz, and Murray’s wife Jan, founded JanSport with a determination to make the best and most dependable product on the market. Forty years later, it is one of the leading brand names in the outdoor industry.
Today, the San Leandro, Calif.-based company sells all manner of high-performance outdoor apparel and gear.
Yowell, now a celebrity in the outdoor industry, outlined his journey and principles for success in the book, The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains. The book is a behind-the-scenes look at how three hippies built a successful company during the Summer of Love. Given his many accomplishments and adventures, Yowell is also a sought-after speaker.
Over the years, Yowell has traveled the world and developed wide-ranging interests and hobbies that include hiking, camping, skiing, gardening, fly fishing, photography and winter sports.
He often drops his backpack at The Rose Hotel, where we are proud to count Skip Yowell as a frequent guest and friend.