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Kayaking, Canoeing & Rafting

Tragedy In Patagonia: Co-Founder Of The North Face Killed In Kayaking Accident

Douglas Tompkins has died at the age of 72.

The North Face is an outdoor company that virtually everyone on the planet is familiar with. Their logo is synonymous with authenticity, and quality; a symbol of a brand that epitomises the spirit of adventure.

With that in mind, it is with much sadness that we have to report to you the death of North Face co-founder Douglas Tompkins.

Tompkins, 72, was kayaking in Southern Chile when he fell into near-freezing waters. He was rushed to hospital in Coyhaique, the regional capital of Patagonia, with acute hypothermia and died six hours later.

The incident happened on Lake General Carrera when extremely high winds managed to flip the kayak that Tompkins was floating in.


Tompkins, who also co-founded the Esprit apparel brand, spent millions of dollars over the last 25 years on the financing of national parks. With the help of his wife Kristine, it is thought that he saved an estimated two million acres of South American ecosystems.

In 1989, Tompkins abandoned his corporate big-money lifestyle in San Francisco and moved to the wilds of Patagonia. He spent months hiking, kayaking, and exploring the rain forests. During this remarkable time in his life, Tompkins adopted the intrinsic values of the ecology movement. From this point onwards, he began a determined and hard-fought battle on issues of conservation.

Starting out in Chile, before moving on to Argentina, he campaigned tirelessly with environmental activists in an attempt to stop developers tearing through pristine forests, wetlands, and coastal prairies. Tompkins was harassed by the Chilean government for this, and clashed with businessmen as he tried to limit the environmental impact of logging and farming.

The positive consequences of his efforts can be seen in what occurred during the presidency of Sebastián Pinéra between 2010 and 2014. Inspired by the work of Tompkins, self-made billionaire Pinéra bought up a huge portion of Chiloe Island and turned it into a landmark of environmental conservation. This was a marked difference from the approach of other Chilean presidents, who often saw Tompkins as a nuisance that refused to go away.

We’d like to take this opportunity to salute Tompkins for everything he’s done, not only with The North Face but also for all of his wonderful environmental work. Our thoughts are with his friends, family, and colleagues at what must be an extremely difficult time.

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