Co-Fouder of The North Face Died Today in Kayaking Accident in Patagonia

Miles Clark | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Doug Tomkins.
Doug Tompkins.

Doug Tompkins, billionaire & co-founder of The North Face & Esprit, has died of hypothermia resulting from a kayak accident in Chilean Patagonia today.

“Since leaving the business world in 1989, Tompkins dedicated himself to environmental activism and land conservation. Along with his wife, Kris Tompkins, he bought and conserved over 2 million acres (8,100 km2) of wilderness in Chile and Argentina, more than any other private individual in the region, thus becoming one of the the largest private land-owners in the world.” – Wikipedia

The 72-year-old was paddling his kayak with a group of 5 others including Patagonia clothing company’s founder Yvon Chouinard, when their kayaks flipped into the 40ºF waters of Chile’s General Carrera Lake.

5 of the group made it to land but Doug remained in the frigid water until the Chilean Navy was able to rescue him.

Lake General Carrera
Lake General Carrera

Doug was flown to the Coyhiaque Regional Hospital but did not survive.

“In these extremely serious cases of hypothermia, survival is very rare.” – Carlos Salazar, the hospital’s director of the emergency unit

According to the Chilean website,, at 11am today, the port captain of the General Carrera lake received a call informing him that 6 foreign kayakers were requesting rescue.

At 1pm, the local maritime search and rescue sent the a Maritime Patrol PM-2050 rescue boat.  A rescue helicopter was also sent to help.  The boat rescued 3 of the kayakers and the helicopter rescued the other 3.

The Marble Cathedral in Lake General Carrera.
The Marble Cathedral in Lake General Carrera.

Wind and large waves reportedly caused the kayaks to overturn.

Doug Tompkins was native of Millbrook, NY.  He co-founded The North Face in 1964.  Tompkins was considered an accomplished mountaineer, surfer, skier, and kayaker.  His second wife, Kris, was the CEO of Patagonia clothing company for 20 years.

Map showing location of General Carrera Lake, Chile
Map showing location of General Carrera Lake, Chile

Doug and Kris had been living in South America of late.  They have bought up lots of land in Argentine and Chilean Patagonia in an effort to preserve the land.  Doug was one of the largest private land owners in world owning over 2 million acres of land in the wilderness of Chile and Argentina.  This land was all purchased in the name of conservation.

Thanks, Doug.

Doug and Kris Tomkins
Doug and Kris Tompkins
The Marble Cathedral in Lake General Carrera.
The Marble Cathedral in Lake General Carrera.

Related Articles

2 thoughts on “Co-Fouder of The North Face Died Today in Kayaking Accident in Patagonia

  1. the facts seem in disarray or else the report is in dispute. were five of six picked up by the coast guard chopper and boat, or did they “make it to shore” on their own? did the call for rescue happen at 11am and the coast guard sent a boat at 1pm, as it says above? why do these mountain countries refer to ‘foreigners’ when there is an accident, instead of visitors, travelers, paddlers, climbers or guests? It’s because they un-officially decline any responsibility for ‘foreigners’ behavior. which is fine by me, but let’s know the term for what it is.

  2. How incredibly sad. Doug seemed like an incredible human being who dedicated his life and his fortune to saving the environment. I’ll always remember him from the film 180 degrees south. He seemed like a stand up guy. Rest in Peace Doug.

Got an opinion? Let us know...