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February 2, 2007

News & Opinion: Adventure sports, Mother Nature's fury, and a lesson on tents

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:10 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

I love adventure sports (jumping out of planes in Arizona, canyoning paragliding in Switzerland, white water rafting in West Virginia, rock climbing in Colorado [despite my fear of heights]). You can imagine my excitement when I saw that the co-founder of JanSport, Skip Yowell, was publishing a book: The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains.

<-- That's the cover

Last year at BEA, I picked up an excerpt and got a free JanSport backpack (not a bad deal).Jack and Todd had to listen to me quote the excerpt and laugh to myself all the way home. Skip's stories are fantastic.
Once, back in 1971, JanSport was trying some grassroots marketing for a new A-frame tent they had just developed. The best way to get coverage: let news people try out the product. Skip, several colleagues (from JanSport: Murray, Jan, from REI: Gary Rose and Dave Chantler) and a photographer from the Seattle Times adventured out on a three-day, 21-mile cross-country ski trip in the Washington mountains.
The first night, Mother Nature proved to be in a terrible mood and treated them to a blizzard. Even the fire inside their JanSport tent would not stay lit. So they did what any camper would do when stuck in a blizzard, huddled together and hoped for the best.
About three o'clock in the morning the zipper on the tent door broke, launching the door flap into an immediate and rapid spasm. The wind-whipped snow gladly swirled inside the new opening. Then, the tent pole which had secured the door was yanked from its moorings and began to spin around like a helicopter propeller blade. Jan thought our tent was trying to kill us.

That's just the beginning. They managed to somewhat secure the tent, trying to keep the snow from joining the huddle. Ice quickly befriended the inside walls of the tent crushing any hopes for a quick shut eye.
No, it wasn't a walk in the park (nor did they get the media coverage they wanted) but the team took something away. They realized the A-frame tent was not the best it could be and sought to create an even better model.
[There's a long story here on the creation part.]
In the end, that blizzard led to the invention of the first dome tent. I'm sure you've seen one. Nearly every tent made these days is in the same form. Amazing what one night of Mother Nature's fury can do and the story doesn't even stop there.
What I've read of the book, I really, really enjoy. I highly suggest checking it out if you're interested in the starts of JanSport and some well-written stories.
Enjoy your weekend!