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A Brief History of JanSport


In the 1960’s, Skip Lowell and Murray Pletz, both self professed hippies and hikers, had an idea. Pletz had entered a competition sponsored by Alcoa Aluminum. He had created a lightweight, comfortable frame for a backpack. Pletz won the competition and with the earnings the two men would set out on an adventure, in the world of business, a new kind of adventure for them. They would use the prize money to create a new kind of backpack.

They knew from their own experiences what kind of product people would need. They needed a pack that would stand up to adventure and the challenge of hiking. Lowell and Pletz would focus on comfort and functionality. This had to be a product people could count on, through adventure and exploration. They began making backpacks with aluminum frames.

Since neither of the two men could sew, they asked Pletz’s, then girlfriend, to sew for them. The three worked in an old transmission repair building. Pletz’s girlfriend, Jan Lewis, would sew the packs, and the guys put the packs onto the new aluminum frames. Soon after starting, Pletz married Jan Lewis and thus the name of the business became, JanSport.

Skip Yowell would test each backpack, a sort of road test (if you will). Only, he would hike with the packs on trails to make sure of the durability and functionality. He knew full well, from experience, what standards the product had to meet, to fulfill the needs of his fellow hikers.

They were a success, but this didn’t compare to how successful they would become in the years to follow. Murray Pletz would leave the company, but Lewis and Yowell continued on with the company. The two created a “panel-loading pack”. Not like the backpacks of old, in the early 70’s this new idea would get them their first patent. In 1972, they created a backpack specifically for a Himalayan expedition. With this creation they gained more notoriety.

The Kirshner Company purchased JanSport, but JanSport products flourished. In 1975 they created trail packs and day packs, which they still sell today. The company would change hands several times, once in ’82 and again ’86. In 1996 they came out with a waterproof bottomed pack. These packs would be great for items such as electronics and a safe and easy way for hikers to take music to the trails.

After the “Columbine Shootings” in Colorado, they created a clear view pack, in an effort to make schools safer.

In 2002, JanSport produced a line of products for professional use. Laptop Backpacks, shoulder bags and crossover packs for the professional women. Travel bags and carry-on luggage were added to their lines. Totes, luggage, and duffel bags are offered by JanSport.

JanSport has become known worldwide for their quality and variety products.

Think about it. Are there any old hippies out there? Be creative, dare to dream, you could write your own success story.


Source by Ella Whitfield

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