Made in WA

Outdoor Gear Invented in Washington

Our state's obsession with hiking and skiing is patented.

Edited by Benjamin Cassidy By Zoe Sayler and Allison Williams August 23, 2022 Published in the Fall 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Don Ibsen, center, water skis on Lake Washington in 1955 with his sons, Donald G., left, and Ronald William, right.

Water Skis

In 1928, Ballard’s Don Ibsen nailed tennis shoes to planks of wood with wide tips, then flagged down boaters on Lake Washington to try out his homemade water skis. He soon earned recognition as one of the sport’s founders.


In 1972, three former Boeing engineers—two of whom had been ejected in the company’s infamous mass layoffs—replaced closed-cell foam sleeping pads with a self-inflating air mattress that insulated a camper from the cold ground. They dubbed the product Therm-a-Rest.

Trapper Nelson Packboard

The sealskin packboard of a Native guide in Alaska inspired Lloyd Nelson to develop a frame pack that redistributed weight on the shoulders for an easier carry. Though he struggled to market it in the 1920s, the Bremerton shipyard worker’s design formed the basis of modern backpacking gear.

Fiberglass Skis

Vashon Island’s Bill Kirschner created a new way to slice through snow in his veterinary equipment manufacturing shop in the early 1960s, even as a similar version was being developed in Europe. Kirschner founded K2, perfected a wet wrap technique for manufacturing, and tested his designs at Crystal Mountain.

Kula Cloth

Pained at the discarded toilet paper she saw on a Cascade hike, Everett’s Anastasia Allison upgraded the reusable pee cloth in 2018 with anti-microbial silver thread, a waterproof side festooned with locally produced patterns, and a snap closure to attach to backpacks.

Cruiser Shirt

Filson’s precursor to the modern shacket, patented in 1914, owes its longtime popularity to serious outdoorspeople—from Gold Rush hopefuls to members of the U.S. Forest Service to timber cruisers who gave the signature shirt its name.

Quilted Down Jacket

There’s a truly wild story behind this Eddie Bauer creation.

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