Title:
Convertible dual use bag for use with a portable enclosure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A convertible dual use bag is usable as a carrying member for a folded portable enclosure. When the enclosure is opened and set up, the bag may be opened up flat, and used as a floor. The bag includes a large multi-layered fabric sheet. The outer face of the sheet is provided with binding straps and carrying straps, for use when the bag is used as a carrying member. The inner surface of the sheet is free from straps and fasteners, and may be used as the upward facing floor surface. In its first use mode, the bag is used to enclose a collapsed portable enclosure such as a tent or ice shanty, including struts or frame sections and a fabric shell. The binding straps may be used to house and surround the components of the enclosure, so that these components are securely stowed within the bag. The dual use bag also includes carrying straps which permit the bag to be carried by the user.



Inventors:
Reis, Michael (Grand Blanc, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/364572
Publication Date:
08/03/2006
Filing Date:
02/28/2006
Assignee:
Eastman Holding Company (Flushing, MI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
135/133
International Classes:
E04H15/36; A45F4/04; E04H15/44
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HELVEY, PETER N.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARRIER BLACKMAN AND ASSOCIATES (24101 NOVI ROAD, SUITE 100, NOVI, MI, 48375, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A dual-use bag having a first use in storing and transporting a collapsed portable enclosure and a second use as a floor structure in an assembled, erected portable enclosure, the dual-use bag comprising a multi-layered, flexible sheet, at least one carrying strap, and a plurality of binding straps, the sheet comprising an inner surface and an outer surface, the at least one carrying strap and the plural binding straps being fixed to an outer surface of the sheet so that when the dual-use bag is used for storing and transporting, the plural binding straps encircle the collapsed portable enclosure and maintain the portable enclosure within the sheet, and the at least one carrying strap is configured to receive a shoulder of a user between the carrying strap and the bag.

2. The dual-use bag of claim 1 wherein the sheet comprises an insulation layer and an outer layer, the insulation layer overlying the outer layer.

3. The dual-use bag of claim 2 wherein the insulation layer comprises substantially the same size and shape as the outer layer.

4. The dual-use bag of claim 2 wherein the insulation layer comprises a size which is less than that of the outer layer such that the insulation layer overlies a portion of the outer layer.

5. The dual-use bag of claim 1 wherein the sheet comprises an outer layer, an inner layer, and an insulation layer extending between the outer and inner layers.

6. The dual-use bag of claim 1 wherein the multi-layered sheet comprises a waterproof outer layer.

7. The dual-use bag of claim 1 wherein the sheet comprises a peripheral edge having an elongate octagonal shape, the sheet comprising a first pair of parallel lateral edges corresponding to opposed long sides of the elongate octagon, a longitudinal axis that lies parallel to the first pair of edges, a second pair of parallel end edges corresponding to opposed short sides of the elongate octagon, the second pair of edges oriented perpendicular to the first pair of edges, a transverse axis that lies parallel to the second pair of edges, wherein said plural binding straps are arranged in a spaced, parallel configuration and are oriented to lie in parallel with the transverse axis, and said at least one carrying strap is oriented to lie in parallel with the longitudinal axis, the plural binding straps do not overlap the at least one carrying strap, each of the plural binding straps and each the at least one carrying straps are fixed to the outer surface of the sheet at a location spaced from the peripheral edge such that each respective strap includes a portion which overlies the outer surface of the sheet.

8. The dual-use bag of claim 1 wherein each of the plural binding straps is adjustable in length, each of the plural binding straps comprising a first end, and a second end opposed to the first end, the first and second ends comprising a connection member whereby, for each of the plural binding straps, the first end is detachably securable to the second end

9. The dual-use bag of claim 1 wherein each of the at least one carrying straps is adjustable in length and includes a padded portion.

10. A dual-use carrying bag in combination with a portable enclosure, the dual-use carrying bag having a first use in storing and transporting the portable enclosure when the portable enclosure is in a collapsed and folded configuration, the dual use bag having a second use as a floor structure in the portable enclosure when the portable enclosure is in an assembled configuration, the dual-use carrying bag comprising a multi-layered, flexible sheet, at least one carrying strap, and a plurality of binding straps, the sheet comprising an inner surface and an outer surface, the at least one carrying strap and the plural binding straps being fixed to an outer surface of the sheet so that when the dual-use carrying bag is used for storing and transporting the portable enclosure, the portable enclosure is substantially surrounded by the sheet and the plural binding straps substantially encircle both the sheet and the collapsed portable enclosure, and maintain the portable enclosure within the sheet, and the at least one carrying strap is configured to receive a shoulder of a user between the carrying strap and the bag, and when the dual-use carrying bag is used for a floor structure in the assembled portable enclosure, the sheet is capable of fully opening so as to lie in a flat, non-self-overlapping configuration.

11. The dual-use carrying bag in combination with a portable enclosure of claim 10 wherein the portable enclosure comprises a flexible fabric covering and a frame structure, wherein the frame stricture cooperates with the covering to provide a first configuration in which the portable enclosure is assembled to form a three-dimensional free-standing enclosure, and to provide a second configuration in which the frame structure folds into a collapsed, compact configuration.

12. The dual-use carrying bag in combination with a portable enclosure of claim 10 wherein the portable enclosure further includes a plurality of anchor stakes, and wherein when the dual-use carrying bag is used for storing and transporting the portable enclosure, the portable enclosure and anchor stakes are substantially surrounded by the sheet, and the plural binding straps substantially encircle the sheet, the collapsed portable enclosure, and the anchor stakes, and maintain the portable enclosure and anchor stakes within the sheet.

13. The dual-use carrying bag in combination with a portable enclosure of claim 10 wherein the portable enclosure further includes a plurality of cinch straps, and wherein when the dual-use carrying bag is used for storing and transporting the portable enclosure, the portable enclosure and cinch straps are substantially surrounded by the sheet, and the plural binding straps substantially encircle the sheet, the collapsed portable enclosure, and the cinch straps, and maintain the portable enclosure and cinch straps within the sheet.

14. A method of using a dual-use bag, the dual-use bag having a first use in storing and transporting a collapsed portable enclosure, and a second use as a floor structure within the portable enclosure when the portable enclosure is in an assembled, erected configuration, the dual use bag comprising a multi-layered, flexible sheet, at least one carrying strap, and a plurality of binding straps, the sheet comprising an inner surface and an outer surface, the at least one carrying strap and the plural binding straps being fixed to an outer surface of the sheet so that when the dual-use bag is used for storing and transporting, the plural binding straps encircle the collapsed portable enclosure and maintain the portable enclosure within the sheet, and the at least one carrying strap is configured to receive a shoulder of a user between the carrying strap and the bag, the method of using the dual-use carrying bag for storing and transporting a collapsed portable enclosure comprising the following steps: step 1, disposing the sheet on a supportive surface such that the outer surface faces down and confronts the supportive surface, and such that the sheet is opened to a substantially flat and non-self-overlapping configuration; step 2, placing the collapsed, compactly arranged portable enclosure on the inner surface of the sheet at a substantially central location of the sheet; step 3, folding a first pair of opposed peripheral edges of the sheet toward the central location of the sheet so as to overlie both the center location of the sheet and the portable enclosure; step 4, securing the folded first pair of opposed peripheral edges in place by connecting respective first ends of the binding straps to corresponding second ends of the binding straps; step 5, folding a second pair of opposed peripheral edges of the sheet toward the center location of the sheet so as to overlie the portable enclosure and the folded first pair of opposed peripheral edges; step 6, connecting a respective first end of the at least one carrying strap to a connector disposed on the outer surface of the sheet, whereby the dual-use carrying bag is folded and bound; and step 7, mounting the folded and bound dual-use carrying bag on the shoulder of the user by receiving the shoulder of the user between the at least one carrying strap and the dual use carrying bag.

15. The method of using the dual-use carrying bag of claim 14 wherein the method of using the dual use carrying bag as a floor structure within the portable enclosure when the portable enclosure is in an assembled, erected configuration comprises the following steps: step 1, placing the folded and bound dual-use carrying bag on a supportive surface such that the second pair of opposed peripheral edges face upward; step 2, disconnecting the respective first end of the at least one carrying strap from the connector disposed on the outer surface of the sheet; step 3, unfolding the second pair of opposed peripheral edges of the sheet so that respective edges of the second pair of opposed peripheral edges are positioned on opposed sides of the collapsed portable enclosure; step 4, disconnecting respective first ends of the binding straps from the corresponding second ends of the binding straps; step 5, unfolding the first pair of opposed peripheral edges of the sheet away from the central location of the sheet so that respective edges of the first pair of opposed peripheral edges are positioned on opposed sides of the collapsed portable enclosure, and so that the collapsed portable enclosure is fully accessable; and step 6, placement of dual-use carrying bag within the assembled, erected portable enclosure so that the outer surface confronts the supportive surface, and so that the dual-use carrying bag is laid out in a generally flat configuration within an interior space of the portable enclosure.

16. The method of using the dual-use carrying bag of claim 14, wherein the sheet comprises a peripheral edge having an elongate octagonal shape, the sheet further comprising the first pair of opposed peripheral edges corresponding to opposed, parallel, long sides of the elongate octagon, a longitudinal axis that lies parallel to the first pair of opposed peripheral edges, the second pair of opposed peripheral edges corresponding to opposed, parallel, short sides of the elongate octagon, the second pair of opposed peripheral edges oriented perpendicular to the first pair of opposed peripheral edges, a transverse axis that lies parallel to the second pair of opposed peripheral edges, wherein said plural binding straps are arranged in a spaced, parallel configuration and are oriented to lie in parallel with the transverse axis, and said at least one carrying strap is oriented to lie in parallel with the longitudinal axis, the plural binding straps do not overlap the at least one carrying strap, each of the plural binding straps and each the at least one carrying straps are fixed to the outer surface of the sheet at a location spaced from the peripheral edge such that each respective strap includes a portion which overlies the outer surface of the sheet.

17. The method of using the dual use carrying bag of claim 14, wherein each of the plural binding straps is adjustable in length, each of the plural binding straps comprising a first end, and a second end opposed to the first end, the first and second ends comprising a connection member whereby, for each of the plural binding straps, the first end is detachably securable to the second end 18. The method of using the dual use carrying bag of claim 14, wherein each of the at least one carrying straps is adjustable in length and includes a padded portion.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority from U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/658,280, filed on Mar. 3, 2005, which, in turn, was a Continuation-in-Part of, and claims priority under 35 USC 120 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/060,079, filed Feb. 17, 2005, which, in turn, claimed priority under 35 USC 119 from U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/545,742, filed Feb. 18, 2004. The complete disclosure of each of these priority documents is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to a carrying bag for transporting portable structures used in outdoor sporting activities. More specifically, the present invention relates to a dual use carrying bag having a first configuration in which it is used as a carrying member for a collapsed or folded portable enclosure and, upon assembly of the portable enclosure, the carrying bag has a second configuration in which it is used as a floor member for the portable enclosure.

2. Brief Description of the Background Art

A wide variety of portable outdoor enclosures are used in an equally wide variety of outdoor sporting activities. Such enclosures range from lightweight hiking tents to large, heavy-duty lodge tents to hunting blinds to ice fishing shanties. Each type of enclosure has evolved to meet the specific needs and requirements of the particular sporting activity.

Because of the harsh conditions in which ice fishing takes place, shelters have long been used by ice fishermen. However, early structures were large, unwieldy wooden framed structures, that were towed out on the ice as an intact body. Although sturdy and somewhat weatherproof, these structures were not easily moved from place to place on a frozen body of water. Further, such structures could not be easily dismantled and moved to other fishing lakes. In keeping with the advent of modem tent technology, ice fishing enclosures now often employ technologies that provide collapsible, lightweight, and portable structures and that provide good protection from the elements.

The background art discloses many different outdoor enclosures of various sizes, shapes, and methods of construction. A primary goal in each of the designs for outdoor enclosures is to offer an effective shelter to protect the occupants from the elements of weather. Below, some examples of known approaches for assembling and fabricating sporting enclosures are described.

Collapsible, foldable, and easily disassembled frame structures are known. Examples of such structures are disclosed in U.S. patents to Beavers (U.S. Pat. No. 3,810,482), Foster (U.S. Pat. No. 4,938,243), and Stumbo (U.S. Pat. No. 5,628,338). Each of these patents show collapsible frames used to support a flexible covering for use as tents, blinds, or other shelters. Beavers and Stumbo each show frames which include support poles extending from a central hub, and Stumbo discloses a frame structure in which includes several sub-frames, each of which supports a portion of a flexible covering.

Many flexible coverings used in known collapsible enclosures are supported by the frame structures to provide the outer shell of the enclosure, and are commonly made of fabric. The flexible coverings normally include at least one door opening and one or more window openings. Window openings may be vacant, or alternatively, may be covered with transparent sheeting, screen, a closeable flap, or combinations thereof. Examples of such coverings are disclosed in U.S. patents to Smith (U.S. Pat. No. 3,709,237) and to Husted (U.S. Pat. No. 4,067,346), which each disclose respective fabric extensions at a lower edge of a covering, for use in securing the covering to the ground.

A variety of approaches have been used in the prior art to stabilize a collapsible enclosure in a desired location, in all types of weather environments. A common strategy is to stake the enclosure to the ground, either by securing a lead line between a buried stake and the enclosure, or by staking the flexible covering directly to the ground. A variety of tent stakes are known, for implantation in a variety of soil types. U.S. patent D 363,755 to Diederich depicts a tent stake including a threaded shaft.

Of the group of sporting enclosures, ice fishing tents provide features which address the particular requirements of this sport, which is performed in an extreme winter environment. Such enclosures must be able to accommodate high winds associated with broad open expanses of ice, and must protect the sportsperson from the environment. Such enclosures must also be portable, and should be capable of being easily assembled in very cold conditions. They must also provide access to the ice surface from the interior of the structure, while providing environmental protection. A variety of ice fishing tents are known, and examples thereof are found in US patents to Kashuba (U.S. Pat. No. 3,570,507), Klopfstein et al. (U.S. Pat. No. 4,926,893), and Thompson (U.S. Pat. No. 5,749,387).

Although the known sporting enclosures and ice fishing shanties are useful for their respective intended purposes, a further need still exists in the art for an improved apparatus for manually transporting the portable enclosures to a desired location within the unfavorable elements of winter weather. In particular, there is a need for an improved carrying device that can compactly and securely stow the portable enclosure while protecting the contents from the elements. Furthermore, there is a need for providing the portable enclosure with a means for further protecting the user from the effects long periods of inactivity on a cold ground surface. Specifically, an insulated barrier provided between the user and the ground surface would have positive benefits in terms of user comfort.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a portable outdoor structure adapted for use in the field of ice fishing. A structure according to a selected embodiment of the invention is quickly and easily assembled and disassembled, provides protection from the harsh winter environment, and is sized and shaped to accommodate the space requirements of the sport of ice fishing.

Accordingly, in a first embodiment of the present invention, the inventive portable outdoor structure includes a durable, lightweight flexible covering or shell cooperatively mounted on an easily disassembled, lightweight frame structure to provide a floorless covered enclosure. The shell includes a skirt portion on each sidewall, in which the skirt portion extends out substantially parallel to a supportive substrate in an assembled configuration of the structure. The ends of the skirt portion extend out beyond the sidewall to which it is attached, on both sides of the sidewall. Adjacent skirt portion ends may be placed in an overlapping stacked configuration to align through holes formed therein, and to provide a strong reinforced spot for staking the housing to the ice surface or similar substrate.

The inventive structure also includes a plurality of anchor stakes adapted for use in securing the shell of the structure to an ice surface.

The flexible shell forms the plurality of walls and the roof of the enclosure, and is open at the bottom thereof. This feature is advantageous to the sport of ice fishing, because one or more holes can be formed in the ice within the enclosure, with no limitation on the placement thereof.

The lower edge of each sidewall of the shell is provided with a skirt portion extending therefrom. The skirt portion extends along substantially the entire lower edge of the covering, and has a width that is wider than the sidewall, such that the respective ends of the skirt portion extend beyond the sidewall on either side thereof. Each skirt end is provided with a rigid plastic or metal grommet. Thus, when in use, the skirt ends of adjacent sidewalls overlap one another in such a manner that the grommets overlie each other in stacked vertical alignment. The grommets are provided in the skirt ends for strength and reinforcement in staking the enclosure to the ice surface. Further, snow, rocks or weighted materials can be layered on the upper side of the skirt portion, to maintain the lower edge of the tent sidewalls adjacent the ice surface. This is especially helpful in windy conditions.

If desired, openings can be formed in the shell to provide doors, windows, and/or vents. For example, one or more flexible plastic windows may be provided in the walls of the enclosure, to admit light therein. These windows may also include flap closures. A zippered door is disposed on one of the walls to permit ingress and egress. A vent may be provided in the ceiling of the shell, to provide ventilation and to reduce or prevent moisture condensation within the enclosure.

The flexible shell is supported from within by a frame apparatus, which includes a plurality of individual, expandable sub-frames. A sub-frame is provided for the ceiling and each wall, and each sub-frame comprises a single central hub which supports a plurality of radially extending struts. The respective distal end portions of the struts are releasably attached to the outer shell, which may be accomplished by placing the strut ends into sewn-in pockets provided for that purpose on the interior of the shell.

Optionally, the ceiling and at least one wall of the shell may be provided with a respective tensioning strap, which is adjustable to place tension on the relevant fabric panel, in order to better withstand wind.

Inventive anchor stakes are also provided as supports for the enclosure, and these stakes allow the skirt portion of the covering to be easily and securely fixed to an ice sheet, the ground, or other supportive substrate without pounding, drilling, or excessive exertion. The inventive stakes include a threaded lower end having a spiral tip thereon similar to a corkscrew, and an upper end formed into a handle. The stakes are used at the corners of the portable enclosure, passing through the skirt portions of the covering, to hold the portable enclosure in a desired location.

A second embodiment of the invention provides an enclosure having similar construction but having a different outer shape. In particular, the illustrated second embodiment is a generally dome-shaped housing structure, which also includes skirt portions having stackable end portions similar to those provided in the first embodiment. The housing structure in the second embodiment is supportable by a segmented strut frame structure, which may be adapted to be placed either inside or outside of the housing, and which can be attached to the housing using either fabric or elastic loops.

The present invention also encompasses a kit for use in constructing a portable ice fishing enclosure. The kit includes a plurality of the described sub-frames, along with the shell, made of thin flexible material that fits over the frame, and which tolerates and repels the elements of weather encountered outdoors in the winter. The kit also includes a plurality of anchor stakes for attaching the enclosure to a substrate, and a carrying bag for ease of storage and transportation. The anchor stakes are threaded at the ends thereof, are adapted to be screwed into a supportive substrate, and are especially adapted for screwing into a thick ice sheet.

The present invention also encompasses a method of assembling the disclosed portable outdoor enclosure.

The present invention further encompasses a dual use bag for use as a carrying member for a collapsed or folded portable enclosure and, upon assembly of the portable enclosure, for use in combination with the portable enclosure as a floor member for the enclosure.

The inventive dual use bag is a large multi-layered sheet formed of a durable fabric which includes a thermally insulating pad layer. The outer face of the sheet is provided with plural sets of straps for use when the bag is used as a carrying member. The inner face of the sheet is free from straps and fasteners, and in the exemplary embodiment is used as the upward facing floor surface.

In its first use mode, the dual use bag is used to enclose a collapsed portable enclosure such as an ice shanty. The collapsed enclosure typically consists of multiple struts or strut sections and a fabric shell. These items are securely enclosed within the bag so that no inadvertent loss of parts is possible. The dual use bag includes binding straps which maintain the bag in a wrapped, surrounding relationship about the components of the enclosure, so that the components of the enclosure are compactly and securely stowed within the bag. The dual use bag also includes carrying straps which permit the bag to be carried by the user.

In its second use mode, the dual use bag is used in an opened, laid out configuration to provide a floor mat in combination with floorless portable enclosures such as hunting blinds and ice shanties. In such enclosures, the invention is used to provide an insulated, protective covering for the open ground area in the assembled portable enclosure. The insulated floor mat provides a thermal barrier to maintain the warmth of the user, especially when used on frozen ground or on ice. The insulation also provides a comfortable padded surface. When used on the ground, the mat provides a clean, dry location on which gear can be placed. This is also true when the mat is used on ice, with the additional benefit that any melting of ice or snow is isolated from the user and gear.

The inventive dual use bag is equally advantageous when used with portable enclosures having an integral floor such as camping tents. In such enclosures, the inventive dual use bag is placed within the enclosure overlying the integral floor, and provides an insulated, padded surface thereon. Use of the invention as a floor member would obviate the need for individual thermally insulated and padded sleeping mats such as those known by the registered trademark Therm-a-Rest, thereby reducing the amount of gear required for tent camping.

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, the reader is referred to the following detailed description section, which should be read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Throughout the following detailed description and in the drawings, like numbers refer to like parts.

The present invention is not limited to its application to the details of construction and to the dispositions of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The present invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. In addition, it is to be understood that the phrases and terms employed herein are for the purposes of illustration and example, and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the concept upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an elevated perspective view of an assembled portable outdoor structure according to a first illustrative embodiment of the present invention, showing the skirt portions at the lower edge of the covering, and also showing the internal sub-frames and tensioning straps in phantom.

FIG. 2 is a detail view of a lower corner of the covering portion of the structure, showing the end portion of the skirt from one sidewall extending laterally outwardly beyond the sidewall, and the end portion of the skirt from an adjacent sidewall arranged to overlap it.

FIG. 3 is a detail view of the lower corner of the covering similar to FIG. 3, showing the respective end portions layered such that the grommets lie in vertical alignment, and showing, in an exploded manner, a stake positioned for insertion through the aligned grommets.

FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of the internal frame structure of the structure of FIG. 1, with the covering deleted from the drawing for illustrative purposes.

FIG. 5 is an exploded detail view showing the components of one sub-frame of the frame structure of FIG. 4, including the hub, the hub cap plate, and the struts, in which the bolt is oriented such that the bolt eye faces the interior of the enclosure.

FIG. 6 is a detail view of the hub portion of the sub-frame of FIG. 5, viewed from a vantage point inside of the shelter.

FIG. 7 is an exploded detail view showing the components of one sub-frame of the frame structure of FIG. 4, including the hub, the hub cap plate, and the struts, in which the bolt is oriented such that the bolt eye faces the exterior of the enclosure and in which a strut stabilizer is employed.

FIG. 8 is an isolated view of the strut stabilizer showing the pin engaging protrusion projecting from one surface of the circular plate.

FIG. 9 is a detail view of the hub portion of the sub-frame of FIG. 7, viewed from a vantage point outside of the shelter.

FIG. 10 is a detail view of a corner of a sidewall of the structure of FIG. 1 as viewed from the inside of the shelter, showing the distal end of a strut secured to the inner surface of the covering by insertion within a pocket formed on the inner surface of the covering.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the tensioning mechanism isolated from the tensioning straps, showing the textured bar overlying the base plate.

FIG. 12 is a side view of the tension-producing member, showing the tensioning straps extending from the tensioning mechanism.

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of an assembled portable outdoor structure according to a first illustrative embodiment of the present invention, showing cinch straps extending between the hub of each sidewall subframe and an anchor stake embedded in the substrate.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a stake used for attaching the structure of FIG. 1 to a supportive substrate, illustrating the threaded lower end, a looped handle formed on the upper end, and a wide flange provided between the upper end and lower end.

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a stake used for attaching the structure of FIG. 1 to a supportive substrate, illustrating the threaded lower end, a t-shaped handle formed on the upper end, and without a wide flange provided between the upper end and lower end.

FIG. 16 is a detail view of the of the lower tip end of the stakes of FIGS. 14 and 15, showing the helical shape of the lower end, and the angle θ of the terminal tip relative to the longitudinal axis of the stake.

FIG. 17 is an elevated perspective view of an assembled portable outdoor structure according to another illustrative embodiment of the present invention, showing the skirt portions at the lower edge of the covering; and

FIG. 18 is a top perspective view of a frame structure for the structure of FIG. 17, with the covering deleted from the drawing for illustrative purposes.

FIG. 19 is an illustration of a first kit according to another embodiment of the invention, including a covering, a frame consisting of five sub-frames, a plurality of stakes, and a carrying bag.

FIG. 20 is an illustration of a second kit according to another embodiment of the invention, including a covering, a frame consisting of five sub-frames, a plurality of stakes, a plurality of cinch straps and a carrying bag.

FIG. 21 is a top perspective view of a dual use carrying bag in a fully open, laid flat configuration with the inner surface facing upward showing the octagonal shape of the outer periphery, and showing two binding straps extending from a long side edge.

FIG. 22 is a top perspective view of the dual use carrying bag of FIG. 15 showing the bag in a partially folded configuration and secured in this configuration by the transversely extending binding straps.

FIG. 23 is a top perspective view of a dual use carrying bag in a fully open, laid flat configuration with the inner surface facing upward showing an alternative strap configuration wherein three binding straps extend from a long side edge.

FIG. 24 is a partial side sectional view of the dual use carrying bag showing the three layers used to construction the bag.

FIG. 25 is a partial side sectional view of the dual use carrying bag showing an alternative construction in which two layers are used to construct the bag.

FIG. 26 is a top perspective view of a dual use carrying bag in a fully open, laid flat configuration with the inner surface facing upward showing a first alternative insulation configuration.

FIG. 27 is a top perspective view of a dual use carrying bag in a fully open, laid flat configuration with the inner surface facing upward showing a second alternative insulation configuration.

FIG. 28 is a top perspective view of the dual use carrying bag in a fully folded and closed configuration.

FIG. 29 is a top perspective view of a dual use carrying bag in a fully open, laid flat configuration with the outer surface facing upward showing the attachment configuration for both the binding straps and the carrying straps.

FIG. 30 is a top perspective view of a dual use carrying bag in a fully open, laid flat configuration with the inner surface facing upward showing the disassemble, collapsed portable enclosure centrally placed on the inner surface.

FIG. 31 a front perspective view of a hook connector extending from an end of a strap member showing the elongated hook portion.

FIG. 32 is a side sectional view of the hook connector of FIG. 25.

FIG. 33 a front perspective view of a slot connector extending from an end of a strap member showing the widened slot portion.

FIG. 34 is a side sectional view of the slot connector of FIG. 27.

FIG. 35 is a side view of the hook portion of the hook connector received within the slot portion of the slot connector.

FIG. 36 shows the dual use carrying bag mounted on the shoulders of the user so that the portable enclosure is transported on the back of the user in a back-pack style.

FIG. 37 shows the dual use carrying bag opened on the floor of the portable enclosure to provide a padded thermal barrier between the use and the ground surface.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

First Embodiment—Overview

An illustrative embodiment of an inventive portable ice fishing enclosure according to the present invention will now be described, with reference to the drawing Figures. As shown in FIG. 1, in a fully assembled configuration thereof, a portable ice fishing enclosure 10 according to the selected embodiment includes a flexible outer covering, or shell, 20 supported by a frame 70, and secured to a supportive substrate 5 using a plurality of anchor stakes 130. The enclosure hereof is particularly adapted for use on an ice sheet as a supportive substrate 5.

The covering 20 is cooperatively supported by, and overlies the frame 70. The covering 20 provides an outer shell for the portable enclosure 10, and is formed of flexible sheet material. In the illustrated embodiment, the flexible sheet material is a woven synthetic fabric to provide the durability, flexibility and strength required for use in harsh environmental conditions.

The covering 20 includes a plurality of interconnected sidewalls 22 and a ceiling 24. The sidewalls 22 are arranged in a lateral edge-to-edge relationship, such that each of the sidewalls 22 is joined to an adjacent sidewall at each of its respective lateral edges, to form a closed section. The ceiling 24 is joined, at its peripheral edges, to the respective upper edges of the sidewalls 22, to close the upper end of the portable enclosure 10. The lower end of the portable enclosure 10 may be left open to allow the user to have access to substantially the entire ground surface area within the surrounding sidewalls.

Alternatively, if desired, a bag used to store and transport the enclosure in a collapsed configuration thereof may be adapted to be used as a floor in the assembled configuration of the enclosure, to cover part or all of the floor area inside of the enclosure.

The Outer Shell

In the first illustrative embodiment of the invention, shown in FIG. 1, the covering 20 of the enclosure 10 consists of four sidewalls 22 and a ceiling 24. However, it is within the scope of the invention to use only three sidewalls, or more than four sidewalls. For example, for a larger enclosure, five or six sidewalls may be provided.

One or more of the sidewalls 22 may be provided with a window opening 28. A transparent vinyl sheet insert 30 may be sewn over window opening 28, to allow natural light to enter into the interior space within the portable enclosure 10. The transparent vinyl sheet insert 30 may be covered with a selectively movable flexible window flap (not shown). If desired, only a portion of one edge of the transparent vinyl insert 30 may be fixed to a corresponding edge of the window opening 28 so as to allow the transparent vinyl insert 30 to be selectively openable. A selectively openable transparent vinyl insert 30 may also be layered over a screen insert (not shown).

The portable enclosure 10 includes at least one selectively closable door opening 36 formed in a sidewall 22, to permit ingress into, and egress from the enclosure 10. In the depicted embodiment, the door opening 36 is a closable door flap 38 that is secured to the sidewall 22 using conventional door closure means 40, which may include, but is not limited to, hook and loop fasteners, zippers, snaps, or ties.

A vent opening 42 is formed in the ceiling 24, and comprises a breathable vent insert 43 sewn therein which prevents environmental precipitation from entering into the interior of the enclosure 10, and which also allows adequate ventilation of the structure. The vent opening 42 may include a closable flap of fabric on the interior of the covering 20, and a screen panel may be provided as the vent insert 43.

The lower edge 44 of each sidewall 22 has a skirt portion 50 attached thereto along the entire width thereof, and the outer ends of skirt portion extend beyond the sidewall 22 at each side thereof. The skirt portion 50 is an elongate rectangular band formed of the same material as the tent body, and has a width that is greater than the width of the sidewall 22. The skirt portion 50 extends continuously along the entire lower edge 44 of the sidewall 22 such that the respective ends 54 of the skirt portion 50 extend beyond both lateral edges of the sidewall 22 (FIG. 2). Each end 54 of the skirt portion 50 is provided with a through hole 58. The edges of the through hole 58 are reinforced. In the illustrated embodiment, the through hole 58 is reinforced with a metal or high-strength plastic grommet 60.

In the assembled configuration of the enclosure 10, the sidewalls 22 extend substantially vertically upwardly, with each sidewall bowed slightly outwardly by its respective sub-frame 72 (FIG. 2), and the skirt portion 50 for each sidewall 22 extends out parallel to the substrate 5 and perpendicular to the sidewall 22, so as to overlie and confront the surface of the substrate 5.

As shown in FIGS. 2-3, in the assembled configuration of the enclosure, the respective end flaps of adjacent skirt portions overlap one another at the corners of the covering 20, to provide a strong support for the enclosure when the overlapped end flaps are attached to the substrate 5. At the corners of the portable enclosure 10, the respective ends 54 of the skirt portions 50 for adjacent sidewalls are arranged to lie in a layered, overlapping relationship. That is, the end 54 of the skirt portion 50 of one sidewall 22 overlies the end 54′ of the skirt portion 50′ of the adjacent sidewall 22′, so that the through hole 58 of the end 54 of the skirt portion 50 of the one sidewall overlies and is in vertical alignment with the through hole 58′ of the end 54′ of the skirt portion 50′ of the adjacent sidewall 22′, to form a vertically aligned through hole pair 66. Each through hole 58 of the through hole pair 66 is sized to receive the shank 134 of the anchor stake 130 therethrough, and has a diameter which is smaller than the diameter of the anchor stake's flange 136.

The Frame

Referring now to FIG. 4, the frame 70 cooperates with the covering 20 to provide a three-dimensional enclosure which is free standing, lightweight, and easily assembled and disassembled. In the depicted embodiment of the enclosure 10, the frame 70 includes five sub-frames 72 such that a e sub-frame 72 is provided for the ceiling 24, and separate sub-frames are also provided for each of the four respective sidewalls 22. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-2, the individual sub-frames 72 are not connected to one another. When assembled with the covering 20, the individual sub-frames 72 are discontiguous with each other.

Each sub-frame 72 includes a substantially cylindrical central hub 74, and further includes a plurality of struts 76, which are pivotally mounted to the hub 74 and extend outwardly therefrom. In the illustrated embodiment, four struts 76 are provided for each hub. However, it is within the scope of this invention to provide a hub having a fewer or greater number of struts 76 to accommodate variations in sidewall shape. For example, to accommodate a triangular sidewall 22, the hub may include only three struts. As a second example, in a structure comprising five sidewall panels 22, the correspondingly hexagonal ceiling 24 would require a hub which includes 5 struts.

As seen in FIGS. 5 and 6, the hub 74 is a substantially cylindrical block, which is formed from a strong, substantially solid plastic or metal material having a number of openings formed therein, as will be further described. The hub 74 has an outer face 92 for placement facing toward and confronting the interior surface of the covering 20, and an inner face 94 for placement facing the interior space of the portable enclosure 10, when the portable enclosure is assembled. The hub 74 has an arcuate peripheral edge surface 96 extending between the inner face 94 and the outer face 92.

The hub 74 also has a plurality of mounting apertures 98 formed therein. One mounting aperture 98 is provided for each strut 76. In the illustrated embodiment, four struts 76 are provided for each hub 74, and thus each hub 74 includes four mounting apertures 98. The mounting apertures 98 are positioned so as to surround, and be equidistantly spaced about, the axial centerline of the hub 74.

Each mounting aperture 98 includes an axially extending shaped through hole 99. The through holes 99 extend through the block of the hub 74, between the inner face 94 and the outer face 92. The inner surface of each through hole 99 is irregularly shaped, and includes both a pair of opposed key slots 102 and a stop slot 116. The hub 74 has a stop surface 118 formed therein at a lower end of the stop slot 116.

Each mounting aperture 98 further includes a plurality of radially extending grooves 100 formed in the outer face 92 thereof. Each of the radial grooves 100 extends radially inwardly from the peripheral edge surface 96 so as to terminate at and communicate with a respective mounting aperture 98.

Each strut 76 consists of an elongate semi-rigid rod having a shaped hub end 164 for mounting within the mounting apertures 98, and a distal end 166 opposed to the hub end 164. The rod may be made of a strong, flexible material such as plastic, a carbon composite tube, or fiberglass. The hub end 164 of each strut 76 includes a transversely extending pin which forms a key 110 positioned adjacent to the terminus of the hub end 164, and also includes a narrow, outwardly extending stop 114 formed on the terminus of the hub end 164. During assembly and in use, the key 110 is received within and pivotably supported by the key slots 102 of the through hole 99. Likewise, the stop 114 is supported by the stop surface 118 in the stop slot 116 of the through hole 99.

Once assembled, each strut 76 is positioned within the hub 74 such that the hub end 164 resides within a mounting aperture 98. Specifically, in the unfolded and opened position of the sub-frame 72 shown in FIGS. 2 and 6, the key 110 resides within the key slots 102, the stop 114 abuts the stop surface 118, and the hub end 164 of the strut 76 resides within a corresponding radial groove 100. In this fully opened configuration, the body portion 108 of the strut 76 extends radially outwardly from the peripheral edge surface 96 of the hub 74 (FIG. 6).

Once the struts 76 are positioned within the respective mounting apertures 98, the inner face 94 of the hub 74 is covered with a circular flat hub cap 104. The hub cap 104 includes a central hole 103, which aligns with a threaded bolt hole 120 formed through the axial centerline of the hub 74. The hub cap 104 is maintained on the inner face 94 of the hub 74 using a threaded bolt 106, extending through both the central hole 103 of the hub cap 104 and the bolt hole 120 of the hub 74, and secured with a nut 105. The inner end of the bolt 106 is looped to form an eye 135.

Eye 135, formed on the end of bolt 106, provides a means for grasping the hub 74, and may support a short pull strap to enhance that function (see the hub 74 of the ceiling 24 in FIG. 1). In FIG. 5, the eye 135 of the bolt 106 is illustrated as disposed adjacent the inner face 94 of the hub 74. However, as shown in FIG. 7, the hub 74 will function equally well when the bolt 106 is inverted so that nut 105 is disposed adjacent to the inner face 94 of the hub 74.

In the preferred embodiment, the eye 135 of the bolt 106 is located on the outer surface of the portable enclosure 10, and provides an attachment structure to which an end of an adjustable cinch strap 156 (described below) is secured. A cinch strap 156 is secured between the structurally substantial hub 74, via the eye 135, and the substrate 5, via an anchor stake 130, 230 (described below). This configuration is provided on each sidewall of the enclosure, so that each sub-frame 72 is individually fixed to the substrate 5.

An improved embodiment of the sub-frame 72′ is depicted in FIGS. 7-9. The improved embodiment of the sub-frame 72′ is substantially similar to the sub-frame 72 described above, and therefore elements common to both embodiments employ common reference numbers and descriptions. As in the embodiment described above, the improved sub-frame 72′ includes a central hub 74 with struts 76 extending therefrom.

In the improved embodiment sub-frame 72′, a strut stabilizer 121 is used to improve the function and reliability of the sub-frame 72.′ As seen in FIG. 7, the threaded bolt 106 is used to secure the strut stabilizer 121 to the outer face 94 of the hub 74. In particular, the threaded end of the bolt 106 passes through a small diameter washer 80, the threaded center hole 120 of the hub 74, the strut stabilizer 121, and the hub cap 104, and is secured thereon with a nut 105.

The strut stabilizer 121 limits movement of the struts 76 in the hub mounting apertures 98, and also applies pressure to the keys 110 formed in the hub ends 164, thereby stabilizing the struts 76 relative to the hub 74 and permitting smooth movement of the struts 76 within the hub 74. The strut stabilizer 121 (FIG. 8) includes a circular plate 144 formed of molded plastic that has a plurality of integrally formed pin-engaging protrusions 146 on one side thereof. There are two protrusions 146 for each strut, with one protrusion 146 provided for each pin 110. The protrusions 146 are molded to interlock with key slots 102 of each through hole 99, to contact the keys 110, and to limit movement of the keys 110 in the hub assembly. The hub cap 104 acts as a large reinforcing washer and evenly distributes the pressure of the nut to the strut stabilizer 121.

Each sub-frame 72 is cooperatively supported in space by the covering 20, such that sub-frames 72 on adjacent portions of the portable enclosure 10 are not in physical contact with one another. The distal ends 166 of each respective strut 76 are received in and supported by pockets 64 formed on the interior surface 62 of the covering 20 (FIG. 10). A pocket is provided near each corner of the ceiling and of each sidewall, and is aligned with a line extending between diagonally opposed corners. This configuration complements the orientation of the struts 76 as they extend outward from hub 74. Thus, the frame 70 is cooperatively engaged with the cover 20, such that each individual sub-frame 72 is supported by a portion of the covering 20, and such that the plurality of sub-frames provide support and structure to the covering 20 to result in a freestanding, three dimensional construction.

Tensioning Straps

A tensioning strap 150 may, optionally, be provided on the interior surface 62 of the covering 20 for use with one or more panels thereof. Thus one or more of the sidewalls 22 and the ceiling 24 of the portable enclosure 10 may be provided with a tensioning strap 150. Each tensioning strap 150, where used, includes strap sections 152, 154 which extend between a pair of opposed edges of a respective portion of the covering 20, such as a sidewall 22 or ceiling 24, and are centrally joined using a tensioning mechanism 160. The tensioning mechanism 160 can be of a conventional type similar to a known tensioning mechanism used in automotive safety belts, which allows a single-direction adjustment of the overall length of the straps 152, 154.

The internal structure of one example of a tensioning mechanism 160 is shown in FIGS. 11 and 12. As seen in FIG. 11, the tensioning mechanism 160 includes a base plate 162 having parallel sides and having an opening 164 formed therein. A pair of opposed side flanges 165, 166 are integrally attached to and extend upwardly from the respective parallel sides of the base plate 162. Each of the side flanges 165, 166 has a respective slot 167, 168 formed therein, oriented at an upwardly sloping angle with respect to the base plate 162. The base plate 162 includes a release flange 170 having a hole 172 formed therein. If desired, a release strap may be secured to release flange 170 using the hole 172. The tensioning mechanism 160 further includes a textured bar 174 extending between the side flanges 165, 166, with the ends 176 of the bar 174 slidably disposed in the slots 167, 168 thereof. Although the inventive portable enclosure is described is illustrated using tensioning mechanism 160, it is within the scope of this invention to use other tensioning devices, such as, but not limited to, a ratcheting tensioner.

In the tensioning strap 150 according to the present invention, a first, adjustable length strap 154 is formed of a strong, flexible material. An example of such a material includes, but is not limited to, nylon webbing. Adjustable length strap 154 has opposed first and second ends 155, 157, and is pre-threaded through the tensioning mechanism 160. A user of the apparatus is not required to remove the adjustable length strap 154 from the tensioning mechanism 160, or to re-thread the adjustable length strap 154 therethrough at any time during the life of the mechanism, under normal circumstances.

The tensioning strap 150 further includes a second, fixed length strap 152 operatively attached to the adjustable length strap 154 via the tensioning mechanism 160. The fixed length strap 152 is formed of a strong, flexible material, similar to the material of the adjustable length strap 154. The fixed length strap 152 has opposed first and second ends 151, 153. The first end 151 of the fixed length strap 152 is operatively and non-adjustably attached to the tensioning mechanism 160. This may be accomplished by passing the end of the strap around the end of the base plate 162, through the opening 164, and sewing the strap back on itself, as shown in FIG. 12. The second end 153 of the fixed length strap is operatively and non-adjustably attached to the edge portion of the sidewall (or ceiling).

As seen in FIG. 12, the first end 155 of the adjustable length strap 154 is fed through the opening 164 in the base plate 162 in the direction shown, passed around the bar 174 in the direction of the release flange 170, and is then fed back through the opening 164. The first end 155 of the adjustable length strap 154 is allowed to hang freely. The second end 157 of the adjustable length strap 154 is operatively and non-adjustably attached to the edge portion of the sidewall (or ceiling) which is opposed to the edge portion upon which the second end 153 of the fixed length strap is secured. Thus as seen in FIG. 1, the tensioning strap 150 spans a respective portion of the covering, such as a sidewall 22 or ceiling 24, such that the strap members 152. 154 are fixed to opposed edges of the portion of the covering.

For example, in FIG. 1, a first tensioning strap 150′ is shown on a sidewall 22 and a second tensioning strap 150″ is shown on the ceiling 24. Although not shown, a tensioning strap 150 may be provided on additional sidewalls 22, as needed. With respect to the first tensioning strap 150′ on the sidewall 22, the second end 153′ of the fixed length strap 152′ is fixed to the upper edge of the sidewall 22, and the second end 157′ of the adjustable length strap 154′ is fixed to the lower edge of sidewall 22. Similarly, with respect to the second tensioning strap 150″ on the ceiling 24, the second end 153″ of the fixed length strap 152″ is fixed to a first lateral edge of the ceiling 24, and the second end 157″ of the adjustable length strap 154″ is fixed to an opposed lateral edge of the ceiling 24.

As seen in FIG. 1, adequate tension is provided by inversion of the sub-frames in the open assembled configuration thereof, so that the distal ends 166 of each strut 76 are flexed inwardly toward the center of the portable enclosure 10, and so that the hub is pressed outwardly, away from the center of the portable enclosure 10 and against the covering 20.

When setting up the enclosure 10, the distal ends 166 of the struts 76 are inserted into the corresponding pockets 64 at the corners of a selected sidewall panel 22, with the outer face 92 of the hub 74 oriented facing outwardly, against the material of the sidewall 22. The hub 74 is then pushed outwardly until it bows out beyond a plane which includes the corners of the sidewall 22, in a gently bowed configuration similar to an open, unfurled umbrella.

Adjustable tension cinch straps 156 may also be used on the exterior of the enclosure 10 to secure the enclosure 10 to the substrate 5 (FIG. 13). The adjustable cinch straps 156 extend from the frame 70 and are secured into the ice using anchor stakes (130 or 230, described below). Like the tensioning straps 150 used on the interior of the enclosure 10, each adjustable cinch strap 156 comprises a fixed length strap 159, an adjustable length strap 158, and a tensioning mechanism 160 joining the fixed length strap 159 to the adjustable length strap 158. The tensioning mechanism 160 permits adjustment of the length of the cinch strap 156. Preferably, in use, the length of the cinch strap is sufficiently shortened so that a tension force is applied between the eye 135 and the stake 230, as shown in FIG. 13. Although the mechanism for adjusting strap length and tension is disclosed herein as tensioning mechanism 160, it is understood that use of other means of strap adjustment is within the scope of the invention.

One end of the cinch strap 156, for example the fixed length strap 159, is secured to the eye 135 of the bolt 160 by conventional means. In the illustrated embodiment, a loop is provided at the strap end, so that in use, the loop is passed through the eye and about the cinch strap 159 itself. The second end of the cinch strap 156, for example the adjustable length strap 158, is secured to the stake 230 by conventional means. In the illustrated embodiment, a loop is provided at the strap end, and in use, the loop is hooked about the handle 232 of the stake 230 in order to retain the cinch strap 156 thereon.

The Anchor Stakes

The portable enclosure 10 is maintained in contact with the ice or other substrate surface 5 using a plurality of anchor stakes 130, 230. This can be accomplished as seen in FIG. 3, in which anchor stakes 130 cooperatively engage the through hole pair 66 formed in the skirt portions 50 at each corner of the portable enclosure 10. This can also be accomplished as seen in FIG. 13, in which the hub 74 of each subframe 72 is secured to a stake 230 within the substrate surface 5 via a cinch strap 156. In extreme conditions, a combination of the above two staking modes can be employed.

A description of each anchor stake 130, 230 is provided below. It is understood that the anchor stakes 130 and the anchor stakes 230 disclosed herein are provided with distinct features which optimize their respective functions when used as described. However, the anchor stakes 130, 230 also have many common features, and so there are circumstances in which they may be used interchangeably.

As seen in FIG. 14, each anchor stake 130 comprises an elongate shank 134. The upper end of the shank 134 is shaped to form a handle 132. The handle is sized and shaped to allow adequate gripping and leverage for manual rotation of the anchor stake during use. In the illustrated embodiment, the handle is shaped to form an elongated loop, but it may also be formed in other shapes, including a T-shape. The handle may be provided with a insulative covering, such as rubber or a suitable elastomeric coating, for improved comfort and grippability when used in cold environments.

The lower end 138 of the shank 134 is tapered, and terminates in a pointed tip 140. For ease of threading into an ice surface 5, the tapered portion may be two inches or more in length. The lower end 138 is provided with coarse exterior threads 142, and at the tip 140 the shank 134 is provided with a generally helical shape, in the manner of a corkscrew. As a result, the tip 140 is oriented at an angle θ relative to the longitudinal axis of the shank 138 (FIG. 16). This configuration of the shank 134, wherein the outer surface is threaded and the tip 140 is angled, are features which allow the anchor stake 130 to be manually screwed into the surface 5 of the ice with only moderate effort.

Each anchor stake 130 is also provided with a flange 136 formed between the handle 132 and the lower end 138. The flange 136 is a thin plate extending in a direction normal to the longitudinal axis of the shank 134. The flange 136 has an outer diameter that is greater than the diameter of the reinforcing grommets 60 of the through holes 58 formed at each end 54 of the skirt portion 50. To prevent the flange 136 from passing through the grommets 60, the diameter of the flange 136 should be at least twice the diameter of the through holes formed in the grommets 60. In use, the lower end 138 of anchor stake 130 is inserted into a through hole pair 66 of the skirt portion 50, and is drawn into the surface of the substrate 5 by manually turning the handle 132. The flange 136 provides a stop surface when anchor stake 130 is sufficiently screwed into the ice, such that the layered ends 54, 54 of the skirt portion 50 are tightly sandwiched between the ice surface 5 and the flange 136. Use of a threaded anchor stake provides simple and quick securement to the ice surface, in contrast to a prior art method of chipping a hole for a stake, and adding water to freeze the stake therein.

As seen in FIG. 15, each anchor stake 230 comprises an elongate shank 234. The upper end of the shank 234 is shaped to form a handle 232. The handle is sized and shaped to allow adequate gripping and leverage for manual rotation of the anchor stake during use. In the illustrated embodiment, the handle is an elongate bar disposed on the upper end of the shank 234 to form a T. However, it is well within the scope of this invention to form the handle having other shapes. The handle may be provided with an insulative covering, such as rubber or a suitable elastomeric coating, for improved comfort and grippability when used in cold environments.

The lower end 238 of the shank 234 is tapered, and terminates in a pointed tip 240. For ease of threading into a hard or compacted surface 5, the tapered portion may be two inches or more in length. The lower end 238 is provided with coarse exterior threads 242, and at the tip 240 the shank 234 is provided with a generally helical shape, in the manner of a corkscrew. As a result, the tip 240 is oriented at an angle θ relative to the longitudinal axis of the shank 238 (FIG. 16). This configuration of the shank 234, wherein the outer surface is threaded and the tip 240 is angled, are features which allow the anchor stake 230 to be manually screwed into hard or compacted surfaces 5 with only moderate effort.

Second Embodiment—Overview

As shown in FIGS. 17-18, in a fully assembled configuration thereof, a portable ice fishing enclosure 210 according to another illustrative embodiment of the present invention includes a flexible shell 220 supported by a frame 350 (FIG. 18), and secured to a supportive substrate 5 using a plurality of anchor stakes 130. The enclosure 210 hereof is particularly adapted for use on an ice sheet as a supportive substrate 5.

The shell 220 is cooperatively supported by the frame 350, which may be set up for placement either inside or outside of the shell. The shell 220 for the portable enclosure 210 is formed of flexible sheet material, which may be nylon or another woven synthetic fabric to provide the durability, flexibility and strength required for use in harsh environmental conditions.

The shell 220 includes a plurality of interconnected sidewalls 222. The sidewalls 222 are arranged in a lateral edge-to-edge relationship, such that each of the sidewalls 222 is joined to an adjacent sidewall at each of its respective lateral edges, to form a substantially closed section.

In the embodiment of FIG. 17, each of the sidewalls 222 making up the shell has a substantially arch-shaped outline, similar to an inverted parabola, as shown, giving the overall structure a modified dome shape. The lower end of the portable enclosure 210 may be left open to allow the user to have access to substantially the entire ground surface area within the surrounding sidewalls.

Alternatively, if desired, a bag used to house and store the enclosure in a collapsed configuration thereof may be adapted to be used as a floor in the assembled configuration of the enclosure, to cover part or all of the floor area inside of the enclosure 210.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 17, the covering 220 of the enclosure 210 includes four interconnected sidewalls 222. However, it is within the scope of the invention to use only three sidewalls, or more than four sidewalls. For example, for a larger enclosure, five or six sidewalls (not shown) may be provided.

One or more of the sidewalls 222 may be provided with a window opening 228. A transparent vinyl sheet insert 230 may be sewn over the window opening 228, to allow natural light to enter into the interior space within the portable enclosure 210. The transparent vinyl sheet insert 230, where used, may be covered with a selectively movable flexible window flap 232. If desired, only a portion of one edge of the transparent vinyl insert 230 may be fixed to a corresponding edge of the window opening 228, so as to allow the transparent vinyl insert 230 to be selectively openable. A selectively openable transparent vinyl insert 230 may also be layered over a screen insert (not shown).

The portable enclosure 210 includes at least one selectively closable door opening 236 formed in a sidewall 222, to permit ingress into, and egress from the enclosure 210. In the depicted embodiment, the door opening 236 is a closable door flap 238 that is secured to the sidewall 222 using a conventional door closure which may include, but is not limited to, hook and loop fasteners, zippers, snaps, or ties.

A vent opening 242 is formed in an upper portion of one of the sidewalls 222, and comprises a breathable vent insert 243 sewn therein, which allows adequate ventilation of the structure. The vent opening 242 may include a closable flap of fabric 244 on the interior or exterior of the covering 220, and a screen panel may be provided as the vent insert 243.

The lower edge 245 of each sidewall 222 has a skirt portion 50 attached thereto along the entire width thereof, and the outer ends of the skirt portion extend beyond the sidewall 222 at each side thereof. The skirt portion 50 is an elongate rectangular band formed of the same material as the sidewalls, and has a width that is greater than the width of the sidewall 222. The skirt portion 50 extends continuously along the entire lower edge 245 of the sidewall 222, such that the respective ends 54, 54′ of the skirt portion 50 extend beyond the respective lateral edges of the sidewall 222. Each end 54, 54′ of the skirt portion 50 is provided with a through hole 58. The edges of the through hole 58 are reinforced. In the illustrated embodiment, the through hole 58 is reinforced with a metal or high-strength plastic grommet 60.

In the assembled configuration of the enclosure 210, the sidewalls 222 extend substantially upwardly at an angle inclined towards the center, and the skirt portion 50 for each sidewall 222 extends out parallel to the substrate 5 and perpendicular to the sidewall 222, so as to overlie and confront the surface of the substrate 5.

As shown in FIGS. 2-3, in the assembled configuration of the enclosure, the respective end flaps of adjacent skirt portions overlap one another at the corners of the covering 220, to provide a strong support for the enclosure when the overlapped end flaps are attached to the substrate 5. At the corners of the portable enclosure 210, the respective ends 54, 54′ of the skirt portions 50 for adjacent sidewalls are arranged to lie in a layered, overlapping relationship. That is, the end 54 of the skirt portion 50 of one sidewall 222 overlies the end 54′ of the skirt portion 50′ of the adjacent sidewall 22′, so that the through hole 58 of the end 54 of the skirt portion 50 of the one sidewall overlies and is in vertical alignment with the through hole 58′ of the end 54′ of the skirt portion 50′ of the adjacent sidewall 22′, to form a vertically aligned through hole pair 66. Each through hole 58 of the through hole pair 66 is sized to receive the shank 134 of the anchor stake 130 therethrough, and has a diameter which is smaller than the diameter of the anchor stake's flange 136.

The Frame

The support frame 350 for the enclosure of FIG. 17 is illustrated in FIG. 18, and includes a central connector 352. In the embodiment of FIG. 18, the central connector 352 is X-shaped. A plurality of interconnecting struts 354, 355 and are used together with the central connector 352 to construct the frame 350. The struts 354, 355 are made of strong, semi-flexible fiberglass or plastic material, and some of the struts 354 have integral sleeves 356 to receive an end of another strut therein.

It will be understood that suitable fabric or elastic loops may be provided on the interior or the exterior upwardly extending seams of the shell, to receive the frame strut sections 354, 355 therein.

Method of Assembling the Portable Enclosure

The present invention also provides a method of assembling the portable ice fishing enclosure 10. One example of a method which may be used for assembling the portable shelter are as follows:

Step 1. Position the covering on the ground or ice surface 5 so that an exterior surface 63 of the ceiling faces upwardly, an interior surface 62 of the ceiling 24 confronts the ice surface 5, and so that the sidewalls 22 are situated below the ceiling in a collapsed manner.

Step 2. From the inside of the housing, secure one of the sub-frames 72 to the interior surface 62 of one sidewall 22 by inserting the distal end 166 of each strut 76 into a respective pocket 64 on the interior surface 62 of the sidewall 22, with the outer face 92 of the hub oriented facing outwardly, against the material of the sidewall.

Step 3. The hub is then pushed outwardly until it bows out past the corners of the sidewall 22, in a gently bowed configuration similar to an open, unfurled umbrella.

Step 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each remaining sidewall 22 and also for the ceiling 24, until all respective sidewalls 22 and the ceiling each have a sub-frame 72 secured to an interior surface 62 thereof.

Step 5. (optional) Actuate the tensioning mechanism 160 of the tensioning strap 150 for any sidewall panels 22 or ceiling 24 having tensioning straps thereon, until the respective fabric panel is pulled taut across the sub-frame 72. The fabric is thereby made more wind-resistant.

Step 6. Arrange the skirt portions 50 over and parallel to the ice surface or other substrate 5, and each end 54 of the skirt portion 50 is arranged to lie in a layered, overlapping relationship with the end 54′ of the skirt portion 50 of the adjacent sidewall 22′ such that through hole 58 of an end 54 of the skirt portion 50 of one sidewall 22 overlies and is in vertical alignment with the through hole 58 of an end 54′ of the skirt portion 50 of the adjacent sidewall 22′ to form a vertically aligned through hole pair 66.

Step 7. For each vertically aligned through hole pair 66, insert an anchor stake 130 into the through hole 66 pair such that the tip 140 of the tapered, threaded lower end 138 contacts the ice surface 5.

Step 8. For each through hole pair 66, turn the handle 132 of the anchor stake 130 with downward pressure applied to the stake, so that the threads 142 of the lower end 138 draw the anchor stake 130 into the ice surface 5 until the flange 136 abuts the respective skirt end 54.

A similar method would be followed for the enclosure 210 of FIG. 13, except that the method of assembling the frame 350 would involve interconnecting the struts 354, 355 and the central connector 352, including inserting some of the appropriate strut ends into the integral sleeves 356, and concurrently slipping the struts 354, 355 through the fabric sleeves provided to hold the struts in place in the housing. Here again, the ends of the skirt portions would be placed in aligned overlapping configuration, and the anchor stakes would be inserted through the grommets and rotated to screw into, and rigidly anchor the corners of the housing to the substrate 5.

Kit

The present invention also provides a kit 200 (FIG. 19) for use in constructing a portable ice fishing enclosure 10 which is lightweight, easily transported and easily assembled and disassembled, even in cold and windy winter conditions. The kit 200 includes the portable ice fishing enclosure 10 and a carrying bag 190. The portable ice fishing enclosure 10 includes the covering 20, the frame 70, and anchor stakes 130 as described above.

The carrying bag 190 has an elongate, generally cylindrical body portion 192 sized to receive the folded covering, disassembled frame 70, and anchor stakes 130 therein. The body portion 192 of carrying bag 190 is a flexible sturdy fabric, and includes an elongate opening 196 which is selectively opened and closed using conventional means, such as a zipper or hook and loop fastener. The carrying bag also includes at least one carrying strap 194 which may be sized and adapted for grasping in the user's hand or for being supported on the user's shoulder.

The kit 200 may also include additional components, including, but not limited to, spare anchor stakes 130, a covering patch kit, and additional bag members. Additional bag members may be used to organize kit components within carrying bag 190. For example, a bag member may be dedicated and sized for stowing the anchor stakes 130, and a another bag member may be dedicated and sized for stowing the components of the frame 70. Filled bag members are easily inserted into carrying bag 190 through opening 196.

The kit 200 may also include items not directly related to the portable ice fishing enclosure 10, but which are useful in the sport of ice fishing. These items may include, but are not limited to, at least one ice fishing rod and reel, at least one tip up, a hole-forming tool, and a heat source.

It is understood that contents of the kit can be varied to accommodate enclosures comprising different components. For example, a second embodiment kit 300 (FIG. 20) may include a cover 20, a frame 70, cinch straps 156, anchor stakes 230, and a carrying bag 190.

Dual Use Bag

The inventive dual use bag 490 will now be described with respect to the figures. The dual use bag 490 is used as a carrying member (FIGS. 28, 36) for a collapsed or folded portable enclosure 10 and, upon assembly of the portable enclosure 10, for use in combination with the portable enclosure 10 as a floor member (FIGS. 21, 37) for the portable enclosure 10.

As seen in FIG. 21, the bag 490 comprises a large multi-layered sheet formed in the general shape of an elongate octagon. In the following descriptions, a longitudinal direction of the bag 490 is defined as parallel to the long sides 424, 426 of the elongate octagon, and a transverse direction is defined as parallel to the short sides 428, 430 of the elongate octagon. The respective ends of the long sides 424, 426 and the short sides 428, 430 are joined by angled sides 432, 434, 436, 438.

The bag 490 includes an outer surface 412, and an inner surface 414 opposed to the outer surface. The outer surface 412 corresponds to the side of the bag 490 which faces outward when bag 490 is used as a carrying member. The carrying straps 440 and binding straps 442 are fixed to the outer surface 412 of the bag 490 using known methods. In the illustrated embodiment, the straps 440, 442 are sewn to the outer surface of the bag 490. When the bag 490 is used as a floor mat, the outer surface 412 is oriented so as to confront the ground (or ice) surface.

An insulation layer 418 is provided. The insulation layer 418 may be the same size and shape as the bag 490 so as to extend to the entire outer periphery of the bag 490, as shown in FIG. 27. Alternatively, the insulation may be provided over a smaller area and lie within the outer periphery of the bag 490. That is, the insulation may be strategically placed to provide a thermal barrier or additional padding in portions of the bag 490 likely to receive high use. For example, insulation is sewn into at least a mid portion of the bag so that insulation extends over a rectangular region bordered by the two longitudinally aligned parallel sides 424, 426, as shown in FIG. 26. In this example, insulation is omitted in the remaining areas. In a second example, insulation extends in rectangular regions bordered by the two longitudinally aligned parallel sides 424, 426, and also in rectangular regions between the transversely aligned parallel sides 428, 430, and is omitted in triangular regions adjacent to the angled sides 434, 434, 436, and 438. This configuration is illustrated in FIGS. 21 and 23.

In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 24, the bag 490 is formed of three layers of material. Specifically, the bag includes a first layer 416 of durable synthetic fabric, a middle layer of insulation 418, and a third layer 420 of durable synthetic fabric. The outer face of the first layer 416 corresponds to outer surface 412 of the bag 490. Likewise, the outer face of the third layer 420 corresponds to inner surface 414 of the bag 490. The multiple layers are sewn together at least about the peripheral edge of the octagonal sheet, and may also include additional seams within and/or extending across the mid portion of the sheet, for purposes of maintaining proper alignment of the respective layers, for reinforcement purposes, and/or for adding detail items such as hooks or straps.

An example of a synthetic fabric used for the first 416 and third 420 layers includes 600D or 1000D polyester. However, those skilled in the art understand that other similar, equally durable fabrics may be substituted for the polyester. The insulation layer 418 is also synthetic so as to benefit from the high thermal efficiency, low weight, and drying properties of synthetic insulations.

The side of the bag 490 which is designated as the outer side 412 may be treated with a waterproofing compound, so that when used as a carrying member, the contents of the bag 490 are maintained in a dry condition, and so that when used as a floor mat, the ground moisture is not absorbed into the bag 490.

In an alternative construction, the bag 490 may be formed of a single layer 416 of durable synthetic fabric with a layer of insulation 418 sewn thereon (FIG. 25). As in the three layer construction, the outer face of the first layer 416 corresponds to outer surface 412 of the bag 490. However, in the two-layer construction, an outer face of the insulation 418 would correspond to the inner surface 414 of the bag 490.

Plural sets of straps are provided on the exterior surface 412 of the outer layer 416 of the bag 490 (FIG. 29). Binding straps 442 are provided which are used to maintain the bag in a closed, folded configuration with the contents securely wrapped and stowed therewithin. In addition, carrying straps 440 are provided to allow the bag to be carried in the hand or on the shoulders of the user.

The binding straps 442 are formed of elongate sections of wide synthetic webbing. Plural binding straps 442 are arranged in a parallel configuration so as to lie in the transverse direction of the bag 490. Each binding strap 442 is provided in a length which permits a first end 445 of the binding strap 442 to be fixed to the bag 490 at a position generally mid way between the longitudinal centerline C of the bag 490 and a longitudinally-aligned long side 426, and a second end 447 of the binding strap 442 to extend beyond the opposed long side 424 so as to reside at a position spaced from the long side 424. Thus, the second end 447 of the binding strap 442 extends outward from the long side 424 of the bag 490, and the body of the strap 442 and the first end 445 of the strap 442 confront the outer surface 412 of the bag 490.

Each binding strap 442 is fixed to the bag 490 by conventional means such as sewing. The entire length of the confronting portions of each binding strap 442 and the bag 490 may be sewn together. Alternatively, short seam fragments may be provided at spaced intervals along the confronting portions of each binding strap 442 and bag 490 so as to firmly attach the binding strap 442 to the bag 490. The first end 445 and the second end 447 of each binding strap 442 are each provided with a cooperating connecting member, as described below.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 21, two binding straps 442 are provided. However, alternative equivalent configurations may be used. For example, as shown in FIG. 23, three binding straps 442 may be provided, arranged in an equally spaced, parallel, and transversely aligned configuration.

The carrying straps 440 are formed of elongate sections of wide synthetic webbing. As shown in FIGS. 21 and 29, two carrying strap 440 are arranged in a parallel configuration so as to lie in the longitudinal direction of the bag 490. A first end 441 of each carrying strap 440 is fixed to the outer surface 412 of the bag 490 adjacent to, and spaced apart from, a short side 430 of the bag 490. The remaining portions of each carrying strap 440 are not fixed to the bag 490. When fully extended, the remaining portions of each carrying strap 440 extend outward from the short side 430 in the longitudinal direction. In particular, the second end 443 of the carrying strap 440 resides beyond the short side 430 at a position spaced from the short side 430.

Each carrying strap 440 is provided with a generous length such that the second end 443 of each carrying strap is spaced a long distance from the short end 430 of the bag 490 when the carrying strap 440 is fully extended. Specifically, each carrying strap must be of sufficient length to extend along the entire longitudinal dimension of the bag 490 in the folded and packed configuration. In addition, each carrying strap must be of sufficient length to allow adequate slack for receiving the shoulder of a user between the carrying strap and the folded and packed bag 490.

The outer-surface side of the second end 443 of each carrying strap 440 is provided with a cooperating connecting member, as described below.

In the illustrated embodiment, the first end 441 of each carrying strap 440 is provided with a pad member 444. The pad member 444 may be integrally formed with the carrying strap 444. Alternatively, the pad member 444 may be a separate component which is secured to the first end 441 of the carrying strap 444. The pad member 444 surrounds each carrying strap 440 at portions extending from the first end 441 of the carrying strap 440 to a position of carrying strap 440 adjacent to, and spaced apart from, short end 430 of the bag 490.

When the inventive bag 490 is used as a carrying member, the bag 490 is carried on both shoulders of the user in the style of a backpack. Specifically, a carrying strap 440 is placed on each shoulder of the user such that the pad member 444 is interposed between the carrying strap 440 and the shoulder surface, thereby allowing the bag 490 to be easily and comfortably carried (FIG. 36).

However, alternative configurations of the carrying straps 440 can be provided. A first example is a configuration which provides a single elongate padded strap, attached at opposed ends of the bag 490 in the folded and packed configuration so as to allow the bag 490 to be carried at the side of the user's body with the strap supported on the user's shoulder. A second example is a configuration in which a pair of short straps are provided in a parallel arrangement to allow the bag 490 to be carried in the hand of the user. The inventive bag 490 is not limited to the described strap configurations, but may instead use other equally effective configurations, or combinations thereof.

The opposed ends of the binding straps 442 and the carrying straps 440 may be secured to each other using any conventional connecting means, including, but not limited to, hooks, clips, snaps, quick-release fittings, ties, and hook and loop fastener. In the illustrated embodiment, a hook member 450 (FIGS. 31, 32) is provided at the first end 445 of each binding strap 442. The hook member 450 includes an elongated hook portion 454 formed at an end thereof. A slot member 452 (FIGS. 33, 34) is provided at the second end 447 of each binding strap 442. The slot member 452 includes a wide slot portion 456 formed at an end thereof configured to cooperatively receive the hook portion 454 of the hook member 450 therein (FIG. 35). The hook portion 454 is elongated, and the slot portion 456 is widened to allow these cooperating parts to be easily manually connected by a user wearing heavy gloves or mittens.

In a similar manner, a hook member 450 is provided at the second end 443 of each carrying strap 440. A pair of slot members 452 is sewn to the outer surface 412 of the bag 490 at a position adjacent the opposed short side 428 of the bag 490, and in longitudinal alignment with, a respective carrying strap 440. Each slot member 452 is configured to cooperatively receive therein the hook portion 454 of the hook member 450 formed on the outer surface-facing side of the second end 443 of the carrying strap 440.

For each binding strap 442 and each carrying strap 440, one of the hook member 450 and slot member 452 is provided with a strap adjustment means. In the case of the binding strap 442, the adjustment means allows the binding strap 442 to be firmly and securely tightened about the bag 490 and its contents (FIG. 28). In the case of the carrying strap 440, the adjustment means allows the length of the carrying strap 440 to be adjusted to properly and comfortably fit a variety of users.

Method of Using the Dual Use Bag as a Carrying Member

A method of using the bag 490 as a carrying member will now be described. As an illustration, the method will include the portable enclosure 10 as the object carried within the bag 490. However, it is understood that the bag 490 can be used to carry portable enclosures other than the specific embodiments of portable enclosures described above. The method of using the bag 490 as a carrying member has the following method steps:

Step 1) Place the bag 490 on the ground surface 5 such that the outer surface 412 faces downward and confronts the ground surface 5, and such that the inner surface 414 faces upward (FIG. 21).

Step 2) Place the collapsed, disassembled portable enclosure 10 on the inner surface 414 such that the portable enclosure is generally positioned in the center of the bag 490 (FIG. 30) and extends in the longitudinal direction.

Step 3) Fold the bag 490 along a longitudinally extending fold line such that the long side 426 overlies the disassembled portable enclosure 10. It should be noted that the long side 426 is opposed to the long side 424 from which the binding straps 442 extend, and thus the long side without binding straps 442 is used as the first-folded side.

Step 4) Fold the bag 490 along a longitudinally extending fold line such that the long side 424 overlies both the disassembled portable enclosure and the first folded side 426 (FIG. 22). Note that the long side 424 is the long side from which the binding straps 442 extend, so that the long side with binding straps 442 is used as the second-folded side. In this configuration, the portable enclosure is substantially surrounded by the bag 490.

Step 5) For each binding strap 442, connect the first end 445 to its respective second end 447 using the cooperative connecting means 450, 452. In the illustrated embodiment, the connecting operation includes inserting the hook portion 454 of the hook connector 450 into the slot portion 456 of the slot connector. It is understood, however, that the cooperative connecting means 450, 452 is not limited to this type of connector, and instead can be comprised of equivalent connecting structures as described above. By connecting the first end 445 of each binding strap to its respective second end 447, opposed longitudinal sides of the bag 490 are secured to each other.

Step 6) Adjust the length of each binding strap 442 so that no slack remains in the body portion of each binding strap 442, and so that the portable enclosure is snugly circumferentially surrounded in the transverse direction by the bag 490 and binding straps 442.

Step 7) Fold the bag 490 along a transversely extending fold line such that the short side 428 overlies the portable enclosure, and both long sides 424, 426. It should be noted that the short side 428 is opposed to the short side 430 from which the carrying straps 440 extend, so that the short side without binding straps is used as the third-folded side. By folding the bag 490 in this manner, the slot connectors 452 secured to the outer surface 412 adjacent to t the short side 428 are now positioned on an upper side of the folded bag 490.

Step 8) Fold the bag 490 along a transversely extending fold line such that the short side 430 overlies the portable enclosure and both long sides 424, 426. In this configuration, the short side 430 confronts and is spaced apart from the opposed short side 428. Note that the short side 430 is the side from which the carrying straps 440 extend, so that the short side with carrying straps is used as the fourth-folded side. In this configuration, the portable enclosure is completely surrounded by and enclosed within the plural folds of the bag 490.

Step 9) For each carrying strap, connect the hook connector 450 formed on each respective second end 443 of each carrying strap 440 to a longitudinally aligned slot connector 452 positioned adjacent short side 428. In this manner, the opposed short sides 428, 430 are secured to each other using the carrying straps 440.

Step 10) Adjust the length of each carrying strap 440 so that minimal slack remains in the body portion of each carrying strap 440, and so that the portable enclosure is snugly circumferentially surrounded in the longitudinal direction by the bag 490 and carrying straps 440 (FIG. 28).

Step 11) Mount the carrying bag on the shoulders of a user by placing the bag 490 adjacent the upper trunk portion of a user so that the pad member 444 of each carrying strap overlies an upper surface of a shoulder of the user, and so that the short sides 428, 430 of the bag 490 in the folded configuration confront and abut the body of the user (FIG. 36).

Although the method of using the dual use bag 490 as a carrying bag has been described using only binding straps 442 and carrying straps 440 to secure the contents within the bag 490 and to carrying the bag 490, it is well within the scope of this invention to provide additional securement structures at strategic locations on the outer surface 412 or inner surface 414 of the bag 490 in order to securely maintain the bag 490 in its folded configuration during use. For example, a fastening means such as hook and loop fastener may be strategically and intermittently placed between overlapping surfaces of the folded bag.

Method of Using the Dual Use Bag as a Floor Mat

A method of using the bag 490 as a floor mat will now be described. As an illustration, the method will include the portable enclosure 10 as the body in which the floor mat is disposed. However, it is understood that the bag 490 can be used as a floor mat in portable enclosures other than the specific embodiments of portable enclosures described above. The method of using the bag 490 as a floor mat has the following method steps:

Step 1) Place the folded and bound bag 490 on a ground surface 5 such that the short sides 428, 430 of the bag 490, as well as the carrying straps 440, face upward (FIG. 28).

Step 2) Disconnect the respective first and second ends 441,443 of the carrying straps 440.

Step 3) Unfold the short sides 428, 430 of the bag 490 so that the short sides 428, 430 of the bag 490 overlie and confront the ground surface (FIG. 22).

Step 4) Disconnect the respective first and second ends 445, 447 of the binding straps 442.

Step 5) Unfold the long sides 424, 426 of the bag 490 so the long sides 424, 426 of the bag 490 overlie and confront the ground surface 5, and so that the collapsed, disassembled portable enclosure 10 is fully accessible (FIG. 21).

Step 6) Assemble the portable enclosure 10 and position it on the ground surface 5 as desired.

Step 7) Place the carrying bag 490 on the ground within the portable enclosure 10 such that the outer surface 412 confronts the ground surface, such that the inner surface 414 faces upward, and such that the carrying bag 490 is fully laid out in a non-self-overlapping and generally flat, planar configuration (FIG. 21). For cases in which the area of the carrying bag 490 is of a larger dimension and/or of differing shape than the floor area of the portable enclosure 10, the appropriate peripheral edges of the carrying bag 490 may be rolled to compactly adjust the exposed floor mat area (FIG. 37).

Although the presently contemplated embodiments of a portable enclosure for use in ice fishing have been described herein, the foregoing description is intended to illustrate, rather than to limit the invention. Those skilled in the art will recognize that various substitutions and modifications can be made, without departing from the invention. All such modifications, which are within the scope of the appended claims, are intended to be within the scope and spirit of the present invention.