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The present invention generally relates to bags for sports equipment and, more particularly, to a ventilated portable locker for carrying and drying sports equipment.
After a game or practice, particularly in sports such as hockey or football, sweaty sports equipment is typically packed into an equipment bag and carried home or to a hotel or motel. As is well know, if damp equipment is left in a sports bag, it not only dries slowly but foul odors will accumulate due to mold, mildew and bacteria. Although this problem is most acute in sports such as hockey and football where bulky pads and other equipment are packed tightly into a sports bag after a game and practice, this problem arises in other sports as well.
Accordingly, in order to dry equipment after a game or practice, and in order to help dissipate foul smells, damp sports equipment should be unpacked from the bag and aired out. In sports such as hockey or football, where the pads and equipment are both numerous and bulky, the unpacking and spreading out of all the pads and equipment can take quite a bit of time. Furthermore, sufficient space is needed to spread out all the equipment. Typically, sports equipment is spread out in laundry rooms, garages or basements, or placed on specially-designed equipment racks. Once unpacked, the equipment must be left for quite a long period of time to allow it to dry from mere passive aeration. Therefore, this traditional approach of unpacking and passive aeration has been considered unsatisfactory as it takes too much time and too much space and results in the undesirable emanation of foul odors in a portion of a player's dwelling.
Moreover, unpacking and passive aeration of equipment is particularly inadequate when athletes travel to tournaments and stay in cramped hotel or motel rooms, often sharing rooms with family members or other players. For traveling teams, where space and time are tight, the drying out of equipment between games can be a significant problem. Even when traveling home from a game or practice, wet equipment will tend to emanate foul odors which will impregnate the bag itself or even the player's vehicle, for example, where the journey home is long or where the player stops for a drink or food after the game.
In order to facilitate drying and airing out of sports equipment, some sports bags are provided with meshed vents to passively exchange air with the environment and thus to passively exhaust bad odors from the bag. However, passive aeration is very slow, particularly where wet pads are tightly packed in the bag. Where games or practices are closely scheduled, the equipment seldom has enough time to properly dry out, and thus players end up having to put on damp equipment, an experience which is universally regarded as unpleasant.
In recent years, some sports bag designs have attempted to address this problem by providing active ventilation coupled with air fresheners. For example, Canadian Patent Application 2,295,511 entitled Clothes Dryer Garment Bag disclosed a sports bag with an air distribution manifold in the base of the bag and an externally connected blower fan which blows air into the bag via a hose connected to an inlet mounted in the front panel of the bag. Air therefore flows from the blower through the hose, through the manifold and into the bag, thus driving stale air out of the bag through air filters. However, this apparatus appears to be unduly costly to manufacture and unnecessarily complicated to operate. The apparatus would be expensive to manufacture due to the fairly complex structure of the air distributor manifold in the base of the bag, not to mention the hose connector and the stand-alone blower. Furthermore, the separation of the blower and bag makes the apparatus a bit unwieldy to carry around because not only must the player carry the bag itself but he or she must also transport the hose and blower. Also, in operation, the apparatus occupies a large footprint since the blower and hose extend away from the bag as shown in the published patent application.
Another example of a forced-ventilation sports equipment bag is found in Canadian Patent Application 2,412,700 entitled Drying Bag for Sports Equipment and the Like. This published application discloses a sports equipment bag with a blower fan mounted in an air flow opening in one of the side walls of the bag for blowing air into the bag to drive air out the bag through a screened outlet. Since the fan is mounted in a side wall and since there is only a single outlet, the bag cannot be placed arbitrarily. Rather, the bag must be placed such that both the fan and the screened outlet are unobstructed. Therefore, the design of the bag unduly limits the orientation and location in which the bag can be set up.
The prior-art designs are therefore suboptimal for the reasons articulated above. A simpler, easier-to-use and more versatile equipment bag would therefore be highly desirable.
It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved ventilated equipment bag, equipment case or portable locker for storing, carrying and drying sports equipment. The portable locker (or bag or case) has a container structure that defines an enclosure for containing, storing and drying sports equipment. The portable locker has a ventilation fan mounted in a top portion of the container structure. The fan draws in air and forces stale and malodorous air to exhaust through at least one filtered outlet, which are preferably charcoal filters located on side panels, a bottom panel and a rear panel of the locker. The portable locker also includes a door, closeable opening or other such access through which equipment can be inserted into or retrieved from the portable locker. Preferably, the door or closeable opening is a zippered fabric panel that closes to substantially contain any odors emanating from the sports equipment. Preferably, the portable locker defines a box-like container having a substantially flat top panel into which the fan is securely mounted. In a preferred embodiment, the portable locker has hooks and mesh pockets for holding various pieces of sports equipment to facilitate drying of the equipment after use. The portable locker therefore provides a versatile and simple-to-use apparatus for storing, carrying and drying hockey equipment, football equipment or any other sports equipment that is damp and sweaty after a game or practice.
In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a portable equipment locker for storing, carrying and drying sports equipment includes a container structure for containing the sports equipment within the portable equipment locker; a door in the container structure movable between an open position, in which sports equipment can be inserted or retrieved, and a closed position, in which the door cooperates with the container structure to substantially fully enclose the sports equipment within the portable equipment locker; and a ventilation fan mounted in a top portion of the container structure for drawing fresh air into the portable locker and for forcing stale air from the portable locker to exhaust through at least one filtered air outlet.
In one embodiment, the portable equipment locker further includes a pair of hanging straps extending upwards from the top portion of the container structure to enable the locker to be suspended, the hanging straps being disposed on opposite sides of the ventilation fan.
In another embodiment, the portable equipment locker further includes filtered outlets in a bottom panel of the container structure, in side-panels of the container structure and in a back panel of the container structure, the filters being capable of purifying the air exhausting from the container structure.
In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a ventilated sports bag for carrying and storing sports equipment includes an air inlet disposed on a top portion of the bag; at least one filtered air outlet; and a detachable ventilation fan removably connected to the air inlet for drawing air into the bag and for forcing stale air to exhaust from the bag through the at least one filtered air outlet.
In one embodiment, the bag air outlets each include an air-purifying charcoal filter.
In another embodiment, the bag includes filtered outlets on side panels, a back panel and a bottom panel of the bag.
In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention, a ventilated footwear bag for carrying, storing and drying footwear after use includes a ventilated compartment having at least one footwear attachment for detachably receiving footwear; and a mounting port on the bag for detachably connecting a fan for drawing air into the bag and for forcing air out of the bag through at least one filtered outlet in the bag. The footwear could include shoes, skates, sandals, boots or other athletic footwear.
In one embodiment, the fan is mounted on the rear panel of the bag.
In another embodiment, a third ventilated compartment is provided for storing and drying an article of clothing.
In yet another embodiment, the mounting port comprises a Velcro™ strip for removably securing the detachable fan to the bag.
Other features and advantages of the present invention will be better understood with reference to the preferred embodiment described hereinafter.
Having thus generally described the nature of the present invention, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings by way of illustration showing a preferred embodiment, in which:
FIG. 1 is an isometric perspective view of a ventilated portable locker in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a front elevation view of the ventilated portable locker shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the ventilated portable locker shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is an isometric perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the ventilated portable locker shown with hanging straps disposed on a top panel of the portable locker;
FIG. 5 is a an isometric perspective view of the ventilated portable locker of FIG. 4 after it has been folded up for carrying sports equipment in a compact travel mode;
FIG. 6 is an isometric perspective view of a ventilated sport bag with a detachable fan in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 7 is a front elevation view of a method of detachably connecting the detachable fan to a front panel of the bag of FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a side cutaway view of a ventilated footwear bag in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 9 is a front cutaway view of the ventilated footwear bag of FIG. 8, showing a pair of shoes retained within the bag by upper and lower harnesses;
FIG. 10 is a rear elevation view of the ventilated footwear bag of FIG. 8, showing the upper and lower harnesses in stippled lines; and
FIG. 11 is a side elevation view of the ventilated footwear bag of FIG. 8, showing the bag in an open, unzipped position.
FIGS. 1 to 3 illustrate a ventilated portable locker in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. For the purposes of this specification, the portable locker shall also be referred to synonymously as a sports bag, equipment bag or as a forced-ventilation carrying case. As shown in FIGS. 1 to 3, the portable locker, which is generally designated by reference numeral 10, has a container structure 12 that is preferably box-shaped. In other words, the portable locker preferably includes a pair of opposed side walls or side panels 14, a back panel 16, and a zippered door 18 having a zipper 20 that zips closed to define a front panel. The portable locker 10 also preferably includes a bottom panel 22 and a top panel 24. The side panels, back panel, door, bottom panel and top panel cooperate to define a generally rectangular container structure 12 which in turn defines an enclosure 26 which is a generally rectangular volume as shown in FIGS. 1 to 3. After a game or practice, damp sports equipment can be stored, carried and dried within the enclosure 26 as will be described below. While the illustrated shape of the container structure of the portable locker represents the best mode known to the Applicant, the container structure could have a variety of different shapes, for example that of a typical hockey bag in which case the “panels” referred to above would refer to front, back, side, top and bottom “portions” of the bag.
As further illustrated in FIGS. 1 to 3, the top panel 24 includes an air inlet 28 and a ventilation fan 30 mounted in fluid communication with the air inlet to draw air into the container structure of the portable locker. The ventilation fan 30 is electrically powered and includes a standard power cord (not shown) for plugging the fan into a an electric wall outlet.
The panels of the portable locker are preferably made of a nylon fabric which will tend to inflate slightly, (“puff up”) under a positive pressure from the fan, which will consequently force stale and malodorous air to exhaust through at least one filtered air outlet 32.
Preferably, as best shown in FIG. 1, the portable locker 10 also includes a plurality of filtered air outlets 32. In the preferred embodiment, the air outlets are equipped with charcoal filters for purifying the air as it exhausts from the portable locker.
FIG. 4 is an isometric perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the ventilated portable locker shown with hanging straps 40 disposed on a top panel 34 of the portable locker 10. The hanging straps 40 enable the portable locker to be suspended from a hook in a locker, for example. The hanging straps 40 can be made of nylon with adjustable lengths. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, the position of the straps on the top panel can be varied. Alternatively, the straps can be connected to the sides of the portable locker rather than to the top panel.
FIG. 5 is a an isometric perspective view of the ventilated portable locker of FIG. 4 after it has been folded up for carrying sports equipment in a compact travel mode. The hanging straps 40 wrap around the folded locker to form a traveling case that is compact and easy to carry. Additional handles can be provided on the case to facilitate carrying.
As a further variant, the portable locker could further include a timer to automatically shut off the ventilation fan after a given period of time in order to save energy. The timer could allow a user to select a one of number of predetermined drying cycles.
As a further variant, the portable locker could further include a heater to accelerate drying of the sports equipment, as hot dry air is better able to absorb moisture. However, as will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, some sports equipment will degrade over time if exposed to excessive heating and cooling cycles so the heater should not overheat the equipment.
In yet a further variant, the portable locker could also include a small control panel integrally mounted on the locker for allowing a user to easily control the optional timer and the optional heater.
In a further refinement, the portable locker can include one or more air fresheners for scenting the air within the locker. Alternatively, specially dimensioned mesh pockets can be provided to receive replaceable air fresheners which can be replaced periodically when their scent is depleted.
FIG. 6 is an isometric perspective view of a traveling bag with a detachable fan unit in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 6, the traveling bag is a ventilated sports equipment bag 50 having opposed top and bottom panels 52, opposed front and rear panels 54, and opposed side panels 56. A zipper 58 is disposed along the length of the top panel 52 to open and close the bag. A pair of handles 60 are disposed on the bag to facilitate carrying of the bag. At least one filtered air outlet 62 is provided in one or more of the panels of the bag. In FIG. 6, for simplicity of illustration, only a single filtered outlet 62 is shown in side panel 56, but it should be expressly understood that any number of such outlets can be provided in various panels of the bag. Preferably, a plurality of filtered outlets 62 are provided in various panels of the bag to provide optimal ventilation.
As further illustrated in FIG. 6, the ventilated sports bag 50 also includes a mounting port 64 formed in a panel of the bag, in this example the front panel 54. The mounting port 64 preferably includes a filter 66. The mounting port is designed to receive asdetachable fan 70 which can be removably (i.e. temporarily) connected to the bag in order to perform a forced ventilation of the bag. The detachable fan 70 has an electrical cable and plug 72 that can be plugged into a standard electrical wall outlet.
FIG. 7 shows a preferable method of connecting the detachable fan to the sports bag. FIG. 7 is a front view of the front panel 54 of the sports bag 50. The detachable fan 50 can be connected to the sports bag 50 via a Velcro™ strip 68 which wraps and unwraps around the top of the fan 70. The Velcro™ strip attached to a cradle portion 65 of the mounting port 64. The cradle portion supports the fan against the front panel 54. In this figure, a fan with a square body is shown rather than a fan with a cylindrical body (as was shown in FIG. 6) to underscore that any number of differently sized and shaped fans can be used with the present invention.
FIGS. 8 to 11 illustrate a ventilated footwear bag in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention. The ventilated footwear bag, generally designated by reference numeral 80, is designed for carrying, storing and drying footwear after use, particularly after athletic use or other non-athletic physical exertion. In different variants, the ventilated footwear bag 80 can be sized and shaped to store and dry any pair of footwear for either an adult or a child, such as but not limited to: running shoes (including jogging shoes, basketball shoes, cross-trainers, etc.); cleated shoes such as soccer cleats, golf shoes, baseball and software cleats; ice skates including hockey skates for players and goalies, figure skates as well as in-line skates or roller skates; downhill or cross-country ski boots and snowboard boots; hiking boots, construction boots, work boots, etc. For greater certainty, it should be expressly understood that the ventilated footwear bag of the present invention can be dimensionally adapted to be used with any other type of footwear not explicitly mentioned in the preceding sentence.
As shown in FIGS. 8 to 11, the ventilated footwear bag 80 includes a bag enclosure defining a ventilated compartment 82 for receiving footwear 84, e.g. a single adult-sized (or child-sized) pair of shoes, skates or boots. In the preferred embodiment of the ventilated footwear bag, the bag is dimensioned to accommodate a single pair of either adult-sized or child-sized footwear. In a variant, the bag can be sized to receive two or more pairs of footwear. For example, the bag could be designed to house two pairs of shoes (or skates) for a couple or for a parent and child.
As shown in FIGS. 8 to 11, the ventilated footwear bag 80 includes a mounting port 86 disposed on the bag for detachably connecting a fan 88 for drawing air into the bag and for forcing air out of the bag through at least one vent or filtered outlet 90 in the bag. The fan is preferably electrically powered and includes a power cord 92 that connects into a standard electrical outlet. In another variant, the device can include a rechargeable battery to provide a temporary energy source while the bag is being transported home. The fan can include an optional heater and/or a timer to optimize drying and/or energy savings.
As shown in FIGS. 8 to 11, the ventilated footwear bag 80 includes at least one footwear attachment for detachably receiving the footwear within the bag. In the preferred embodiment of the ventilated footwear bag, there are two footwear attachments, namely an upper harness 94 and a lower harness 96 which can be used to detachably secure the footwear to interior surfaces of the bag. As shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, the harnesses are preferably affixed to interior surfaces of the side panels of the bag. The footwear is preferably secured in an inclined position as shown in FIG. 8 in order to optimize drying of the footwear, i.e. to optimize the orientation and location of the footwear relative to the fan. The upper and lower harnesses can include Velco™ straps, belts, buckles or any other known means for flexibly restraining shoes, skates or boots without unduly deforming them. The harnesses can be made of nylon, leather or other known materials that flexibly conform to the shape of the footwear when attached. Preferably, the upper and lower harnesses each include a length adjustment mechanism for adjusting the length of the straps to accommodate footwear of varying sizes and shapes.
As shown in FIGS. 8 and 11, the ventilated footwear bag includes a zipper 98 that unzips to provide access to the interior of the bag and then zips to provide a substantially airtight or hermetic enclosure for the footwear to be dried. FIG. 8 shows the bag in the closed, or “zipped”, position while FIG. 11 shows the bag in the open, or “unzipped” position. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, while the zipper position shown in the figures represents the preferred position in order to optimize access and minimize interference, the zipper can also be relocated to another position. Similarly, the zipper could be replaced with other closure means such as Velcro™.
The ventilated footwear bag can also be constructed either as a true bag with floppy panels or it can be constructed with rigid panels in the form of a portable locker, such as described above with reference to the first embodiment. In other words, the ventilated footwear bag can be designed and constructed as a “portable shoe locker” or “portable skate locker”. In any of the embodiments, the ventilated footwear bag preferably includes at least handle 100. As shown in FIGS. 8-11, the handle 100 is preferably extends upwardly from the top surface of the top panel. More preferably, the handle is centrally disposed on the top panel such that it straddles the filtered outlet on the top panel. The handle can, of course, be located elsewhere. Alternatively, two or more handles or carrying straps can be symmetrically affixed to sides of the bag. In another variant, the bag/portable locker 80 can also have a telescopically retractable handle and two or more wheels, rollers or casters on an underside thereof, as are found on some suitcases in order to facilitate transport of the bag. As will be readily appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, any number, type and configuration of externally mounted pouches or clip-on accessories, e.g. a clip-on water bottle, can be readily added to the bag as accessories or add-ons. For example, a glove holder 102 having a Velcro™ strap or other holding means can be connected to an upper front face of the bag.
Modifications and improvements to the above-described embodiments of the present invention may become apparent to those skilled in the art. The foregoing description is intended to be exemplary rather than limiting. The scope of the present invention is therefore intended to be limited solely by the scope of the appended claims.