Title:
Tent Frame Structural Member With Utility Channel and Tent Made Therewith
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tent and tent frame structural members are provided. The structural members include utility channel to which devices such as hooks, carabineers and wire trays can be mounted to the structural member. More particularly, mounting structures of the devices insert into the utility channel and secure the devices to the structural members. The utility channel can include at least one undercut to prevent removal of the mounting structure, and ultimately the devices, from the structural member.



Inventors:
Hamilton-jones, Matthew H. (Endicott, NY, US)
Application Number:
12/405329
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
03/17/2009
Assignee:
JOHNSON OUTDOORS INC. (Racine, WI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
135/114
International Classes:
E04H15/32; E04H15/34; E04H15/60
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JACKSON, DANIELLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Reinhart, Boerner Van Deuren P. C. (2215 PERRYGREEN WAY, ROCKFORD, IL, 61107, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tent frame structural member comprising: an elongated body extending between a first end and a second end; and a channel formed in the elongated body, the channel including a retaining portion and a mouth portion, the retaining portion being positioned relative to the mouth portion to form at least one undercut region in the channel.

2. The tent frame structural member of claim 1, wherein the retaining portion is generally round in cross-section.

3. The tent frame structural member of claim 1, wherein the retaining portion is generally rectangular in cross-section.

4. The tent frame structural member of claim 1, wherein the retaining portion is generally trapezoidal in cross-section.

5. The tent frame structural member of claim 1, wherein the structural member has an arcuate section between a first end and a second end, the first and second end defining the length, and wherein the structural member is adapted to connect two other structural members with one another, such that the two other structural members extend at an angle relative to one another.

6. The tent frame structural member of claim 1, wherein: the structural member generally has a rectangular periphery when viewed perpendicular to the channel, the rectangular periphery including first, second, third and fourth sides, the channel being formed in the fourth side, the structural member having a hollow interior bounded by first, second, third and fourth sidewalls, the first, second, third and fourth sides defined by the first, second, third and fourth sidewalls, respectively; the first and third sides extend generally perpendicular to and between the third and fourth sides, forming a first corner between the first and second sides, a second corner between the second and third sides, a third corner between the third and fourth sides and a fourth corner between the fourth and first sides.

7. The tent frame structural member of claim 6, wherein the fourth sidewall has first and second peripheral sidewall portions substantially defining the outer surface of the fourth sidewall that faces away from the second sidewall, the first and second peripheral sidewall portions forming a gap therebetween forming at least part of the mouth, first and second mouth wall portions extend inward from distal ends of the first and second peripheral sidewall portions that face one another, the first and second mouth wall portions defining in part the mouth therebetween, first and second undercut wall portions extending laterally outward from ends of the first and second mouth wall portions, respectively, the first and second undercut wall portions extending generally parallel to the first and second peripheral sidewall portions and being generally co-planar, first and second retaining wall portions extending inward from ends of the first and second undercut wall portions, respectively, the first and second retaining wall portions being generally parallel to the first and third sidewalls, and a channel bottom wall portion extending between and connecting distal ends of the first and second retaining wall portions, the bottom wall portion being generally parallel to the undercut wall portions, the first and second mouth wall portions being spaced apart a first distance, the first and second retaining wall portions being spaced apart a second distance, the first distance being less than the second distance, the first and second undercut wall portions, first and second retaining wall portions and the bottom wall portion substantially bounding and defining the retaining portion.

8. The tent frame structural member of claim 7, wherein the first and second corners define C-channels, each of the C-channels having a narrowed mouth portion leading to an enlarged retaining portion.

9. The tent frame structural member of claim 8, further including a pair of spaced apart locating ribs extending outward from an outer surface one of the second sidewall or the fourth sidewall, further including a pair of spaced apart locating channels having an opposite profile as the spaced apart locating ribs formed in an outer surface of the other one of the second sidewall or the fourth sidewall, the pair of locating ribs being spaced apart a same distance as the locating channels.

10. A tent comprising: a plurality of structural members interconnected to form a tent frame; a utility channel formed in and running along a length of at least one of the plurality of structural members, the utility channel including a retaining portion and a mouth portion; and at least one device secured to the at least one structural member, the at least one device including mounting structure including a mounting head inserted into the retaining portion and a neck portion extending from the mounting head through the mouth portion, the mounting head having a width in at least one dimension when in a mounted condition being larger than a width of the mouth portion creating an interference engagement between the mounting head and the utility channel.

11. The tent assembly of claim 10, wherein the at least on structural member having the utility channel includes at least one sidewall defining a side of the retaining portion, the mounting head further including at least one flat in engagement with the at least one sidewall to prevent rotation of the mounting head within the retaining portion.

12. The tent assembly of claim 11, wherein the retaining portion has a generally rectangular cross-section.

13. The tent assembly of claim 12, wherein the retaining portion is positioned relative to the mouth portion such that the utility channel has a pair of undercut regions on adjacent sides thereof.

14. The tent assembly of claim 10, further including a connector member for connecting at least two of the structural members, the at least two structural members having substantially identical utility channels, the connector member further including a utility channel identical to the utility channel of the at least two structural member, the utility channel of the connector member merging into the utility channels of the at least two structural members to form a continuous utility channel formed by the connector member and the at least two structural members.

15. A tent assembly comprising: a plurality of interconnected structural members forming a frame of the tent; a utility channel formed in and running along a length of at least one of the plurality of structural members, the utility channel including a retaining portion and a mouth portion, the retaining portion being positioned relative to the mouth portion to define a pair of undercuts on opposed sides of the mouth portion; the at least one of the plurality of structural members including the utility channel generally having a rectangular periphery when viewed perpendicular to the utility channel, the rectangular periphery including first, second, third and fourth sides, the structural member having a hollow interior bounded by first, second, third and fourth sidewalls, the first, second, third and fourth sides defined by the first, second, third and fourth sidewalls, respectively, the utility channel being formed by the fourth sidewall, the first and third sides extend generally perpendicular to and between the third and fourth sides, forming a first corner between the first and second sides, a second corner between the second and third sides, a third corner between the third and fourth sides and a fourth corner between the fourth and first sides; the fourth sidewall having first and second peripheral sidewall portions substantially defining the outer surface of the fourth sidewall that faces away from the second sidewall, the first and second peripheral sidewall portions forming a gap therebetween forming at least part of the mouth, first and second mouth wall portions extend inward from distal ends of the first and second peripheral sidewall portions that face one another, the first and second mouth wall portions defining in part the mouth therebetween, first and second undercut wall portions extending laterally outward from ends of the first and second mouth wall portions, respectively, the first and second undercut wall portions extending generally parallel to the first and second peripheral sidewall portions and being generally co-planar, first and second retaining wall portions extending inward from ends of the first and second undercut wall portions, respectively, the first and second retaining wall portions being generally parallel to the first and third sidewalls, and a channel bottom wall portion extending between and connecting distal ends of the first and second retaining wall portions, the bottom wall portion being generally parallel to the undercut wall portions, the first and second mouth wall portions being spaced apart a first distance, the first and second retaining wall portions being spaced apart a second distance, the first distance being less than the second distance, the first and second undercut wall portions, first and second retaining wall portions and the bottom wall portion substantially bounding and defining the retaining portion; the first and second corners defining C-channels, each of the C-channels having a narrowed mouth portion leading to an enlarged retaining portion; a fabric panel having an enlarged edge portion mounted within one of the C-channels preventing communication between the inside of the tent and the outside of the tent; a pair of spaced apart locating ribs extending outward from an outer surface one of the second sidewall or the fourth sidewall, further including a pair of spaced apart locating channels having an opposite profile as the spaced apart locating ribs formed in an outer surface of the other one of the second sidewall or the fourth sidewall, the pair of locating ribs being spaced apart a same distance as the locating channels; at least one device secured to the at least one structural member, the at least one device including mounting structure including a pair of laterally projecting portions inserted into the retaining portion and at least one neck portion extending from the laterally extending portions and extending through the mouth portion, the laterally extending portions inserted into the undercuts when the at least one device is mounted to the at least one structural member creating an interference engagement between the utility channel and the mounting structure.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/037,231, filed Mar. 17, 2008, the entire teachings and disclosure of which are incorporated herein by reference thereto.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention generally relates to tents and more particularly to frames and structural members for tents.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Tents can be very large and can be used for providing a shelter and environment for large gatherings and celebrations such as theatrical events, wedding receptions and conventions. A shell of the tent provides shelter and defines the environment for the event. The shell is typically formed from one or more fabric panels that are supported by a frame. The frame of a large tent typically includes a plurality of interconnected structural members that combine to support the shell. The structural members may include vertical legs that define the walls and rafters that extend at an angle relative to the vertical legs and toward a peak of the tent to define the roof.

As the tents are used to provide shelter for all types of events, the tents are typically adorned with accessories such as lighting, sound systems, decorations, fans, banners and heaters, to name a few. However, assembly of the tent and hanging of these accessories has been time consuming and even frustrating.

Normally, as the structural members of the tent frame are continuous beams, cables, wire trays, bungee cords, or other attachment devices that are able to wrap around the structural members of the frame are required to attach the accessories to the structural members. However, the use of these devices can be aesthetically unsatisfactory and may also compromise structural stability and integrity. Further, ease of assembly and adjustment of the location of the accessories relative to the structural members of the tent frame is also limited and difficult, particularly after the accessories have been mounted to the structural members.

The present invention provides improved structural members, and tents utilizing these structural members, that facilitate improved assembly and configuration of tents and particularly improved hanging of accessories.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention has several aspects that may be claimed and stand as patentable independently and individually or in combination with other aspects, including but not limited to the following.

In one embodiment, the invention provides a structural member for a tent frame that includes a utility channel that provides an attachment location for securing accessories thereto. In practicing an embodiment, the utility channel includes undercuts that permit a mounting structure to be secured within the utility channel. The utility channel preferably includes a retaining portion and a mouth portion with the retaining portion being positioned relative to the mouth portion to form the undercut regions in the channel

In another embodiment, devices that are mounted to the structural member using the mounting structures can be infinitely positioned along the length of the structural member.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a tent that includes structural members that include integrally formed utility channels to provide attachment locations for mounting accessories to the tent.

In one embodiment, the structural member may be a connector for interconnecting a plurality of generally straight structural members. The connector includes a utility channel have a substantially identical profile as the rest of the structural members such that a substantially continuous utility channel is provided by the interconnected structural members.

In a more particular embodiment of a structural member, the structural member generally has a rectangular periphery when viewed perpendicular to the utility channel. The rectangular periphery includes first, second, third and fourth sides. The channel is formed in the fourth side. The structural member has a hollow interior bounded by first, second, third and fourth sidewalls. The first, second, third and fourth sides are defined by the first, second, third and fourth sidewalls, respectively. The first and third sides extend generally perpendicular to and between the third and fourth sides forming a first corner between the first and second sides, a second corner between the second and third sides, a third corner between the third and fourth sides and a fourth corner between the fourth and first sides.

In an even more particular embodiment, the fourth sidewall has first and second peripheral sidewall portions substantially defining the outer surface of the fourth sidewall that faces away from the second sidewall. The first and second peripheral sidewall portions form a gap therebetween forming at least part of the mouth. First and second mouth wall portions extend inward from distal ends of the first and second peripheral sidewall portions that face one another. The first and second mouth wall portions define, in part, the mouth therebetween. First and second undercut wall portions extending laterally outward from ends of the first and second mouth wall portions, respectively. The first and second undercut wall portions extending generally parallel to the first and second peripheral sidewall portions and are generally co-planar. First and second retaining wall portions extend inward from ends of the first and second undercut wall portions, respectively. The first and second retaining wall portions are generally parallel to the first and third sidewalls. A channel bottom wall portion extends between and connects distal ends of the first and second retaining wall portions. The bottom wall portion is generally parallel to the undercut wall portions. The first and second mouth wall portions are spaced apart a first distance. The first and second retaining wall portions are spaced apart a second distance. The first distance is less than the second distance. The first and second undercut wall portions, first and second retaining wall portions and the bottom wall portion substantially bounding and defining the retaining portion.

The first and second corners may define C-channels for engaging enlarged edge portions of a fabric panel. Each of the C-channels having a narrowed mouth portion leading to an enlarged retaining portion.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a tent including a plurality of structural members interconnected to form a tent frame. The tent also includes a utility channel formed in and running along a length of at least one of the plurality of structural members. The utility channel includes a retaining portion and a mouth portion. The tent also includes at least one device secured to the at least one structural member. The at least one device includes mounting structure including a mounting head inserted into the retaining portion and a neck portion extending from the mounting head through the mouth portion. The mounting head has a width in at least one dimension in a relaxed state being larger than a width of the mouth portion to create an interference engagement between the utility channel and the mounting head.

In a more particular implementation, the retaining portion is positioned relative to the mouth portion such that the utility channel has a pair of undercut regions on adjacent sides of the mouth portion.

Other embodiments of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings incorporated in and forming a part of the specification illustrate several aspects of the present invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a partial perspective illustration of a tent according to the teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective illustration of a structural member of the tent of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an end view of the structural member of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an end view of the structural member of FIG. 3 including an attachment member mounted to the structural member;

FIGS. 5 and 6 are front and side views of the attachment member of FIG. 4;

FIGS. 7-9 illustrate devices that can be attached to a structural member of FIG. 2;

FIGS. 10 and 11 are simplified alternative cross-sections of the structural member of FIG. 2;

FIGS. 12 and 13 are top view illustrations of alternative mounting head arrangements of mounting structures according to the teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 14 illustrates a partial cross-section of a structural member taken about line 14-14 of FIG. 4, detailing one embodiment of an attachment structure inserted into a utility channel;

FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrate additional arrangements of devices connected to structural members utilizing a utility channel of the structural member;

FIG. 17 is an alternative embodiment of a wire tray according to the teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 18 is an alternative embodiment of a wire tray according to the teachings of the present invention attached to a structural member;

FIG. 19 is an end view illustration of the wire tray and structural member illustrated in FIG. 18;

FIG. 20 is an end exploded illustration of the wire tray and structural member of FIG. 19;

FIG. 21 is an end view illustration of the wire tray and structural member of FIG. 18, with the wire tray attached in a different manner; and

FIG. 22 is an enlarged partial end view illustration of the wire tray and structural member of FIG. 18.

While the invention will be described in connection with certain preferred embodiments, there is no intent to limit it to those embodiments. On the contrary, the intent is to cover all alternatives, modifications and equivalents as included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a partial illustration of a tent 100 including structural members in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The tent 100 includes a tent frame 102 that supports a shell 104 to provide a shelter or building like structure.

The tent frame 102 is generally constructed of a plurality of structural members including a plurality of legs 108 that generally define the vertical walls of the tent, a plurality of rafters 110 that extend at an angle relative to the legs 108 and that meet at the peak 112 of the tent 100 and a plurality of purlins 114 that extend horizontally between the rafters 110 and generally parallel to the peak 112. Typically, purlins 114 are made of smaller profiles. The peak 112 is formed by purlins 114. Purlins in this position are also referred to as ridge purlins. The illustrated tent frame 102, is a clear span tent frame that is free of interior poles.

The legs 108 are mounted to feet 116 which rest on the ground upon which the tent 100 is built. The feet 116 support the legs 108 in an upright or vertical orientation. During installation, the feet 116 allow the legs 108 to be pivoted from a horizontal position into an upright position.

The tent 100 may further include guy-wires 118 at predetermined locations that extend between various structural members to provide increased support and stability of the structure.

FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate a structural member 120 that can be used as any of the components of the tent frame 102, such as a leg 108, rafter 110 or purlin 114 of the tent frame 102. With primary reference to FIG. 3, the structural member 120 is of a hollow box beam construction having a generally rectangular cross-section including sides 122-125. Typically, the structural member 120 is formed from extruded metal, and more typically from extruded aluminum.

The corners formed by the intersections of adjacent ones of the sides 122-125 include C-shaped channels 134-137 that extend the length of the structural member 120. Channels 134-137 engage edges of fabric panels forming shell 104. The edges of the fabric panels generally include an enlarged region that is slid axially through channels 134-137 and laterally secures the fabric panels to the structural members 120.

Sides 122, 123, 124 include pairs of ribs 126 and side 125 includes channels 127. The ribs 126 of side 123 are sized and configured to cooperate with channels 127 of side 125 to align structural members 120 when they are stacked on top of each other for shipping or storage. This interlocks the structural members 120 to prevent tipping and promote integrity of a stack of structural members 120. Further, the ribs 126 assist in reducing the amount of surface area by which the structural members 120 are supported while surface treating the structural members 120, such as during anodizing.

Side 125 forms a utility channel 140 running the length of the structural member 120 The utility channel 140 of the illustrated embodiment has a T-shape including a generally rectangular retaining portion 141 connected to a smaller mouth portion 142. The mouth portion 142 provides access to the larger retaining portion 141. The mouth portion 142 has a smaller width than the retaining portion 141 such that the retaining portion 141 includes undercut regions 143, formed between wall portion 145 and bottom wall portions 147.

The utility channel 140 is formed by a plurality of inter-connected wall portions that form sidewall 125.

The utility channel 140 can be used to mount devices such as a clamp 146 (see FIG. 7), carabineer 148 (see FIG. 8), wire tray 150 (see FIG. 9) or other devices to the structural member 120.

More particularly, the devices can be mounted to the structural member 120 using a mounting structure, such as a T-bolt 149 illustrated in FIGS. 4-6. The T-bolt 149 includes a mounting head 152 and neck portion 154 that corresponds to the T-shape of the utility channel 140. The neck portion 154 extends through mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140 and connects the mounting head 152 to the device, such as the clip portion 156 of the carabineer 148 of FIG. 8.

The mounting head 152 is sized to be received and retained in the retaining portion 141 of the utility channel 140. More particularly, the mounting head 152 is sized and configured such that it can be arranged in the retaining portion 141 so that the mounting head 52 cannot pass through the mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140.

In the illustrated embodiment, the mounting head 152 has a first dimension having a width W1 (see FIGS. 6 and 12) that is sized smaller than the width W2 (see FIG. 3) of the mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140 such that the mounting head 152 can be inserted through the mouth portion 142 and into retaining portion 141. Further, the mounting head 152 has a second dimension having width W3 (see FIGS. 5 and 12), generally transverse to the first dimension, that is greater than the width W2 of the mouth portion 142.

As such, the mounting head 152 may be passed through the mouth portion 142 with the first dimension having width W1 aligned with the width of the mouth portion 142. Once the mounting head 152 has been received in the retaining portion 141, the T-bolt 149 can be rotated 90 degrees such that the larger dimension having width W3 is transverse to the width W2 of the mouth portion 142, preventing the mounting head 152 from passing back through the mouth portion 142. This embodiment presumed that width W3 is less than or substantially equal to the width W4 of the retaining portion 141 (see FIG. 3).

However, in alternative embodiments, the larger dimension having width W3 of the mounting head 152 could be larger than width W4 of the retaining portion 141, such as illustrated in FIG. 14 This can be beneficial such that as the T-bolt 149 is rotated relative to the structural member 120, the T-bolt 149 is prevented from rotating due to interference between the walls defining the retaining portion and the mounting head 152. Further, the mounting head 152 of the T-bolt 149 may be trapezoidal in shape such that the mounting head will lock into position when turned after insertion through mount portion 142. This locking prevents the T-bolt 149 from spinning indefinitely or, at least 180 degrees, such that it will re-align with the mouth portion 142 such that it can be removed.

FIGS. 12 and 13 are top view illustrations of examples of mounting heads 152, 152B of T-bolts 149 and 149B according to the teachings of the present invention. Mounting head 152 has a rectangular cross-section while mounting head 152B has an oval or elliptical cross-section. However, alternative head shapes can be incorporated while staying within the scope of the invention.

Alternatively, and with reference to FIG. 7, a mounting head 152a could include snap structure such that can be compressed (illustrated by arrows 160) such that it can be passed through the mouth portion 142 and that then expanded (illustrated by arrows 162) within the retaining portion 141 to retain the device to the structural member 120. The snap structure may sufficiently engage the walls defining the utility channel 140 to prevent rotation.

Further, devices may be mounted to the utility channels by using other types of mounting structure that are inserted through an end of the utility channel, rather than the mouth portion 142. Mounting structure such as bolts that have flats on their heads, for example as hex head bolt, can be inserted into the retaining portion 141 such that flats of the hex head engage sidewalls 164, 166 defining the retaining portion 141 so that the bolt would not rotate within the utility channel 140. This locking arrangement allows nuts or devices to be tightened onto the threads of the bolt without the bolt rotating within the utility channel.

Alternatively, a carriage bolt could be used to secure devices to the structural member 120. In such an embodiment, the head of the carriage bolt would reside in the retaining portion 141 of the utility channel 140. Flats of the carriage bolt would extend through the mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140 and engage the sidewalls 168, 170 of the structural member 120 defining the mouth portion 142 to prevent rotation of the carriage bolt.

By including the utility channel 140, devices can be easily mounted to the structural members 120 and can also be easily positioned along the length of the structural member 120. The devices, and particularly the mounting structure, can be merely slid within the utility channel 140. This provides infinite adjustment along the length of the structural member 120.

The use of the utility channel 140 eliminates the need for aesthetically displeasing cables, tie wraps, bungee cords or other attachment devices that previously required wrapping all the way around the structural member to secure accessories to the structural members 120.

The rigid connection that can be provided between the structural members 120 and devices such as the hooks 146, carabineers 148 and wire trays 150 provides improved structural integrity and support of the accessories that are mounted to and supported by the tent frame 102, such as lights as illustrated in FIGS. 15 and 16. FIG. 16 illustrates that carabineers 148 can be used at opposite ends of a device, such as the light assembly to mount a device.

While the illustrated structural member 120 has rectangular shaped retaining and mouth portions 141, 142, alternative embodiments can have alternative shapes. For example, the retaining portion could be rounded (see FIG. 11) or trapezoidal (see FIG. 10) in cross-section.

With reference to FIGS. 9, 15 and 16 wire trays 150 according to the present invention are illustrated. A wire tray 150 hides the wires 180 for the accessories such as the lights 182 as the wires 180 extend along the rafter 110 (i.e. structural member 120). For the following descriptions, rafter 110 and structural member 120 may be used interchangeably. With reference to FIG. 9, the wire tray 150 mounts to the bottom surface 184 of the support structure 120. In the illustrated embodiment, the wire tray 150 is generally T-shaped.

The wire tray 150 includes a top abutment flange 186 that abuts against the bottom surface 184 of structural member 120. A wire supporting flange 188, forming a wire holding tray portion, is offset from the abutment flange 186 by two parallel spacing walls 190, 192. The spacing walls 190, 192 extend generally perpendicular to the abutment flange 186 and the wire supporting flange 188.

The wire supporting flange 188 has upturned ends 194, 196. The wire supporting flange 188 and the spacing walls 190, 192 combine to form wire storing channels 197, 198.

The abutment flange 186 includes a pair of parallel spaced apart ribs 200, 202 running the axial length of the wire tray 150. The ribs 200, 202 insert into channels 127 formed in the bottom surface 184 of side 125. The engagement between the channels 127 and the ribs 200, 202 aligns the wire tray 150 relative to structural member 120. In the illustrated embodiment, the ribs 200, 202 are latterly spaced apart such that they straddle the spacing walls 190, 192. The ribs 200, 202 are formed proximate the lateral edges of the abutment flange 186. While the ribs 200, 202 are illustrated as being formed on the abutment flange 186 and the channels 127 are formed in the bottom surface 184 of the structural member 120, the arrangement could be switched. As such, the ribs could be formed by the structural member and the channels formed by the wire tray. If the ribs and channels were switched, the ribs 126 of the structural member would also need to be switched to channels so as to permit stacking as more fully described previously.

The wire tray 150 may be secured to the structural member 120 using an attachment member such as a T-bolt 149. The neck portion 154 of the T-bolt is long enough to extend axially through an aperture in the abutment flange 186, through a cavity 204 formed between the parallel spacing walls 190, 192 and then through an aperture formed in the wire supporting flange 188. The neck portion 154 includes a threaded end 206 that receives a nut 208 to secure the wire tray 150 to the structural member 120.

However, the wire tray could include snap structure, such as illustrated in FIG. 7 to snap-engage the wire tray 150 to the structural members 120. The snap structure could be integrally formed with the wire tray 150 or added as a separate component. For example, the snap structure could be at the end of bolt-like structure that replaces T-bolt 149. Such a device would extend through the wire tray 150 such that the snap structure would extend away from the abutment flange 186 and wire supporting flange 188.

A further embodiment of a wire tray 250 is illustrated in FIG. 17. This embodiment connects to the structural member 120 by engaging channels 136, 137. The wire tray 250 includes a modified abutment flange 286. The abutment flange 286 includes two clips 287, 288 on opposite ends. The clips 287, 288 are connected to the ends of the abutment flange 286 by integral hinges 289, 291. Thus, clips 287, 288 are formed as a one-piece construction with abutment flange 286. A “one-piece construction” as used herein shall not include multiple independent components connected together.

The clips 287, 288 include catch portions 302, 304 that extend laterally toward one another and through the throat of the channels 136, 137 to engage structural member 120. The clips 287, 288 also include lever portions 294, 296 spaced apart from the catch portions 302, 304. The lever portions 294, 296 permit a user to disengage the catch portions 302, 304 from the structural member 120. More particularly, the user may press lever portions 294, 296 toward one another causing the clips 287, 288 to pivot through hinges 289, 291 causing the catch portions 302, 304 to disengage channels 136, 137.

Opposite the lever portions 294, 296, the clips include flared tips 298, 300 that flare laterally outward from one another. The flared tips 298, 300 facilitate snap engaging the wire tray 250 to the structural member. They further facilitate removal of the wire tray 250 from the structural member. Further facilitating engagement between the wire tray 250 and the structural member 120, the catch portions 302, 304 have a tapered outward facing surfaces that function as cam surfaces when mounting the wire tray 250.

The wire tray also includes downward depending flanges 308, 310 that include laterally inward facing channels 312, 314 that permit additional devices to be snap engaged to wire tray 250. For example, lights 316, the attachment structure illustrated schematically as a rectangular box in FIG. 17, could be engaged between flanges 308, 310 and within channels 312, 314. Alternatively, the lights 316 could be replaced by a flat piece of material that is mounted in between flanges 308, 310. This forms an additional fully enclosed cavity to the wire tray 250 for storing additional wires. In an alternative example, another wire tray 150 (of a previous embodiment) may be snap engaged to wire tray 250 to provide for more wire support. Again, the channels 312, 314 could be replaced by a single rib that would engage channels of a connected device, such as the light or an additional wire tray.

While clips 287, 288 engage channels 136, 137 alternative embodiments could use similar clip devices that engage into utility channel 140.

A tent 100 according to the present invention may include a plurality of wire trays 150. As illustrated in FIGS. 15 and 16, a plurality of wire trays 150 may be mounted to a single rafter 110 (i.e. structural member 120). Where two wire trays 150 axially meet, an attachment device such as a carabineer 148 or clamp 146 may be interposed between the two adjacent wire trays 150 to provide a mounting location for accessories such as the light assemblies 212, 214. Further, the gap between the adjacent wire trays 150 provides an easy outlet from the wire channels 197, 198 for the wires 180 to exit the wire tray 150 and extend to the accessory, i.e. lights 182.

To secure a wire 180, the user merely inserts the wire through the gap formed between the upturned edges 194, 196 and the abutment flange 186. With the addition of the wire trays 150, there is no need to drape the wires 180 over the structural members 120 or to affix wires 180 to the structural members 120 such as by way of cords, bungee straps, wire ties, etc. Further, the wires 180 need not be fed between various structural members and the shell of the tent. Thus, the aesthetic displeasing arrangements of the free hanging wires can be substantially eliminated. The wire trays 150 can, depending on the size of the wires 180, entirely hide the wires 180 as they run along the structural members 120.

In preferred embodiments, the wire trays are formed of plastic or aluminum. However, the wire tray 150 could be formed of any suitable material such as wood, metal, etc.

Further, with reference to FIG. 16, any bracing, fittings or connectors between various structural members may also be configured to receive a wire tray. For example, a peak fitting 193 may includes a utility channel to which a wire tray 150 may be connected. Further, the fitting 193 includes the C-shaped channels, such as channel 137 which can be further used to mount a wire tray. In other words, the bracing, fittings or connectors can be configured to continue the mounting structure of the structural members 120. The utility channel 140 of the rafters merge smoothly into the utility channel 140 of the peak fitting 193. The same arrangement occurs for channels 136, 137.

With regard to the structure of FIG. 16, wire tray 150 is arcuate in shape such that it matches the arcuate shape of the peak fitting 193. Alternatively, two separate wire trays could be positioned such that there ends stop at the beginning of the curvature of fitting 193. However, in this configuration, a portion of the wires that pass between the two wire trays would be exposed, presenting a less than ideal configuration, but a configuration none-the-less in the event that a curved wire tray is not available.

This promotes improving the aesthetic appearance of the tent by hiding the wires substantially the entire way from the ground to the device that requires the wiring. In some embodiments, wire trays may extend substantially from the foot 116 of one leg 108 across the tent to the foot 16 of a coordinated leg 108.

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 16, the wire trays would first extend up the first leg 108 from foot 116. Then the wire trays would extend along a first rafter 110 directly connected to the leg 108. Then the wire trays would extend from the first rafter 110 to a second rafter 110 connected to the first rafter by a peak fitting 193 (see FIG. 16). Next, the wire trays would extend down the second rafter 110 to a second leg 108. Finally, the wire trays would extend down along the second leg 108 connected to the second rafter 110 to the foot 116 of this second leg. Again, if any bracing or structural member connectors are positioned between two adjacent structural members, for example a leg 108 and an adjacent rafter 110, that bracing or connector may also be connected to a wire tray so that there are substantially no or very limited breaks in the wire tray from the foot 116 of one leg 108 to the foot 116 of the other leg 108, positioned across the tent.

FIGS. 18-22 illustrate a further embodiment of a wire tray 350. As illustrated in FIGS. 18 and 21, the wire tray is configured to be connected to different style structural members 120, 120′ as well as may be connected to either a utility channel 140 (FIG. 19) or C-shaped channels 136, 137 (FIG. 21) as will be more fully described below.

FIGS. 19 and 20 illustrate end views of the wire tray 350 and a structural member 120. The wire tray 350 includes a wire supporting flange 388, forming a wire holding tray portion from which two parallel mounting walls 390, 392 extend. These mounting walls form a neck portion much like the T-bolts described above. The mounting walls 390, 392 extend generally perpendicular to the wire supporting flange 388 when in a relaxed state. However, in other embodiments, the parallel mounting walls 390, 392 need not be parallel or could have an arcuate profile in the relaxed or bent state.

In the illustrated embodiment, the mounting walls 390, 392 are connected at a first end to the wire supporting flange 388. Preferably, the outer surfaces of the mounting walls 390, 392 are laterally spaced a greater distance than the width W2 (see FIG. 3) of the mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140. This arrangement causes the mounting walls 390, 392 to be compressed toward one another when the wire tray 350 is mounted to the structural member 120. As such, the mounting walls 390, 392 will be canted toward one another. This provides a more secure connection between the wire tray 350 and structural member 120 by providing a loading of the sidewalls 168, 170 (see FIG. 3) forming mouth portion 142.

However, the inner surfaces of the mounting walls 390, 392 is preferably narrower than the overall width of the distance W5 (see FIG. 22) of the distance between the distal ends of the walls defining C-shaped channels 136, 137 so as to cause the mounting walls 390, 392 to compress against the distal ends when mounted to C-shaped channels 136, 137, such as illustrated in FIG. 21.

Mounting clips 393, 395 are formed at the distal ends of the mounting walls 390, 392, respectively. The mounting clips 393, 395 engage the structural member 120 to secure the wire tray 350 to the structural member 120. As such, the mounting clips 393, 395 are a form of a head portion similar to the head portion of the T-bolt described above, however, their method of engaging the undercuts of the utility channel is different. With reference to FIG. 22 the mounting clips 393, 395 will be explained. However, only mounting clip 393 will be described as mounting clip 395 is an exact mirror opposite of mounting clip 393.

Mounting clip 393 includes an outer clip portion 399 that extends laterally outward beyond the outer surface 400 of the mounting wall 390. The outer clip portion 399 is illustrated as being canted back towards wire supporting flange 388 such that a channel 402 is formed between the outer clip portion 399 and outer surface 400. The outer clip portion 399 is canted relative to mounting wall 390 at an acute angle, but could extend at other angles, including perpendicular or obtuse, depending on the required engagement needed between the wire tray 350 and the structural member 120. The outer clip portion 399 extends laterally into undercut 143 of the retaining portion 141 of the utility channel. A distal end 404 of outer clip portion 399 axially engages bottom wall portion 147 forming a catch relationship therebetween that prevents, without other manipulation, the mounting wall 390 and mounting clip 393 from being pulled out of the utility channel 140. Preferably, the outer clip portion 399 is arcuate such that it curves back toward the mounting wall 390 so as to place the outer clip portion 399 closer to a state of compression rather than bending to increase the strength of the mounting clip 399.

Opposite the outer clip portion 399 is an inner clip portion 406. With additional reference to FIG. 21, the inner clip portion 406 is configured to engage C-shaped channels 136, 137 of a structural member 120. This provides an engagement like that of the embodiment of FIG. 17.

Returning to FIGS. 21 and 22, the inner clip portion 406 extends generally laterally inward beyond an inner surface 408 of mounting wall 390. The inner clip portion 406 is generally hook shaped and in an extension portion 410 extends outward from the mounting wall 390 at an obtuse angle and away from the wire supporting flange 388 but then includes an arcuate hook portion 412 that curves back around toward wire supporting flange 388 having a distal end 414 that generally faces wire supporting flange 388. This hook shape defines a cavity or channel 416 that receives a distal end of the wall of the structural member 120 defining the C-shaped channels 136, 137.

In one embodiment, the width W2 of the mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140, the spacing of the outer surfaces of the mounting walls 390, 392 and the inner clip portions 406 of each mounting clip 393, 395 are configured such that when the wire tray 350 is mounted to the structural member 120, the hook portions 412 of the inner clip portions 406 laterally contact one another. In one more preferable arrangement, this contacting causes the distal ends of the mounting walls 390, 392 to be laterally biased away from one another, i.e. opposite the way they are biased by being mounted within mouth portion 142 of the utility channel 140. This arrangement further promotes securement within utility channel 140. However, other embodiments will have the arrangement of the mounting walls 390, 392, inner clip portions 406 such that the inner clip portions 406 will not contact when passing through the mouth portion 142 so as to facilitate easier installation and removal of the wire tray 350.

The top surfaces 418, 420 of the mounting clips 393, 395 face away from one another and form cam surfaces for assisting in mounting the wire tray 350 to the utility channel 140. Similarly, the outer surface of the hook portions 412 will function as cam surfaces during mounting of the wire tray 350 such as illustrated in FIG. 21.

The mounting walls 390, 392 are preferably resilient members such that the mounting walls 390, 392 can be resilient bent toward one another to disconnect the wire tray 350 and particularly outer clip portions 399 from a structural member 120 when mounted to the utility channel 140 thereof. Further, the mounting walls 390, 392 are preferably resilient such that the mounting walls 390, 392 can be resilient bent away from one another to disconnect the wire tray 350 and particularly inner clip portions 406 from a structural member 120 when mounted to the C-shaped channels 136, 137 thereof.

To assist in the resilient flexure toward one another, there is gap formed between the mounting walls 390, 392.

With reference to FIG. 19, the wire supporting flange 388 has upturned ends 394, 396. The wire supporting flange 388 and the mounting walls 390, 392 combine to form wire storing channels 397, 398. This embodiment also illustrates that the upturned ends 394, 396 also include increasingly canted end portions 422, 424 that extend inward toward each other. This provides slight undercut arrangements to assist in securing wires within the wire storing channels 397, 398.

All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) is to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.