Title:
AIR FRAMES FOR OUTDOOR GOODS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A backpack (160) with an air frame (162). The backpack includes a storage compartment, an air frame (162), and at least one strap (168) for securing the bag to a person. The air frame (162) includes an air bladder, which stiffens as it is inflated. The air frame (162) may include portions that are individually inflatable, and a pump (26) may be included for inflating the air frame (162). The backpack (160) may include inflatable portions (22) designed to provide support to specific portions of a user's body.



Inventors:
Peterson, Michael Wayne (Park City, KS, US)
Berdan, David L. (Andover, KS, US)
Hinz, Trevor J. (Wichita, KS, US)
Barnett, John P. (Derby, KS, US)
Mcclintock, Jason T. (Wichita, KS, US)
Michaelis, Susan L. (Wichita, KS, US)
Wilgus, Mitchell L. (Andover, KS, US)
Lenz, Derrick D. (Wichita, KS, US)
Marshall, Duane D. (Wichita, KS, US)
Matheus, Gail R. (Towanda, KS, US)
Hillard, Jake L. (Wichita, KS, US)
Debrunner, Daniel D. (Wichita, KS, US)
Hrubant, Mark A. (Wichita, KS, US)
Beehn, Tracy A. (Rudolph, OH, US)
Daniel, Timothy E. (Wichita, KS, US)
Application Number:
12/296265
Publication Date:
10/08/2009
Filing Date:
04/06/2007
Assignee:
THE COLEMAN COMPANY, INC. (Wichita, KS, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
5/706, 52/2.11, 52/2.18, 224/633, 224/637, 224/642, 297/452.41, 5/413AM
International Classes:
E04H15/20; A45F3/08; A47C7/02; A47C27/08; A47G9/08; E04B1/34; E04H15/36
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LEYDIG, VOIT & MAYER, LTD.;(SEATTLE OFFICE) (TWO PRUDENTIAL PLAZA, SUITE 4900, CHICAGO, IL, 60601-6731, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A backpack comprising: a storage compartment having a back portion; an air frame in or on the back portion; and at least one strap for securing the backpack to the body of a person.

2. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the back portion has a lumbar region, and the air frame is located at the lumbar region; and further comprising a second air frame located on the back portion above the lumbar region.

3. The backpack of claim 2, further comprising a valve connected to the air frame, the valve configured to receive air into the air frame.

4. The backpack of claim 2, further comprising a built-in pump installed on the backpack and for inflating the air frame, the pump being fluidly connected to the air frame.

5. The backpack of claim 2, wherein the air frame and the second air frame are fluidly separate from one another.

6. The backpack of claim 2, wherein the air frame and second air frame are fluidly connected to one another.

7. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame comprises: an outer ring; and at least one rib extending across the outer ring.

8. The backpack of claim 7, wherein the back portion has a lumbar region, and wherein said at least one rib extends horizontally across the lumbar region.

9. The backpack of claim 7, wherein said at least one rib extending across the outer ring extends vertically across the outer ring.

10. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame includes at least one inflatable stay.

11. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame includes two inflatable stays extending along sides of the back portion.

12. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame includes an opening extending vertically throughout a portion of the air frame.

13. The backpack of claim 12, wherein the opening extends along a spine region of the backpack.

14. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame is shaped such that, when the air frame is inflated, the back portion comprises a curved surface matching the thoracic region of a person's spine.

15. The backpack of claim 9, wherein the air frame includes a plurality of horizontal ribs aligning with vertebrae of the thoracic and lumbar regions of the person's back.

16. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame is shaped such that, when the air frame is inflated, the back portion comprises a curved surface matching the thoracic and lumbar regions of the person's spine.

17. The backpack of claim 16, wherein the air frame includes a plurality of diagonal ribs extending from a spinal region of the back portion outward toward sides of the back portion.

18. The backpack of claim 1, further comprising a built-in pump installed on the backpack and for inflating the air frame, the pump being fluidly connected to the air frame.

19. The backpack of claim 18, wherein a control for the pump is located on the strap.

20. The backpack of claim 18, wherein the pump extends from a bottom portion of the backpack.

21. The backpack of claim 1, further comprising: a first pump installed on the backpack and for inflating the air frame; a second pump; wherein the air frame comprises: a lumbar region fluidly connected to the first pump; and a second region fluidly separated from the lumbar region and fluidly connected to the second pump.

22. The backpack of claim 1, wherein the air frame is hermetically sealed.

23. The backpack of claim 22, wherein the air frame comprises: a plurality of ribs that, when the air frame is against a person's back, align with vertebrae of the thoracic and lumbar regions of the person's back; and a lumbar support that, when the air frame is against a person's back, aligns with the lumbar portion of the person's spine.

24. The backpack of claim 1, the air frame further comprising: a plurality of individual chambers.

25. The backpack of claim 24, wherein the individual chambers are fluidly separated.

26. The backpack of claim 24, wherein each of the individual air chambers is inflatably adjustable.

27. The backpack of claim 1, further comprising: a belt configured to wrap around a person's hips wherein the belt includes an air chamber, the air chamber extending along at least a portion of the belt.

28. The backpack of claim 1, the air frame comprising: a plurality of inflatable segments; a plurality of non-inflatable segments; and wherein there is at least one non-inflatable segment between a pair of inflatable segments.

29. The backpack of claim 28, wherein non-inflatable segments and inflatable segments are alternated so as to form a sequence of at least three pairs, each pair having an inflatable segment and a non-inflatable segment.

30. The backpack of claim 28, wherein the inflatable segments are collectively inflatable.

31. The backpack of claim 28, wherein the inflatable segments are individually inflatable.

32. The backpack of claim 1, further comprising: a belt configured to wrap around a person's hips; the air frame comprising a plurality of inflatably adjustable air chambers; and the belt comprising a plurality of inflatably adjustable air chambers.

33. The backpack of claim 32, the strap comprising a plurality of inflatably adjustable air chambers.

34. A shelter, comprising: a plurality of rigid legs; and an inflatable top including, for each of the rigid legs, a sleeve for receiving the leg.

35. The shelter of claim 34, the inflatable top comprising a plurality of ribs extending parallel to one another.

36. A shelter, comprising: an air frame; and a covering supported by the air frame.

37. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the air frame includes two braces intersecting at a crossing at or near the top of the air frame.

38. The shelter of claim 31, wherein a portion of the covering extends under the crossing.

39. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the air frame comprises a plurality of legs.

40. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the shelter includes a plurality of sides, wherein the air frame comprises a plurality of arches configured along the sides, and wherein arches on consecutive sides are connected at their bottom portions.

41. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the air frame includes a plurality of air channels forming a crossed pattern for supporting the covering.

42. The shelter of claim 35, wherein the covering includes a door.

43. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the air frame comprises: a plurality of arches; a central rib; and wherein the central rib connects the arches together at or near the top of the arches.

44. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the covering includes an openable structure hingedly attached to the shelter, the openable structure having a shape, and the openable structure comprising an openable structure air frame for maintaining the shape.

45. The shelter of claim 30, the air frame including a pair of arches, each arch extending along opposing sides of the shelter from a low point to a high point, wherein the high points of the arches are located on or near the same side of the shelter.

46. The shelter of claim 30, wherein the shelter includes two opposing sides, and wherein the air frame includes an L-shaped portion extending along each side.

47. The shelter of claim 40, wherein the air frame includes a cross bar extending between the L-shaped portions.

48. A love seat, comprising: a seating surface having a first air bladder; a seat back connected edgewise to the seating surface and having a second air bladder; and the first bladder being in fluid communication with the second bladder.

49. An airbed, comprising: a puncture resistant cover having at least one chamber; and at least one air bladder removably located inside each chamber.

50. The airbed of claim 49, wherein the puncture resistant cover comprises a plurality of said chambers.

51. The airbed of claim 44, wherein an air bladder is located inside each chamber.

52. A sleeping bag, comprising: a bag comprising fabric; and an airbed attached to a portion of the bag.

53. The sleeping bag of claim 45, wherein the airbed is removably attached to the bag by at least one of the set of hooks, snaps, hook and loop closures, or clasps.

Description:

This application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent Application Ser. No. 60/774,398, filed Apr. 6, 2006, and incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The use of outdoor goods often augments popular recreational activities, such as camping, hiking, fishing, backpacking, sporting events, and other activities. For example, a person may carry important items in a backpack, and use a tent and sleeping back while camping.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following presents a simplified summary of some embodiments of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of the invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key/critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. Its sole purpose is to present some embodiments of the invention in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description of some embodiments that are presented later.

In accordance with an embodiment, a backpack is provided. The backpack includes at least one air bladder, the inflation of which forms a frame for the backpack. The backpack may include other items, such as a pump or valve for inflating the air bladder.

In accordance with another embodiment, a shelter is provided. The shelter includes an air frame, which may be inflated until rigid or semi-rigid so as to give structural support to the shelter.

In accordance with another embodiment, a shelter that may be attached to an automobile or motorhome is provided. The shelter includes an inflatable frame which may take the place of or supplement a frame made of rigid or semi-rigid frame members. The inflation of the frame until rigid or semi-rigid may provide structural support to the shelter.

In accordance with another embodiment, a tent is provided. The tent may include an inflatable frame which may take the place of or supplement a frame made of rigid or semi-rigid frame members. The inflation of the frame until rigid or semi-rigid may provide structural support for the tent.

In accordance with another embodiment, a shelter that may be attached to a boat is provided. The shelter includes an inflatable frame which may take the place of or supplement a frame made of rigid or semi-rigid frame members. The inflation of the frame until rigid or semi-rigid may provide structural support to the shelter.

In accordance with another embodiment, a love seat is provided. The love seat includes a lower seating surface and a seat back, each of which includes an inflatable bladder. The bladders of the seating surface and the seat back may be fluidly connected. The love seat may also include an inflatable lumbar bladder configured to provide lumbar support. The lumbar bladder may or may not be in fluid communication with other bladders of the love seat.

In accordance with an embodiment, an airbed is provided. The airbed includes an air bladder, which may be made of lightweight material, and a puncture resistant cover for the air bladder.

In accordance with an embodiment, an airbed is provided. The airbed includes a cover that may include a plurality of chambers, each for receiving an air bladder. If one of the air bladders breaks, that bladder may be replaced individually.

In accordance with an embodiment, a sleeping bag is provided. The sleeping bag has an airbed received in a bottom sleeve of the sleeping bag. The airbed for the sleeping bag may have a built-in pump for inflating the airbed. The airbed may be sewn into place in the sleeping bag, or may be mounted into a sleeve of the sleeping bag so that the airbed may be removed or replaced.

Other features of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a back perspective view of a backpack in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a back perspective view of a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic representation of a pair of inflatable stays that may be utilized for internal support of an internal backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 4 shows a rear view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 5 shows a back perspective view of an internal frame backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 6 shows a back perspective view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 7 is a side view of the air frame of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 shows a back perspective view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 9 is a side view of the air frame of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 shows a partial side view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 11 shows a partial side view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 12 shows back perspective view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 13 shows a back perspective view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 14 shows a side view of the air frame of FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 shows a back perspective view of an air frame for a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 16 shows a back perspective view of a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 17 shows a back perspective view of a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 18 shows a back perspective view of a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 19 shows a side perspective view of the backpack of FIG. 18, as worn by a person;

FIG. 20 shows a back perspective view of a backpack in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 21 shows a partial side cutaway view of an airframe of the backpack of FIG. 20;

FIG. 22 shows a side perspective view of a shelter in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 23 shows a side perspective view of a shelter in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 24 shows a side perspective view of a shelter in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 25 shows a side perspective view of a shelter in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 26 shows a side perspective view of a shelter in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 27 shows a side perspective view of a tent in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 28 shows a side perspective view of a tent in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 29 shows a side view of the tent of FIG. 28;

FIG. 30 shows a rear perspective view of a shelter attached to an automobile in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 31 shows a side perspective view of a shelter attached to an automobile in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 32 shows a top perspective view of the shelter of FIG. 31;

FIG. 33 shows a rear perspective view of a shelter attached to an automobile in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 34 shows a rear perspective view of a shelter in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 35 shows a rear perspective view of a shelter in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 36 shows a side perspective view of a love seat in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 37 shows a rear perspective view of an airbed partially inserted into a cover in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 38 shows a rear perspective view of an airbed in accordance with an embodiment, with one bladder of the airbed partially removed from a cover of the airbed;

FIG. 39 shows a rear perspective view of an airbed in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 40 shows an side cutaway view of the airbed of FIG. 39;

FIG. 41 shows a rear perspective view of a boat having an inflatable cover in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 42 shows a side view of a boat having an inflatable cover in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 43 shows a side view of a boat having an inflatable cover in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 44 shows a rear perspective view of a boat having an inflatable cover in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 45 shows a rear perspective view of a boat having an inflatable cover in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 46 shows a side perspective view of a boat having an inflatable cover in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 47 shows a bottom perspective view of a sleeping bag having a built-in airbed in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 48 shows a rear perspective view of a sleeping bag having a built-in airbed in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 49 shows a bottom view of the sleeping bag of FIG. 48; and

FIG. 50 shows a rear perspective view of a sleeping bag having a sleeve into which an airbed is inserted in accordance with an embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following description, various embodiments of the present invention will be described. For purposes of explanation, specific configurations and details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the embodiments. However, it will also be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without the specific details. Furthermore, well-known features may be omitted or simplified in order not to obscure the embodiment being described. In addition, to the extent that orientations of the embodiments are described, such as “top,” “bottom,” “front,” “rear,” “right,” and the like, the orientations are to aid the reader in understanding the embodiment being described, and are not meant to be limiting.

Backpacks

In accordance with an embodiment, an airframe is provided for a backpack. As is known, there are basically two types of backpacks: those that have external frames, and those that have internal frames. External frame packs are easily recognizable by a rigid metal or plastic frame on the outside of the pack. The shoulder and hip straps usually attach directly to this frame. The main compartment of the pack is also attached to the frame.

Internal frame packs have a stiff, load-bearing frame incorporated into, and integral to, the main body of the backpack, with a harness/suspension system attached to this integral pack body/frame. The stiff and/or rigid, load-bearing elements of the frame are commonly comprised of, singly or in combination thereof, metal/polymeric/composite sheets, metal/polymeric/composite bars (commonly called stays), and metal/polymeric/composite rods/tubes. The backpack load carrying compartment can be of numerous designs with features specific to the intended end use.

In accordance with an embodiment, an air frame is utilized for the frame of a backpack. By “air frame,” we mean an air bladder configured to receive pressurized air. When turgid, the air frame serves as a structure for a device (in this embodiment, a backpack).

For an internal frame pack, the air frame replaces conventional metal/polymeric/composite components. Such an air frame may be used singly, or in combination thereof, with conventional metal/polymeric/composite components depending upon the requirements of the intended end use of the backpack.

FIG. 1 is a back perspective view of a backpack 20 in accordance with an embodiment. For the backpack 20, two air chambers 22, 24 are provided at, and just above, respectively, of the lumbar region of the backpack. One or two pumps 26 (only one is shown in FIG. 1) may be provided for inflating the air chambers 22, 24 to a desired pressure. Although a hand actuated bulb-style pump 26 is shown in FIG. 1, other types of pumps may be used for inflating the air chambers 22, 24, including, but not limited to, a foot pump or an electric pump. In addition, as an alternative to having an integral pump, a valve may be provided to which a pump is attached.

The air chambers 22, 24 may be in fluid communication with each other, so that they are inflated via the same pump (or valve), or may be separate so that they may be inflated to different pressures. If separate, the two chambers may each have a pump or a valve.

In accordance with an alternate embodiment, the air chambers 22, 24 may be air chambers without a valve or other opening. Such fixed air chambers may be pressurized during manufacturing and maintain the pressure for the life of the product. Thus, a pump or a valve is not needed. However, by providing a pump such as the pump 26, the amount of lumbar support provided by the air chambers 22, 24 is adjustable.

The air chambers 22, 24 and other air frames described herein may be formed of a suitable air-tight material, such as a polyvinylchloride, or any other suitable material. In an embodiment, the air chamber is a strong, durable, lightweight material such as polyurethane, polyethylene, polyolefin, polyester films (e.g., MYLAR), polytetraflouroethylene, or a lightweight multi-laminate structure. Other examples of suitable materials and suitable pressures for inflating the air frames described herein can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 7,118,487, U.S. Pat. No. 6,263,617, and U.S. Provisional Pat. App. No. 60/130,549. The air frame can be used alone or as a bladder surrounded by a protective sleeve.

For the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the air chambers 22, 24 may be positioned so as to directly contact the back of a user, or other material may be arranged between the air chambers 22, 24 and the back of the user. This other material may be, for example, one or more flexible plastic panels, fabric, open or closed cell foam, or another suitable material. In addition, although shown as chambers with smooth outer surfaces, the chambers 22, 24 may be suitably arranged or patterned so as to promote air circulation where the chamber contacts a user. As an example, ribs may be provided on an outer surface of the air chambers 22, 24 so as to promote an air chimney effect for promoting air flow along the back of the user. In addition, the air chambers 22, 24 may be made of sufficient thickness to provide controllable thermal characteristics. For example, thin air chambers (e.g., less than ⅜ inches thick) are inherently insulative and thick air chambers (e.g., greater than ⅜ inches thick) are inherently thermally conductive via internal convective currents. Thus, air chambers may be strategically placed to increase a user's comfort.

FIG. 2 shows an internal frame backpack 30 having an internal air frame 32 that is utilized in place of metal/polymeric/ceramic frame elements for the backpack. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, the internal air frame 32 includes an outer ring 34 and internal ribs 36. One or more of the ribs may extend horizontally, with others extending diagonally. A lower rib 38 is provided in the lumbar section of the backpack 30, and provides lumbar support for a user. The internal air frame 32 is preferably mounted on an inside of a backpack, but such a frame may alternatively be mounted on an outside of the frame. In the embodiment shown in the drawing, the air frame 32 is inflated as one unit, but parts, such as the lower rib 38, may be inflated separately.

FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic representation of a pair of inflatable stays 40, 42 that may be utilized for internal support of an internal backpack. The inflatable stays 40, 42 are utilized in the position of conventional metal or plastic stays in an internal frame backpack. Valves 44 may be provided for inflation of the inflatable stays 40, 42. If desired, the inflatable stays 40, 42 may be inflated to different pressures depending upon the desired rigidity of the backpack. Variations in pressure may also be utilized based upon the load supported by the backpack and/or individual preferences of a user.

FIG. 4 shows a plan view of an air frame 50 in accordance with another embodiment. Like the air frame 32 in FIG. 2, the air frame 50 may be positioned on the inside of an internal frame backpack, such as the backpack 30. The air frame 50 includes vertical ribs 52. In addition, a lower rib 54 is made larger than other ribs to support the lumbar section of a user. The vertical ribs 52 promote an air chimney effect on the back of the user, effectively permitting air to flow along the back of the user and outward above the shoulders of the user.

FIG. 5 shows an internal frame backpack 60 in accordance with another embodiment. The internal frame backpack 60 includes an air frame 62 having a single opening 64. The opening extends vertically most of the length of the air frame 62, providing an air chimney effect for providing air circulation for the back, and more specifically the spine, of a user.

As with the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, each of the air frames 38, 50, 60 and the inflatable stays 40, 42 may be encased in or behind fabric, foam, or other suitable materials. In addition, if desired, a semi-rigid or rigid plastic reinforcing frame may b e provided for additional support. In alternate embodiments, the air frames may be positioned along the back or exterior of the backpack.

In addition, each of the air frames 32, 50, 62, and the inflatable stays 40, 42 may be provided as fixed, pre-pressurized, turgid air chambers, or may be provided with a pump or valve, permitting a user to adjust the pressure as desired. As such, a user can change structural support according to load, terrain, and/or activity level. The air frames may be made flexible by slightly reducing air pressure. A flexible air frame enables a user to engage in high-output activities (ski touring, alpine climbing, adventure racing) without restricting the body's movements. In addition, allowing the air frames or stays to be inflatable permits the air chambers for such components to be deflated for efficient storage.

FIG. 6 shows another air frame 70 in accordance with an embodiment. The air frame 70 is curved so as to provide proper support for a thoracic region of a user's spine. A side view of this curved configuration is shown in FIG. 7.

In accordance with an embodiment, the air frame 70 includes ribs 72 which align with and support individual vertebrae along the thoracic and lumbar regions of a user. As such, the air frame 70 provides ergonomic support for the spine of a user while the user is wearing a backpack having such an air frame 70. The ribs 72 may inflate, or may be flexible protrusions (for example, made from rubber) on the exterior of the air frame 70.

FIG. 8 shows another air frame 80 for a backpack in accordance with an embodiment. Like the air frame 70, the air frame 80 provides ergonomic support for the back of a user. As is shown in a side view in FIG. 9, the air frame 80 includes a lumbar support region 82, and is curved so as to appropriately fit and support the thoracic and lumbar regions of a user. In addition, as can be seen in FIG. 8, diagonal ribs 84, 86 are provided on opposite sides of the spine for helping to align and support the spine of a user in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. Again, the rib 84, 86 may inflate or may be flexible protrusions.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 8, the air frame 80 includes a pump 88 that extends upward along one of the shoulder straps 89 for the backpack into which the air frame 80 is placed. This feature allows a user to grasp the shoulder strap 89 and actuate the pump 88 to increase or decrease the pressure provided by the air frame 80. In this manner, a user may adjust the air frame 80 to appropriately fit the user's back while the frame is on the user's back.

Similar to the air frame 80, the air frame 90 shown in FIG. 12 includes a lumbar support 92 and ribs 94. However, the air frame 90 includes a pump 96 that extends from a bottom portion and may be, for example, attached to a belt of a backpack instead of a shoulder strap. In addition, the ribs 94 for the air frame 90 extend all the way across the air frame. However, such ribs 94 can also provide appropriate support for individual vertebrae in a thoracic and/or lumbar section of a backpack.

FIG. 13 shows yet another air frame 100, shaped similar to the air frames 80, 90. However, the air frame 100 includes separated ribs 102, 104, similar to the air frame 80. In addition, the air frame 100 includes two separate pumps 106, 108 for inflating the lumbar region of the airframe, and the remaining portion of the air frame, respectively. As an example, the pump 108 may inflate an air bladder extending the entire length of the air frame 100, and the pump 106 may inflate a second air bladder 109 located just at the lumbar region. Alternatively, the first air bladder may extend only down to the lumbar region. The two regions may be arranged in different ways.

FIG. 15 shows another air frame 110 having a fixed air chamber (i.e., an air chamber that has a fixed pressure and not having a pump). The air frame 110 includes a lumbar support 112 and ribs 114 for supporting individual vertebrae.

In accordance with an embodiment, an air frame may be provided with a number of smaller, individual chambers. Such an air chamber may be shaped like any of the previously-described air frames, or may be designed as desired to give a particular effect.

If individual chambers are used, the separate chambers may be utilized to adjust an air frame to the contours of the body of a user, and/or to adjust the frame to handle compression at particular parts of the air frame. The individual chambers may be of fixed pressure or may have pressure that is adjustable by a user (e.g., via a pump).

Individual chambers may also be arranged to distribute weight of a backpack, or conform to the myriad of body shapes with minimal compression. For example, air chambers may be used in a waist belt to evenly distribute weight around the hips. Such pads will automatically conform to a user's shape because of the flexible nature of air chambers. In contrast, foam waist belts require tight cinching to compress the foams to the body's shape.

As shown in FIG. 10, an air frame 120 may include non-inflatable segments 122 between inflatable segments 124. The inflatable segments 124 may be inflated to fit against the contours of a user's body. Each of these inflatable segments 124 may be individually inflatable or may be commonly inflatable.

FIG. 11 shows another air frame 130, or a section of an air frame, having non-inflatable segments 132 separated by inflatable segments 134. The non-inflatable segments 132 are positioned to support a load for a backpack, for example, in an area adjacent to a hip belt for a user. The air segments 134 are designed to take shock between the non-inflatable segments 132 and enable hip rotation that occurs during walking. Again, the inflatable segments 134 may be individually or collectively inflated.

FIG. 16 shows an air frame 140 on a backpack 142. The air frame 140 includes a plurality of individually adjustable chambers 144 positioned up and down the back of the backpack 142 and even more chambers 146 positioned on a belt for the backpack. The chambers 144 include large pouches 148 aligned to rest on opposite sides of a user's spine, and connecting channels 149. The connecting channels 149 allow the pouches 148 to inflate to equal pressure. Locating the pouches 148 on opposite sides of a user's spine removes weight from a user's spine. Each of these chambers may be individually adjusted or may be adjusted in sets so as to adjust the contour of the air frame 140 to the back of a user and to adjust a load in the backpack 142 appropriately to the back of a user. By adjusting individual chambers, a user may change the load transfer efficiency according to a load, terrain, and/or activity level.

FIG. 17 shows another backpack 150 having an air frame 152. The air frame 152 extends over the entire back of the backpack 150 and includes on the back of the air frame individually adjustable chambers 154 that are similar to the chambers 144 in FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 shows a backpack 160 having an air frame 162. The air frame 162 includes an inflatable back portion 164 having ribs 166. In addition, chambers may be provided in shoulder straps (e.g., 168) and along a hip belt 169. Each of these separate air chambers 164, 166, 168 and/or 169 may be separately inflatable. In accordance with an embodiment, the backpack 160 may be placed on the user as shown in FIG. 19, and each of the chambers may be inflated so as to fit the backpack appropriately to the user. The backpack 160 may be filled, and thus the load in the backpack may be appropriately displaced as the chambers are inflated. A user may, for example, deflate a chamber where there is too much pressure on the user's body, thus removing some pressure from that area, and inflate a chamber where it appears that there is a disproportionately small amount of load placed on the body.

FIGS. 20 and 21 show yet another backpack 170 having an air frame 172. The air frame 172 includes a plurality of air chambers 174, each of which includes a non-adjustable air pocket. These air chambers provide ergonomic support for the back of a user.

The air frames for the backpacks described above provide a number of benefits. First, the air frames are lighter than conventional stays, and thus reduce the overall weight of the backpack. Second, the amount of air put into an air frame may be adjustable, permitting a user to adjust the stiffness of the backpack as desired. In addition, as described above, use of an air frame permits a load to be evenly distributed or managed by a user. The air frame may also be utilized for air circulation management by strategically placing air chambers so as to enhance airflow between the chambers to increase a user's comfort.

In addition, the air frame may be properly adjusted for load support. The air frame also provides cushioning and shock absorption and vibration dampening. Air chambers of an appropriate thickness can provide convection currents or insulation, thus providing temperature management.

An air frame may be used to align the spine in an ergonomic manner. An air frame may include chambers that permit a waist belt or shoulder belt to be inflatable to help fit the contours of a user's body, to distribute load, and to cushion the body of a user.

An air frame may also be used to increase the waterproof features of a backpack. Air chambers are inherently non-absorptive, enhancing wet-serviceability because of reduced water absorption from sweat, rain or snow. An air frame of an appropriate size could aid in floating of a backpack.

In accordance with another embodiment, inflatable air chamber(s) may be incorporated inside of a compartment of a backpack to replace or minimize the use of the current compression straps. Compression straps are a feature of an internal frame backpack and allow a user to compress the backpack around loaded equipment to provide a tight and stable load. When there is not enough equipment in the backpack to fill it to maximum capacity, the compression straps close up that extra space, preventing undesirable load sway, or pack float. To replace such straps, adjustable chambers may be provided on the inside of a pack to permit a user to inflate the chambers as needed to fill a volume of a compartment of a backpack. Air chambers easily conform and fill the voids of a backpack's internal contents, thereby reducing shifting of the contents and making the load easier and more efficient to carry.

Inflatable air chamber(s) may also be incorporated inside of a compartment of a backpack or another case to replace the use of foams to protect the contents. For example, air chambers may be used to protect the contents of camera bags, digital music player cases, sunglasses cases, GPS cases, and other devices.

Chambers in such cases or backpacks may be fixed pressure (OEM) or adjustable by a user (e.g., via a pump). Air chambers easily conform or fill the voids of the inside of a case or backpack, thereby effectively securing the items and reducing the likelihood of damage. Air chambers also protect contents from external shock and compression. Air chambers are inherently waterproof, enhancing wet environment protection for a case's contents. In addition, air chambers are inherently non-absorptive, enhancing wet-serviceability (e.g., reducing wet absorption from sweat, rain, and/or snow). Air chambers are also inherently insulative, thereby protecting the pack/case's contents from temperature extremes.

Shelters

Another area in which air frames may be used is in shelters. An example of a shelter 180 is shown in FIG. 22. For the shelter shown in FIG. 22, an air frame 182 is provided in the form of four arches 184 connected together by an X-shaped cross brace 186 at the top. The arches 184 and the cross brace 186 are of sufficient diameter to support the weight of a covering (not shown), such as a taffeta nylon covering, or another suitable fabric. The covering may extend over or under the air frame 182. A user may inflate the air frame 182 and the shelter 180 is erected in a short period of time. The shelter 180 stores in a small package when the air frame 182 is deflated.

An alternate embodiment of a shelter 190 is shown in FIG. 23. The shelter 190 includes four rigid legs 192, for example, made of plastic or metal. An inflatable top 194 is positioned over the legs 192. The inflatable top 194 is formed as an arch, and includes ribs for permitting structured support. The inflatable top 194 includes metal or plastic tubes 196 for receiving the top ends of the legs 192. The inflatable top 194 may include reinforcement ribs or any other suitable structure so as to support the structure of the top over the legs 192.

FIG. 24 shows an alternate embodiment of a shelter 200. The shelter 200 is a fully inflatable air frame having legs 202 and an upper canopy 204. The upper canopy may be domed so as to provide arch support, or may simply extend straight across between the legs 202, and may be supported structurally (e.g., by a large diameter of the air frame and/or internal or external reinforcements or supports).

FIGS. 25 and 26 show two further embodiments of shelters 210, 220 in accordance with an embodiment. Each of these shelters 210, 220 includes an inflatable frame supporting a fabric canopy. The shelter 210 includes an X-shaped inflatable air frame 212 having a canopy 214 mounted at the top under the apex of the X-shaped air frame. The shelter 220 includes four arches 222 connected together at their lower ends and having a fabric canopy 224 extended therebetween.

If desired, the air frames used in the shelters may be replaceable bladders and may be received in the sleeve of a fabric, for example. As an example, for the shelter 220 in FIG. 26, the canopy 224 may include sleeves along its outer edges for receiving replaceable bladders that serve as the air frames 222.

The air frames for the shelters may be inflated manually or by use of a pump, such as an electric pump. If desired, a pressure sensor may be provided that senses a drop in pressure in the air frame and automatically starts a pump to inflate more air into the air frame.

Tents

Air frames may similarly be used to support a tent. For example, as shown in FIG. 27, a tent 230 includes a plurality of air channels 232 forming a crossed pattern for supporting the fabric 234 of the tent. The air channels 232 may support a doorway 236 over which may extend a door or a screen 238 (shown rolled to the side in FIG. 27).

An additional tent is shown in FIG. 28. The tent 240 shown in that drawing includes arched frame ends 242 that extend over the tent and a central upper rib 244 for connecting the two end frames 242. A side view of the tent is shown in FIG. 29.

In accordance with an embodiment, a door or window for a tent or a shelter may include an outer air frame for supporting a structure of the door or window. In this manner, the door or window may hinge outward from a tent so as to provide an opening similar to the opening for a home.

Air frames may be used in a similar manner to provide a tarp structure that can attach to the rear of a truck or a car. For example, as shown in FIG. 30, a tarp 250 may be provided having an air frame 252 that supports a canopy 254. In the embodiment shown, the air frame includes an outer arch 256 and two half arches 258 that extend up to a rear upper portion of a vehicle V.

Another shelter 260 is shown in FIG. 31. For this shelter, an air frame 262 extends upward from the ground and makes a sharp turn toward the top of a vehicle C. The top of the shelter 260 attaches to a roof rack R of the vehicle C. A crossbar 264, shown in FIG. 32, is also part of the air frame and helps to support the shelter 260. A canopy 266 extends over the air frame to provide a shelter function.

FIG. 33 shows yet another shelter 270 in accordance with an embodiment. The shelter 270 includes an air frame 272 formed of legs 274 attached to top braces 276 and a cross brace 278. A canopy 279 extends over the air frame 272 to provide the shelter.

The shelter 280 in FIG. 34 includes a one-piece back air frame 282 that extends across in an arch across the back of the shelter 280. Two forward braces 284 extend forward for attachment to a car, and a fabric 286 is draped in-between these forward braces.

The shelter 290 in FIG. 35 is similar to the shelter 280, but instead of being a rounded arch, the air frame 294 for the shelter includes components having straight lines. In addition, X-braces 292 extend across a top of the air frame 294.

As can be understood, the air frames of the present invention may be utilized to form a variety of different shelters or tents. In addition, the air frames may be positioned in a variety of different configurations, including honeycomb configurations, cross braces, free standing structures, or any other configuration. Air frames may be configured to replace the conventional poles that are used on shelters, tents, or canopies. The air frames are lighter than metal/polymeric/ceramic poles and are faster to erect. Examples of suitable materials and suitable pressures for inflating the air frames described herein can be found above and in U.S. Pat. No. 7,118,487, U.S. Pat. No. 6,263,617, and U.S. Provisional Pat. App. No. 60/130,549.

Furniture

FIG. 36 shows a love seat 300 in accordance with an embodiment. The love seat 300 includes a lower seating surface 302 and a seat back 304, each of which includes an inflatable bladder. An air channel 306 extends between the lower seating surface 302 and the seat back 304 so that the two air bladders may be inflated by a single valve and/or pump. The seat back 304 may include an inflatable lumbar bladder 306 for providing ergonomic support. The lumbar bladder may be connected in fluid communication with the seat back 304, or may be a separate bladder from the seat back.

Airbeds

The air frame technology described herein may be utilized to produce airbeds. Although conventional airbeds utilize air bladders, the bulk of those airbeds are made of a thick material that is puncture resistant and that can resist leaking. Such material works well for its intended use, but can be bulky and heavy when the airbed is deflated. In accordance with an embodiment, a much lighter weight air bladder is used in an airbed. Such a light-weight air bladder may be formed, for example, of a polyurethane material or another suitable lightweight material, such as the lightweight materials set forth above.

To protect such an air bladder, in accordance with an embodiment shown in FIG. 37, the air bladder 310 is placed into a puncture resistant cover 312. The puncture resistant cover may be formed, for example, of vinyl, canvas, or another suitable flexible, puncture-resistant material.

By forming the airbed bladder 310 as described above, the air bladder may be a replaceable component. Thus, the air bladder 310 would be a light-weight, replaceable component and when punctured may be replaced by another air bladder that would fit into the cover 312. To maintain the shape of the air bladder 310, coils 314 may be provided that extend between the top and bottom surfaces of the air bladder 310. However, if the air bladder is made of a very thin material, such coils 314 may be difficult to weld to the air bladder. Thus, in accordance with an embodiment shown in FIG. 38, a cover 320 includes a plurality of chambers 322 that extend a length of the cover. A corresponding plurality of interchangeable air bladders 324 are inserted into the chambers 322 so that the cover 320 is supported. These individual bladders do not require internal supports because the chambers provide such support. As with the air bladder 310, the interchangeable air bladders 324 may be replaceable.

Utilizing the structure shown in FIG. 38, air coils do not have to be provided in the air bladder. Thus, the interchangeable air bladders 324 may be formed using a relatively light-weight material that cannot be easily welded. In addition, even if a material is used that can be welded, eliminating coils reduces weight, bulk, and the cost of producing of the air bladders.

FIGS. 39 and 40 show an alternate embodiment of an airbed 330 having a cover 332 similar to the cover 320, but having air bladders 334 formed with semi-rectangular cross sections.

Marine Shelters

FIG. 41 shows an inflatable cover 340 that may be attached to the top of a boat B. The cover 340 includes an air frame 342 shaped similar to the air frames for some of the shelters described above. That is, the air frame 342 includes the rear arched air channel 344 and right and left channels 346, 348 that extend from back bottom portions of the cover 340 to a windshield for the boat B.

Other configurations of covers using air frames may be used for boats. For example, a cover 350 shown in FIG. 42 extends straight back from the windshield of a boat and a cover 360 shown in FIG. 43 includes a hump towards the center.

Details of another cover 351 are shown in FIG. 44. The cover 350 includes legs 352 extending upward to cross braces 354. Fabric 356 extends across the cross braces to provide shelter for the cover 350.

Another cover 361 is shown in detail in FIG. 45. The air frame 362 for that cover 361 includes an upwardly and forwardly extending C-shaped element 364 attached to an O-shaped element 366. A fabric 368 extends over the center portion of the O-shaped element 366 to provide a top for the cover 361.

Yet another embodiment of a cover 370 is shown in FIG. 46. This cover includes four legs 372 extending upward to a top frame 374.

An advantage of the inflatable air frames for boat covers is that the boat covers, once deflated, are very compact and can be stored in a convenient location on the boat. In addition, a cover may be configured so that it may fit onto a number of different boats. In addition, the boat covers are quickly installed after inflated so that a user may erect or store the cover in a short period of time. Thus, a user will not be hesitant to install a cover when weather is questionable, or to take the cover down once it is no longer needed.

Sleeping Bags

FIGS. 47-50 show three different embodiments of sleeping bags, each of which has a built-in airbed. The sleeping bag 380 in FIG. 47 includes an airbed 382 that is sewn into the bottom of a mummy sleeping bag 384. The airbed 382 is formed of a light-weight material such as is described above.

FIGS. 48 and 49 show a sleeping bag 390 having an airbed 392 that is attached to a mummy-style sleeping bag 394. A pump 396 is built into the airbed. Mesh material or stretch mesh material is provided for attaching the airbed 392 to the bottom of the mummy bag 394. In alternate embodiments, the airbed may be removably attached in a suitable manner, such as by hooks, snaps, hook and loop closures, clasps, or another removable or detachable connection structure.

FIG. 50 shows a sleeping bag 400 having a sleeve 402 extending along the bottom of the sleeping bag. An airbed 404 fits into the sleeve. The airbed 404 may be removed and replaced as necessary.

In any of the embodiments, a suitable pressure for inflating the air frames, such as the air frames described above, includes a range from four to eight pounds per square inch (P.S.I.). If more rigidity is desired, a higher pressure may be used. For example, a suitable pressure for the air frames used with backpacks includes a range up to fifteen P.S.I. Pressures less than four P.S.I. and pressures more than fifteen P.S.I. may also be used.

Other variations are within the spirit of the present invention. Thus, while the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, a certain illustrated embodiment thereof is shown in the drawings and has been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific form or forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention, as defined in the appended claims.

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) are 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. The term “connected” is to be construed as partly or wholly contained within, attached to, or joined together, even if there is something intervening. 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 embodiments of 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 inventor 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 inventor expects 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.