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The subject matter of the present application is related to privacy enclosures used on boats for toilets.
Privacy enclosures for changing clothing, and for use with toilets, for example the type commonly referred to as “port-a-potties”, are known. They are often used on the exposed decks of boats (for example pontoon boats, which have no cabin). Examples include those shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 7,117,646 to Blaisdell et al. (privacy enclosure for a boat, with rigid wall structures); U.S. Pat. No. 6,715,440 to Biedenweg et al. (collapsible changing room for a pontoon boat, the room formed in part by a passenger seat positioned adjacent the rear entry stem gate); U.S. Pat. No. 6,681,713 to Scott et al. (combination engine compartment cover and privacy enclosure with a rotatable frame member); U.S. Pat. No. 6,722,732 to Menne (positionable boat seat which transforms into a privacy enclosure); U.S. Pat. No. 6,302,053 to Tomczak et al. (transom-mounted changing room for a pontoon boat, with a frame rotatably attached to a portion of the boat raised from the deck); U.S. Pat. No. 5,379,466 to Davies (portable privacy closet with sidewalls raised and lowered telescopically between privacy closet and storage-cabinet positions); U.S. Pat. No. 5,029,348 to Boren (pontoon boat “head” with a housing, lid, and foldable frame); U.S. Pat. No. 4,883,016 to Larson (collapsible privacy chamber for a boat, with a sectional support member); and U.S. Pat. No. 3,986,215 to Amalfitano (over-the-side toilet seat frame with an upright post supporting a circular curtain ring above the toilet). These appear to require rigid supports and frames, to be at least semi-permanent parts of the boat, and/or to be relatively expensive and complicated.
Other privacy devices are known which are worn by the user, sometimes referred to as “dressing shelters”. Examples include those shown in U.S. Pat. No. 7,509,689 to Reardon et al. (disposable ponchos adapted to be worn while bathing or showering and drying off); U.S. Pat. No. 5,611,083 to Arnold (robe-like garment for use in changing clothes, with a hood and enlarged-diameter sleeves, in one embodiment adapted for wheelchair bound persons with a slit up the back); U.S. Pat. No. 3,381,306 to Innes (multiple purpose blanket that can be manipulated to form a dressing tent); U.S. Pat. No. 3,288,157 to Szkolny (portable dressing shelter with a hat section having a stiffened brim, and a long robe section attached to and hanging from the hat section to completely encircle and conceal the wearer); U.S. Pat. No. 3,079,611 to Boryszewski (poncho-like individual dressing sack or toga composed of two terrycloth towels); and U.S. Pat. No. 1,467,718 to Entrikin et al (a beach cape worn to add modesty over bathing suits when not swimming or when leaving a beach area).
For campers and hunters, U.S. Pat. No. 5,101,513 to Bowers discloses a foul weather apparel piece in which a tubular closure with a hood is maintained in a cylindrical shape by flexible spaced hoops, with a circular shoulder-supported panel on the top that rests on the person's shoulders and a radial zipper in the circular panel for convenient installation and removal; with the zipper open, the tubular enclosure is placed over the person's body, bottom hoop first, until the circular panel rests upon the person's shoulders. U.S. Pat. No. 3,837,006 to Laseman discloses a sportsman's tent comprising a tent-like garment with a hood and a removable floor.
Campers have also been known to use small portable tents with self-supporting frames for privacy around portable toilets in campgrounds and for roadside stops.
I have invented a wearable, portable privacy curtain that is simpler, less expensive, easier to store, and easier to use (particularly on boat decks) than prior devices, and which is specifically designed for use with a portable toilet. The curtain comprises a substantially tubular cape of flexible material with a top end with a top opening defined by an unstructured top edge; a bottom end with a bottom opening defined by an unstructured bottom edge; a front side with a selectively closeable vertical opening extending from the top edge partway toward the bottom end to allow the user to step through the top opening and pull the tubular cape up to shoulder level; and shoulder straps adjacent the top end for engaging the shoulders of a person wearing the cape, the cape having a length sufficient to extend from approximately the shoulders of a standing person to approximately the base of a portable toilet. “Unstructured” is used herein to mean not supported or shaped by a rigid member or frame.
In a further form, at least the bottom opening is sized to fit over and around the base of a portable toilet.
In a further form, the shoulder straps are secured to the front of the top end of the cape on opposite sides of the vertical opening, so that the straps can function as pull handles to pull the cape up from the ground to a point where the straps can be slipped over the shoulders, and then the vertical opening closed up. In the preferred form the vertical opening is a zipper.
The apparatus functions by placing the bottom end over and around the base of a portable toilet, and optionally also the top end. The cape can remain in place around the base of the toilet until needed, at which point the user makes sure the front vertical opening is unzipped, steps into the cape through the top opening, pulls the cape up to shoulder height while standing adjacent the toilet, closes the vertical front opening and secures the cape over the shoulders, and then sits on the toilet while both the user and the toilet are fully covered from the shoulder region down to the ground by the cape.
These and other features and advantages of the inventive privacy curtain and its manner of use will become apparent from the detailed description below, in light of the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective front view of a portable toilet on a boat deck, with a wearable privacy curtain according to the invention in a storage position encircling the base of the toilet.
FIG. 2 shows the privacy curtain of FIG. 1 partially unzipped from the top and a person stepping into the curtain over the toilet and pulling the curtain up.
FIG. 3 shows the person fully inside the privacy curtain, still standing above the toilet, with the curtain zipped up and supported on the user's shoulders.
FIG. 4 shows the curtain-covered person of FIG. 3 seated on the toilet.
FIG. 5 is a full perspective view of the privacy curtain of FIG. 1.
Referring first to FIG. 1, the wearable privacy curtain is shown in exemplary form in order to teach how to make and use the claimed invention. The illustrated environment is the deck 10 of a pontoon boat, although 10 could be the deck or floor of other types of boats, or the ground in a campground or at the side of the road, or an indoor floor surface—in short, any location where a portable toilet such as 12 needs to be used, but where there is no natural or pre-existing privacy enclosure. Portable toilet 12 can take any of various known forms and is generally available from commercial sources, its main feature being that it is portable, i.e. it can be picked up and transported. As such it is unlikely to be provided with a permanent or semi-permanent privacy enclosure of the type used with more permanently-mounted toilet facilities.
Privacy curtain 20 according to the invention is illustrated in a preferred storage position around the base 12a of toilet 12. Curtain 20 has a tubular body or cape 22 made from a suitable flexible, drapeable fabric or fabric-like material, including but not limited to lightweight cotton, nylon, polyester, canvas, or thin plastic sheeting, or combinations thereof, the material sewn or otherwise joined together to form a generally tubular body. The material of cape 22 is preferably opaque, and is at most translucent, so that the shape and detail of a wearer's body underneath is not easily distinguished by an observer. Different colors can be chosen, with a color that blends into the anticipated environment of use being the best choice.
“Tubular” is used herein to include both cylindrical and non-cylindrical shapes or volumes enclosed by the fabric of cape material 22, including but not limited to cone shapes with a bottom end wider than the top end (best shown in FIG. 5) or shapes matching the shape of the toilet 12. The important thing is that cape material 22 hide the user's body and the toilet for an acceptable level of privacy (which may vary from user to user) all the way around the user. Small openings for ventilation, or slits or flaps or openings for reaching through with an arm to retrieve or accept items are acceptable, provided that general toilet privacy is not compromised, although the open-topped structure of tubular cape body 22 is believed to eliminate the need for such openings.
Tubular body 22 has a top end 24 with an unstructured top edge 24a defining a top opening 24b, and a bottom end 26 with an unstructured bottom edge 26a defining a bottom opening 26b. The bottom end 26 is sized to fit over toilet 12 and around toilet base 12a with sufficient room for a user's feet to stand next to or in front of the toilet 12 while donning the curtain 20, and for this purpose is preferably wider or larger in diameter than top end 24 as best shown in FIG. 5. Top end 24 is also preferably sized to fit over toilet 12 and around base 12a, so that the entire curtain 20 can be stored unobtrusively around the base of the toilet in its collapsed state, as shown in FIG. 1. Alternately, top end 24 could be provided with a drawstring or tie closure or simply tied off over the top of toilet 12 to hide the toilet between uses; for such use the top end need not be sized to fit over and around toilet 12.
Tubular body 22 has a partial vertical opening 28 at the top end 24, in the “front” wall of the fabric, the front being defined in the illustrated embodiment by the location of the vertical opening when the tubular body is essentially cylindrical or otherwise does not have clearly delineated “sides”. If tubular body is made with a cross-sectional shape having distinct sides, then the vertical opening 28 would be in the wall that most naturally is positioned at the front of the toilet. Vertical opening 28 extends from top edge 24a partway down the tubular body 22 toward the bottom edge 26a, for example a quarter or a third or half the length of the cape. In the illustrated embodiment, vertical opening 28 is a zipper opening, although other forms of closure could be used, including but not limited to hook-and-loop and button closures.
Curtain 20 is provided with shoulder-supporting straps 30 at the top end 24, in the illustrated example the front ends 30a of the straps secured by sewing at or near the top edge 24a of the tubular body, one end 30a on each side of the zipper opening 28. Spaced straps 30 allow free ventilation through the top opening 24b on hot days, allow the user ample room to reach through top opening 24b to retrieve small items while remaining inside the curtain, and serve as pull handles while donning the curtain, as best shown in FIG. 2. “Straps” should be construed broadly to include any flexible, comfortable spaced members which engage the shoulders of the user while leaving the majority of opening 24b unobstructed, and include but are not limited to fabric strips, cord, mesh and solid materials; adjustable and non-adjustable straps; and fully separate straps as illustrated, as well as straps separated in the front but joined in the back for a Y- or V- or yoke-shape.
Referring next to FIGS. 2-4, the use of curtain 20 is illustrated in sequential fashion. A person 100 needing to use toilet 12 steps into curtain 20 through top opening 24b, with vertical opening 28 unzipped to increase the effective size of the top opening and to allow the shoulder straps 30 to spread apart wider than shoulder width. Straps 30 are then used to pull the top end 24 of tubular body 22 up to shoulder level, at which point the straps are placed on the shoulders of user 100, and then the vertical opening 28 is zipped closed to keep the straps in place on the shoulders and for some additional privacy. Top opening 24b is wider than the user's shoulders so that it remains open around the user's upper body and shoulders after zipper 28 is zipped up. User 100 is then free to sit on the toilet 12, while the flexible, unstructured tubular body flows and drapes like a circumferential cape to accommodate the seated posture and to cover both the user 100 (from approximately the shoulder region down) and the toilet 12. A casual observer would be unaware that user 100 is seated on a toilet. Meanwhile the user's head remains free to prevent feelings of claustrophobia, and to allow unobstructed sight and hearing. The large opening 24b around the user's upper body and shoulders also allows the user to look down inside the tubular body 22 to assist with toilet needs, to adjust clothing, or to operate the toilet.
The length of the tubular body 22 of curtain 20 in the Figures is approximately sixty inches (five feet), and in general should be at least long enough to extend from the user's shoulder region to a point at or near the base 12b of the toilet when the user is standing. This prevents the bottom edge 24a from riding up above toilet 12 (and possibly shifting off to one side of the toilet, especially if windy) when the standing user is donning the curtain 20. The length of the tubular body 22 can accordingly be varied depending on the expected height of the user(s). Longer is better than shorter, since excess material bunched around the base of toilet 12 will generally not interfere with the use of the curtain.
It will be understood that although curtain 20 is ideally designed and suited for use with a portable toilet such as 12, it can also be used on its own for general privacy or for changing clothes.
FIG. 5 additionally shows an optional fitting or adjusting structure 32 around the upper end 24 of the curtain 20, which can be used to reduce the size of the top opening 24b about the user's shoulders/chest region after zipper 28 has been zipped closed. Structure 32 is illustrated as an elastic cord running through a channel formed in the upper edge 24a, adjusted with known adjusters such as the illustrated spring-toggles commonly used in the drawstring closures of backpacks and the like. Depending on the elasticity of the cord 32, adjusters might not be needed, and reduction of top opening 24b about the shoulders or upper chest area might be obtained by virtue of the elastic nature of 32 on its own. Elasticity can also be built into upper edge 24a in other ways, for example with conventional elastic ribbon fabric placed partially or fully around the upper edge. Also, non-elastic but adjustable cord or equivalent could also be used for 32, but would require adjusters of some type (toggles, buckles, etc.) to adjust the size of opening 24b about the user's shoulders. Even after adjustment, however, the upper end opening 24b will remain open to the extent that the opening cannot be reduced further than the circumference of the user's shoulders/chest or the junction of the straps 30 and the user's shoulders, depending on the fit of curtain 20 to the user, and the straps 30 and at least a portion of the user's upper shoulder area remain exposed above the opening 24b for visibility and access and ventilation with respect to the toilet procedure.
It will finally be understood that the disclosed embodiments are presently preferred examples of how to make and use the claimed invention, but are intended to be explanatory rather than limiting of the scope of the invention as defined by the claims below. Reasonable variations and modifications of the illustrated examples in the foregoing written specification and drawings are possible without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the claims below. It should further be understood that to the extent the term “invention” is used in the written specification, it is not to be construed as a limiting term as to number of claimed or disclosed inventions or the scope of any such invention, but as a term which has long been conveniently and widely used to describe new and useful improvements in technology, and is still used in the U.S. patent statutes (e.g. 35 U.S.C. 101 et seq.) and in the U.S. Patent Office regulations (37 CFR 1 et seq.). The scope of the invention is accordingly defined by the following claims.