Title:
Climbing apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a durable, lightweight, nonslip, camouflage, structurally superior climbing treestand that is inexpensive and simple to manufacture, may be easily compacted for transportation, and includes one or more of arm/weapon rests, interchangeable grips, tactile and visual indicators, safety harnesses, nonslip, adjustable belts, and receptacles for bumpers, sockets, and the like. Also disclosed is a parabolic belt capable of firmly gripping a tree trunk to prevent slippage when used in conjunction with interchangeable or permanent platform grips. Tactile and visual indicators allow a user to ensure that the belt is optimally installed even in conditions in which the user may not view such indicators. Bumpers and safety harnesses are incorporated to prevent falls from heights through trees, tree limbs, and the like. Interchangeable sockets allow the user to customize the treestand to meet the user's needs (e.g., photography, hunting, snacking, etc.).



Inventors:
Hovey, William Charles (Rockaway, NJ, US)
Pietrowicz, Robert Matthew (Rockaway, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/144135
Publication Date:
12/07/2006
Filing Date:
06/03/2005
Assignee:
Telemark Holdings, LLC
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHIN-SHUE, ALVIN CONSTANTINE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Chipperson Law Group, P.C. (Madison, NJ, US)
Claims:
1. (canceled)

2. An apparatus for aiding an operator in attaining a final elevated position in a tree and for providing support for said operator comprising: at least one base platform including at least two base platform sidewalls; at least one climbing platform including at least two climbing platform sidewalls; and at least two belts, wherein a first of said belts is removably coupled to said base platform sidewalls and a second of said belts is removably coupled to said climbing platform sidewalls; wherein at least one of said base platform and said climbing platform are manufactured from fiber reinforced plastic.

3. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said fiber is selected from the group consisting of glass, wood, metal, precoated fibers, uncoated fibers, and pelletized fibers.

4. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said base platform and said base platform sidewalls are manufactured as a first unit via molding; and wherein said climbing platform and said climbing platform sidewalls are manufactured as a second unit via molding.

5. An apparatus according to claim 4, wherein said molding is at least one of the group consisting of thermoplastic injection molding, thermoset injection molding, resin transfer molding, blow molding, rotational molding, thermoforming, structural foam molding, and compression molding.

6. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said belts include at least one of the group consisting of a parabolic shape, a center indicator, and at least one length indicator.

7. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein at least one of said belts includes at least one core; and wherein said core is at least one of the group consisting of a band core and a cable core.

8. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein at least one of said belts is coupled to at least one of the group consisting of said first unit and said second unit via an attachment mechanism; and wherein at least one of the group consisting of said attachment mechanism and said belts is collapsible to facilitate at least one of the group consisting of transportation and storage.

9. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein at least one of the group consisting of said first unit and said second unit includes at least one elliptical recess.

10. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein at least one of the group consisting of said first unit and said second unit includes at least one receptacle capable of accepting at least one of the group consisting of a grip, a bumper, a weapon, a weapon rest, an arm rest, and a socket.

11. An apparatus according to claim 10, wherein said grips are selected from the group consisting of marring grips and non-marring grips.

12. An apparatus according to claim 10, wherein attachment of said bumpers to at least one of the group consisting of said base platform and said climbing platform provides at least one of the group consisting of reduction of noise created by said operator, operator comfort, and damage protection for said apparatus.

13. An apparatus according to claim 10, wherein attachment of said sockets to at least one of the group consisting of said base platform and said climbing platform facilitates at least one of the group consisting of supporting a weapon, supporting a drink, supporting food, supporting a camera, supporting a video recorder, and containing small objects.

14. An apparatus according to claim 2, said apparatus further comprising: at least one harness; wherein said harness minimizes at least one of the group consisting of said operator falling from said final elevated position, said operator falling from an intermediate elevated position, dropping of said base platform by said operator, and dropping of said climbing platform by said operator.

15. An apparatus according to claim 14, wherein said operator is suspended from said harness during at least one of the group consisting of attachment of said climbing platform, attachment of said base platform, detachment of said climbing platform, and detachment of said base platform.

16. An apparatus according to claim 2, further comprising: a security indicator; wherein said security indicator is at least one of the group consisting of a serial number, a UPC code, and a nametag; and wherein said security indicator is integral to at least one of the group consisting of said first unit and said second unit.

17. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said fiber reinforced plastic is combined with at least one of the group consisting of sand, silica, and an abrasive material to create a non-slip surface for at least one of the group consisting of said base platform and said climbing platform.

18. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said fiber reinforced plastic is combined with at least one of the group consisting of a dye and a coloring agent.

19. An apparatus according to claim 17, wherein said combining camouflages at least one of the group consisting of said base platform and said climbing platform.

20. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein at least a portion of one of the group consisting of said first unit and said second unit is in the shape of at least one of the group consisting of branches, twigs, and leaves.

21. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein at least one of the group consisting of said first unit and said second unit includes at least one floor aperture to prevent accumulation of at least one of the group consisting of rain, snow, sleet, leaves, and debris.

22. An apparatus for aiding an operator in attaining a final elevated position in a tree and for providing support for said operator comprising: at least one base platform including at least two base platform sidewalls; at least one climbing platform including at least two climbing platform sidewalls; at least two base platform arms removably coupled to said base platform sidewalls; at least two climbing platform arms removably coupled to said climbing platform sidewalls; and at least two belts, wherein a first of said belts is removably coupled to said base platform arms and a second of said belts is removably coupled to said climbing platform arms; wherein at least one of said base platform, said climbing platform, said base platform arm, and said climbing platform arm are manufactured from fiber reinforced plastic.

23. An apparatus according to claim 22, wherein each of said base platform arms is coupled to one of said base platform sidewalls by passing a first shank of a first fastener through a first slide located in said base platform sidewalls and tightening said first fastener to said base platform arm until a first head of said first fastener renders said base platform arm immovable; and wherein each of said climbing platform arms is coupled to one of said climbing platform sidewalls by passing a second shank of a second fastener through a second slide located in said climbing platform sidewalls and tightening said second fastener to said climbing platform arm until a second head of said second fastener renders said climbing platform arm immovable.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the present invention generally relate to a portable treestand for hunting or the like. More specifically, the present invention relates to a durable, lightweight, nonslip, camouflage, structurally superior climbing treestand that is inexpensive to manufacture, may be easily compacted for transportation, and includes one or more of arm/weapon rests, interchangeable grips, tactile and visual indicators, safety harnesses, nonslip, adjustable belts, and receptacles for bumpers, sockets, and the like.

Many systems and methods have been created to climb trees while simultaneously providing a platform for hunting or observation of animals. Many such systems include two platforms (i.e., a support platform and a climbing platform). These platforms are used to “climb” upwardly along the tree trunk. This is done by first attaching the support platform to the tree and stepping upon the support platform with the climbing platform in hand. While standing or sitting upon the support platform, the climber then attaches the climbing platform to the tree at a height higher than the support platform. Once the climbing platform is attached to the tree, the climber steps or propels his or her body until it is rested upon the climbing platform. At this point, the support platform is removed and reattached by the climber at a position higher than the climbing platform upon which the climber is now standing. These actions are repeated until a desired final position is achieved.

Although some systems include two identical platforms, typically, the support and climbing platforms differ. Preferably, the final position of the climbing device is a position in which the climbing platform is affixed to the tree at a height higher than the support platform and the height differential allows the climber to sit atop the climbing platform while resting his or her feet on the support platform.

To accommodate such a use, the support platform may be formed with an open grid to prevent the accumulation of rain or snow. Alternatively, the support platform may be mounted to the tree at a downwardly sloping angle less than 90 degrees to allow rain or snow to run off the support platform. In addition to being used as a footrest, the support platform may also be employed for equipment storage or to rest weapons, food, drink, and the like.

Similarly, different variations of climbing platforms exist. In its simplest form, the sitting platform is identical to the standing platform but includes a cushion, sling, or stretch of fabric to be utilized as a seat. More complex systems include a moveable seat wherein the position of the seat may be altered to accommodate different weapons or hunting styles. While most climbing platforms are designed to be mounted perpendicular to a tree, some climbing platforms are designed for mounting at a downwardly sloping angle less than 90 degrees to provide the user with an enhanced view of the area below. Some climbing platforms also include an integral angled bar intended for use as a footrest.

Many methods and apparatus have been employed to affix the climbing and support platforms to a tree in a manner that prevents vertical slippage. In some such systems, the climber encircles the tree with one or more cables, belts, chains, or the like that are removably or permanently affixed to one side of a platform. The unattached end of the cables, belts, or chains, are then attached to the opposite side of the platform via an attachment mechanism located on the platform. The point at which the cable is attached to the platform is typically adjustable to allow the cable to securely encircle trees having different diameters.

In some such systems, a rubber belt is inserted into an arm located on the edge of the platform until the desired length is achieved, at which point, the belt is secured to the platform using a pin, bolt, or clip inserted through holes in the arm. In one embodiment of such a system, the pin, clip, or bolt is also inserted through a hole in the belt to provide a stronger attachment. However, in other similar systems, the pin, bolt, or clip secures the belt to the arm only by the pressure exerted on the belt by the arm due to the tightening of the pin, bolt, or clip. In another such system having a similar attachment mechanism, the rubber belt is replaced with a chain comprised of two parallel, spaced apart rows of overlapping links interconnected by pins to provide increased strength.

Some similar systems contain an additional support member specifically designed to secure the cable, belt, chain, or the like to the platform. In these systems, the support member is attached to the side of the platform that faces the tree. This support member extends upwardly from the center of the backside of the base of the platform, parallel to the tree, and acts as an indicator of the center point of the tree. The support member is advantageously designed to be smaller than the width of the base of the platform and either equivalent or smaller than the diameter of a tree. This design allows the belt to be secured such that a larger portion of the belt is in contact with the tree since the support member may be positioned closer to the tree than the arms that are typical of other climbing systems.

One such system having a support member employs a toothed belt that is secured with a slide and lock device such that the belt may be adjusted to firmly encircle the entire diameter of the tree. Another such system includes a belt with a plurality of collars that is inserted into a securing device until the desired length is achieved. At that point, the securing device is placed in the locked position, and the collars, which have a diameter greater than the belt, act as a stop that prevents the belt from slipping through the locked securing device.

Other climbing systems contain bars for connection of the platform to the tree. One such system employs a U-shaped bar having studs on both ends of the bar. The ends of the U-shaped bar are inserted through arms contained on the edges of the platform such that the studs engage with mating members in the arm, thereby preventing movement of the bar. Another similar system includes a V-shaped bar that connects to arms on the platform via quick connect couplings. In this system, the V-shaped bars are attached to the quick connect coupling via pins such that when one end of the bar is disengaged from the platform, the attached end can be pivoted to move the bar around the tree trunk. In this system, it is only necessary to disconnect one side of the bar when moving the platform and the lengths of the arms to which the bar is attached can be altered to ensure contact of the bar with the tree.

Furthermore, climbing systems exist that include support bumpers between the tree grips and the tree. Typically, these support bumpers are manufactured from a nonslip material to reduce the possibility of vertical slippage of the platform. In many such systems, the surfaces of the platform that face the tree are V-shaped and include toothed support bumpers that grip the perimeter of the tree trunk. Some such support bumpers are also designed with the safety of the tree in mind, while others actually penetrate the tree for additional support.

Climbing systems have been designed to be lightweight for ease of transportation and climbing. One such lightweight system includes a lightweight core constructed of polymer foam that is covered with a stronger, fiber-reinforced composite material. Platforms of other lightweight systems include meshed or grated platforms to reduce the quantity of platform material, thereby reducing the weight of the platform.

In addition to decreasing the weight of climbing systems, other methods have been created to facilitate the transportation of such systems. For example, one system designed for ease of transport includes platforms that may be collapsed prior to transportation to reduce the size of the platforms during transportation. Yet another easily transportable system includes a platform having wheels that can be converted into a wheeled cart for carrying supplies, weapons, food, and the like during transportation. Other such systems minimize the size of the platforms during transportation by including removable parts that can be stored in a bag, backpack, or the like during transportation of the system.

Climbing systems having silencing features are also available. One such system includes gaskets on all moveable parts such that the user's movements do not generate noise. Other similar systems include foam or cloth seats that muffle the sounds of the user's movements. Furthermore, some support bumpers, such as those discussed above, are designed to eliminate noise in addition to providing additional support by preventing creaking caused by movement of the platform against the tree.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A durable, lightweight, nonslip, camouflage, structurally superior climbing treestand that is inexpensive to manufacture, and may be easily compacted for transportation is provided in one aspect of the present invention. In one embodiment of the present invention, the climbing apparatus includes, inter alia, arm/weapon rests, interchangeable grips, tactile and visual indicators, safety harnesses, nonslip, adjustable belts, and receptacles for bumpers, sockets, and the like.

The climbing apparatus may include a climbing platform and support platform. These platforms can be used to “climb” upwardly along the tree trunk to a final desired position. To do this, the climber first attaches the support platform to the tree trunk. Then, while sitting or standing on the support platform, the climber attaches the climbing platform to a location on the tree trunk that is higher than the location of support platform. The climber then steps or propels his or her body until it rests upon climbing platform. Next, while sitting or standing on climbing platform, the climber removes the support platform from the tree trunk and attaches it to a location on the tree trunk that is higher than the location of the climbing platform. These actions are repeated until the climber achieves a final desired position.

In some embodiments of the present invention, the platform bases are fabricated from a lightweight, durable material such as fiber reinforced plastic (“FRP”), which may include polyester resin, polypropylene, or the like. Embodiments are envisioned having fibers of metal, fabric, or the like. FRP is preferred as it is lightweight, which facilitates both climbing with and transportation of the climbing apparatus. Furthermore, use of FRP creates a climbing apparatus having superior corrosion resistance, dimensional stability, rigidity, and load capability.

Use of a moldable material such as FRP also allows the platform bases and all of the components of the bases (e.g., floors, sidewalls, slide apertures, floor receptacles, bumper receptacles, socket receptacles, and grip receptacles) to be manufactured via a simple, inexpensive, streamlined, one step process such as thermoplastic or thermoset injection molding. Such injection may be implemented for example, using plastic resin or pelletized plastic particulates. Fabrication of all components of the platform bases via injection molding greatly reduces the time required to fabricate each of the platforms of climbing apparatus while simultaneously providing more features and options than available with climbing apparatuses requiring a longer fabrication time. Additionally, this method of manufacture further minimizes cost of manufacturing by eliminating the use of additional machinery after the injection molding process. In lieu of thermoplastic or thermoset injection molding, alternate methods of manufacturing may be substituted including, but not limited to, resin transfer molding, blow molding, rotational molding, thermoforming, structural foam molding, or compression molding.

In addition to reducing the time and cost required to fabricate the platform bases, a process such as injection molding provides several other advantages. First, injection molding greatly increases the structural integrity of the platform bases by creating the bases and all of the components thereof as a single plastic piece, thereby eliminating points of failure. That is, there are no fasteners, adhesives, or the like required to affix the components of the platform bases thereto. Rather, a failure of the bases may only occur upon the destruction or breakage of the FRP or similar material used to fabricate these bases. Therefore, as FRP is a highly structurally sound material, the risk of failure of the platform bases is greatly minimized, thereby creating an extremely safe climbing apparatus.

Second, the use of injection molding allows the platform bases to be fabricated from a corrosion resistant, nonslip material that enhances safety by preventing slips from heights through trees and/or tree limbs. In embodiments of the present invention having this safety feature, sand, silica, or similar abrasive materials is added to the FRP to create the bases comprised of a tractable, nonslip material that cannot wear off or otherwise deteriorate with use since the tractable, nonslip material is incorporated consistently throughout these bases. Unlike nonslip pads that are applied to a platform's surface with adhesive or the like, the sand-augmented, or otherwise augmented, FRP continues to provide a tractable, nonslip surface as the outer layers wear away. Consequently, the platform bases are guaranteed to have tractable, nonslip surfaces for the life of climbing apparatus.

Third, the use of injection molding allows the platform bases to be fabricated of a camouflage material that does not wear off with use. The camouflage material facilitates hunting and animal observation by causing climbing apparatus to blend with its treetop environment. In embodiments of the present invention having this feature, camouflage coloring may be added to the FRP before injection for creation of the platform bases. Therefore these bases are comprised of a camouflage material that cannot wear off or otherwise deteriorate with use since the camouflage material is incorporated consistently throughout the platform bases. Or, a pattern such as military camouflage could be included in the plastic resin or pellets to allow climbing apparatus to blend in with the environment.

Fourth, to provide further camouflage, the shape of climbing apparatus could be altered to include molded segments that resemble tree branches or leaves. Similar to the aforementioned components of the platform bases including floors, sidewalls, slide apertures, floor receptacles, bumper receptacles, socket receptacles and grip receptacles, these segments may be created in the same, single shot injection process utilized to create the platform bases, thereby minimizing fabrication time and cost.

Although the embodiment of the present invention illustrated herein includes platform bases that are comprised of a single piece of FRP or the like, many features and advantages of the present invention may be realized by using bases having individually assembled components including floors, sidewalls, slide apertures, floor receptacles, bumper receptacles, socket receptacles and grip receptacles, rather than a single injection-molded base. Or, a subset of the components may be fabricated through a process such as injection molding and other individually assembled components may be added thereto. In addition, materials other than FRP may be used to fabricate the platform bases without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Climbing and support platforms each include three main components, namely, platform bases, arms, and belts. Preferably, the platform bases contain floor receptacles within their floors. The floor receptacles prevent water, rain, snow, and the like from accumulating on the floor of the platform bases. Furthermore, these receptacles reduce the weight of the platform bases by reducing the quantity of base material. Additionally, bumpers may be inserted into floor receptacles to minimize noise caused by movement of the user. Preferably, the floor receptacles are square and are arranged as a symmetrical, square lattice, but alternate configurations and arrangements of floor receptacles may be substituted without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Sidewalls, which may include one or more of a slide, slide aperture, bracket aperture, and arm/weapon rest clamp are preferably fabricated as an integral component of the platform bases. That is, the platform bases and sidewalls are a single unit. Sidewalls allow the arms and brackets to be attached to the platform bases. Each sidewall extends vertically upward from the left and right sides of the platform bases. In some embodiments of the present invention, the minimum height of sidewalls is selected such that it exceeds the height of the arms and brackets when these components are in their collapsed position. Such height of the sidewalls protects the arms and brackets from damage during transportation of climbing apparatus. Although sidewalls are depicted with a sloping upwardly facing surface, this surface may be flat or may embody other variations in height without departing from the scope of the present invention.

In some embodiments of the present invention, the arms are connected to the sidewalls of the platform bases via slides and brackets. The slides are inserted through a slide aperture prior to connection of the arms to the slide. The arms are connected to the sidewall of the support platform via the slide. The slide is inserted through the slide aperture prior to connection to the arm. The slide aperture includes an embedded reinforcement strip that may be fabricated of any durable, heavyweight material but preferably is a metal such as steel or aluminum. The embedded reinforcement strip may a completely tubular rail molded within the platform or, alternatively, may be a support beam that is contained within a support platform located below the slide aperture.

In some embodiments, the slides include a head and a threaded shaft and the arms include a corresponding threaded aperture. Upon selection of the desired location of the arm, the slide is inserted through the slide aperture and its shaft is threaded into the arm aperture until the head and the arm are flush to their respective sides of the sidewall. This process prohibits further movement of the arm until the user unthreads the slide from the arm aperture.

The elongated slide apertures, as compared to the circular slide apertures, guide movement of the respective slides and allow the respective arms to be fixed at a variety of angles with respect to the respective platform. The arms may be secured in their upright position by moving the slide within the locking step of the elongated slide aperture. Additionally, for safety, the locking step is configured such that when weight is applied to the platform, the slide automatically moves within the locking step securing the arms in their upright position. Alternatively, the arm may be collapsed by moving the slide to the elongated slide aperture end. The arm can also be secured in intermediate positions by securing the slide to the arm in any location between the locking step and the elongated slide aperture end. For additional support, brackets may support the arms in their upright position.

The climbing and support platforms may be collapsed for simple transportation or storage. To achieve this position, the brackets, which are collapsible brackets, are folded allowing the bracket to lie between the inwardly facing surface of its respective sidewall and the outwardly facing surface of its respective arm. As the bracket is collapsed, the slides simultaneously move through the elongated slide aperture until they are located opposite of their initial position. Or, for platforms having circular slide apertures and no brackets, the arms and corresponding slide simply rotate within the circular slide as necessary to allow the arms to lie flat on the upwardly facing surface of the respective platform. These actions transform climbing and support platforms into virtually flat objects that may be stacked upon one another to simplify transportation. In this collapsed position, climbing and support platforms may be easily stored under a seat, in an automobile trunk, or in a backpack, duffle bag, or the like during transportation to the user's desired location. Also, this design allows a user to carry the platforms as a backpack or contained within a backpack.

The climbing and support platform are attached to a tree trunk via a belt. The belt includes teeth, a center indicator, and tactile length indicators. The belt may be fabricated of any pliable material with a high durometer rating such as elastomeric, rubber, silicone, polyurethane, and the like. The use of such a material provides a belt having sufficient rigidity to maintain a parabolic shape, while also providing a belt having sufficient flexibility to tightly encircle trees of various diameters without vertical slippage. Preferably, the belt is fabricated with an internal support core such as cable cores or band core. These cores provide additional strength and durability and aid in maintaining the parabolic shape of belt. The cable or band cores may be fabricated from steel or a woven fiber or cord, however, any rigid material could be employed without departing from the spirit of the present invention. However, the support core may also be omitted from the belt without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Equally spaced semi-hexagonal indentations having one half of the thickness of the belt are fabricated within the interior of the belt to form teeth. As well as being equally spaced, semi-hexagonal indentations are fabricated within the belt such that they are inversely equivalent in size and shape to the teeth. The teeth begin at both ends of the belt and encompass three quarters of the length of each belt half. The exclusion of teeth on the portions of the belt that engage the tree is intended to prevent damage to the tree. The un-toothed portion of the belt may be smooth but preferably is textured to prevent vertically slippage of belt.

The belt is parabolic in shape to allow the un-toothed portion of belt to grip a tree while the toothed portion of the belt angles toward its climbing or support platform allowing the ends of the belt to be inserted into attachment mechanism of arms. The belt begins angling downwardly at a point at which the ends of the belt may be inserted into the attachment mechanism of the arms while retaining its fabricated parabolic shape.

The center indicator is a tactile and visual marking located at the midpoint of the belt on its outwardly facing surface. A user may tactility trace the length of the belt until center indicator is found to ensure that the belt is centered about the tree prior to connecting it to the climbing or support platform. The center indicator is tactile to allow the user to locate it in conditions such as darkness, fog, or if the tree trunk is too large to view the center indicator. Preferably, the center indicator is fabricated as an integral part of the belt, however, the center indicator may also be attached to the belt after fabrication without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

The belt also contains tactile length indicators. The tactile length indicators are protrusions in the belt that allow the user to measure the length of the portion of each belt half that has been inserted through attachment mechanism of climbing or support platform. These tactile length indicators allow the user to confirm that equal lengths of belt halves have been inserted through each of the respective attachment mechanisms, thereby, maximizing the possibility that the respective platform will be level. Conversely, attaching different lengths of belt halves to each of the two attachment mechanisms located on climbing or support platform, is likely to cause an unlevel platform that may result in injury or loss of equipment.

In some embodiments of the present invention, the tactile length indicators are depicted as a line extending across the entire width of the backside of belt. However, alternate configurations could be incorporated without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the tactile length indicators could be circles, dots, squares, triangles or other shapes or could be a number that represents the distance from the belt end. Alternatively, the tactile length indicators may be replaced with visual indicators, but preferably the tactile length indicators are both tactile and visual.

The belts are attached the platforms via one or more attachment mechanisms. That is, both ends of the belt may be removably attached to the platforms, or one end may be permanently attached and the one end may be removably attached. To attach either platform to a tree trunk, the belt is passed about the tree trunk such that it encircles the tree trunk. The belt is then threaded into the attachment mechanism, pulled taut, and clamped or otherwise fixed to the arm via a fastener such as an attachment mechanism.

The attachment mechanisms are employed to lock the belt to the climbing or support platform at the user's desired position after the belt is threaded into the attachment mechanism and pulled taut. The attachment mechanism includes a toggle that allows the user to adjust the attachment mechanism to a locked or unlocked position. The attachment mechanism includes two teeth that are equivalent to semi-hexagonal indentations of the belt. The attachment mechanism teeth are positioned opposite belt teeth such that when the toggle is in its locked position, the attachment mechanism teeth are inserted into the semi-hexagonal indentations with sufficient pressure to secure belt within arms of support platform. When the toggle is moved to its unlocked position the attachment mechanism teeth are disengaged from the semi-hexagonal indentations and the user can remove the belt from the arm or alter the length of the belt end that is inserted into the arm.

Tightening of the belt about the tree trunk causes the grips to grip the tree bark and/or tree trunk, thereby securing the climbing or support platform to the tree. The grips may be modular or may be fabricated as an integral part of the platform bases. A modular grip may be detachably connected to either platform by inserting the grip into the grip receptacle. Although non-marring grips, which may be manufactured from materials such as polypropylene or high durometer rubber, are depicted in the detailed description, various types of grips may be affixed to the platform without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the grips may be marring to provide additional support by actually penetrating the tree trunk as well as the bark of the tree. However, because some state or local regulations may restrict the type of grips allowed, the inclusion of the grip receptacle and modular grips allows the climbing apparatus to be used in both regulated and non-regulated areas by simply inserting the desired or required grips into grip receptacles. Furthermore, incorporation of modular grips allows the grips to be easily replaced if they wear out or otherwise become ineffective or damaged.

Once a user achieves a final climbing position, the climbing platform may be used as a seat. To accommodate such use, the climbing platform optionally includes arm/weapon rests and semicircular or semi-elliptical recessed edges. The recessed edges are shaped such that the user can comfortably suspend their legs over the edge of climbing platform for extended periods of time. Additionally, the user can position support platform below climbing platform such that it can be used as a footrest. The recessed edges and the use of support platform as a footrest allow the user to rest comfortably and increases the ability of the user to maintain proper blood circulation in their legs. Since most local, state, and federal hunting regulations limit hunting to colder months, maintaining proper blood circulation in a hunter's legs is even more critical as circulation is typically slowed in cold weather conditions. When proper precautions are taken by the user, these features of the present invention may help the user to prevent conditions caused by poor circulation such as loss of feeling to the extremities, frostbite, chilblains, leg ulcers, or cyanosis.

Bumpers, such as rectangular, circular, or elongated rectangular bumpers, may be inserted into bumper and floor receptacles such that flanges located on the upper end of the bumper rest atop the climbing or support platform base and, thereby, prevent the bumper from falling through the receptacle. These bumpers provide a soundproof surface upon which a user may rest a weapon or other device without creating noise that may alter the behavior of the specimen being hunted or observed. Bumpers may also act as a safety feature by indicating the edge of the support or climbing platform to the user and providing a raised surface that may help prevent the user from falling from the respective platform. Alternatively, bumpers may be added for comfort (e.g., bumpers may be used as a footrest) or to protect the platforms during transportation or use.

Bumpers may be fabricated from any insulating material such as rubber, leather, foam, plastic, or the like. Preferably, bumpers are fabricated from a material that absorbs noise. Also, preferably, upwardly facing surfaces of the bumpers are fabricated with a curvature that allows the upper surfaces to form a continuous surface between bumper edge and the platform to prevent tripping, stumbling, or the like. However, other torsions of upper surfaces may be implemented without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Sockets may also be incorporated in the present invention. Such sockets may be inserted in socket apertures located in either of both of the climbing and support platforms. A socket may include a support aperture for secure placement of a weapon such as a gun or bow at a desirable and ready position for the hunter. Or, sockets may be designed to support a camera, video recorder, or the like. Alternatively, sockets may be designed to hold drink, food, bullets, or other object that may be easily misplaced or spilled without proper containment, although many embodiments of the present invention may omit food holders since scent-emitting items may impair the user's ability to hunt.

While it is envisioned that many sockets will be fabricated to meet specific, predetermined needs, solid sockets that may be altered by the user to suit his or her unique needs are also envisioned. Such a socket would be fabricated from a malleable, yet durable, material such as polypropylene or a similar polymer. Fabrication from such a material would allow the user to alter the socket to their desired need via sandpaper, cutting tools, rasp, drill, rotary tool, or the like.

The platforms also optionally include security indicators with serial numbers or the like for identification purposes. Identification may be required, for example, if either platform is lost or stolen. Although a serial number may be included on the climbing platform only, or two different serial numbers may be included on the climbing and support platforms, preferably the serial number on the climbing platform is identical to the serial number of the support platform. This allows the climbing and support platforms to be identified as a set having equal wear and tear if either platform becomes intermingled with other similar platforms. Although the present embodiment depicts the form of identification as a serial number, other methods of identification such as UPC codes, nametags, or the like may be incorporated without departing from the scope of the present invention. However, preferably, the form of identification is such that it may be permanently incorporated in either platform by molding it into such platforms during the single step molding process as discussed above, thereby minimizing the possibility of removal of such identification.

Some embodiments of the present invention optionally include a safety harness, wherein one or more components of the safety harness are integral to the climbing and support platforms. The integral nature of these components is an important aspect of some embodiments of the present invention as it increases the likelihood that a user will employ the safety harness when climbing a tree, thereby increasing the overall safety of the present invention. Since the safety harness moves with the platforms as the user climbs the tree, no additional steps beyond initial setup of the safety harness are required by the user to ensure that the safety harness remains in place. In other words, since the user does not need to remove and reattach the safety harness independent of the removal and reattachment of the climbing and support platforms which is required to climb the tree, the climber is more likely to employ the safety harness throughout the entire climbing process, thereby increasing the safety of each climb. Furthermore, the integral nature of the safety harness prevents situations in which the hunter initially engages the safety harness but fails to engage it during the climb until the final height is reached, which may result in falls during the climb.

In such embodiments, the climbing apparatus includes, inter alia, climbing and support platforms, a support platform strap fastener, climbing and support platform straps, one or more clips, and a body harness. In one aspect of the present invention, the climbing platform strap is threaded through the grid of the climbing platform base and is stitched or otherwise coupled together below the downwardly facing surface of the climbing platform base such that climbing platform strap remains in a relatively stationary position with respect to the climbing platform. Similarly, support platform strap may be affixed to support platform via one or more support platform strap fasteners.

Prior to using the climbing apparatus, body harness may be secured to the user's body (e.g., encircled about the user's waist). Next, body harness is attached to one or more of the climbing and support platforms by clipping the body harness thereto via a clip such as a karabiner. Thereafter, the climbing platform is affixed to the tree and a user may suspend his or her body therefrom in a sitting position. Such a position frees the user's hands such that they are able to attach, or remove and reattach, the support platform at the next desired position on the tree. Upon securing the support platform, the user may then climb or propel his or her body atop the support platform, and rest upon it while removing the climbing platform and reattaching it to the next desired position on the tree. These actions are repeated until the user achieves a final desired position.

The harness increases the safety of the present invention by preventing the user from falling a significant distance. That is, if the user were to slip or fall while attaching or detaching the support platform, or while climbing or propelling his or her body atop the support platform, the user would descend only to the height of the previous sitting position, thereby preventing injury that could occur from falling from a significant height in a tree to the ground. Furthermore, attachment of the climbing and support platforms to the harness via the clips prevents these platforms from falling to the ground if either is dropped by the user, thereby ensuring that the user will have both platforms when descending the tree. This aspect of the harness of the present invention further increases its safety as it is difficult to descend from a tree without the proper equipment.

Other objects, features, and characteristics of the present invention, as well as the methods of operation and functions of the related elements of the structure, and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become more apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of this specification.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A further understanding of the present invention can be obtained by reference to the embodiments set forth in the illustrations of the accompanying drawings. Although the illustrated embodiment is merely exemplary of systems for carrying out the present invention, both the organization and method of operation of the invention, in general, together with further objectives and advantages thereof, may be more easily understood by reference to the drawings and the following description. The drawings are not intended to limit the scope of this invention, which is set forth with particularity in the claims as appended or as subsequently amended, but merely to clarify and exemplify the invention.

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 depicts a high level view of a climbing apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention including, inter alia, climbing and support platform bases, arms, and belts.

FIG. 2 depicts a top plan view of the climbing apparatus in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 in its collapsed, or transportable, state.

FIG. 3 depicts a skewed front view of a toothed belt in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 including the belt teeth and center indicator.

FIG. 4 depicts a side view of a toothed belt in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 including the tactile and visual indicators located on the outwardly facing side of the belt.

FIG. 5 depicts an enlarged sectional side view of one end of a toothed belt in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 including the tactile length indicators, the semi-hexagonal shape of the belt teeth, and the relationship therebetween.

FIG. 6A depicts a cross-sectional view of a toothed belt in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 including the cable cores contained therein.

FIG. 6B depicts a cross-sectional view of a toothed belt in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 including the band core contained therein.

FIG. 7 depicts an enlarged, angled side view of the support platform base in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 including, inter alia, the arm, attachment mechanism, slide, slide aperture, locking step, and bracket.

FIG. 8 depicts an enlarged, cutaway, front view of the support platform sidewall, arm, slide, and slide aperture in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 depicts top and side plan views of a socket in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention illustrating, inter alia, the socket flange, socket flange apertures, socket flange indicator line, and support receptacle.

FIG. 10A depicts one embodiment of an elongated rectangular bumper in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10B depicts one embodiment of a circular bumper in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10C depicts one embodiment of a rectangular bumper in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 11 depicts a high level view of a climbing apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention including, inter alia, climbing and support platforms, climbing and support platform straps, support platform strap fastener, and body harness.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As required, a detailed illustrative embodiment of the present invention is disclosed herein. However, techniques, systems and operating structures in accordance with the present invention may be embodied in a wide variety of forms and modes, some of which may be quite different from those in the disclosed embodiment. Consequently, the specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are merely representative, yet in that regard, they are deemed to afford the best embodiment for purposes of disclosure and to provide a basis for the claims herein, which define the scope of the present invention. The following presents a detailed description of some embodiments of the present invention.

Referring first to FIG. 1, depicted is a high level illustration of one embodiment of climbing apparatus 100 in accordance with embodiments of the invention. Climbing apparatus 100 includes climbing platform 102 and support platform 104. Climbing platform 102 and support platform 104 can be used to “climb” upwardly along the tree trunk to a final desired position. To do this, the climber first attaches support platform 104 to the tree trunk. Then, while sitting or standing on support platform 104, the climber attaches climbing platform 102 to a location on the tree trunk that is higher than the location of support platform 104. The climber then steps or propels his or her body until it rests upon climbing platform 102. Next, while sitting or standing on climbing platform 102, the climber removes support platform 104 from the tree trunk and attaches it to a location on the tree trunk that is higher than the location of climbing platform 102. These actions are repeated until the climber achieves a final desired position.

In the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1, climbing and support platforms 102 and 104, respectively, each include three main components, namely, climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, arms 110, and belts 112. Arms 110 are coupled to climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, via slides 114. Brackets 134 may also be incorporated to provide additional support for arms 110. Belts 112 are coupled to arms 110 via attachment mechanisms 116.

In some embodiments of the present invention, support and climbing platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, are fabricated from a lightweight, durable material such as FRP (e.g., polyester resin, polypropylene, etc.). FRP is preferred as it is lightweight, which facilitates both climbing with and transportation of climbing apparatus 100. Furthermore, use of FRP creates a climbing apparatus 100 having superior corrosion resistance, dimensional stability, rigidity, and load capability.

Also, use of a moldable material such as FRP allows climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, and all components thereof (e.g., floors 118, sidewalls 120, slide apertures 122, floor receptacles 124, bumper receptacles 126a and 126b, socket receptacles 128, and grip receptacles 130) to be manufactured via a simple, less expensive, streamlined, one step process such as thermoplastic or thermoset injection molding. Such injection may be implemented, for example, using plastic resin or pelletized plastic particulates. Fabrication of all components of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, via injection molding greatly reduces the time required to fabricate each of the platforms of climbing apparatus 100 while simultaneously providing more features and options than available with climbing apparatuses requiring a longer fabrication time. Additionally, this method of manufacture further minimizes cost of manufacturing by eliminating the use of additional machinery after the injection molding process. In lieu of thermoplastic or thermoset injection molding, alternate inexpensive methods of manufacturing for support and climbing platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, may be substituted including, but not limited to, resin transfer molding, blow molding, rotational molding, thermoforming, structural foam molding, or compression molding.

In addition to reducing the time and cost required to fabricate climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, a process such as injection molding provides several other advantages. First, injection molding greatly increases the structural integrity of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, by creating the bases and all of the components thereof as a single plastic piece, thereby eliminating points of failure. That is, there are no fasteners, adhesives, or the like required to affix the components of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, thereto. Rather, a failure of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, may only occur upon the destruction or breakage of the FRP or similar material used to fabricate these bases. Therefore, as FRP is a highly structurally sound material, the risk of failure of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, is greatly minimized, thereby creating an extremely safe climbing apparatus 100.

Second, the use of injection molding allows climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, to be fabricated from a corrosion resistant, nonslip material that enhances safety by preventing slips from heights through trees and/or tree limbs. In embodiments of the present invention having this safety feature, sand, silica, or similar abrasive materials is added to the FRP to create climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, comprised of a tractable, nonslip material that cannot wear off or otherwise deteriorate with use since the tractable, nonslip material is incorporated consistently throughout these bases. Unlike nonslip pads that are applied to a platform's surface with adhesive or the like, the sand-augmented, or otherwise augmented, FRP continues to provide a tractable, nonslip surface as the outer layers wear away. Consequently, climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, are guaranteed to have tractable, nonslip surfaces for the life of climbing apparatus 100.

Third, the use of injection molding allows climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, to be fabricated of a camouflage material that does not wear off with use. The camouflage material facilitates hunting and animal observation by causing climbing apparatus 100 to blend with its treetop environment. In embodiments of the present invention having this feature, camouflage coloring is added to the FRP before injection to create climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively. Therefore these bases are comprised of a camouflage material that cannot wear off or otherwise deteriorate with use since the camouflage material is incorporated consistently throughout climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively. Or, a pattern such as military camouflage could be included in the plastic resin or pellets to allow climbing apparatus 100 to blend in with the environment.

Fourth, to provide further camouflage, the shape of climbing apparatus 100 could be altered to include molded segments that resemble tree branches or leaves. Similar to the aforementioned components of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively (e.g., floors 118, sidewalls 120, slide apertures 122, floor receptacles 124, bumper receptacles 126a and 126b, socket receptacles 128 and grip receptacles 130), these segments may be created in the same, single shot injection process utilized to create climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, thereby minimizing fabrication time and cost.

Although the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 includes climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, that are comprised of a single piece of FRP or the like, many features and advantages of the present invention may be realized by using bases having individually assembled components (e.g., floors 118, sidewalls 120, slide apertures 122, floor receptacles 124, bumper receptacles 126a and 126b, socket receptacles 128 and grip receptacles 130), rather than a single injection-molded base. Or, a subset of the components may be fabricated through a process such as injection molding and other individually assembled components may be added thereto. In addition, materials other than FRP may be used to fabricate support and climbing platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, without departing from the scope of the present invention.

In the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1, sidewalls 120, which may include slide 114, slide aperture 122, and sidewall bracket aperture 132, are fabricated as an integral component of climbing and support platform bases, 106 and 108, respectively. That is, climbing and support platform bases, 106 and 108, respectively, and sidewalls 120 are a single unit. Sidewalls 120 allow arms 110 and, optionally, brackets 134, to be attached to climbing and support platform bases, 106 and 108, respectively. Each sidewall 120 extends vertically upward from the left and right sides of climbing and support platform bases, 106 and 108. In some embodiments of the present invention, the minimum height of sidewalls 120 is selected such that it exceeds the height of arms 110 and brackets 134 when these components are in their collapsed position as described below with respect to FIG. 2. Such height of sidewalls 120 protects arms 110 and brackets 134 from damage during transportation of climbing apparatus 100. Although sidewalls 120 are depicted in FIG. 1 with a sloping upwardly facing surface, this surface may be flat or may embody other variations in height without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Arms 110 are connected to sidewalls 120 of climbing and support platforms, 102 and 104, respectively, via slides 114. Brackets 134 may also be incorporated to provide additional support for arms 110. Slides 114 are inserted through slide aperture 122 prior to connection of arms 110 to slide 114. The connection of slide 122 to arm 110 is discussed in further detail below with respect to FIG. 8. For additional support, brackets 134 may also attach arms 110 to sidewalls 120 as discussed in greater detail below with respect to FIG. 7. Also, stops 148 are located adjacent the inwardly facing surface of sidewalls 120 and are provided to prevent arms 110 from folding backward beyond the minimum allowable position. Furthermore, arm support 152 provides additional support and prevents arms 110 of support platform 104 from collapsing inwardly.

Belts 112 attach to climbing and support platforms 102 and 104, respectively, via one or more attachment mechanisms 116. That is, both ends of belt 112 may be removably attached to climbing or support platforms 102 and 104, respectively, or one end may be permanently attached and the one end may be removably attached. For embodiments of the present invention having parabolic belts, both ends of belt 112 are removably attached. To attach either platform to a tree trunk, belt 112 is passed about the tree trunk such that it encircles the tree trunk. Belt 112 is then threaded into attachment mechanism 116, pulled taut, and clamped or otherwise fixed to arm 110 via a fastener such as an attachment mechanism. Belt 112 and its integral teeth 136 are discussed in greater detail below with respect to FIGS. 3-6. Likewise, one embodiment of an attachment mechanism 116 is described in greater detail below with respect to FIG. 7.

Tightening of belt 112 about the tree trunk causes grips 146 to grip the tree bark and/or tree trunk, thereby securing climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively, to the tree. Grips 146 may be modular or may be fabricated as an integral part of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively. A modular grip 146 may be detachably connected to either platform by inserting grip 146 into grip receptacle 130. Although non-marring grips 146 are depicted in FIG. 1, various types of grips may be affixed to climbing platform 102 and support platform 104 without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, grips 146 may be marring to provide additional support by actually penetrating the tree trunk as well as the bark of the tree. However, because some state or local regulations may restrict the type of grips allowed, the inclusion of grip receptacle 130 and modular grips 146 allows climbing apparatus 100 to be used in both regulated and non-regulated areas by simply inserting the desired or required grips 146 into grip receptacles 130. Furthermore, incorporation of modular grips allows grips 146 to be easily replaced if they wear out or otherwise become ineffective or damaged.

Climbing and support platforms 102 and 104, respectively, also optionally include security indicators 138 with serial number 140 or the like for identification purposes. Identification may be required, for example, if either platform is lost or stolen. Although serial number 140 may be included on climbing platform 102 only, or two different serial numbers 140 may be included on climbing and support platforms, 102 and 104, respectively, preferably serial number 140 on climbing platform 102 is identical to serial number 140 of support platform 104. This allows the climbing and support platforms, 102 and 104, respectively to be identified as a set having equal wear and tear if either platform becomes intermingled with other similar platforms. Although the present embodiment depicts the form of identification as a serial number, other methods of identification such as UPC codes, nametags, or the like may be incorporated without departing from the scope of the present invention. However, preferably, the form of identification is such that it may be permanently incorporated in either platform by molding it into such platforms during the single step molding process as discussed above, thereby minimizing the possibility of removal of such identification.

Finger grips 150 may also be optionally included in the present invention. Such grips provide the user with a comfortable location for to be gripped by the user's hands while the user remains idle.

Bumper receptacles 126a and 126b allow the user to detachably add bumpers such as bumpers 1000a and 1000b (FIG. 10) to climbing or support platforms 102 and 104, respectively. Such bumpers help minimize the noise caused by movement of the user. However, bumpers may also be added for comfort or to protect the platforms during transportation or use. For example, bumpers may be used as a footrest while using climbing platform 102 as a seat as described with respect to FIG. 2. Bumper receptacles 126a and 126b are discussed in greater detail below with respect to FIGS. 10A and 10B. Although this embodiment depicts one bumper receptacle 126a and two bumper receptacles 126b, other quantities or locations of bumper receptacles could be included without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Socket receptacle 122 allows the user to attach a socket such as socket 900 (FIG. 9) to climbing or support platforms 102 and 104, respectively. Socket 900 is discussed in greater detail below with respect to FIG. 9. Such sockets may serve as a rest for a weapon, drink, food, or the like. Or, sockets may be fabricated for other purposes such as supporting a camera, video recorder, or the like. Alternatively, a socket could be fabricated as a receptacle for bullets or other objects that could be easily misplaced or spilled without proper containment. Additionally, other quantities or locations of socket receptacles could be included without departing from the scope of the present invention. Although the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 depicts socket receptacle 122 and bumper receptacles 126a-126b within support platform 104 only, other embodiments are envisioned in which similar receptacles are included in climbing platform 102.

Climbing and support platform bases 208 and 210, respectively, contain floor receptacles 124 within floors 118. Floor receptacles 124 prevent water, rain, snow, and the like from accumulating on floor 118 of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively. Furthermore, receptacles 124 reduce the weight of climbing and support platform bases 106 and 108, respectively, by reducing the quantity of base material. Additionally, bumpers 1000c (FIG. 10) may be inserted into floor receptacles 124 to minimize noise caused by movement of the user as described in further detail below with respect to FIG. 10C. Although floor receptacles 124 of the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 are square and are arranged in as a symmetrical, square lattice, alternate configurations and arrangements of floor receptacles 124 may be substituted without departing from the scope of the present invention.

FIG. 2 depicts a top plan view of climbing and support platforms 102 and 104, respectively. Once a user achieves a final climbing position, climbing platform 102 may be used as a seat. To accommodate such use, climbing platform 102 optionally includes arm/weapon rest 154 and semicircular or semi-elliptical recessed edges 144. Arm/weapon rest 154 may be manufactured of a tubular metal or the like, an end of each being inserted in respective arm/weapon rest clamp 156. Once inserted thereto, arm/weapon rest 154 may be held in place via tightening of the respective thumbscrews. However, alternate methods of attaching an arm/weapon rest 154 to either platform may be substituted without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Recessed edges 142 are shaped such that the user can comfortably suspend their legs over the edge of climbing platform 102 for extended periods of time. Additionally, the user can position support platform 104 below climbing platform 102 such that it can be used as a footrest. Recessed edges 144 and the use of support platform 104 as a footrest allow the user to rest comfortably and increases the ability of the user to maintain proper blood circulation in their legs. Since most local, state, and federal hunting regulations limit hunting to colder months, maintaining proper blood circulation in a hunter's legs is even more critical as circulation is typically slowed in cold weather conditions. When proper precautions are taken by the user, these features of the present invention may help the user to prevent conditions caused by poor circulation such as loss of feeling to the extremities, frostbite, chilblains, leg ulcers, or cyanosis.

In the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 2, climbing and support platforms, 102 and 104, respectively, are depicted in their collapsed or transportable position. To achieve this position, brackets 134, which are collapsible brackets, are folded from the position depicted in FIG. 1 allowing bracket 134 to lie between the inwardly facing surface of the respective sidewall 120 and the outwardly facing surface of respective arm 110. As bracket 134 is collapsed, slides 114 simultaneously move through slide aperture 122, if required, until they are located opposite of their initial position as depicted in FIG. 1. Or, alternatively, when brackets 134 are not incorporated, arms 110 and slides 114 are simply rotated within the slide aperture until arms 110 rest atop the upwardly facing surface of the corresponding platform. These actions transform climbing and support platforms, 102 and 104, respectively, into virtually flat objects that may be stacked upon one another to simplify transportation. Slides 114 and brackets 134 are discussed in further detail below with respect to FIG. 7. In this collapsed position, climbing and support platforms 102 and 104, respectively, may be easily stored under a seat, in an automobile trunk, or in a backpack, duffle bag, or the like during transportation to the user's desired location.

Support platform base 108 includes socket fastener apertures 202 for attachment of a socket such as socket 900 (FIG. 9) to support platform base 108 after insertion of such a socket into socket aperture 128. The attachment of socket 900 to support platform base 108 is discussed in further detail with respect to FIG. 9. Although socket aperture 128 is included only on support platform base 108, a similar socket aperture could be included in climbing platform base 106 without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Referring now to FIG. 3, illustrated is a skewed top plan view of an embodiment of belt 112 in accordance with the present invention. Belt 112 includes teeth 136, center indicator 302, and tactile length indicators 304. Belt 112 may be fabricated of any pliable material with a high durometer rating such as elastomeric, rubber, silicone, polyurethane, and the like. The use of such a material has provides a belt 112 having sufficient rigidity to maintain a parabolic shape, as discussed in detail below with respect to FIG. 4, while also providing a belt 112 having sufficient flexibility to tightly encircle trees of various diameters without vertical slippage. Preferably, belt 112 is fabricated with an internal support core such as cable cores 602a (FIG. 6A) or band core 602b (FIG. 6B) as discussed in further detail below with respect to FIGS. 6A-6B. These cores provide additional strength and durability and aid in maintaining the parabolic shape of belt 112. However, the support core may be omitted from belt 112 without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Center indicator 302 is a tactile and visual marking located at the midpoint of belt 112 on its outwardly facing surface. A user may tactilely trace the length of belt 112 until center indicator 302 is found to ensure that belt 112 is centered about the tree prior to connecting it to climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively. Center indicator 302 is tactile to allow the user to locate it in conditions such as darkness, fog, or if the tree trunk is too large to view center indicator 302. Preferably, center indicator 302 is fabricated as an integral part of belt 112, however, center indicator 302 may also be attached to belt 112 after fabrication without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

Belt 112 also contains tactile length indicators 304. Tactile length indicators 304 are protrusions in belt 112 that allow the user to measure the length of the portion of each belt half 306 that has been inserted through attachment mechanism 116 of climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively. These tactile length indicators 304 allow the user to confirm that equal lengths of belt halves 306 have been inserted through each of the respective attachment mechanisms 116, thereby, maximizing the possibility that the respective platform will be level. Conversely, attaching different lengths of belt halves 306 to each of the two attachment mechanisms 116 located on climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively, is likely to cause an unlevel platform that may result in injury or loss of equipment. The relationship of tactile length indicators 304 and the length of belt halves 306 is discussed in further detail with respect to FIG. 5.

Teeth 136 begin at both ends of belt 112 and encompass three quarters of the length of each belt half 306. The exclusion of teeth 136 on the portions of belt 316 that engage the tree is intended to prevent damage to the tree. The un-toothed portion of belt 112 may be smooth but preferably is textured to prevent vertically slippage of belt 112. The semi-hexagonal shape of teeth 136 and the method of attaching belt 112 to arms 110 are discussed in greater detail below with respect to FIG. 5.

A side view of one embodiment of belt 112 in accordance with embodiments of the invention is illustrated in FIG. 4. Belt 112 is depicted folded in half at center indicator 302 to further indicate its parabolic shape while simultaneously showing that both halves of belt 112 are identical. Belt 112 is parabolic in shape to allow the un-toothed portion of belt 112 to grip a tree while the toothed portion of belt 112 angles toward its climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively, allowing the ends of belt 112 to be inserted into attachment mechanism 116 of arms 110. Belt 112 begins angling downwardly at a point at which the ends of belt 306 may be inserted into attachment mechanism 116 of arms 110 while retaining its fabricated parabolic shape.

In this embodiment of the present invention, each tactile indicator 304 is a protruded line that extends across the full width of belt 112. Therefore, to measure the length of each belt half 306, the user must count the quantity of tactile indicators 304 on each belt half 306 on either side of attachment mechanism 116 to determine if equivalent lengths of belt halves 306 have been threaded into arms 110. However, other embodiments are envisioned in which different tactile indicators are incorporated for each length, thereby eliminating the need to count tactile length indicators 304. For example, each tactile length indicator 304 could include a number of protrusions equal to its length.

Although FIG. 4 depicts tactile length indicators 304 as protruded lines that extend across the entire width of the backside of belt 112, alternate configurations may be incorporated without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, tactile length indicators 304 could be circular, square, or triangular protrusions or protrusions embodying other shapes. Or, tactile length indicators 304 could be a number that represents the distance from the end of belt 112. Alternatively, tactile length indicators 304 may be replaced with visual indicators, but preferably tactile length indicators 304 are both tactile and visual.

Turning now to FIG. 5, illustrated is an enlarged sectional side view of one end of belt 112 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 5 further illustrates the relationship between teeth 136, tactile length indicators 304, and semi-hexagonal indentations 502. Equally spaced semi-hexagonal indentations 502 have a depth equal to approximately one half the thickness of belt 112. Fabrication of semi-hexagonal indentations 502 creates teeth 136 along the interior of belt 112. Furthermore, these indentations are equally spaced such that teeth 136 are the inverted equivalent of semi-hexagonal indentations 502 in both size and shape.

Starting at the end of belt 112, the first tactile length indicator 304 is located at the leading edge of the tooth 136 having the closest proximity to the end of belt 112. Each subsequent tactile length indicator 304 is located at the leading edge of every second tooth 136 with the final tactile length indicator 304 located at the leading edge of the second to last tooth 136. In this embodiment of the present invention, there are two equally spaced semi-hexagonal indentations 502 between each tactile length indicator 304 due to the mechanics of attachment mechanism 116, as discussed in greater detail below with respect to FIG. 7. However, other embodiments of the present invention are envisioned having varying configurations of tactile length indicators 304. For example, if attachment mechanism 116 includes three locking teeth, there may be three equally spaced semi-hexagonal indentations 502 between each tactile length indicator 304.

When a location to connect climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively, to a tree is selected, the user encircles the tree trunk with belt 112 such that center indicator 302 is positioned on the tree opposite the center of the desired location of climbing or support platform 102 or 104, respectively. The user then equally threads the ends of each belt half 306 through attachment mechanisms 116 of respective arms 110 until belt 112 is taut and grips 146 are in direct contact with the tree. Thereafter, tactile length indicators 304 are counted to ensure that equivalent lengths of each belt half 306 are threaded through arms 110. Upon verification of same, belt halves 306 are pulled taut and clamped or otherwise fixed to arm 110 via a fastener such as attachment mechanism 116. An embodiment of attachment mechanism 116 is described in further detail below with respect to FIG. 7.

Referring now to FIG. 6A, illustrated is a cross sectional view of belt 112 depicting cable cores 602a in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. Cable cores 602a are included throughout the portion of belt 112 that does not contain teeth to increase the strength and durability of belt 112 while simultaneously helping to maintain the parabolic shape as discussed above with respect to FIG. 3. Cable cores 602a may be preformed in the parabolic shape prior to being inserted into a mold for fabrication of belt 112. Cable cores 602a may be fabricated from steel, woven fiber or cord, or virtually any other rigid material without departing from the spirit of the present invention. In the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 6A, four cable cores 602a are included, but cable cores 602a may be omitted, or other quantities may be substituted, without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Alternatively, FIG. 6B depicts a cross-sectional view of a belt 112 having a band core 602b therethrough in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. Band core 602b is included throughout the portion of belt 112 that does not contain teeth to increase the strength and durability of belt 112 while simultaneously helping to maintain the parabolic shape as discussed above with respect to FIG. 3. Band core 602b may be preformed in the parabolic shape prior to being inserted into a mold for fabrication of belt 112. Band cores 602b may be fabricated from steel, woven fiber or cord, or virtually any other rigid material without departing from the spirit of the present invention. In the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 6B, one band core 602b is included, but band core 602b may be omitted, or other quantities may be substituted, without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Turning now to FIG. 7, depicted is a side view of support platform 104 including, inter alia, arm 110, sidewall 120, bracket 134, bracket fasteners 702, attachment mechanism 116, toggle 704, slide 114, slide aperture 122, locking step 708, and slide aperture end 710. Attachment mechanisms 116 are employed to lock belt 112 to support platform 104 at the user's desired position after belt 112 is threaded into attachment mechanism 116 and pulled taut. Attachment mechanism 116 includes toggle 704 that allows the user to index attachment mechanism 116 to a locked or unlocked position. Attachment mechanism 116 includes two teeth that are the inverted equivalent of semi-hexagonal indentations 502 in both size and shape. The attachment mechanism teeth are positioned opposite belt teeth 136 and semi-hexagonal indentations 502 such that when toggle 704 is in a locked position, the teeth of attachment mechanism 116 are inserted into semi-hexagonal indentations 502 with sufficient pressure to secure belt 112 within attachment mechanism 116 and arms 110 of support platform 104. Conversely, when toggle 704 is moved to its unlocked position, the teeth of attachment mechanism 116 are disengaged from semi-hexagonal indentations 502 allowing the user to remove belt 112 from attachment mechanism 116 or alter the length of belt half 306 that is threaded through attachment mechanism 116. Although the operation of attachment mechanism 116 is depicted with respect to support platform 104, attachment mechanisms 116 contained within climbing platform 102 may be configured to operate in an identical manner.

Bracket 134 is attached to sidewall 120 via bracket fastener 702, which is inserted through bracket 134 and sidewall bracket aperture 132. Bracket 134 is also attached to arm 110 via fastener 702 inserted through bracket 134 and arm bracket aperture 712. Fasteners 702 allow bracket 134 to rotate with respect to both sidewall 120 and arm 110. That is, bracket 134 can pivot at each end upon movement of arm 110. Bracket 134 adds support to arm 110 when it is in an upright position. When arm 110 is collapsed, as described below, bracket 134 lays between the inwardly facing surface of the respective sidewall 120 and the outwardly facing surface of respective arm 110.

Arm 110 is connected to sidewall 120 of support platform 104 via slide 114. The connection of slide 114 to arm 110 is discussed in further detail with respect to FIG. 8. Slide 114 is inserted through slide aperture 122 prior to connection to arm 110. A user may loosely connect slide 114 to arm 110 until slide 114 is in its proper position within slide aperture 122, at which point the user may tighten the connection of slide 114 to arm 110 to hold the position of arm 110 in place. Slide aperture 122 guides the movement of slide 114. Arm 110 is secured in its upright position by moving slide 114 until it is contained within locking step 708. Additionally, locking step 708 is positioned with respect to slide aperture 122 such that when weight is applied to platform 104, slide 114 automatically moves within locking step 708. Alternatively, arm 110 may be moved to its collapsed position by moving slide 114 to slide aperture end 710. Furthermore, arm 110 may be secured in an intermediate position by securing slide 114 to arm 110 in any location within slider aperture 122 between locking step 708 and slide aperture end 710.

Slide aperture 122 includes an embedded reinforcement strip that may be fabricated of any durable, heavyweight material. Preferably, this strip is fabricated from a metal such as steel or aluminum. The embedded reinforcement strip may be a completely tubular rail molded within support platform base 108 or, alternatively, it may be a support beam that is embedded in support platform base 108 slightly below slide aperture 122.

An enlarged, cutaway, front view of sidewall 120, arm 110, slide 114, and slide aperture 122 is depicted in FIG. 8. In the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 8, slide 114 includes threaded shaft 802 and head 804. Arm 110 includes threaded aperture 806, which is designed to mate with threaded shaft 802. Upon selection of the desired location of arm 110, slide 114 is inserted through slide aperture 122 and threaded shaft 802 is threaded into threaded aperture 806 until head 804 and arm 110 are flush to their respective sides of sidewall 120. Slide 114 should be threaded until the pressure exerted on arm 110 by sidewall 120 prevents movement of slide 114 within slide aperture 122, thereby preventing movement of arm 110. To alter the angle of arm 110, a user simply unthreads slide 114 from arm 110 until slide 114 may be easily moved within slide aperture 122.

Turning now to FIG. 9, illustrated are top and side views of one embodiment of socket 900 including fastener apertures 902, socket flange 904, indicator line 906, and support receptacle 908. To install socket 900 in support platform 104, socket 900 is inserted into socket receptacle 128 such that socket flange 904 rests on the portion of support platform base 108 extending around the perimeter of socket receptacle 128. Indicator line 906 delineates the portion of socket 900 that is intended to rest atop support platform base 108 from the portion of socket 900 that does not rest atop support platform base 108. Socket 900 is further secured to support platform base 108 via fasteners such as screws or bolts inserted through fastener apertures 902 and fastener apertures 202 (FIG. 2).

Socket 900 includes support aperture 908 for secure placement of a weapon such as a gun or bow at a desirable and ready position for the hunter. Although socket 900 is depicted in FIG. 9 to support a weapon, socket receptacle 128 is designed to accept any one of a variety of sockets that may be interchangeably inserted into socket receptacle 128 and affixed to support platform base 108. For example, sockets may be designed to support a camera, video recorder, or the like. Alternatively, sockets may be designed to hold drink, food, bullets, or other object that may be easily misplaced or spilled without proper containment.

While it is envisioned that many sockets will be fabricated to meet specific, predetermined needs, solid sockets that may be altered by the user to suit his or her unique needs are also envisioned. Such a socket would be fabricated from a malleable, yet durable, material such as polypropylene or a similar polymer. Fabrication from such a material would allow the user to alter the socket to their desired need via sandpaper, cutting tools, rasp, drill, rotary tool, or the like.

Referring now to FIG. 10A, illustrated is elongated rectangular bumper 1000a in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Elongated rectangular bumper 1000a may be inserted into bumper receptacle 126a such that bumper flange 1002a rests atop support platform base 108 and, thereby, prevents elongated rectangular bumper 1000a from falling through bumper receptacle 126a. When inserted in support platform base 108, elongated rectangular bumper 1000a provides a soundproof surface upon which a user may rest a weapon or other device without creating noise that may alter the behavior of the specimen being hunted or observed. Additionally, elongated rectangular bumper 1000a acts as a safety feature by indicating the edge of support platform 104 to the user and providing a raised surface that may help prevent the user from falling from support platform 104. Alternatively, bumper 1000a may be added for comfort (e.g., bumper 1000a may be used as a footrest) or to protect the platforms during transportation or use.

Elongated rectangular bumper 1000a may be fabricated from any insulating material such as rubber, leather, foam, plastic, or the like. Preferably, bumper 1000a is fabricated from a material that absorbs noise. Also, preferably, upwardly facing surface 1004a of bumper 1000a is fabricated with a curvature that allows upper surface 1004a to form a continuous surface between bumper edge 1006a and support platform 104 to prevent tripping, stumbling, or the like. However, other torsions of upper surface 1004a may be implemented without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Turning now to FIG. 10B, illustrated is circular bumper 1000b in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Circular bumper 1000b may be inserted into bumper receptacles 126b such that bumper flange 1002b rests atop support platform base 108 and, thereby, prevents circular bumper 1000b from falling through bumper receptacle 126b. Similar to elongated rectangular bumper 1000b, when inserted in support platform base 108, circular bumper 1000b provides a soundproof surface upon which a user may rest a weapon or other device without creating noise that may alter the behavior of the specimen being hunted or observed. Circular bumper 1000b also acts as a safety feature by indicating the edge of support platform 104 to the user and providing a raised surface that may help prevent the user from falling from support platform 104. Alternatively, bumper 1000b may be added for comfort (e.g., bumper 1000b may be used as a footrest) or to protect the platforms during transportation or use.

Circular bumper 1000b may be fabricated from any insulating material such as rubber, leather, foam, plastic, or the like. Preferably, bumper 1000b is fabricated from a material that absorbs noise. Also, preferably, upwardly facing surface 1004b of bumper 1000b is fabricated with a curvature that allows upper surface 1004b to form a continuous surface between bumper edge 1006b and support platform 104 to prevent tripping, stumbling, or the like. However, other torsions of upper surface 1004b may be implemented without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Referring next to FIG. 10C, illustrated is rectangular bumper 1000c in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Rectangular bumper 1000c may be inserted into floor receptacles 124 such that bumper flange 1002c rests atop support platform base 108 and, thereby, prevents rectangular bumper 1000c from falling through floor receptacle 124. Similar to elongated rectangular bumper 1000a, when inserted in support platform base 108, rectangular bumper 1000c provides a soundproof surface upon which a user may rest a weapon or other device without creating noise that may alter the behavior of the specimen being hunted or observed. Alternatively, bumper 1000c may be added for comfort (e.g., bumper 1000c may be used as a footrest) or to protect the platforms during transportation or use.

Rectangular bumper 1000c may be fabricated from any insulating material such as rubber, leather, foam, plastic, or the like. Preferably, bumper 1000c is fabricated from a material that absorbs noise. Also, preferably, upwardly facing surface 1004c of bumper 1000c is fabricated with a curvature that allows upper surface 1004c to form a continuous surface between bumper edge 1006c and support platform 104 to prevent tripping, stumbling, or the like. However, other torsions of upper surface 1004c may be implemented without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Referring finally to FIG. 11, illustrated is climbing apparatus 1100 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. Generally, climbing apparatus 1100 has all of the same features and function as climbing apparatus 100 as discussed herein, but also includes a safety harness. More specifically, climbing apparatus 1100 includes, inter alia, climbing platform 1102, support platform 1104, climbing platform strap 1108, clip 1110, body harness 1112, support platform strap 1114, and support platform strap fastener 1116.

Climbing platform strap 1108 is threaded through the grid of the climbing platform base. Additionally, climbing platform strap 1108 may be stitched or otherwise coupled together below the downwardly facing surface of the climbing platform base such that climbing platform strap 1108 remains in a relatively stationary position with respect to the climbing platform. Similarly, support platform strap 1114 is affixed to support platform 1104 via support platform strap fastener 1116.

Prior to using climbing apparatus 1100, body harness 1112 may be secured to the user's body (e.g., encircled about the user's waist). Next, body harness 1112 is attached to climbing platform 1102 and support platform 1104 by clipping body harness 1112 to climbing platform strap 1108 and support platform strap 1114, respectively, via clip 1110. Preferably, clip 1110 is a karabiner, but other fasteners may be employed without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Thereafter, climbing platform 1102 is affixed to the tree and a user may suspend his or her body therefrom in a sitting position. Such a position frees the user's hands such that they are able to attach, or remove and reattach, support platform 1104 at the next desired position on the tree. Upon securing support platform 1104, the user may then climb or propel his or her body atop support platform 1104, and rest upon it while removing climbing platform 1102 and reattaching it to the next desired position on the tree. These actions are repeated until the user achieves a final desired position. Although FIG. 11 depicts a body harness 1112, any variation of harness may be substituted without departing from the scope of the present invention. The harness increases the safety of the present invention by preventing the user from falling a significant distance. That is, if the user were to slip or fall while attaching or detaching support platform 1104, or while climbing or propelling his or her body atop support platform 1104, the user would descend only to the height of the previous sitting position, thereby preventing injury that could occur from falling from a significant height in a tree to the ground. Furthermore, attachment of climbing and support platforms 1102 and 1104, respectively, to harness 1112 via clips 1110 prevents these platforms from falling to the ground if either is dropped by the user, thereby ensuring that the user will have both platforms when descending the tree. This aspect of harness 1112 of the present invention further increases its safety as it is difficult to descend from a tree without the proper equipment.

Support platform strap 1114 is attached to support platform 1104 via support platform fastener 1116. Support platform fastener 1116 is envisioned as an integral component of support platform 1104. As such, these fasteners may be fabricated during the one step molding process described above with respect to support platform base 108 (FIG. 1). However, other embodiments are envisioned in which support platform fastener 1116 is a distinct component from support platform 1104 that is attached either during or after manufacturing of climbing apparatus 1100. Furthermore, although climbing platform strap 1108 is manufactured as a distinct component from the climbing platform base, alternate embodiments of the present invention are envisioned in which climbing platform strap 1108 is attached to the climbing platform base via an integral fastener.

Climbing platform strap 1108, body harness 1112, and support platform strap 1116 may be fabricated of ropes, cords, nylon woven belts, or the like. The use of such materials allows climbing platform strap 1108, body harness 1112, and support platform strap 1116 to support the user and support platform 1104 while still being sufficiently flexible to allow the user a full range of motion. Preferably, climbing platform strap 1108, body harness 1112, and support platform strap 1116 are fabricated with an internal support core similar to cable cores 602a or band cores 602b as depicted in FIGS. 6A-6B. Such a core provides additional strength and durability, however, it may be excluded from climbing platform strap 1108, body harness 1112, and support platform strap 1116 without departing from the scope of the present invention.

While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more embodiments, which embodiments have been set forth in considerable detail for the purposes of making a complete disclosure of the invention, such embodiments are merely exemplary and are not intended to be limiting or represent an exhaustive enumeration of all aspects of the invention. The scope of the invention, therefore, shall be defined solely by the following claims. Further, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that techniques, systems and operating structures in accordance with the present invention may be embodied in a wide variety of forms and modes, some of which may be quite different from those in the disclosed embodiments, without departing from the spirit and the principles of the invention.





 
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