Title:
Single and dual disposable hydration system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A bladder assembly (14) for a hydration system (10) includes a flexible disposable bladder (15, 17) for fluid containment. The bladder (15, 17) has an inner layer (372), a lamination layer (374) and an exterior structural layer (376). An output connector (52) is sealed to the bladder (15, 17) and is adaptable to a fluid distribution circuit (22) of the hydration system (10). A valve assembly (66) for a hydration system (10) includes an outer member (70), a housing (72) and fluid line attachments (93). An inner member (80) rotates within the outer member (70). The inner member (80) has fluid flow adjustment portions (92, 94) that are associated with the fluid line attachments (93). A position selector (86) is position adjustable to select incremental positions of each of the fluid flow adjustment portions (93) relative to the outer member (70). The position selector (86) includes a position indicator (100, 102) that indicates the incremental position of the fluid flow adjustment portions (93).



Inventors:
Benham, Christopher J. (Boulder, CO, US)
Application Number:
11/584393
Publication Date:
04/26/2007
Filing Date:
10/20/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45F3/16
View Patent Images:
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20080212902SackSeptember, 2008Montgomery
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20080128464APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR RESTRAINING AN OBJECT IN A VEHICLEJune, 2008Gale et al.
20100032459PORTABLE BEDDING SYSTEMFebruary, 2010Clark et al.



Primary Examiner:
NGO, LIEN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HARNESS DICKEY (TROY) (Troy, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A bladder assembly for a hydration system comprising: at least one flexible disposable bladder for fluid containment comprising: an inner layer a lamination layer; and an exterior structural layer; and an output connector sealed to said at least one flexible disposable bladder and adaptable to a fluid distribution circuit of the hydration system.

2. The bladder assembly of claim 1 further comprising a cap, said output connector adaptable to said cap.

3. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein said inner layer comprises at least one material selected from polycarbonate, high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene.

4. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein said inner layer comprises linear low-density polyethylene.

5. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein said inner layer comprises a tasteless and odorless material.

6. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein said inner layer is an anti-microbial material free layer.

7. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein said lamination layer comprises an epoxy adhesive.

8. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein said exterior structural layer comprises nylon.

9. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein thickness of said at least one flexible disposable bladder is approximately between 0.0045-0.0065 inches.

10. The bladder assembly of claim 1 wherein thickness of said interior layer is approximately 0.0045 inches and wherein thickness of said exterior structural layer is approximately 0.001 inches.

11. A valve assembly for a hydration system having at least one fluid bladder and a plurality of fluid lines coupled to said at least one fluid bladder, said valve assembly comprising: an outer member comprising: a housing; and a plurality of fluid line attachments coupled to said housing and adaptable to said plurality of fluid lines; an inner member that rotates within said outer member, said inner member comprising a plurality of fluid flow adjustment portions associated with said plurality of fluid line attachments; a position indicator; and a position selector coupled to said position indicator and adjustable to select a plurality of incremental positions of each of said plurality of fluid flow adjustment portions relative to said outer member; said position indicator indicating position of said plurality of fluid flow adjustment portions based on said selection.

12. The valve assembly of claim 11 wherein said outer member includes a mouthpiece.

13. The valve assembly of claim 11 wherein said plurality of incremental positions comprise a range of positions between ON and OFF.

14. The valve assembly of claim 11 wherein said plurality of fluid flow portions comprise openings in said inner member.

15. The valve assembly of claim 11 wherein said plurality of fluid flow portions comprise internal channels.

16. The valve assembly of claim 11 wherein said position indicator comprises a user feel indicator that is position and rotation discernable based on touch.

17. The valve assembly of claim 11 wherein said position indicator comprises at least one of a notch, a tab, a sprocket, a stopper, a clicker, and a ticker.

18. A hydration system comprising: a fluid distribution circuit comprising: a valve assembly; a plurality of fluid lines coupled to said valve assembly; and a fluid interface coupled to said plurality of fluid lines; at least one flexible disposable body for fluid containment comprising: an inner layer; a lamination layer; and an exterior structural layer; an output connector sealed to said flexible disposable body and adaptable to and forming a plurality of seals with said fluid interface.

19. The hydration system of claim 18 comprising a plurality of flexible disposable bodies and a carry pack having a plurality of individually accessible sections, each of said sections containing at least one of said flexible disposable bodies.

20. The hydration system of claim 18 wherein said output connector comprises a different material makeup than said cap and said fluid interface.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/730,136, filed on Oct. 25, 2005, entitled “Recreational Hydration System”. The disclosure of the above application is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD

The present disclosure relates to hydration systems, and more particularly to the fluid selection and control therefrom, as well as to the disposability, use, care, costs and cleanliness thereof.

BACKGROUND

The background description provided herein is for the purpose of generally presenting the context of the disclosure. Work of the presently named inventor, to the extent it is described in this background section, as well as aspects of the description that may not otherwise qualify as prior art at the time of filing, are neither expressly nor impliedly admitted as prior art against the present disclosure.

Sports hydration systems are commonly utilized for biking, hiking, running, mountain climbing, and other long distance sporting activities. The hydration systems provide fluids to a carrier, such as an athlete, or a sportsperson, for hydration and nutrition supplement purposes. The fluids received by the hydration systems rejuvenate and reenergize the carrier. The fluids include water and other alternative fluids, such as electrolyte containing sport drinks, which can provide performance-enhancing elements.

It has become desirable to provide more than one fluid from a hydration system. For example, a hydration system may provide both water and an electrolyte containing sport drink. U.S. Pat. No. 6,749,090 by Bailey entitled, “Dual Bladder Sports Hydration System” provides such a system (hereinafter “the '090 patent”). The '090 patent provides two bladders that are attached to a valve via a pair of tubes. The valve is a dual flow valve or a pinch valve. The dual flow valve allows one to select only one of the two fluids at any given time. The pinch valve allows one to select both fluids at a given time. However, the pinch valve, due to its design, has associated disadvantages.

The pinch valve, in general, is a ‘Y’-shaped design that includes a pair of inlet tubes and a single outlet tube. A valve is attached to the inlet tubes and respectively pinches the inlet tubes in the selection of the fluids. As such, over time the inlet tubes, within the pinch valve, breakdown and thus need to be replaced. This typically requires the replacement of the whole corresponding hydration system, which can be costly. The pinch valve design can also be awkward to operate and inaccurate in fluid selection. The pinch valve does not allow for the accurate selection of desired fluid ratios or percentages. Moreover, the pinch valve includes many components and thus is complex in design.

There are other associated disadvantages with current hydration systems. One such disadvantage is that the fluid bladders of the systems require cleaning after each use to prevent bacterial/fungal growth and to maintain a sterile environment within the bladders. This requires the filling of the bladders with a solution containing bleach, baking soda, soap or other cleanser, which can be tedious and time consuming. Furthermore, due to the current designs of the bladders and the difficulty in cleaning such bladders, the bladders tend not to become fully cleansed or sterilized. Thus, due to fungus or other bacterial growth the bladders are disposed, which typically includes the disposal of the whole hydration system. Another inherent flaw is that when the bladder tears or has a hole, the entire bladder system is unusable and thus is disposed.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,722,533 by Skillern, entitled “Hydration Pouch with Detachable Hose” provides a hydration system with a fitting assembly that includes several elements, one of which being a check valve. The fitting assembly allows for the separation of the bladder or pouch from a fluid conduit and a bite-valve for improved cleaning and somewhat selective disposal of hydration system components. Thus, although the pouch may be separately disposed, the pouch is not designed specifically for disposal and as such is relatively expensive. Also, the fitting assembly is complex and, due to the tooling and manufacturing costs associated therewith, is also relatively expensive. For these reasons, the widespread use of such a hydration system has not occurred.

In addition, current hydration systems often use anti-microbial materials, an example of which is silver, to prevent the growth of bacteria within a fluid bladder. The anti-microbial materials are impregnated into the bladder material. This impregnation also increases bladder and system costs.

Thus, there exists a need for an improved hydration system that overcomes the above-stated disadvantages.

SUMMARY

One embodiment of the present invention provides a bladder assembly for a hydration system. The bladder assembly includes a flexible disposable bladder, which may be multi-layered, for fluid containment and an output connector. The bladder has an inner layer, a lamination layer and an exterior structural layer. The output connector is sealed to the flexible disposable bladder and is adaptable to a fluid distribution circuit of the hydration system.

Another embodiment of the present invention provides a valve assembly for a hydration system that has a fluid bladder and multiple fluid lines, which are connected to the fluid bladder. The valve assembly includes an outer member with a housing and multiple fluid line attachments. The fluid line attachments are connected to the housing and are adaptable to the fluid lines. An inner member rotates within the outer member. The inner member includes multiple fluid flow adjustment portions that are associated with the fluid line attachments. A position selector is connected to the inner member and is position adjustable to select multiple incremental positions of each of the adjustment portions relative to the outer member. A position indicator indicates the incremental position of the adjustment portions.

A further embodiment of the present invention provides a hydration system that includes a fluid distribution circuit, a flexible disposable body, and an output connector. The fluid distribution circuit includes a valve assembly, multiple fluid lines, which are connected to the valve assembly, and a fluid interface that is connected to the fluid lines. A flexible disposable body for fluid containment includes an inner layer, a lamination layer and an exterior structural layer. An output connector is sealed to the flexible disposable body and is adaptable to and forms multiple seals with the fluid interface.

Other embodiments of the present invention are described in the Detailed Description below and shown in the accompanying FIGS. 1-21.

The embodiments of the present invention provide several advantages. One advantage provided by an embodiment of the present invention is the use of one or more fluid bladders, which are lightweight, inexpensive, design disposable, anti-microbial free, environmentally safe, food and drug administration approvable (FDA), flexible and durable.

Another advantage provided by another embodiment of the present invention is the use of one or more fluid bladders that have an odorless, tasteless, water insoluble and water inadhereable inner liner. This prevents solvents from within the materials or lining of the fluid bladders from entering any fluid contained therein.

Yet anther advantage provided by another embodiment of the present invention is a mouthpiece/valve that provides easy, quick and precise fluid ratio selection of fluids contained within a hydration system.

Still another advantage provided by another embodiment of the present invention is a hydration carry pack that provides individually accessible compartments for easy and quick replacement of fluid bladders contained therein.

As well, another advantage provided by another embodiment of the present invention is a fluid bladder connector assembly that is simple and inexpensive in design, but yet provides quick filling times and large output volumes, as well as multiple seals for leak prevention.

The embodiments of the present invention are versatile in that they may be applied in various combinations and in various applications. Other advantages of the present invention will become apparent in review of the following description and accompanying Figures.

Also, further areas of applicability of the present disclosure will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. It should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the disclosure.

DRAWINGS

The present disclosure will become more fully understood from the Detailed Description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a hydration system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A is a front view of a bladder having a front fill port according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2B is a front view of a bladder having a single fill/output port according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a side exploded view of a hydration system valve according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4A is a side view of the valve of FIG. 3 illustrating a first fluid selection;

FIG. 4B is a side view of the valve of FIG. 3 illustrating a second fluid selection;

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of a hydration system valve according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a front perspective of the valve of FIG. 5 illustrating the inner mechanical relationships of the elements thereof;

FIG. 7 is a side view of a hydration system valve according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a hydration system valve according to still another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a front view of a bladder illustrating a quick release fill cap system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a side view of a quick release connector assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a side view of a quick release connector assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12A is a side exploded view of a hydration system valve according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12B is a side view of the valve of FIG. 12A;

FIG. 13 is a side view of an output connector according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a side view of a fluid circuit connector assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a bladder output mechanism according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 16 is a bottom view of the output mechanism of FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a front view of bladder having the output mechanism of FIG. 15 according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 18A is a front view of a bladder illustrating a bottom positioned output connector according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 19 is a front view of a bladder illustrating a lower corner mounted output connector according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 20A is top perspective view of an output connector assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 20B is a cross-sectional perspective view of the output connector assembly of FIG. 20A;

FIG. 20C is a top perspective view illustrating a cap for the output connector assembly of FIG. 20A; and

FIG. 21 is a side cross-sectional view of a fluid bladder wall segment according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The following description is merely exemplary in nature and is not intended to limit the present disclosure, application, or uses. It should be understood that throughout the drawings, corresponding reference numerals indicate like or corresponding parts and features.

In the following description, various operating parameters and components are described for one or more constructed embodiments. These specific parameters and components are included as examples and are not meant to be limiting.

The present invention may be applied to hydration systems utilized for biking, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, running, and various other recreational activities. The present invention may also be applied to hydration systems utilized for non-recreational activities, such as in military applications. The present invention may be utilized in a working environment, in an emergency situation, for those who have experienced a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, or for other various purposes. Although the hydration systems and elements thereof and described herein may incorporate non-disposable items, several embodiments of the present invention include entirely design disposable hydration systems. The fluid bladders of the hydration systems are design disposable. The connectors, mouthpieces, valves, fluid lines, and other various hydration system elements of the hydration systems may also be design disposable.

The below-described valves are design disposable and allow users to keep their hands free to hold food, loved ones hands, and participate in various activities. This is especially useful in activities such as hiking, biking, or climbing or other hands free activities or situations, such as evacuations. The portability of the below described hydration systems allows for use in remote or confined locations, or when traveling for extended periods. The hydration systems may be used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and non-governmental charity organizations.

In the following description the term “disposable” or “design disposable” refers to an element that not only can be disposed, but that is human and environmentally safe, and is easily replaceable to promote such disposal. In general, a device that is design disposable is inexpensive, and lightweight. Any device may be disposed, but that does not necessarily mean that the device is designed to be disposable.

Referring to FIG. 1, a front perspective view of a hydration system 10 is shown. The hydration system 10 includes a carrying device 12. The carrying device 12 may hold one or more fluid containing bladders or bladder assemblies 14. The carrying device 12, as shown has two separate individual bladders 15 and 17. Each of the bladders 15, 17 may have a separate associated compartment 16 within the carrying device 12. The compartments 16 are separated by a center membrane 18, which is part of the carrying device 12. The bladders 14 each have output connectors 20, which are attached to a fluid distribution circuit 22. The fluid distribution circuit 22 is a medium for supplying the fluids that are contained within the bladders 14 to a user.

The carrying device 12 may be in the form of a single or dual strapped backpack, a hip sack, a bike sack, a head or chest sack, a carry bag, or other form of carrying device known in the art. The carrying device 12 shown may be used as a backpack or as a hip sack. The carry device 12 has over-the-shoulder straps 24 and hip straps 26 (only one is shown). The carry device 12 has an outer sack member 28 with one or more quick access mechanisms 30 for replacement of the bladders 14. The outer sack member 28 may be formed of commonly used backpack or outdoor materials that are weatherproof or water resistant, lightweight, durable, flexible, and easy to manipulate. As one example, the outer sack member 28 may be formed of a rubberized laminated nylon. The outer sack member 28 may be formed of various cloths having different denier levels. The quick access mechanisms 30 may include hook and loop devices 32, such as Velcro® straps, a zipper 34, or other devices, such as snaps, clips, hooks, etc (not shown). The quick access mechanisms 30 allow one to easily open the carry device 12 and to remove and replace the bladders 14.

The carry device 12, as shown, has a front cover 36 that is divided into two front sections 38 and 40, with individual access panels 39 and 41, and a back member 42 that is divided by the center membrane 18. Each front section 38 and 40 corresponds to one of the bladders 14. The hook and loop devices 32 are attached to and extend around the inside perimeter 44 of each front section 38 and 40 and around a corresponding back section 46 of the back member 42 for coupling therebetween. Each front section 38 and 40 may be individually and separately pulled away from the back member 42 to provide access to the corresponding bladder. The zipper 34 allows for full access to both of the bladders 15, 17. Of course, the arrangement and configuration of the carry device 12 and bladders 14 are shown is for example purposes only, other arrangements and configurations may be used.

The carry device 12 may be of various sizes, shapes, colors, types, styles, and have different patterns printed thereon. The carry device 12, for example, may be camouflaged for hunting purposes or may be red in color for use by emergency personnel.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the bladders 14 are design disposable. As such, the bladders 14 are formed of thin, inexpensive, lightweight and human and environmentally safe materials. The bladders 14 are also anti-microbial free, or in other words, are not impregnated with any anti-microbial materials, an example of which is silver. In being design disposable as opposed to using the anti-microbial impregnated bladder the bladders do not create an antimicrobial resistant environment or environment in which bateria can become resistant to antimicrobial materials. Thus, exposure to potentially performance minimizing bacteria is minimized. Also, since the bladders are disposed of after a single, limited, or finite number of uses, bacteria growth is minimized. Furthermore, in at least one embodiment of the present invention quick fill and empty features are provided, which allow for easy internal cleaning of the bladders.

The bladders 14 may be formed of various materials such as plastic, polyethylene, polycarbonate, polyurethane, polypropylene, polyolefin, medical film, polypropylene copolymer and styrene ethylene-butene styrene block copolymer, polylene-based polymer, nonpropylene polyolefin, RF susceptible polymer, polymetric compatibilizing agent, thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) or other materials known in the art. Some polyethylenes are low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), ultra linear low-density polyethylene (ULLDPE), cross-linked high-density polyethylene (XLPE). The bladders may be formed of diethylhexyl adipate, citrates, phosphates, trimellitates, esters, oils, benzoate, and/or sebacates. The bladders 14 may be free of low molecular weight plasticizers. Although the bladders 14 may be formed of vinyl-based materials, polyvinyl chloride or phthalates, these materials are not preferred. Also, although the herein disclosed hydration systems may be formed of nondisposable materials, such materials are also not preferred. Note that the bladders 14 may be formed of recyclable and/or biodegradable materials.

In one embodiment, the bladders 14 are formed of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). In another embodiment, the bladders 14 are formed of a combination of LLDPE, epoxy and nylon; this embodiment is described in further detail below in association with FIG. 21. EVA and LLDPE are examples of materials that are human and environmentally safe, lightweight and can be inexpensively formed. As such, EVA and LLDPE and the like can be used to form disposable products. LLDPE is an example of a material that is also known to pass Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food and beverage standards.

The bladders 14 are environmentally friendly. The bladders 14 are more environmentally friendly than rigid forms of packaging such as glass, polyethylene, or aluminum cans. The bladders 14 have a reduced amount of overall material over traditional approaches. Thus, less energy is used in the formation of the bladders 14 and less space is occupied when disposed.

The bladders 14 may be pre-filled, in other words filled prior to the purchase by a consumer, post-filled or filled by the consumer/user. As such, the bladders 14 may or may not include fill connectors, such as the input fill connector 50 shown. The bladders 14 may contain water, an electrolyte providing substance, or other liquid and non-liquid substances that may be consumed by a user. As an example, one bladder may be filled with a fluid and another bladder may be filled with a fluid dissolvable substance, such as a nutritional water dissolvable powder.

When pre-filled the bladders 14 upon filling may be sealed without an input connector. However, each bladder 14 has an output connector, such as one of the output connectors 20. The first bladder 15 is shown having the fill connector 50 and a first output connector 52. The second bladder 17 is shown without a fill connector and has a second output connector 54. This is further shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. The input connector 50 and the output connectors 20 may be of various types and styles, as is described in further detail below.

Referring to FIGS. 2A and 2B, front views of bladders 14′ are shown. The first bladder 15′ has a fill port or input connector 50′ with a twist handle 68. The bladders 14′ have front side output connectors 20′ and fluid markers 69.

Referring again to FIGS. 1-2B, the bladders 14, 14′ may also be of various types, styles, colors, sizes, and shapes. The bladders 14, 14′ may also have various patterns printed thereon. In one embodiment, and in general, bladders that contain H2O are formed of a blue colored material and bladders that contain an electrolyte containing fluid are colored green, red, or yellow, depending upon the electrolyte containing fluid contained therein. In another embodiment, the bladders utilized, such as the bladders 14′ have level markers 60 that are printed thereon to allow one to visually and readily determine the approximate amount of fluid within the bladders 14′.

The bladders 14, 14′ may be blow molded or formed using other extrusion and thermoforming techniques known in the art. The bladders 14, 14′ may be mass-produced and packaged in bundles for inexpensive sale thereof. This promotes disposable use of the bladders.

The fluid distribution system 22 includes one or more bladder connectors 62 for attachment to fluid lines 64. Note that the bladder connectors 62, as well as the output connectors 20, may be located anywhere on the bladders 14. The connectors 20, 20′, 62 may be located on any side of the bladders 14, 14′. The fluid lines 64 extend through the carrying device 12 to a valve and/or a mouthpiece 66. The valve/mouthpiece 66 has an “OFF” position and allows the user to select one of the fluids for reception or a combination thereof. The valve/mouthpiece 66 also allows the user to accurately adjust the mixing percentages of each fluid. For example, a user may prefer to receive at any given time 75% H2O and 25% electrolyte containing fluid. This is especially useful when highly concentrated electrolyte fluids are contained within one of the bladders 14. Some example valve/mouthpieces that may be utilized are described in detail below.

The lines 64 may be formed of food grade surgical tubing or other hygienic tubing known in the art. The lines 64 are flexible and durable. The lines 64 may be sized to allow easy and quick cleaning thereof.

The input connector 50 may have a threaded cap, may have a quick release cap, or some other access device may be in some other form known in the art. An example of a quick release cap is shown in FIG. 9.

The output connectors 20 and the bladder connectors 62 are in the form of quick release connectors. The output connectors 20 mate with the bladder connectors 62 and may be quickly separated for quick replacement of the bladders 14. Example quick release connectors that may be utilized are shown in FIGS. 10-11. The output connectors 20 may be manufactured as part of the bladders 14 or may be separate entities from the bladders 14. To provide illustrative examples of such connectors a couple other output connectors are shown in FIGS. 13, 14, 16 and 20A-B.

The carry device 12 may include hot/cold packs (not shown) for maintaining temperatures of the fluids within the bladders 14. Pouches may be incorporated into the carry device 12 to carry or hold the hot/cold packs. The carry device 12 may also be formed of an insulated material and/or have an insulating material sewn or incorporated therein. The insulating material also maintains the temperature of the fluids within the bladders 14 and increases the useful life of the hot/cold packs. As an example, an insulation pad may be incorporated into the back member 42 to provide a thermal separation between the user and the bladders 14.

The carry device 12 may incorporate a pocket or holder (not shown) for a personal data assistant (PDA), iPOD, MP3 player, mini-disc, camera, cell phone, or other data, music, video, or communication devices known in the art. The carry device 12 may also provide separate and assigned access for headphones or earphones that allow for access to the electronic device contained therein without opening the front cover 36.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a side exploded view of a hydration system valve 70 is shown. The valve 70 includes an outer member or housing 72 has fluid line attachments 73, which are connected to the input fluid lines 74. An output member 76, which is in the form of a mouthpiece 78, is attached to the housing 72. A rotary fluid control inner member or insert 80 is arranged within the outer housing 72. The insert 80 has a seal 82, which may be in the form of an o-ring as shown, which seals it to the outer housing 72.

The insert 80 includes a stem 84 and a position selector or handle 86. The stem 84 includes a longitudinal passage 88 that extends between the handle 86 and a mouthpiece end 90. The stem 84 has a first hole 92 and a second hole 94 that extend laterally into the longitudinal passage 88. The first hole 92 is associated with a first fluid or the first line 96 and the second hole 94 is associated with a second fluid or the second line 98. The first hole 92 is in approximately a 90° rotated position on the stem 84 relative to the second hole 94. The insert 80 has an OFF position whereby neither of the holes 92 and 94 are aligned with the lines 96 and 98. The OFF position may be associated with a location approximately between a range of 180°-270° from the position of the first hole 92 or else where. When either of the holes 92 and 94 are aligned with the lines 96 and 98, fluid passes through that hole and into the mouthpiece 76. The percentages of each fluid may range from between 0-100%, thus allowing for the overall user received fluid ratio of the fluids to be adjusted as desired.

The outer housing 72 may have notches 100 wherein tabs 102 on the stem 84 may engage to allow the user to precisely position the handle 86 relative to the outer housing 72. The notches 100 and the tabs 102 serve as an indicator for selection of the incremental positions. The indication provided may be both an audible and feel based indication. The rotation of the notches 100 across the tabs 102 may be felt by the user. Also, the stated rotation may provide a clicking or ticking sound, which may be heard by the user. For example, the tabs 102 may click into the notches 100 signaling to the user a change in position. Of course, other indicators or devices may be used to provide an indication, such as a sprocket, a stopper, a clicker, or a ticker. A sprocket and stopper are shown and described with respect to FIG. 8.

Each notch 100 may have a corresponding percentage associated therewith for each of the received fluids. For example, each notch 100 may adjust the amount of the first fluid and the second fluid received up or down by approximately 5% or by some other desired increment. Any number of notches and tabs may be used.

The valve 70 allows for both of the fluids to be received at the same time. The holes 92 and 94 have an overlap range by which each of the holes 92 and 94 is at least partially overlapping the corresponding holes 104 and 106 in the outer housing 72. This overlap range allows fluid from each of the lines 96 and 98 to pass to the mouthpiece 76. The holes 92 and 94 may be more closely positioned on the stem 84 to provide a larger overlap range. Although the outer housing 72 and the stem 84 each have two inlet holes, specifically holes 92, 94, 104, and 106, more may be incorporated.

Referring to FIGS. 4A and 4B, side views of the valve 70 are shown and are provided to illustrate the handle 86 in two positions. The positions illustrate the selection of either the first fluid or the second fluid. FIG. 4A illustrates the handle 86 in a first position and the selection of solely the first fluid. FIG. 4B illustrates the handle 86 in a second position, which is 90° rotated from the first position, and the selection of solely the second fluid. Rotation of the handle 86 between the first position and the second position provides varying amounts of each fluid. For example, the closer the handle 86 is rotated to the first position the higher percentage of the first fluid that is received.

Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, another hydration system valve 120 is shown. The valve 120 includes a mouthpiece housing 122 that has a push stem 124, which is laterally position adjustable therein. The push stem 124 has a fluid passage 126 that laterally extends therethrough. The fluid passage 126 may be ovicular or circular in shape. As the push stem 124 is laterally position adjusted the fluid passage 126 overlaps openings 128 and 130 in the mouthpiece 122 corresponding to lines 132 and 134. Fluid passes from one or both of the lines 132 and 134 into the mouthpiece 122. The push stem 124 may be pushed from either the left side 136 or the right side 138 of the mouthpiece 122. The push stem 124 may be laterally positioned such that the fluid passage does not overlap either of the openings 128 and 130, thus the push stem 124 is in an OFF position.

Referring to FIG. 7, a hydration system valve 140 is shown. The valve/mouthpiece 140 includes a housing 142 with an exterior selection lever 144. The selection lever 144 may be toggled between position A and position B, thereby selecting one of each fluid or some combination thereof supplied by lines 146 and 148. The valve/mouthpiece 140 has an internal pair of receiving members 150 that may be aligned with the input holes 152 corresponding to line A and line B. Fluid passes through a center section 154 and into the mouthpiece 156. Blocking members 158 are incorporated to prevent unwanted flow of non-selected fluids. Of course, this valve/mouthpiece 140 may be implemented using various other configurations.

Referring to FIG. 8, a hydration system valve 160 is shown. The valve 160 includes a reception housing 162, which is attached to the fluid lines 164, and a mouthpiece 166. The mouthpiece 166 may be rotated relative to the reception housing 162. A ratcheting type system 168 is incorporated within the valve/mouthpiece 160 to maintain position relation between the mouthpiece 166 and the reception housing 162. The ratcheting system 168 includes a sprocket 163 and a stopper 165. The sprocket 163 is attached to the mouthpiece 166. The stopper 165 is attached to the housing 162. The sprocket 163 and the stopper 165 maintain the position of the mouthpiece 166 relative to the housing 162. The user, when selecting the fluid percentages, bites down on the mouthpiece 166 to hold the mouthpiece 166 in position and rotates the reception housing 162. In rotating the reception housing 162 the user is adjusting the position of members or a reception nozzle 170, as shown, contained within the mouthpiece 166 or in the reception housing 162. The reception nozzle 170 may have one or more internal channels 171 for alignment to the fluid lines 164. The channels 171 may extend through the sprocket 163 and into the mouthpiece 166.

Referring to FIG. 9, a quick release fill cap system 180 is shown. The fill cap system 180 includes a large fill cap 181 a press release tab 182 and a handle 184. The press release tab 182 when pressed down on releases or “pops” the cap from the bladder 186. This allows quick access to the interior of and filling of the bladder 186.

Referring to FIGS. 10 and 11, couple quick release connector assemblies 200 and 202 are shown. Each of the assemblies 200 and 202 includes an insert end 204 and a reception end 206. In the embodiments shown, the insert end 204 is attached to the bladders 208 and the reception ends 206 are attached to a fluid line 210. The reception ends 206 may press-fit over the inset ends 204, as shown in FIG. 10. The reception ends 206 may have a spring loaded bushing 212 that is pulled back to allow engagement with the insert end 204, as shown in FIG. 11. The bushing 212 is pulled back on a stem 214 and relative to a stationary fluid line connector 216. Upon engagement of the insert end 204 into the reception end 206, the bushing 212 is released locking the reception end 206 to the insert end 204. Various styles of quick release mechanisms may be utilized. The insert ends 204 may have o-rings 218 to maintain a fluid seal between the ends 204 and 206.

Note that the above described output connectors and insert ends may have an internal unidirectional valve (not shown) that allows for one-way flow of fluid. The valve may be opened upon connection with a reception end or may be opened through suction on a corresponding fluid line. The valve prevents the fluid from within a bladder from leaking when a fluid distribution system is not attached thereto. The internal valve may be a small plastic membrane that is perforated with two slits in the form of a cross that provide a seal when suction is not applied to the closed system. The output connectors and insert ends may also be configured with a threaded cap or the like. The threaded cap may be removed just prior to connection of a fluid distribution system.

Referring to FIGS. 12A and 12B, a hydration system valve 230 is shown. The valve 230 operates similar to the valve 70. The valve 230 includes an outer housing 232 that is similar to the outer housing 72; however it is configured for a mouthpiece 234 that has a stem 236, similar to the stem 84. The stem 236 extends within the housing 232. In operation, the mouthpiece 234 is bit down on to hold it in place and the housing 232 is rotated relative to the mouthpiece 234. Once the position of the housing 232 is selected relative to the mouthpiece 234, the user may release the mouthpiece 234, while maintaining hold on the mouthpiece 234 and receive the desired percentage of each fluid.

A position ratcheting mechanism (not shown) may be utilized and incorporated to maintain the position of the mouthpiece 234 relative to the housing 232. The position ratcheting mechanism may include notches and tabs, such as the notches 100 and the tabs 102, or other engagement devices known in the art. The ratcheting mechanism has increased utility with respect to the embodiment of FIGS. 12 and 12B over that of the embodiment of FIG. 4, since the housing 232 is rotated as opposed to the rotation of the handle 86. The housing 232 has more resistance thereon due to the connection with the lines 240, whereas there is little to no resistance in the handle 84 maintaining its position.

Although the notched and ratcheted mechanisms described above are described with respect to a particular valve/mouthpiece configuration, they may be implemented on any valve/mouthpiece configuration shown or on any other embodiment of the present invention. The notched and ratcheted mechanisms provide precise and gradient selection of fluids within a hydration system.

The mouthpieces described herein may have ON/OFF mechanisms, which are activated through the biting of the mouthpieces. The mouthpieces may have slits through which fluid flows and be formed of various materials having varying softness and texture. The mouthpieces may be of various sizes and shapes. The mouthpieces may be sized and shaped for rigidity and torsional twisting and rotating.

Referring now to FIGS. 13 and 14. In FIG. 13 an output connector 250 is shown. The output connector 250 includes a bladder intrusion end 252 and a quick release end 254. The bladder intrusion end 252 includes a bladder puncture device 256 and an adhesive seal 258. The adhesive seal 258 seals the output connector 250 to a bladder 259.

In FIG. 15, an output connector 260 is shown, which includes an output connector or bladder coupling member 262 and a quick release member 264. The bladder member 262 is attached to a bladder 266 and may be manufactured as such. The quick release member 264 is configured to attach to the bladder member 262. The quick release member 264 may be threaded onto the bladder member 262, as shown, or through use of some other technique known in the art. The bladder member 262, as well as any other component that is manufactured as part of a bladder, may also be disposable as described above.

Referring now to FIGS. 15-17, a bladder 300 is shown having a single input and output mechanism 302. The opening 310 may be located on the side, at the bottom, or elsewhere on the bladder 300. In having the opening on the bottom of the bladder 300, it is better assured that a majority or all of the fluid in the bladder 300 is accessible. Also, the bladder 300 may be constructed of three plastic pieces, two sides and one bottom that would allow the filled bladders to sit upright on a shelf. The mechanism 302 includes an independent tube connector 304 and an independent screw cap 306. The tube connector 304 swivels in relation to the screw cap 306. This swivel action allows 360° of freedom motion to position the tube connector 304 where desired within a carry device, such as the device 12. The screw cap 306 is threaded and attaches to a corresponding threaded connector on the bladder 300, such as the connector 262 of FIG. 14. The screw cap 306 may have a gasket 307 to provide a fluid tight seal with a bladder connector. Since, the mechanism 302 may be removed from the bladder 300, the bladder 300 may be filled through a corresponding opening 310 in the bladder 300. The bladder 300 is disposable and may be disposed after use. A fluid line may be permanently fixed to the tube connector 304.

The independent swiveling action of the tube connector 304 relative to the screw cap 306 may also be used to enable or disable fluid flow therethrough. The tube connector 304 may have an internal opening 308 and the screw cap 306 may have a corresponding opening 310, as shown in FIG. 16. As an example, the tube connector 304 when rotated clockwise may cause the opening 308 to overlap the opening 310 and allow fluid to pass. When the tube connector is rotated counterclockwise the opening 308 may no longer overlap the opening 310, as shown, and thus fluid is unable to pass. This rotating operation provides the ON and OFF states of the mechanism 302.

Referring to FIGS. 18 and 19, front views of fluid bladders 320, 322 are shown illustrating different output connector positions. Output connectors may be positioned on the bottom surface, side or lower corner of a bladder for ease in placement of the bladder into a carry device, such as the carry device 12 of FIG. 1. A bottom surface mounted output connector 324 and a lower corner mounted output connector 326 are shown.

Referring to FIGS. 20A-C, a top perspective view and a cross-sectional perspective view of an output connector assembly 330 and a top perspective view of a cap 332 for the assembly 330 are shown according to an embodiment of the present invention. The output connector assembly 330 includes an output connector 334 that is sealed to a bladder wall. In one embodiment, the output connector 334 has an associated port opening radius R of greater than approximately 12.5 mm to allow for quick filling of and increased output flow from a bladder. The output connector 334 may be heat sealed or adhesively sealed to the bladder wall. The output connector 334 has a threaded portion 336 that is adaptable to a fluid circuit interface 338 and to the cap 332. The connection between the output connector 334 and the fluid circuit interface 338 provides a dual-sealed assembly.

Referring to FIG. 20B, the fluid circuit interface 338 has a fluid line adaptor section 340 with tapered segments 342 and an annular extending disc-shaped member 344. The annular member 344 has a circular channel 346 that is located at an outer periphery 348. An o-ring 350 is held with the channel 346 and provides a first seal 352 with the output connector 334.

A ring connector 354 is received over the annular member 344 and is threaded onto the output connector 334. The ring connector 354 applies pressure on the annular member 344 against the outer edge 356 of the output connector 334, which provides a second seal 358. The seals 352, 358 prevent fluid leakage during use thereof. Of course, the above-stated components of the assembly 330 may be coupled to each other using other fastening or attaching techniques.

Referring to FIG. 20C, the cap 332 is similarly shaped and sized as the ring connector 330; however it has a closed inner section 360.

To further provide an improved seal between the output connector 334 and the fluid circuit interface 338 and between the output connector 334 and the cap 332, the output connector 334 is formed of a different material than the interface 338 and the cap 332. For example, the output connector may be formed of polyethylene and the interface 338 and the cap 332 may be formed of polypropylene. The use of at least two different materials creates an improved bond between components thus further preventing leakages.

Referring to FIG. 21, a side cross-sectional view of a fluid bladder wall segment 370 is shown. The shown wall segment 370 represents a portion of a fluid bladder that has a multiple layers. The wall segment 370 includes a first or inner layer 372, a second or lamination layer 374, and a third or exterior support layer 376. Although the wall segment 370 is shown as having three layers, any number of layers may be incorporated.

In an example embodiment, the inner layer 372 is formed of LLDPE, the laminate layer 374 is formed of a two part epoxy, and the exterior layer 376 is formed of nylon. In another example embodiment, the inner layer 372 has a thickness T1 of approximately 0.0045 inches ±0.001 and the exterior layer 376 has a thickness T2 of approximately 0.001 inches. The thickness T3 of the laminate layer 374 may be negligible in size relative to the thicknesses T1, T2. The use of thin layers, as well as the use of a thick LLDPE layer and a thin nylon layer provides a durable design disposable bladder. Also, the combined layers of the stated embodiment provide a wall that is flexible with low elasticity or plastic-like characteristics. Said differently, the wall, in general, when deformed does not return to its original shape unless acted upon. This allows for the bladder to take on various shapes and to be placed in various carriers, while still providing the desired functionality.

The inner layer 372 performs as an inner liner and is odorless, tasteless, water insoluble and water inadhereable. The laminate layer 374 provides adhesion between the inner layer 372 and the exterior layer 376. The exterior layer 376 provides structural support and durability. The exterior layer 376 also is formed and applied to allow for printing and labeling of logos and information thereon.

When the lamination layer 374 is formed of a two part epoxy adhesive, the two part epoxy may include an epoxy and an amine. Acrylic adhesives may be used that include pressure sensitive adhesives. Another adhesive that may be used is a 100% solid adhesive, which is subjected to a UV or e-beam for curing. The adhesive may be applied by any appropriate means in the art, such as by coating or co-extrusion.

The above-described hydration systems provide ease in disassembling and cleaning for reuse. The embodiments of the present invention may be retro-fit to existing hydration system designs such that when a bladder malfunction occurs, switch over costs are minimal to adopt the disposable bladder solutions above-described. For example, the tube branch connected to the malfunctioning bladder may be cut and separated to allow for the attachment of one of the tube connectors and disposable bladders described herein.

Those skilled in the art can now appreciate from the foregoing description that the broad teachings of the disclosure can be implemented in a variety of forms. Therefore, while this disclosure includes particular examples, the true scope of the disclosure should not be so limited since other modifications will become apparent to the skilled practitioner upon a study of the drawings, the specification and the following claims.