Title:
Beach barrier
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A variable configuration environmental protection unit including a rectangular floor and erectable walls at the periphery of the floor. Vertical support members and a closure system come together, when in a vertical position, to block certain environmental elements.



Inventors:
Horcher III, Leo F. (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/410363
Publication Date:
10/25/2007
Filing Date:
04/25/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D25/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HICKS, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BELASCO, JACOBS & TOWNSLEY LLP (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A variable configuration environmental protection unit comprising: a first element made of a first substantially non-rigid material including: at the periphery two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; at the periphery two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels; and a bottom panel substantively bounded by the rectangular long side panels and the rectangular short side panels; a horizontal top member associated with the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels; a plurality of substantially vertical support members; a closure system; and wherein the bottom panel is operatively connected to the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels; and the horizontal top member is associated with the periphery of the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels; and the plurality of substantially vertical support members are associated with the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels and in operation the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels are folded into a substantially vertical position which is substantially orthogonal to said horizontal bottom panel and the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed short side panels, are maintained in the substantially vertical position with the aid of the closure system.

2. A variable configuration environmental protection unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein said horizontal top member is comprised of four resilient conduits and the distal ends of the conduits are configured to mate with a conduit portion having three substantially orthogonal apertures operatively sized to accommodate one end of each of two of the four resilient conduits in the same plane and wherein the conduit portion having three substantially orthogonal apertures is operatively sized to accommodate one end of one of said plurality of vertical support members which is orthogonal to said resilient conduits and not in the same plane as said resilient conduits, and there are four substantially vertical support members and each conduit portion accommodates one end of one of the four vertical support members such that the conduit portion provides four corners of a horizontal rectangle in an upper plane and the horizontal bottom member defines the perimeter of the bottom panel in a lower plane and the rectangular long side panels and the rectangular short side panels form a protective barrier which is substantially orthogonal to said upper and lower planes.

3. A variable configuration environmental protection unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said plurality of substantially vertical support members comprises four scissor gates associated with the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels.

4. A variable configuration environmental protection unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said plurality of substantially vertical support members comprises four inflatable bladders associated with the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels.

5. A variable configuration environmental protection unit as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels are comprised of inflatable bladders, and said bladders, when inflated form resilient barriers which are operatively configured to interface with each other when placed in the vertical position.

6. A variable configuration environmental protection unit as set forth in claim 5, wherein: said resilient barrier interface is the closure system and the closure system is an interlocking interface.

7. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 1, wherein: said first element has dimensions substantively following the Fibonacci series.

8. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 8, wherein: said comfort layer comprises at least on of the following: terry cloth; layered comforter; a neoprene layer; an open pore layer; a closed pore layer; an inflatable bladder; and an inflatable bladder coated with denim.

9. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 1, wherein: the rectangular long side panels and the rectangular short side panels, when erected form a barrier having a height of between 12 and 30 inches above the top side of the horizontal bottom member.

10. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 1, wherein: the horizontal top member provides a degree of rigidity to the top of said two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels and said two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels; and the horizontal top member comprises at least one of the following: elastic cord; substantially inelastic cord; hem line; shelf; string; rope; wire; conducting cord; pipe; conduit; rod; solid core shaft; and telescoping shaft.

11. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 1, wherein: the horizontal top member includes a plurality of length portions including at least one length portion with a reduced diameter portion at one end of the at least one horizontal length portion, whereby the reduced diameter portion fits snugly into another length portion.

12. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 11, wherein: the length portions have an elastic cord running through them and fastened at the terminal end of two of the length portions, whereby the length portions, when fitted together, are elastically biased to stay in the connected configuration.

13. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 1, wherein: said horizontal top member is telescoping member with telescoping elements, and includes a locking mechanism.

14. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 13, wherein: the locking mechanism is providing the telescoping elements with slightly irregular cylindrical shapes, such that the telescoping member may be locked in place by rotating the telescoping elements so as to engage the telescoping elements.

15. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 1, wherein: said long side panel and said short side panel are integral with said bottom panel and the panels are made of at least one on the following: spunbonded olefin; canvas; leather; acrylic; vinyl; tight weave mesh; nylon; polyester; polyester cotton blend; polar fleece; poly tarp; vinyl coated polyester; plastic; tinted plastic; denim; and terry cloth.

16. A variable configuration environmental protection unit comprising: a first element made of a first material, a plurality of second elements made of a second material, a plurality of resilient elements, and a plurality of connectors; wherein the first element has a top side and a bottom side and an edge circumscribing the perimeter and the perimeter is formed from at least three sides of said first element, and the perimeter edge includes at least one fastening element; and each of said plurality of second elements includes a first side and a second side and an edge circumscribing the perimeter of each element and the edge of each element includes at least one fastening element and the perimeter of each of said second elements is formed from at least three sides and at least one of said three sides has a length that substantively corresponds to at least one side of said first material; and at least one of said plurality of resilient elements are fastened to each of said second elements using at least one of said fastening elements; and said plurality of connectors are operative for connecting at least two of said resilient members together; whereby said first element, said plurality of second elements, said plurality of resilient members, and said plurality of connectors allow for the erection of at least two walls, and said at least two walls comprise at least two of said plurality of second elements and said second element rise above said first side of said first element.

17. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 16, wherein: said first element has dimensions substantively following Fibonacci series and the plurality of second elements, when erected form a barrier having a height of between 12 and 24 inches above the top side of the first element.

18. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 16, wherein: said first element has dimensions substantively following Fibonacci series and the second elements include four substantively rectangular elements, and wherein said at least four substantively rectangular elements include at least one sleeve on one or more of each of the perimeter sides of the rectangular element, wherein the sleeve is dimensioned so as to accommodate at least one of said resilient elements, and wherein the first element and the second elements are an integral unit.

19. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 16, wherein: said first element is made of material selected from at least one of the following: synthetic fiber fabric; natural fiber fabric; extruded sheet; and molded sheet; and said first element has a substantively rectangular shape and includes a fastener substantively following the perimeter of the first element wherein the fastener is selected from the at least one of the following: a zipper; hook and loop fastener; buttons; snaps; tie strings; and said second elements made of a second material selected such that, when placed in a position where the planer portion is perpendicular to the ground, the second element is effective as a substantial barrier to wind and wind blown debris;

20. A variable configuration environmental protection unit according to claim 16, wherein: the resilient members include a hollow cavity, and disposed within such cavity is an elastomeric cord which is fastened to each end of said resilient member, and each resilient member is separable in at least one place, and wherein the elastomeric cord provides a bias against separation.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The field of the present invention relates generally to portable barriers.

2. Brief Discussion of Related Art

The use of portable barriers in various environments is generally known in the prior art. Wind screens are desirable to prevent blown debris from contacting the user thereof. Additionally, wind screens may afford a user a degree of privacy. Many of the prior art wind screens include large fixed screens typically in the form of walls or fences. These screens are difficult to transport and can be costly.

Another solution is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,865,355 to Camara discloses a portable barrier apparatus, including a multi-sectioned barrier for protection against wind and sand in various outdoor environments. The apparatus includes a connected plurality of flexible barrier panel members which may be supported in an upright manner with a plurality of pole members. The apparatus further includes a back pack for transporting the barrier in an undeployed configuration.

Other art similarly discloses multi-sectioned apparatus which are intended to block wind and wind blown debris. The problem with the prior art systems is that the substrate where the barriers are deployed are rarely flat and wind can blow under the edges which can expose the used to debris and wind. Additionally, the surface can be either very hard or very loose making the substrate not amendable to supporting stakes, thus allowing the barrier to fail in its essential purpose precisely when the barrier is most needed, in windy environments.

Therefore what is needed is a barrier that can be deployed on hard surfaces, when necessary, and which provides protection from wind and windblown debris when the barrier is erected on an irregular surface.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The drawing herein presented are representative and, unless otherwise stated, are not necessarily drawn to scale and should be used gain a better understanding of the embodiments and not to limit the embodiments. The invention itself, however, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objectives and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1A is a top view of the variable configuration environmental protection unit;

FIG. 1B is a detailed view of the upper edge including a shelf;

FIG. 2A is a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit;

FIG. 2B is a detailed view of the vertical closure system including three substantially orthogonal apertures;

FIG. 2C is a detailed view of the support separation zones;

FIG. 2D is a detailed view of the corner closure system;

FIG. 3A is top view of the variable configuration environmental protection unit in the reclining position;

FIG. 3B is a detailed view of the corner closure component;

FIG. 3C is a portion of the inside of the variable configuration environmental protection unit;

FIG. 4 is a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein the side walls are scissor gates;

FIG. 5 is a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein the long side walls include scissor gates and the short side wall supports are folding and or telescoping supports;

FIG. 6 is a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein the side walls and or bottom are made of inflatable bladders; and

FIG. 7 is a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein corner supports are supported in the vertical position by stakes removably placed in the ground.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention includes a variable configuration environmental protection unit comprising a first element made of a first substantially non-rigid material including at the periphery two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels, at the periphery two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels; and a bottom panel substantively bounded by the rectangular long side panels and the rectangular short side panels. Further, a horizontal top member associated with the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels, a plurality of substantially vertical support members, a closure system and a substantially rectangular horizontal bottom member are provided. Together the bottom panel is operatively connected to the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels, and the horizontal top member is associated with the periphery of the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short panels. The plurality of substantially vertical support members are associated with the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels. In operation the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed, short side panels are folded into a substantially vertical position which is substantially orthogonal to said horizontal bottom member and the substantially opposed long side panels and the substantially opposed short side panels, are maintained in the substantially vertical position with the aid of the closure system.

In another embodiment the horizontal top member is comprised of four resilient conduits and the distal ends of the conduits are configured to mate with a conduit portion having three substantially orthogonal apertures operatively sized to accommodate one end of each of two of the four resilient conduits in the same plane and wherein the conduit portion having three substantially orthogonal apertures is operatively sized to accommodate one end of one of the plurality of vertical support members which is orthogonal to said resilient conduits and not in the same plane as said resilient conduits.

There are four substantially vertical support members and each conduit portion accommodates one end of one of the four vertical support members such that the conduit portion provides four corners of a horizontal rectangle in an upper plane and the horizontal bottom member defines the perimeter of the bottom panel in a lower plane and the rectangular long side panels and the rectangular short side panels form a protective barrier which is substantially orthogonal to said upper and lower planes.

In another embodiment the plurality of substantially vertical support members include four scissor gates associated with the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels.

In another embodiment the plurality of substantially vertical support members comprises four inflatable bladders associated with the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels.

In another embodiment the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels; and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels are comprised of inflatable bladders, and said bladders, when inflated form resilient barriers which are operatively configured to interface with each other when placed in the vertical position.

In another embodiment said resilient barrier interface is the closure system and the closure system is an interlocking interface.

In another embodiment the element has dimensions substantively following the Fibonacci series.

In another embodiment the comfort layer is not larger than said bottom panel and is placed in substantial contact with said bottom panel.

In another embodiment the rectangular long side panels and the rectangular short side panels, when erected, form a barrier having a height of between 12 and 30 inches above the top side of the horizontal bottom member.

In another embodiment the horizontal top member provides a degree of rigidity to the top of said two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels and said two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels; and the horizontal top member comprises at least one of the following: an elastic cord, an inelastic cord, a hem, a shelf, a string, a rope, a wire, a conducting cord, a pipe, conduit, a rod, a shaft, and a telescoping shaft.

In another embodiment the horizontal top member includes a plurality of length portions including at least one length portion with a reduced diameter portion at one end of the at least one horizontal length portion, whereby the reduced diameter portion fits snugly into another length portion.

In another embodiment the length portions have an elastic cord running through them and fastened at the terminal end of two of the length portions, whereby the length portions, when fitted together, are elastically biased to stay in the connected configuration.

In another embodiment the horizontal top member is telescoping member with telescoping elements, and includes a locking mechanism.

In another embodiment the locking mechanism is providing the telescoping elements with slightly irregular cylindrical shapes, such that the telescoping member may be locked in place by rotating the telescoping elements so as to engage the telescoping elements.

In another embodiment said long side panel and said short side panel are integral with said bottom panel and the panels are made of at least one on the following: spunbonded olefin (generic for Tyvek®), canvas, leather, acrylic, vinyl, tight weave mesh, nylon, polyester, polyester cotton blend, polar fleece, poly tarp, vinyl coated polyester, plastic, tinted plastic, denim, terry cloth, or other durable fabric or material.

In another embodiment the comfort layer comprises: plush terry cloth, layered comforter, neoprene layer, an open pore layer, a closed pore layer, an inflatable bladder, and an inflatable bladder coated with denim.

In another embodiment the environmental barrier comprises: a first element made of a first material, a plurality of second elements made of a second material, a plurality of resilient elements, and a plurality of connectors; wherein the first element has a top side and a bottom side and an edge circumscribing the perimeter and the perimeter is formed from at least three sides of said first element, and the perimeter edge includes at least one fastening element.

In another embodiment the environmental barrier comprises: a first element made of a material, a plurality of second elements made of a material integrally connected to said first element, a plurality of resilient elements, and a plurality of connectors, wherein the first element has a top side and a bottom side and an edge circumscribing the perimeter and the perimeter is formed from at least three sides of said first element, and the perimeter edge includes at least one fastening element, and each of said plurality of second elements includes a first side and a second side and an edge circumscribing the perimeter of each element and the edge of each element includes at least one fastening element and the perimeter of each of said second elements is formed from at least three sides and at least one of said three sides has a length that substantively corresponds to at least one side of said first material, and at least one of said plurality of resilient elements are fastened to each of said second elements using at least one of said fastening elements.

The plurality of connectors are operative for connecting at least two of said resilient members together, whereby said first element, said plurality of second elements, said plurality of resilient members, and said plurality of connectors allow for the erection of at least two walls, and said at least two walls comprise at least two of said plurality of second elements and said second element rise above said first side of said first element.

In another embodiment the first element has dimensions substantively following the Fibonacci series and the plurality of second elements, when erected form a barrier having a height of between 12 and 30 inches above the top side of the first element.

In another embodiment the first element has dimensions substantively following the Fibonacci series and the second elements include four substantively rectangular elements, and wherein said at least four substantively rectangular elements include at least one sleeve on one or more of each of the perimeter sides of the rectangular element, wherein the sleeve is dimensioned so as to accommodate at least one of said resilient elements, and wherein the first element and the second elements are an integral unit. The walls optionally include the resilient members in sleeves (horizontal and vertical) or the resilient members may be and loops.

In another embodiment the first element is made of material selected from at least one of the following: a synthetic fiber fabric, a natural fiber fabric; an extruded sheet; and molded sheet. The first element has a substantively rectangular shape and includes a fastener substantively following the perimeter of the first element wherein the fastener is selected from the at least one of the following: a zipper, hook and loop fastener (often sold under the trademark Velcro®), buttons, snaps, tie strings; and said second elements when placed in a position where the planer portion is perpendicular to the ground, the second element is effective as a substantial barrier to wind and wind blown debris.

In another embodiment the resilient members include a hollow cavity, and disposed within such cavity is an elastomeric cord which is fastened to each end of said resilient member, and each resilient member is separable in at least one place, and wherein the elastomeric cord provides a bias against separation.

In another embodiment the bottom is optional, or the bottom includes a vapor or liquid barrier, the bottom may also be a comforter style bottom. The bottom may also be inflatable. It may also be zipped, buttoned, tied, or otherwise fastened to side walls. It may also be part of the side walls and may be made of the same material or different material as compared to the portions that serve as the walls. The sides may be light-passing polymeric material or other colored material including light nylon, or polyester, both of which would effectively allow the passage of some light but would also afford a degree of privacy for the user. Darker colors may be selected if desired; the darker colors would result in a warmer enclosure, as less of the incident sunlight would be reflected. It is contemplated the walls may be marked with promotional material, lettering and artwork or just lettering or just artwork. Artwork would include, by way of example, photographs, drawings and decorative prints. The barrier may also include lights on the perimeter of the side panels. The side panels may also include a shelf or pocket for the storage of items such as sun-block, keys, wallet, etc. The shelf may be at the top or on the side. The bottom portion or the comfort layer may also include a pocket which would allow for the discrete storage. Any of the pockets could be made to be waterproof.

In another embodiment a variable configuration environmental protection unit is provided comprising a comfort layer, wherein said comfort layer is not larger than said bottom panel and is placed in substantial contact with said bottom panel.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

One embodiment of the present invention provides a barrier that can be deployed on hard surfaces when necessary and which provides protection from wind and windblown debris even when the barrier is erected on an irregular surface or hard surface. Referring to now to FIG. 1A, showing a top view of the variable configuration environmental protection unit, also referred to herein as the barrier 1, includes at least one horizontal top member 11, vertical rigid support member 12, horizontal bottom member 13, side panels 14 and 15, bottom panel 16, comfort layer 17 partially shown. Each of these elements is discussed below.

In one embodiment of the present invention there is a horizontal top member 11. When present, the horizontal top member 11 provides a degree of rigidity to the top of the side panels 14, 15. In another embodiment a horizontal top member 11 provides support to the top of the long side panel 14. In another embodiment the horizontal top member 11 provides support for top of the short side panel 15. In another embodiment the horizontal top member 11 provides support for both the top of the long side panel 14 and the top of the short side panel 15. The horizontal top member 11 need not be rigid in the standard sense of the word. It serves to provide a degree of rigidity to the to the upper edges of the long side panels 14 the short side panels 15 or both the long and short side panels 14, 15. In one embodiment a cord or wire may serve as the horizontal top member 11. The cord may possess a degree of elasticity or be substantially inelastic and may be inside a hem, woven through the top, run through rings which are attached to the tops of the panel members or attached directly to the panels. Stitching, gluing, and stapling are examples of the means for attaching. While virtually any cord or wire is contemplated in one embodiment the cord or wire is crafted to provide sufficient strength to hold the panels but is crafted with an eye toward minimizing weight or cost or both, or aesthetics, or safety. In this embodiment the cord or wire may have a variety of diameters from very small to quite large. A range of potential diameters would include the following 2 mm to 5.5 mm or more. One embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 2 mm diameter.

Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 3 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 3 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 2 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 2 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 3 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 4 mm diameter.

Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 5 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 6 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 7 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having an 8 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 9 mm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 1 cm diameter.

Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 1.5 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 2 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 2.5 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 3 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 3.5 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 4 cm diameter.

Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 4.5 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 5 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 5.5 cm diameter. Another embodiment includes a cord or wire having a 6 cm diameter. In general, the smaller diameter horizontal top member 11 generally provide a lighter, less expensive system, whole the larger diameters provide a more visually significant edge. The larger diameters also provide superior debris and wind protection at least in part because of added height and aerodynamic properties. Referring to FIG. 1B, showing a detailed view of the upper edge including a shelf, wherein the larger diameter cord or wire also provides a blunter surface which may be configured include an integral or attachable shelf 19 which could be used to accommodate bottles, cups, cans, sunscreen, glasses, keys etc. The shelf 19 could also be used in lieu of or as the horizontal top member 11. It is noted that in another embodiment the horizontal top member 11 is a smooth fabric edge formed by turning the raw fabric edge under itself and sewing or gluing it down. An elastic material may also be sewn in, thus forming an elastic band on the horizontal top member 11. The term cord includes, by way of example only, plastic clothes lines, rotary clothes line, polypropylene string, sisal string, jute rope, traditional cotton rope, green jute garden twine, braided nylon string, builders & garden line, polypropylene ropes, garden twine polypropylene, garden twine jute, sisal twine, cotton string, cotton string, nylon pulley line, weatherproofed cotton string, hemp, polybraid polypropylene, polyester, braided cotton, cotton sash cords, metal core fiber encased polymer coated line, nylon braid sash cord, nylon plait sash cords, solid braided cotton rope, monofilament, elastic cord (sold under the name brand name Stretch Magic), polymer based elastic cord, covered elastic cord, jute pulley cord, polycord pulley line, builders line, polythene blind cords, nylon blind cords, polypropylene twine, solid cotton pulley line. The term wire includes conventional metal wires, braided wires, twisted wires, coated wires, sheathed wires, solid core coated wires, braided coated wires, wires that are interwoven with natural fibers, wires that are interwoven with synthetic fibers and wires of all types that are coated the natural or synthetic sheathes. Braided metal wires are generally preferred because of their flexibility and resilience. A standard extension cord or equivalent could be used. If a conducting cord is used, it is contemplated that electric lights might be associated with the horizontal top member, optionally providing increased visibility in low light situations or creating a light festive ambience. The horizontal top member 11 may, as indicated above, be a shelf 19 or virtually any rigid member, pipe, rod, shaft, telescoping member etc. There is almost no limit to the type of material that could be used; PVC, polymer, metal, such as steel or aluminum, wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, composite material, or any other rigid material with good strength characteristics. Desirable, along with strength, is a degree of resilience and resistance to plastic deformation. It is also contemplated that a cord, especially a cord with a degree of elasticity might be used in combination with a substantially rigid horizontal top member 11, where the horizontal top member 11 may take the form of a conduit including a channel running therethrough.

In another embodiment a substantially airtight bladder constitutes the horizontal top member. In operation, the bladder would be inflated and in the inflated configuration provides a degree of rigidity. This embodiment has and added advantage of being very lightweight. In another embodiment the bladder may be associated with an inflation system. Inflation systems include a hand or foot pump, a solar powered electric pump, an electric pump, a compressed gas cartridge filling system or other inflation system.

In one embodiment there is a vertical rigid support member 12. The vertical rigid support member 12 provides vertical support, however the support need not run in a vertical or even substantially vertical direction to provide the contemplated support. A scissor gate would be a viable option for providing vertical support. Such a gate could be stitched into the panels, or otherwise attached. When the scissor gate is stitched into the panels, the panels would be made of a fiber which includes a degree of elasticity, or the vertical rigid support member 12 alternatively could be sewn such that the changes in horizontal distance as the scissor gate is deployed would be accommodated. The scissor gate could be made of metal, wood, natural, synthetic or polymeric material. In another embodiment the scissor gate is made of a resilient flexible polymeric material with expandable webbing affixed to the scissor gate. In another embodiment the scissor gate has expandable webbing affixed to the scissor gate.

The vertical rigid support member 12 may also be a rigid member, made of metal, such as steel or aluminum, or wood, fiberglass, composite material, or any other rigid material with suitable strength characteristics. Desirable, along with strength, is a degree of resilience and resistance to plastic deformation. It is also contemplated that a cord, especially a cord with a degree of elasticity might be used in combination with a substantially rigid pole member, where the pole member includes a channel running therethrough.

In another embodiment an inflatable bladder may constitute the vertical rigid support member. In operation, the bladder would be inflated and in the inflated configuration provides a degree of rigidity. This embodiment has and added advantage of being very lightweight. In another embodiment the bladder may be associated with an inflation system. It should be understood that the vertical rigid support member 12 may be part of the long side panel 14 and the short side panel 16. In another embodiment the long side panel 14 and the short side panel 16 are completely integrated with the vertical rigid support member 12. Such would be the case where the long side panel 14 and the short side panel 16 can take a rigid or semi rigid form and as such serve as both the side panels 14, 16 and the vertical rigid support member 12. An example of such a case would be where the long side panel 14 and the short side panel 16 are inflatable bladders. Inflation systems include a hand or foot pump, a solar powered electric pump, an electric pump, a compressed gas cartridge filling system or other inflation systems.

The horizontal bottom member 13 need not have any rigidity and may be dispensed with altogether. In another embodiment the horizontal bottom member 13 may be a bladder. The bladder may be filled with air or water. The horizontal bottom member 13 may also be located on the inside or outside of the barrier and may be in the form of a trough which can be filled with sand or other weighted material. The horizontal bottom member 13 may also include an external tab which includes optionally reinforced, apertures suitable to accommodate a stake which may be driven into the substrate upon which the barrier sits. In other embodiments the horizontal bottom member 13 could be constructed of any of the materials described for use in conjunction with the horizontal top member 11.

The side panels include a long side panel 14 and a short side panel 15. In one embodiment the side panels are integral with a bottom panel 16. In another embodiment the bottom panel 16 is made of a durable lightweight material. In another embodiment the side panels are made of a durable water resistant fabric. In another embodiment the material is water porous, but sufficiently non-porous to substantially block wind and blown sand. In another embodiment the material is Tyvek® brand high density polyethylene, (HDPE), available under the generic trade name: “spunbonded olefin”. In another embodiment the material is canvas. In another embodiment the material is leather. In another embodiment a 9 ounce Acrylic optionally with a brushed cotton feel, which is water repellant, UV, mildew, and abrasion resistant. In another embodiment Vinyl is used. In another embodiment canvas 6, 8, 12, 15, 18, and 24 ounce varieties may be used. In another embodiment a tight weave mesh is used. In another embodiment nylon may be used preferred weights include 5 ounce 300 to 400 denier, 6 ounce 500 denier, 10 ounce 1000 denier. In another embodiment the material is polyester in 6 to 9 ounce weights. In another embodiment a polyester cotton blend may be used with weights between 5 and 20 ounce. In another embodiment the material is a polyester cotton blend with a 10 ounce weight. In another embodiment the material is polar fleece.

In another embodiment the material is poly tarp with an 8×8, 10×10, or 12×12 weave. In another embodiment rubber coated nylon may be used for the material. In another embodiment vinyl coated polyester of various weights may be used. In another embodiment the material is window plastic optionally with various tints. In another embodiment denim in various weights is used. In another embodiment lightweight woven cotton serves as the material. In another embodiment the material is terry cloth of various weights.

The bottom panel 16 optionally may be integral with the side panels 14, 15 and in such case may optionally be made of the same material. In another embodiment the bottom panel 16 may be made of a more durable material. In another embodiment the bottom panel 16 will be made of a thicker material. In another embodiment the bottom panel material is water porous, but sufficiently non-porous to substantially block sand. In another embodiment the material is Tyvek® brand high density polyethylene, (HDPE), available under the generic trade name: “spunbonded olefin”. In another embodiment the material is canvas. In another embodiment the material is leather. In another embodiment a 9 ounce Acrylic optionally with a brushed cotton feel, which is water repellant, UV, mildew, and abrasion resistant. In another embodiment Vinyl is used. In another embodiment canvas 6, 8, 12, 15, 18, and 24 ounce varieties may be used. In another embodiment a tight weave mesh is used. In another embodiment nylon may be used preferred weights include 5 ounce 300 to 400 denier, 6 ounce 500 denier, 10 ounce 1000 denier. In another embodiment the material is polyester in 6 to 9 ounce weights. In another embodiment a polyester cotton blend may be used with weights between 5 and 20 ounce. In another embodiment the material is a polyester cotton blend with a 10 ounce weight. In another embodiment the material is polar fleece. In another embodiment the material is poly tarp with an 8×8, 10×10, or 12×12 weave. In another embodiment rubber coated nylon may be used for the material. In another embodiment vinyl coated polyester of various weights may be used. In another embodiment the material is window plastic optionally with various tints. In another embodiment denim in various weights is used. In another embodiment lightweight woven cotton serves as the material. In another embodiment the material is terry cloth of various weights.

The comfort layer 17 is an optional component and is intended to provide an added layer of comfort on especially hard or rough surfaces. The comfort layer 17 may include any of the materials identified for the bottom panel. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 includes a plush terry cloth, a beach towel or a layered comforter. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 includes a neoprene layer, or another foam or foam type layer. Foam would include layer that exhibit a degree of give, usually characterized by the presence of open or closed pores. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is an inflatable bladder. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is an inflatable bladder that is coated with a puncture resistant material such as any of the cloth layers discussed above or neoprene, or a combination of the layer discussed above. Tyvek® or denim may be included as especially suitable choices. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is removable. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13 using a zipper 17A. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13 using snaps 17B. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13 using buttons 17C. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13 using hook ad loop fasteners 17D, such as Velcro®. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13 using a lace and hook system 17E. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the horizontal bottom member 13 using lace and eye system 17F. In another embodiment the comfort layer 17 is attached to the long side panel 14 and the short side panel 15 using any of the above described attaching systems.

In one embodiment the long side panel 14 and a short side panel 15 are hingably connected to the bottom panel 16. Thus, while the material comprising long side panel 14 and a short side panel 15 may be integral with a bottom panel 16, a hinge element 18 may be associated with the interface. Virtually any suitable hinge may be used. In one embodiment the hinge element 18 is a “living hinge,” that is, a relatively thin and flexible, integrally-formed elongate region of a polymer material integrally connecting the side panels 14 and 15 and the bottom panel 16 and the vertical rigid support member 12, which allows the two portions to bend relative to each other. Alternatively, the hinge may be a conventional mechanical hinge 18 comprising intermeshing hinge loops and a hinge pin. Gussets may be utilized to stop rotation of the hinge at a desired angle. The hinge 18 may also be an area where the side panels 14, 15 interface with the bottom panel 16 in a flexible manner. In the embodiment the bottom panel 16 and long side panel 14 and a short side panel 15 are comprised of at least one inflatable bladder, the hinge element 18 may comprise a region without a bladder, or with a shaped bladder such that the side panels 14 and 15 and the bottom panel 16 cooperate in the formation of substantially vertical side panels. The barrier may include the two, substantially opposed rectangular long side panels 14 and the two, substantially opposed, rectangular short side panels 15 are comprised of inflatable bladders, and said bladders, when inflated form resilient barriers which are operatively configured to interface with each other and provide substantial closure when placed in the vertical position. The closure system in one embodiment is an interlocking interface.

The four walls 15 and 14 and optionally the bottom 16 are made of wind resistant material. The bottom 16 inside optionally includes a comfort layer 17 made of either cotton, flannel or other fabric that is ideally comfortable and light. The bottom inside, in one embodiment, resembles a comforter which will be able to be zipped in and out to make it easier to wash. Poles or rods 11, 12, and 13, may be used to give the barrier walls support. In one embodiment four plastic corner pieces will enable the poles or rods to lock into place.

In one embodiment of the present invention a wind and debris barrier is provided. Referring to FIG. 2A depicting a view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit and FIG. 2B which is a detailed view of the vertical closure system including three substantially orthogonal apertures. Wherein two horizontal top members 21A, 21B are associated with two long side panels 24A, 24B and two other horizontal top members 21C, 21D are associated with in two short side panels 25A, 25B. Four vertical rigid support members 22A-D are associated, in operation, with the horizontal top members 21A-D. Four horizontal bottom members 23A-D are associated with bottom panel 26. A comfort layer 27 retention system 28 provides a means for attaching the comfort layer 27 to the edges of the two short side panels 25A-B and the edges of the two long side panels 24A-B. The comfort layer 27 is optionally provided to cover the bottom panel 26. The comfort layer 27 retention system 28 may be known fasteners 28 described elsewhere herein. The four vertical rigid support members 22A-D may be made of a conduit material, such as PVC pipe.

FIG. 2B, shows a substantially 90 degree “T” conduit 221. Expressed alternatively, the conduit portion 221 has three substantially orthogonal apertures operatively sized to accommodate two supports 21 in the same plane but orthogonal to each other and one aperture to accommodate a support perpendicular to the above resulting plane. The “T” 221 is configured to accommodate the vertical rigid support members 22 on the vertical side of the 90 degree “T” conduit 221, while the horizontal top members 21 and the horizontal bottom members (not shown) are configured to be accommodated in the 90 degree plane portion of the 90 degree “T” conduit 221.

Referring to FIG. 2C showing a detailed view of the support separation zones 222 wherein the top members 21 and bottom members (not shown) include separation zones 222 so that the top members 21 and bottom members may be taken apart. In a preferred embodiment a length of elastic string 224 is run through the conduit and attached at the distal ends of the conduit, such that there is a bias impeding separation at the separation zone 222. The poles or rods 21A-D, 22A-D, and 23A-D may have a string or wire inside. In such an embodiment, the poles or rods will come apart at one or more separation points 222 to make it easier to manipulate the barrier into a compact position. It is contemplated that the vertical components 22A-D may not include a separation point. Once folded in the square position there may be two straps at the top that will make it easy to carry. In one embodiment the connection is a reduced diameter portion 226 at one end of each length member, such that the reduced diameter portion 226 fits snugly into another pole member. In another embodiment the separation point 222 includes an increased diameter portion 236 at one end of each length member, such that the increased diameter portion 236 fits snugly over another pole member.

Referring to FIG. 2D showing a detailed view of the corner closure system. In another embodiment, the length portions have an elastic cord 232 running through them and fastened at the terminal ends 234 of the two terminal length portions. In operation, the effect is that the length portions, when fitted together, are elastically biased to stay in the connected configuration.

A corner closure system is provided, which is comprised of four added pieces of wind resistant material 230, one in each corner, optionally made of vinyl, and fastened to the bottom 26. The pieces of wind resistant material 230 will be loose when the barrier is in the down, or in the reclining position. When the barrier is in the upright position the loose pieces of wind resistant material 230 may be fastened to the sides using, for example, buttons, snaps, Velcro®, laces or other fastening system. This will seal off the four corners and provide both a wind free environment and a degree of privacy. A closure system 228 is provided. Any closure system disclosed herein is suitable. In one embodiment there is a closure element on the center of the “T” element 221.

One embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 3A-C. FIG. 3A is top view of the variable configuration environmental protection unit in the reclining position. It will be noted that a rectangle is formed by the horizontal top member 31A, the vertical rigid support members 32A and 32B, and the horizontal bottom member 33A. The rectangle encloses the long side panel 34A. The embodiment, in this configuration, serves as an ordinary beach blanket. When the configuration is changed, the rectangles bounded by horizontal top member 31A, the vertical rigid support members 32A and 32B, and horizontal bottom member 33A, and the horizontal top member 31B, the vertical rigid support members 32C, 32D, and the horizontal bottom member 33B, are flipped up into a substantially vertical position and horizontal top members 31C, 31D are latched to the corners of horizontal top member 31A, 31B thus forming a rectangular enclosure, bounded by the short side panels 35A, 35B and long side panels 34A, 34B and enclosing bottom panel 36. The base of short side panels 35A, 35B are the horizontal bottom members 33C, 33D. Referring back to the reclining position, notable are squares 300A-D. Referring now to FIG. 3B showing a detailed view of the corner closure component and more specifically showing square 300A in greater detail. The square serves as a corner closure component when the variable configuration environmental protection unit is in the erect position. The crease 310A runs in a substantially diagonal direction, terminating at the junction of horizontal bottom member 33A and 33C and terminating at the outer perimeter edge 320A of the square 300A. When the terminal portions of horizontal top members 31B and 31C are brought together a triangle is formed. The triangle having has for its hypotenuse the crease 310A. Referring now to FIG. 3C, illustrating a portion of the inside of the rectangular enclosure, also referred to herein as the variable configuration environmental protection unit, wherein the long and short side panels 34B, 35B converge at the vertical rigid support member 32D. The resultant triangle formed from square 300A now may be attached using fastener 350 at or near either of the horizontal top members 31B or 31C. One of ordinary skill in the relevant art would appreciate that the triangle could similarly be folded and attached on the outside. In one embodiment the attachment system is a snap, although virtually any closure mechanism could be used and specifically the comfort layer fasteners are useable, although the zipper, snap, button, and hook and loop are most common. In another embodiment the squares 300A-D are removed in their entirety.

In another embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 4, showing a top view of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein the side walls are scissor gates 401A-D. The horizontal top member 41 is a smooth fabric edge formed by turning the raw fabric edge under itself and sewing or gluing it down. The long and short side panels 44A, 44B, and 45A, 45B are made of a material having a degree of elasticity. Associated with said long and short side panels 44A, 44B, and 45A, 45B are scissor gates 401A-D.

In one embodiment the long and short side panels 44A, 44B, and 45A, 45B are either, glued, clipped, stitched, snapped or buttoned to the scissor gates 401A-D. In another embodiment the scissor gates 401A-D are in a pockets or conduits that are stitched to the long and short side panels 44A, 44B, and 45A, 45B. In this embodiment, there may be two layers of cloth (which are part of an integral whole) or one or more separate pieces may be used. In operation, when the scissor gates 401A-D are opened the barrier stands on its own. The scissor gates 401A-D may be attached to each other using either the long and short side panels 44A, 44B, and 45A, 45B or any conventional hinging element, including a pin and cylinder hinge, a flexible member, or a non-hinging element. The hinging element allows the embodiment to, from a top view, form a parallelogram. If the corners are rigid the top view would have the form of a rectangle.

Referring now to FIG. 5 which is a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein the long side walls include scissor gates 501A-B and the short side wall supports 502A-B are folding and or telescoping supports. The telescoping rigid support components are optionally lockable in the extended configuration. The locking mechanism may include a system wherein the telescoping elements have slightly irregular cylindrical shapes, such that the telescoping member may be locked in place by rotating the swivel members so as to provide bias engagement to the members, thus locking the members into place.

The gates scissor gates 501A and 501B are associated with long side panels 54A, and 54B and short side panels 55A and 55B are associated with horizontal top member 51A and 511B in operation the gates 501A and 501B expand and contract (while remaining covered) and the and the horizontal top members 51A and 51B hinge inward or down vertically at hinge points 502A and 502B, or alternatively they are both telescoping, or are telescoping and hinging.

In yet another embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 6 showing a top view of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein the side walls and or bottom are made of inflatable bladders. The barrier's long side panels 64A, 64B and short side panels 65A, 65B are each comprised of at least one inflatable bladder. The bladders may have a plurality of interconnected battens thus allowing for greater definition. In operation the long side panels 64A, 64B and a short side panels 65A, 65B are hingably connected to the bottom panel 66, which is also optionally be inflatable. In this embodiment the bottom panel 66 is integrally connected to the long side panels 64B, 64B and short side panels 65A, 65B. In its reclining position, this embodiment optionally has removed squares. Also notable is that there is the reduced batten size at the long side panels 64B, 64B and a short side panels 65A, 65B interface with the bottom panel 66 so as to reduce or eliminate interference from the battens when the walls are folded up. When the long side panels 64B, 64B and short side panels 65A, 65B are flipped up a vertical closure system is used to close the corners. In principle there is no reason that the squares would have to be removed, however they must not interfere with the closure system. In another embodiment the battens form an interlocking vertical closure system, similar to what is seen on a log cabin, except that the battens are used in lieu of logs.

The barrier, in operation, prevents blown sand and debris from disturbing a user, and blocks wind which can be cool and limit the enjoyment of the outdoors, especially the beach. The barrier, when the walls are erected and non-transparent, provides a degree of privacy. One embodiment of the present invention provides the beach enthusiast with a wind resistant, debris free environment for comfort and privacy. The barrier can lengthen days by providing shelter from early morning and late afternoon breezes and can increase the number of days that one can enjoy the beach. Referring now to FIG. 6, one embodiment of the barrier 60 is about five feet by about six to seven feet in its upright position (walls up), and in this embodiment the four walls 65A 65B, 64C, 64D are about sixteen to twenty four inches in height.

Referring to FIG. 7, showing a top view of another embodiment of the variable configuration environmental protection unit wherein corner supports are supported in the vertical position by stakes removably placed in the ground. The stake accommodation pockets 701 are provided in each corner. The pockets 701 allow for the insertion of stakes 702 which also protrude from the pockets 701 and may be in driven into the ground to support the barrier walls 75A 75B, 74C, 74D. This embodiment allows for the barrier to be used as a beach blanket and readily converted into a wind barrier. The fabric choices, materials, closure system etc are described above. The stake accommodation pockets 701 may be lined with a conduit, such as PVC pipe or other material. The stake 702 can be made of virtually any rigid or semi rigid material. The stake must be able to slide into the pocket 701 or liner. In another embodiment, liner is also the vertical rigid support member 72.

The following description, taken in conjunction with the referenced drawings, is presented to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention and to incorporate it in the context of particular applications. Various modifications, as well as a variety of uses in different applications, will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein may be applied to a wide range of embodiments. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments presented, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and novel features disclosed herein. Furthermore it should be noted that unless explicitly stated otherwise, the figures included herein are illustrated diagrammatically and without any specific scale, as they are provided as qualitative illustrations of the concept of the present invention. The description of the preferred embodiments has been presented for purposes of illustration and description, but is not intended to be exhaustive or limited to the invention in the form disclosed. Many modifications and variations will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. For example, a variety of other materials, sizes and shapes would be utilized without departing from the spirit of the above-described embodiments. The embodiments presented herein were presented in order to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical application, and to enable others of ordinary skill in the art to understand various embodiments and various modifications suited to a particular use.