Title:
STRAP AND STRAP ACCESSORY HAVING CUSHIONING GRANULES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A strap for securement to a load carrier extends from the carrier and is adapted for contact with a wearer. The strap comprises cushioning material to enhance comfort of the wearer, the cushioning material including granules. A strap accessory having granules is also disclosed.



Inventors:
Meesey, Christopher J. (Dardenne Prairie, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/531952
Publication Date:
03/20/2008
Filing Date:
09/14/2006
Assignee:
AMERICAN RECREATION PRODUCTS, INC. (St. Louis, MO, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
224/264
International Classes:
A45F3/12; A41F15/02; A45F3/04
View Patent Images:
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20080283559REVERSIBLE INFANT CARRIERNovember, 2008Parness et al.



Primary Examiner:
WAGGENSPACK, ADAM J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STINSON LLP (ST LOUIS, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A combination of a load carrier and a strap extending from the carrier for securing the carrier on a wearer, the strap comprising cushioning material to enhance comfort of the wearer, and the cushioning material including granules.

2. The combination of claim 1 further comprising a second shoulder strap, each strap extending from both upper and lower portions of the load carrier.

3. The combination of claim 2 wherein the load carrier and shoulder straps define a backpack and the shoulder straps form a shoulder harness adapted to extend over shoulders of the wearer.

4. The combination of claim 1 wherein the strap is only one strap.

5. The combination of claim 1 further comprising a foam material disposed over the granules so that the granules are disposed closer to the wearer than the foam material.

6. The combination of claim 1 wherein the granules are disposed only in portions of the shoulder strap.

7. The combination of claim 1 wherein the granules are resilient.

8. The combination of claim 7 wherein the granules are thermoplastic rubber, styrene beads or buckwheat husks.

9. The combination of claim 1 wherein the strap includes outer fabric containing the granules, the granules being secured in place in the strap by sewn elements, sonic welding or thermal bonding.

10. A strap for securement to a load carrier, the strap adapted to extend from the carrier and shaped for contact with a wearer, the strap comprising cushioning material to enhance comfort of the wearer, the cushioning material including granules.

11. The strap of claim 10 further comprising a foam material disposed over the granules so that the granules are disposed closer to the wearer than the foam material.

12. The strap of claim 10 wherein the granules are resilient.

13. The strap of claim 12 wherein the granules are thermoplastic rubber, styrene beads or buckwheat husks.

14. The strap of claim 13 wherein the granules are secured in place in the strap by sewn elements, sonic welding or thermal bonding.

15. The strap of claim 10 in combination with a load carrier, the strap and load carrier together forming one of a waistpack, a backpack, a purse, a briefcase and a tote bag.

16. A strap accessory for attachment to a strap of a load carrier, the accessory comprising a fastener for fastening the accessory to the strap, and cushioning material including granules.

17. The strap accessory of claim 16 including a transparent outer layer so that the granules are visible.

18. The strap accessory of claim 16 in combination with a strap.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to straps and strap accessories for load carriers worn on a person, including packs, bags, luggage and the like, and more particularly to cushioning granular material for such straps and strap accessories.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Prior art straps for load carriers have included a variety of cushioning materials to try to soften the load on the wearer. As the wearer walks, his or her movement tends to cause the load in the pack to oscillate and thereby cause small impacts or shocks against the body. Prior art cushioning has attempted to alleviate these shocks, for example by molded cushioning material. This material is expensive because it must be molded to a certain shape, and it may or may not conform to the anatomy of all wearers. Accordingly, an improved strap or strap accessory that can be inexpensively made and that provides sufficient cushioning is needed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the invention is directed to the combination of a load carrier and a strap extending from the carrier for securing the carrier on a wearer. The strap comprises cushioning material to enhance comfort of the wearer, and the cushioning material includes granules.

In another aspect, the strap is adapted for securement to a load carrier. The strap is shaped for contact with the wearer, and comprises cushioning material including granules.

In still another aspect, the invention is directed to a strap accessory for attachment to a strap of a load carrier, the accessory comprising a fastener for fastening the accessory to the strap, and cushioning material including granules.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a backpack having straps of one embodiment on a wearer.

FIG. 2 is a rear elevational view of a padded section of one of the shoulder straps of the backpack shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-section view of the strap of FIG. 2 taken along line 3-3.

FIG. 4 is a cross-section view similar to FIG. 3 but showing another embodiment of a shoulder strap having a transparent top layer.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a strap similar to that of FIG. 1 mounted on a shoulder tote bag.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a strap of another embodiment mounted on a purse.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a strap of yet another embodiment on a briefcase.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a strap in the form of a waistbelt on a waistpack.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a strap accessory of one embodiment.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the strap accessory of FIG. 9 mounted on an exemplary strap.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, a backpack 11 (generally a pack) on a wearer W generally comprises a load carrier 13 having an upper portion 15 and a lower portion 17. A shoulder harness is formed by two shoulder straps 19, each strap extending from the upper portion 15 to the lower portion 17 of the load carrier and shaped for conforming contact with the wearer. In this embodiment, the two “mirror-image” shoulder straps 19 each have padded upper sections 21 generally including cushioning material and attached to an upper portion 15 of the load carrier and a webbing section 23 (unpadded) attached to the lower portion of the load carrier. The straps 19 may be attached in a variety of ways within the scope of the invention. For example, the straps may be permanently attached by sewing or the like, or non-permanently attached using buckles or the like. As shown, the webbing section 23 includes an adjustment mechanism 25 (e.g., a buckle) for adjusting the overall length of each strap. Note that the padded section 21 may make up all or any portion of the strap within the scope of this invention.

Referring to the cross-section of FIG. 3, each padded section 21 includes an inner layer 31, typically of flexible fabric such as mesh, spacer mesh, sandwich mesh, air mesh or the like, for contacting the wearer W. A layer of beads or granules 33 is disposed on or against the fabric, and a layer of foam 35 is disposed against the granules 33, and in portions without the granules, against the inner layer 31. An outer layer 37 of fabric is placed over the foam. In this embodiment, the granules 33 are disposed closer to the wearer W than the foam material in the portion having the granules, and are disposed only in the portion of the strap that is in contact with the wearer. Generally, the granules 33 help the strap conform to the wearer as further described below. The two layers 31, 37 of fabric are sewn together at longitudinally extending seams 41 (FIG. 1) along the sides of the straps such that the foam and beads are held in place under compression. Optionally, the granules are further secured in place by sewn elements 43, such as chevron shaped stitching (FIGS. 2-3) that connects the inner fabric with the foam and holds the granules between the sewn elements. Many other types of stabilizing features and materials may be used within the scope of the invention.

The granules 33 may be a variety of types within the scope of the invention. In one embodiment, the granules are resilient, for example beads made of thermoplastic rubber, polystyrene beads, microstyrene beads or buckwheat hulls, and any combination of such granules. The granules may be “pebble” shaped, spherical or semispherical in shape. In some embodiments the beads are “self-equalizing” and adjusting as well as energy absorbing or energy deflecting. The foam may also be a variety of types, including open or closed cell foam, or in one embodiment, EVA “pressure relieving” foam. The outer or top layer may be a variety of materials including nylon sackcloth, “velocity weave”, ballistic weave, 4-way stretch and non-woven, fleece, TPU plastic.

As shown in FIG. 4, the outer layer 37′ of the strap may be transparent, e.g., made of clear plastic, so that the beads or granules are visible from outside the padded section or strap. In the embodiment of FIG. 3A, an additional layer of granules 34′ is added atop the foam layer so as to be visible. Also, in this embodiment, sonic welding or thermal bonding is used to secure the granules instead of stitching or sewn elements. Parts of FIG. 4 corresponding to those shown in FIG. 3 are indicated by the same reference numbers plus a prime symbol. Note the foam layer may also be omitted within the scope of the invention.

Shoulder straps of various embodiments may be used on a variety of packs, bags, luggage or the like. FIGS. 5-8 show just a few examples. FIG. 5 shows a bag (broadly, a pack) comprising a shoulder strap 51 attached to a shoulder tote bag 53 disposed adjacent the wearer's back. This embodiment includes only a single shoulder strap 51 that may be constructed substantially as described above, and is shaped for conformal contact with the wearer. FIG. 6 shows another embodiment wherein a single shoulder strap 61 is attached to a purse 63 disposed adjacent the wearer's hip. Again, the strap is formed for conformal contact with the wearer. FIG. 7 shows a strap 71 of another embodiment on a briefcase 73, and FIG. 8 shows another strap 81 formed or shaped as a waistbelt on a waistpack 83.

As shown in FIGS. 9-10, the granules 33″ may be enclosed in a removable strap accessory 91 (or “pad”), the accessory capable of being “retrofitted” to existing shoulder straps 19″ for additional cushioning against the wearer. The granules may be made visible by incorporating a clear or partially transparent section in the accessory 91. In this embodiment, the accessory includes a transparent outer layer 37″ and an opaque inner layer 31″. However, neither or both layers may be transparent, or only made transparent in portions. The transparent layer enables users to see the granules 33″ inside the accessory. A suitable fastener 93, such as hook and loop fasteners are mounted on the accessory to fasten the accessory to the strap. Many other types of fasteners are contemplated. The accessory 91 may also include additional cushioning, for example the cushioning described above.

Embodiments of the present invention provide good shock/impact absorbance. As the wearer walks, there are small movements between the strap and the wearer which impart small shocks through the strap to the wearer. Embodiments of the invention absorb these small shocks or impacts. In many cases, the pack load oscillates with the natural movement of the human body in motion. During oscillation, the beads will be “unloaded” and return to their natural, unloaded shape (as desribed above). As the beads begin receiving load again, they resist deformation and thereby distribute the load amongst the many beads. The beads automatically adjust or conform to the unique anatomical curves of each wearer. For example, the beads or granules better conform to the shoulder, the hip and the “bony parts” therein. The granules may be resilient such that the more force imparted, the more the granules deform. Embodiments of the invention are also cost efficient because they may be made of unprocessed granules. Prior art straps have included molded cushioning material, which is more expensive because they must be molded to a certain shape. The granular material tends to automatically conform to the wearer without an expensive molding process. The granules may generally be held in place more cost effectively by sewn in features (e.g., by the chevron shaped stitching shown in FIG. 2). Also the granules may be held in place by the foam layered over it.

Embodiments of the invention may be used on all types of luggage, baggage, briefcases, waistpacks, “fanny packs” and the like. The strap may be fixed or detachable. The strap may be, for example, formed as a waistbelt on a backpack. The strap may be sold as a replacement or as original equipment with the carrier.

When introducing elements of the present invention or the preferred embodiments(s) thereof, the articles “a”, “an”, “the” and “said” are intended to mean that there are one or more of the elements. The terms “comprising”, “including” and “having” are intended to be inclusive and mean that there may be additional elements other than the listed elements.

As various changes could be made in the above constructions, products, and methods without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.