Title:
FOLD-UP INSULATED CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cooler having two compartments connected together along a common edge. The cooler is configurable between an open configuration and a closed configuration by rotating the compartments about the edge. The cooler may include a handle connected to each compartment near the edge, and the two compartments may be secured to one another by a zipper or other fastener. A cooler is also provided having a bag with a zipper with sets of teeth extending along portions of the top edge of the bag. The cooler may be closed by closing the zipper and folding the bag in a manner so as to create flaps that can be folded downwards and secured to the bag.



Inventors:
Hanson, Ann E. (Ionia, MN, US)
Wilgus, Mitchell L. (Andover, KS, US)
Peterson, Michael Wayne (Park City, KS, US)
Whetstone, Shawn (New Albany, OH, US)
West, Zac (Seattle, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/940477
Publication Date:
10/09/2008
Filing Date:
11/15/2007
Assignee:
THE COLEMAN COMPANY, INC. (Wichita, KS, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/4.24, 220/592.2, 220/771
International Classes:
F25D3/08
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
THOMAS, KAREEN KAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
The Coleman Company (WICHITA, KS, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An insulated container, comprising: an insulated bag having four substantially vertical sides comprising a front having a front upper edge, a back opposite the front and having a back upper edge, a first side, and a second side opposite the first side, wherein the four substantially vertical sides are insulated and have water-impermeable interior surfaces; and one or more fasteners configured to releasably edgewise connect the front upper edge to the back upper edge; wherein the insulated bag is configured such that, when the front upper edge is connected to the back upper edge via the one or more fasteners, first adjacent portions of the front and back extend over and outside the first side, and second adjacent portions of the front and back extend over and outside the second side.

2. The insulated container of claim 1, wherein the one or more fasteners includes a zipper having a first set of teeth along the front upper edge and a corresponding second set of teeth along the back upper edge.

3. The insulated container of claim 1, further comprising: a first mechanism on the first side configured to releasably connect an upper portion of the first side to a portion of the first side below the upper portion of the first side; and a second mechanism on the second side configured to releasably connect an upper portion of the second side to a portion of the second side below the upper portion of the second side.

4. The insulated container of claim 3, wherein the first mechanism and second mechanism each include a pair of snaps, each snap having a first component connected to the first or second side and a second component connected to at least one of the front and the back, the second component configured to releasably engage the first component.

5. An insulated container, comprising: an insulated compartment having an interior and at least one substantially vertical outer surface; a mechanism for selectively providing access to the interior; and a drink holder, comprising: a flap hingedly attached to the substantially vertical outer surface and configurable between an open configuration, a closed configuration, by rotating the flap about an attachment edge; a fastener configured to releasably connect the flap to the substantially vertical outer surface when the flap is in the closed configuration; and a pocket having an opening providing access to an interior of the pocket, the pocket being positioned between the flap and the substantially vertical outer surface when the flap is in the closed configuration, and the pocket being configured to receive and support a beverage in an upright configuration.

6. The insulated container of claim 5, wherein the fastener includes a zipper comprising: a first set of teeth extending around a periphery of the flap from a first end of the bottom edge to a second end of the bottom edge opposite the first edge; and a second set of teeth configured to receive the first set of teeth and extending on the substantially outer surface in a pattern corresponding to the first set of teeth; wherein the pocket comprises flexible material attached to the flap along the periphery of the flap inside the first set of teeth and attached to the substantially vertical outer surface along an interior side of the second set of teeth.

7. The insulated container of claim 5, wherein the flap is above the attachment edge when the flap is in the open configuration and wherein the flap is below the attachment edge when the flap is in the closed configuration.

8. The insulated container of claim 7, wherein the pocket comprises flexible material extending around a periphery of the flap and vertically along a portion of the substantially vertical outer surface such that the pocket has a height that is longer than the length of the flap when measured vertically.

9. The insulated container of claim 8, wherein the opening is oriented upward when the flap is in the open configuration.

10. The insulated container of claim 5, wherein the opening is oriented upward when the flap is in the closed configuration.

11. An insulated container, comprising: a first insulated compartment having a first opening and at least one first insulated wall having a first water-impermeable inner surface; a second insulated compartment having a second opening and at least one second insulated wall having a second water-impermeable inner surface; a first lid for selectively sealing in a watertight seal and providing access to a first interior space of the first insulated compartment through the first opening; a second lid for selectively sealing in a watertight seal and providing access to a second interior space of the second insulated container through the opening; and wherein the first insulated compartment and second insulated compartment are hingedly connected to one another at a common edge such that the insulated container is configurable between an open configuration, wherein the first insulated compartment and second insulated compartment are in a side-by-side configuration with the first lid and the second lid exposed, substantially coplanar, and facing upward, and a storage configuration, wherein the first lid and second lid are parallel and face one another between the first and second interior spaces.

12. The insulated container of claim 11, wherein the first lid and second lid are hingedly connected to the common edge.

13. The insulated container of claim 11, wherein the first opening and second opening have substantially identical dimensions.

14. The insulated container of claim 11, further comprising a flap hingedly connected to the common edge, and wherein the first lid, second lid, and flap are shaped substantially identically.

15. The insulated container of claim 11, further comprising a handle, the handle having a first end attached to an exterior corner of the first container and a second end attached to an exterior corner of the second container.

16. The insulated container of claim 11, wherein the first insulated compartment and second insulated compartment comprise flexible insulation surrounded by flexible material.

17. The insulated container of claim 11, further comprising: a first handle extending from an exterior surface of the first container; a second handle extending from an exterior surface of the second container; and wherein the first handle and second handle are positioned and configured such that the first handle and second handle may be brought together and gripped by a single hand when the insulated container is in the closed configuration.

18. The insulated container of claim 11, further comprising a fastener configured to releasably maintain the insulated container in the closed configuration.

19. The insulated container of claim 18, wherein the fastener includes a zipper, comprising: a first set of teeth extending along a first peripheral edge of the first container from a first end of the common edge to a second end of the common edge; and a second set of teeth corresponding to the first set of teeth and extending along a second peripheral edge of the second container from the first end of the common edge to the second end of the common edge.

20. An insulated container, comprising: a first water-impermeable insulated compartment comprising a first back panel surrounded by a plurality of first sides approximately perpendicular to the first back panel so as to at least partially enclose a first interior space; a second water-impermeable insulated compartment comprising a second back panel surrounded by a plurality of second sides approximately perpendicular to the second back panel so as to at least partially enclose a second interior space, the second insulated compartment and first insulated compartment hingedly connected to one another about a common edge such that the insulated container is configurable between an open configuration, wherein the first back panel and second back panel are substantially coplanar and the first interior space and second interior space are accessible, and a closed configuration wherein the first insulated compartment and second insulated compartment enclose a combined space comprising the first interior space and second interior space and wherein the first back panel and second back panel form opposing exterior faces of the insulated container; and a handle attached to a first location on an exterior of the first insulated compartment and a second location on an exterior of the second insulated compartment, the first location located opposite the second location when the insulated container is in the closed configuration.

21. The insulated container of claim 20, wherein the first insulated compartment and second insulated compartment are substantially identical in size.

22. The insulated container of claim 20, wherein the first insulated compartment and second insulated compartment comprise flexible insulation surrounded by flexible material.

23. The insulated container of claim 20, further comprising a fastener for releasably maintaining the insulated container in the closed configuration.

24. The insulated container of claim 23, wherein the fastener comprises a zipper.

25. The insulated container of claim 20, wherein the first insulated compartment comprises a first lid for selectively providing access to the first interior space; and wherein the second insulated compartment comprises a second lid for selectively providing access to the second interior space.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/909,992, filed Apr. 4, 2007, and incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Insulated containers, sometimes called “coolers” are quite popular, and are used in numerous activities. Large coolers are often seen at picnics and other social gatherings, and individual users utilize smaller coolers, such as to transport soup to work or to maintain a beverage at a cooler temperature during a sporting activity.

Typically, the walls of contemporary coolers include hard outer and inner shells, and an insulating central layer. The central layer is usually a product having a high insulation value, or R value, such as expanded polystyrene or polyurethane.

For most contemporary coolers, the outer and inner layers of the insulated containers are each formed in separate vacuum, injection, or blow molding machines. Liquid polyurethane is then manually placed between the inner and outer layers, and is permitted to expand to fill the void between the two layers. Alternatively, molded polystyrene foam is manually placed in the void between the two layers. The result is a container having smooth, hard, outer and inner surfaces, and an insulating central core. The outer layer protects the container and central core, and provides an attractive surface. The inner layer separates the central core from the contents of the container, and provides an impermeable layer so that liquids may be stored in the container.

Other insulated containers may be made to have soft sides. For example, soft-sided coolers may be formed from an insulating material, such as high density polyurethane foam, that is surrounded by a flexible fabric, such as vinyl. Such coolers may be produced by covering one or more pieces of insulating material with a flexible material and stitching the pieces or portions of the pieces together so as to form a container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following presents a simplified summary of some embodiments of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of the invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key/critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. Its sole purpose is to present some embodiments of the invention in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description of some embodiments that are presented later.

In accordance with an embodiment, a cooler is provided that is configurable between an open configuration and a storage configuration. The cooler includes two containers attached to one another along an edge. The cooler may be put into a storage configuration by folding together both containers along the edge so that the two containers are aligned against one another. A zipper or other fastener may secure the cooler in the storage configuration. The fastener is released and the two containers are moved apart in the open configuration.

In accordance with another embodiment, a cooler is provided including a bag having a zipper with teeth lining opposite upper edges of opposite sides. The cooler is configurable between an open configuration and a closed configuration by folding the upper edges towards each other, closing the zipper, and folding the ends of the edges downward.

In accordance with yet another embodiment, a soft-sided cooler is provided having a handle located in a corner of the cooler. The cooler may include two containers attached to one another along an edge. The cooler may be put into a storage configuration by folding together both containers along the edge. A zipper or other fastener may secure the cooler in the storage configuration.

In accordance with yet another embodiment, a soft-sided cooler is provided having a drink holder located on a substantially vertical surface. The drink holder includes a flap having a bottom edge attached horizontally to the substantially vertical outer surface and is configurable between an open configuration (wherein the flap is positioned substantially below the bottom edge) and a closed configuration (wherein the flap is positioned substantially below the bottom edge) by rotating the flap about the bottom edge. A pocket attached to the flap and having an opening providing access to an interior of the pocket may be positioned between the flap and the substantially vertical outer surface when the flap is in the closed configuration. A fastener may releasably connect the flap to the substantially vertical outer surface when the flap is in the closed configuration.

Other features of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side perspective view of a cooler in accordance with an embodiment, with the cooler in an open configuration;

FIG. 2 is a left side view of the cooler of FIG. 1, with the cooler in a storage configuration;

FIG. 3 is a right side view of the cooler of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an end view of the cooler of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a top view of the cooler of FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is a left side view of a cooler in accordance with a second embodiment, with the cooler in a closed configuration;

FIG. 7 is a right side view of the cooler of FIG. 6.;

FIG. 8 is a top view of the cooler of FIG. 6;

FIG. 9 is an end view of the cooler of FIG. 6;

FIG. 10 is an end view of the cooler of FIG. 6 in a configuration between an open configuration and a closed configuration;

FIG. 11 is an end view of the cooler of FIG. 6 in an open configuration;

FIG. 12 is a left side view of a cooler in accordance with a third embodiment;

FIG. 13 is a front end view of the cooler of FIG. 12;

FIG. 14 is a rear end view of the cooler of FIG. 12;

FIG. 15 is a right side view of the cooler of FIG. 12;

FIG. 16 is a side perspective view of a cooler in accordance with a fourth embodiment; and

FIG. 17 is partial side perspective view of the cooler of FIG. 16.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following description, various embodiments of the present invention will be described. For purposes of explanation, specific configurations and details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the embodiments. However, it will also be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without the specific details. Furthermore, well-known features may be omitted or simplified in order not to obscure the embodiment being described.

Referring now to the drawings, in which like reference numerals represent like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 shows a cooler 10 in accordance with an embodiment. The cooler 10 includes a first container 12 and a second container 14, which are cavities enclosed in insulating material. In an embodiment, the first container 12 and second container 14 are substantially the same size and shape. The cooler 110 may include a flap 16, which is a rectangular section of material which may be insulated. The first container 12, second container 14 and flap 16 are connected along a common edge 18. The first container 12 includes a top panel 20, a bottom panel 22, a back panel 24 and lid 26. Each of the panels 20, 22, 24 includes a rectangular piece of insulating material, such as high density polyurethane foam, enclosed in a flexible fabric, such as vinyl. In this manner, the cooler 10 is a soft-sided cooler, but the cooler 10 may alternatively have hard sides.

The top panel 20, bottom panel 22, back panel 24 are connected together along their edges to form a box-like shape. In particular, the top panel 20 may have an elongated rectangular shape and may be connected along an edge 23 to three consecutive edges of the back panel 24. The lid 26 is configured to have substantially the same shape of the flap 16 and is connected along an edge to the edge 18. A water-tight zipper (not shown, but known in the art) may extend around the lid 26 at places where the lid 26 meets the first container 12 in order to seal the interior of the first container 12.

As shown in FIG. 2, the first container may also include a handle 28 which may be a loop of the material surrounding the insulating material of the back panel 24 and protruding from approximately the middle of the edge 23 of the back panel 24.

Referring back to FIG. 1, the second container 14 may be configured similarly to the first container 12. In particular, the second container 14 includes a top panel 30, bottom panel 32, back panel 34, and lid 36 all configured and connected similar to the first container 12. A water-tight zipper (not shown, but known in the art) may extend around the lid 36 at places where the lid 36 meets the second container 14 in order to seal the interior of the second container 14. As seen in FIG. 3, the second container 14 may also include a handle 38, configured similarly to the handle 28. In an embodiment, the first container 12 and the second container 14 are approximately the same size and shape, although in alternate embodiments they may be different sizes and/or shapes.

As shown in FIG. 4, the cooler 10 may also include a zipper 40. The zipper 40 includes a first set of teeth 42 extending along an edge 43 of the first container 12, opposite the edge 23 of the first container. The zipper 40 may also include a second set of teeth 44 extending along an edge 45 of the second container 14, configured similarly to the first set of teeth 42. The zipper 40 also includes a slide 46 connecting the first set of teeth 42 to the second set of teeth 44. The slide 46 can be a typical slide for a zipper. The zipper 40 and its components may be of the variety typically used with clothing or insulated containers that are well known in the art. In addition, the zipper 40 may include more than one slide.

FIG. 1 shows the cooler 10 in an open configuration. To put the cooler 10 into a closed configuration, as shown in FIG. 4, from the open configuration, the first container 12 and second container 14 are rotated about the edge 18, both towards the flap 16 until the first set of teeth 42 of the zipper 40 engages the second set of teeth 44 of the zipper 40. The slide 46 is guided along the first set of teeth 42 and the second set of teeth 44 the full length of the zipper 40 until the cooler 10 is in the closed configuration as shown in FIG. 4. As the slide 46 passes over the zipper 40, the slide 46 causes teeth of the first set of teeth 42 to engage teeth of the second set of teeth and lock into place, as is common with zippers.

In the closed configuration, as shown in FIG. 4, the handles 28, 38 are in close proximity to each other. The handles 28 and 38 may be brought closer to each other and simultaneously grasped by a single hand in order to easily transport the cooler 10 by carrying it by the handles 28, 38. Grasping the handles 28, 38 secures the lids 26, 28 against the flap 16, preventing accidental opening.

To put the cooler 10 into the open configuration from the closed configuration, the slide 46 is simply grasped and moved along the full length of the zipper 40 in a direction opposite to that described above. Moving the slide 46 in this direction causes the teeth of both the first set of teeth 42 and the second set of teeth 44 to disengage. With substantially all of the teeth of the first set of teeth 42 and second set of teeth 44 disengaged, the first container 12 and second container 14 are rotated about the edge 18 away from the flap 16 until the cooler 10 is in the open configuration, as shown in FIG. 1. In this configuration, the lid 26 or the lid 28 may be rotated about the edge 18 towards the flap 16 to access items stored in the first container 12 or second container 14, respectively.

FIG. 6 shows a cooler 110 in accordance with a second embodiment. The cooler 110 includes a bag 112, a tub 114 and handles 116. The bag 112 may include insulating material such as high density polyurethane foam surrounded by a flexible water impermeable material such as vinyl. In this manner, the cooler 110 is soft-sided, but the cooler 110 may alternatively have hard sides. As shown in FIG. 11, the bag 112 is configured in the shape of an open-top box. In particular, as shown in FIGS. 8-9, the bag 112 includes two sides 120, a front 122, a back 124, a bottom 126, and a zipper 128. Each of the two sides 120 has a rectangular shape and may include insulating material such as high density polyurethane foam enclosed in a flexible fabric such as vinyl. Likewise the front 122, the back 124, and the bottom 126 are all substantially rectangular in shape and may include insulating material enclosed in flexible fabric. The sides 120, front 122, back 124, and bottom 126 are connected at their edges to give the bag 112 a box-like shape.

The tub 114 may be a layer of fabric, such as polyester, surrounding at least a portion of the bottom 126, and contributing to the strength and durability of the bottom 26. The handles 116 may be elongated strips of material, such as polyester, one handle being attached at both ends to the front 122 and one handle being attached at both ends to the back 124.

Each side 120 may include magnetic snaps 134, including two first magnetic disks 136 and two second magnetic disks 138, although other fasteners, such as snaps, may be used. As shown in FIG. 10, the first magnetic disks 136 are located near the corners of the sides 120 and the second magnetic disks are located near the middle of the side 120. The first magnetic disks 136 are mounted with the poles oriented opposite the second magnetic disks 138. Each side also includes a midpoint 140, a first crease 142, a second crease 144, and a top edge 150. The midpoint 140 is located in the middle of the top edge 140. The first crease 142 extends downward diagonally from the midpoint 140, and the second crease 144 extends downward diagonally from the midpoint 140 in the opposite direction as the first crease 142.

The zipper 128 is similar to the zipper 40 described above and includes a first set of teeth 154 and a second set of teeth 156. The second set of teeth 156 includes a slide 157, similar to the slide 46 described above. As shown in FIG. 9, the first set of teeth 154 extends along an upper edge 158 of the front 122. Likewise, the second set of teeth 156 extends along an upper edge 160 of the back 124.

FIG. 11 shows the cooler 110 in an open configuration. To put the cooler into a closed configuration (FIGS. 6-8), the midpoints 140 are pushed towards each other as the first set of teeth 154 and the second set of teeth 156 are pushed towards each other until the first set of teeth 154 engages the second set of teeth 156. This motion causes the top portion of the sides 120 of the bag 112 to fold outwardly along the creases 142 and 144. The end of the first set of teeth 154 is inserted into the slide 157 of the second set of teeth 156, and then the slide 157 is pulled along the zipper 128 thereby causing the teeth of the first set of teeth 154 to engage and lock together with the teeth of the second set of teeth 156. In this position, the zipper 128 is closed.

With the zipper 128 closed, the portions of the sides 120 above the creases 142 and 144 are folded over the creases 142, 144 to form flaps 164. The flaps 164 are folded downward until the first magnetic disks 136 engage the second magnetic disks 138. Magnetic forces secure the first magnetic disks 136 to the second magnetic disks 138 and, therefore, secure the flaps 164 against the sides 120, as shown in FIG. 9. In this configuration, the cooler 110 has a convenient flat-top design that is aesthetically pleasing. In addition, the zipper 128 and the magnetic disks 136, 138 ensure that the cooler 110 does not inadvertently open.

The steps for putting the cooler 110 into a closed configuration are followed in reverse in order to put the cooler 110 into an open configuration, as shown in FIG. 11. In particular, the first magnetic disks 136 are disengaged from the second magnetic disks 138 and the flaps 164 are folded upward about the creases 142, 144. The slide 157 of the zipper 128 is pulled along the zipper 128 thereby causing the first set of teeth 154 to disengage the second set of teeth 156, and the first set of teeth 154 is freed from the slide 157. With the first set of teeth 154 disengaged from the second set of teeth 156, the first set of teeth 154 can be pulled apart from the second set of teeth 156 thereby exposing the interior of the cooler 110. In this configuration, the cooler 110 has a wide open-mouth design making the cooler 110 easy to fill with items and making items stored in the cooler 110 easy to access.

FIG. 12 shows a cooler 210 in accordance with a third embodiment. The cooler 210 may be configured similarly to the cooler 10 and includes a first container 212 and a second container 214 and may include a flap (not shown, but similar to the flap 16). The first container 212, second container 214 and flap are connected along a common edge 218. The first container 212 and second container 214 may be configured similarly to the first container 12 and second container 14, respectively. For example, the first container 212 has a back panel 224 and the second container 214 has a back panel 234, the back panels 224, 234 being configured similar to the back panels 24, 34, respectively. In addition, the cooler 210 includes a zipper 240, configured similar to the zipper 40, and the cooler 210 is configurable between a closed configuration and an open configuration, similar to the cooler 10.

As shown in FIG. 13, the cooler 210 includes a handle 228 which may be an elongated strip of fabric connected at one end near the edge of the back panel 24 of the first container 212 nearest the edge 218 and connected at the other end near the edge of the back panel 34 of the second container 214 nearest the edge 218. As shown in FIG. 12 and FIG. 15, the handle 228 may be connected to the back panels 224, 234 in corners of the back panels 224, 234 nearest the edge 218.

The handle 228 may also be rigid. For example, the handle 228 may be a loop of stainless steel. A rigid handle 228 may penetrate the first container 212 and the second container 214 in order to connect to the cooler 210. The first container 212 and second container 214 may be able to move relative to the handle 228 so that the first container 212 and second container may freely rotate about the edge 218, as described above.

Locating the handle 228 in near the edge 218 allows the cooler 210 to have a single handle 228 located in a convenient location that does not interfere with changing the cooler 210 between an open configuration and a closed configuration. In addition, positioning the handle at the corner allows convenient, secure carrying of the cooler 210.

FIG. 16 shows a cooler 310 in accordance with a fourth embodiment. The cooler 310 comprises a rectangular insulated tub 312 upon which an insulated lid 314 is hingedly attached. The tub 312 and lid 314 may be made from the same materials as those found in the coolers 10, 110, and 210.

As shown in FIG. 16, the cooler 310 includes a drink holder 316 on an outer vertical surface of the tub 312. The drink holder 316 includes a flap 318 formed from a rectangular piece of material, such as vinyl, stitched or otherwise attached along its bottom edge 320 to an outer vertical surface of the tub 312. A first set of zipper teeth 322 extend around the edge of the flap 318 not attached to the tub 312. A second set of zipper teeth 324 is stitched or otherwise attached to the outer vertical surface of the tub above the bottom edge 320 of the flap 318 so as to outline the shape of the flap 318. A zipper slide 326 connects the first set of teeth 322 to the second set of teeth 324, as with any conventional zipper.

As shown in FIG. 17, the drink holder 316 includes a netting 328. The netting 328 is a rectangular piece of netted flexible material, such as nylon formed into a mesh. The flexible material may also one of many having elastic qualities. The lower and side edges of the netting 328 are stitched or otherwise attached to the flap 318 and the outer vertical surface of the tub 312 adjacent to the first set of teeth 322 and second set of teeth 324. An elastic strip 330 may extend along the upper edge of the netting 328.

As seen by comparing FIG. 16 and FIG. 17, the drink holder 316 may be placed in either a closed configuration (shown in FIG. 16) or an open configuration (shown in FIG. 17). Referring to FIG. 16, in the closed configuration, the first set of teeth 322 and second set of teeth 224 are meshed together thereby holding the flap 318 against the outer vertical surface of the tub 312. Also in the closed configuration, the netting 328 is positioned between the flap 318 and the outer vertical surface of the tub 312.

Referring to FIG. 17, in the open configuration, the first set of teeth 322 and second set of teeth 324 are not meshed together and the flap 318 is oriented such that the first set of teeth 322 and second set of teeth are oriented opposite to one another relative to the bottom edge 320 of the flap 318. In this configuration, the netting 328 is exposed and forms a pocket oriented with an opening at its top.

When in the open configuration, items such as a bottle 332 may be held in the drink holder 316. Specifically, the bottom of the bottle 332 may be inserted past the elastic strip 330 into the pocket formed by the netting 328. The elastic strip 330 exerts force on the bottle 332, preferably at a narrowing of the bottle 332, thereby holding the bottle 332 in the drink holder. The bottle may be removed by gripping the neck of the bottle 332 and pulling upwards with enough force to overcome the force of the elastic strip 330 holding the bottle 332 in the drink holder.

FIG. 16 shows how one may put the drink holder 316 into an open configuration from a closed configuration. In particular, the zipper slide 326 may be pulled from one end of the first and second set of zipper teeth 322, 324 to the other as indicated by the up arrow adjacent the zipper slide 326 in the drawing. As with any conventional zipper, the zipper slide 326 causes the first set of teeth 322 and second set of teeth 324 to separate so that the flap 318 may be folded downward about its bottom edge 320, as indicated by the downward arrow in the drawing, thereby exposing the netting 328. With the flap 318 oriented downward, as shown in FIG. 17, bottles or other objects may be inserted into the pocket formed by the netting 328, as described above.

To put the drink holder 316 into the closed configuration from the open configuration, the flap 18 is folded upward about its bottom edge 320 until the first and second set of teeth 322, 324 are aligned. The netting 328 is positioned between the flap 318 and the outer vertical surface of the tub 312 so that the zipper slide 328 may be moved from one end of the first and second set of teeth 322, 324 in the opposite direction as that described above. Moving the zipper slide 326 in this manner causes the first set of teeth 322 to mesh with the second set of teeth 324 so as to hold the drink holder 316 in the closed configuration.

Variations of the drink holder 316 are also possible. For example, the flap 318 could be formed from an elongated strip of flexible material folded in half, with an upper half of the elongated strip attached to the outer vertical surface of the tub 312 and the other half unattached so as to form a flap similar to the flap 318. The elongated strip may include a mechanism, such as a leaf spring, for biasing the flap in the open or closed configurations. Part of the flap 318 may be formed from material of the tub 312. In addition, other fasteners such as hook-and-loop fasteners or snaps may be used instead of or in addition to a zipper.

All of the coolers 10, 110, 210, 310 may have additional features, many of which may be common to coolers. For example, any of the coolers 10, 110, 210, 310 may include additional features, such as pockets. As another example, while the above description refers to soft-sided coolers, the above coolers may be made to have hard sides. Also, features of one of the coolers 10, 110, 210, 310 may be used with the others. Fasteners other than zippers may also be used with any of the coolers 10, 110, 210, 310. For instance, a hook and loop fastener may be used instead of a zipper. Moreover, any of the coolers 10, 110, 210, 310 may include more than one zipper or other fasteners. The drink holder 316 may also be configured with different sizes to hold other items such as electronic devices, bottles of various sizes, food items, flashlights, or any item commonly used with coolers. Moreover, the drink holder 316 may be incorporated into other coolers, such as the coolers 10, 110, 210, and any cooler may have more than one drink holder, perhaps of varying sizes.

Other variations are within the spirit of the present invention. Thus, while the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, a certain illustrated embodiment thereof is shown in the drawings and has been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific form or forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention, as defined in the appended claims.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. The term “connected” is to be construed as partly or wholly contained within, attached to, or joined together, even if there is something intervening. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate embodiments of the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.