Patent application title: Articles, Systems and Methods for Transforming Inflatable Bodies into Seating Structures
Sheila Klein (Seattle, WA, US)
Cascade Designs, Inc.
IPC8 Class: AA47C1300FI
Class name: Chairs and seats convertible
Publication date: 2013-04-18
Patent application number: 20130093219
The invention is directed to articles, systems and methods for
transforming inflatable bodies such as sleeping mattresses/pads into
structures capable of functioning as elevated, ground supported seating
surfaces. Article embodiments preferably include first end and second
ends, characterized as solid or foraminous flexible panels and/or
strap-like webbing each preferably having a peripheral compression
portion, each positioned proximate to respective first and second edge
portions of a cylindrically involuted inflatable mattress by
compressively restraining differential axial displacement between
adjacent major edge portions and overall radial expansion thereof. At
least one linking portion links the first end to the second end, and
preferably is adjustable to accommodate cylindrical mattresses of
disparate widths. The ends may further include padding and/or enhanced
1. An article for retaining the shape of a cylindrical inflatable body
comprising: first and second end, each end including a major edge
restraining portion and a peripheral compression portion; and linking
means for connecting the first and second ends.
2. A method for creating a supporting structure from a flexible enclosure defining a space for receiving an inflatable body having an inflation/deflation valve, an ingress/egress opening dimensioned to permit transit of the inflatable body there through, and a valve orifice, the method comprising: introducing the inflatable body into the space defined by the enclosure; extending the valve of the inflatable body through the orifice; and inflating the inflatable article with sufficient pressure to ensure a positive outward bias to the flexible enclosure.
 Essential overnight gear for spending an extended period of time in the outdoors includes a portable shelter to protect from the weather, a sleeping bag to maintain warmth, and means for sustenance such as food and water. In most instances, the essential overnight gear also includes a sleeping mattress or pad to provide desired thermal and mechanical insulation from the ground during sleep or rest. However, not all time is spent sleeping or resting inside the shelter; often, a significant portion of time is spent in and around the campsite, whether for preparing meals, tending to equipment or socializing. During such times, having a convenient resting location such as a seat can be of significant importance, and preexisting or intrinsic structures such as logs, rocks, or even benches capable of such use are considered highly desirable. Beneficially, intrinsic structures can provide an elevated position for ease of use and ingress/egress, and do not adversely affect other aspects of the experience, such as pack weight or space requirements.
 However, not all campsites possess sufficient intrinsic structures. Moreover, intrinsic structures are necessarily continuously exposed to the environment, which may result in an unappealing seating experience (for example, retained moisture or guano), and are often times physically and/or morally unmovable, which limits their overall utility. Therefore, extrinsic structures may be desirable or even necessary.
 Fabric-based Inflatable mattress to chair conversion kits ("chair kits") have been used for many years. One form thereof partially envelopes an inflated mattress and, through the use of intelligently placed and oriented straps, retains a folded mattress in an "L" type configuration. See, the THERMAREST 'R chair kit from Cascade Designs, Inc. While effective at forming a chair, the chair seat is at ground level (not elevated), and multiple rods or tubes are often necessary to maintain structural integrity and support, which increase pack weight and space requirements, and complicates assembly of the chair. Dedicated outdoor stools and chairs are usually structurally rigid but heavy, thereby increasing space requirements and decreasing packing options, while materially increasing pack weight.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 For purposes of this patent, the terms "area", "boundary", "part", "portion", "surface", "zone", and their synonyms, equivalents and plural forms, as may be used herein and by way of example, are intended to provide descriptive references or landmarks with respect to the article and/or process being described. These and similar or equivalent terms are not intended, nor should be inferred, to delimit or define per se elements of the referenced article and/or process, unless specifically stated as such or facially clear from the several drawings and/or the context in which the term(s) is/are used.
 The invention is directed to articles for transforming inflatable bodies such as sleeping mattresses/pads adapted to function therewith into structures capable of functioning as elevated, ground supported seating surfaces, systems comprising such articles and inflatable bodies, and associated methods for such transformations. The inflatable bodies subject to transformation by article embodiments of the invention each comprise two opposed, elongate, fluid impervious flexible panels each having a perimeter wherein the opposed panels are sealing joined at their common perimeters to form an inflatable/collapsible envelope when a valve body is fluidly coupled between the envelope and the environment. The joined perimeters have at least two generally opposing major edges at respective lateral portions of the inflatable body, generally extending longitudinally from a first end to a second end thereof. When an elongate inflatable body of the type herein described is involuted by rolled in a longitudinal direction, starting at the first end and rolling to the second end, the mattress achieves a cylindrical state wherein the major edges of the inflatable body are exposed to the environment as is the second end and a portion of one flexible panel proximate to the second end. The invention's utility is best achieved when an inflatable body is in this cylindrical state.
 Article embodiments of the invention comprise at least one flexible structure dimensioned and/or provisioned to compressively retain a cylindrical inflatable body by restraining differential axial displacement between adjacent major edge portions and overall radial expansion of the cylindrical mattress. The term "differential axial displacement" refers to the tendency of a rolled article to telescope or elongate in the axial direction. Because there are a variety of possible means for achieving the desired functionality expressed herein, any article embodiment regardless of its constitution will comprise a first end and a second end wherein the first end is positioned proximate to the first major edge portion of a cylindrical mattress and the second end is positioned proximate to the second major edge portion of the cylindrical mattress. Additionally, any article embodiment regardless of its constitution will further comprises at least one linking portion to link the first end to the second end. Although not necessary, the at least one linking portion preferably includes means for variably linking the two end, thereby accommodating cylindrical mattresses of disparate widths.
 In view of the foregoing, each end comprises a major edge restraining portion. These edge restraining portions, which may be characterized as solid or foraminous flexible panels and/or strap-like webbing, function to maintain the optimal position of major edge portions edges of a cylindrical inflatable body, which is preferably generally planar, by restraining differential axial movement there between.
 If mechanical and/or environmental insulation of these portions of the cylindrical inflatable body are desired, then the ends are preferably constructed of a durable, water repellant material formed into a panel. Such panels are preferably circular in shape and have a diameter generally commensurate with that of the cylindrical inflatable body. However, complete coverage of the major edges is not necessary to the functionality of the article embodiments of the invention, nor does excess coverage negate functionality.
 Each end further comprises a peripheral compression portion that functions to restrain radial expansion of the cylindrical inflatable body lateral portion. This peripheral compression portion may be continuous, such as a band (again, either solid or foraminous), or discontinuous such as a plurality of straps extending radially from the major edge restraining portion (and which may also form all or part of the linking portion(s). By way of non-limiting example only, a preferred end approximates a flexible cap similar in concept to a reusable bottle cap.
 As noted above, article embodiments of the invention also comprise at least one linking portion. The at least one linking portion may be characterized as a substantially enveloping structure or a plurality of straps linking the two ends. Regardless of implementation, the at least one linking portion not only serves to axially restrain the two ends by imparting tension between the two end, but also may provide secondary restraint to radial expansion of the cylindrical inflatable body, particularly when it is under axial compression: that is, when in use as a seating surface. By considering anticipated compression loads for anticipated mattresses, the linking portion can be optimized as will now be described.
 Recognizing that not all inflatable bodies are created equal, certain invention embodiments substantially encompass the exposed panel of the cylindrical inflatable body: self-inflating inflatable bodies have robust opposing panel anti-displacement means (e.g., open cell foam bonded to the interior surfaces of the opposing panels), which function to restrain radial expansion--only uncoiling of the cylindrical inflatable body need be restrained); non-self-inflating inflatable bodies generally have less robust opposing panel anti-displacement means, which suggest the use of a more substantial peripheral compression portion and/or linking portion. In such article embodiments, the peripheral compression portion and/or linking portion comprises both an ingress/egress opening for introducing and removing the inflatable body as well as a separate opening for receiving an inflation/deflation valve thereof. In use, the inflatable body is introduced into the cavity through the ingress/egress opening and inflated to fully occupy the space defined by the article, thereby establishing sufficient structural rigidity for use as a load bearing cylinder.
 Article embodiments of the invention may further comprise at least one padding element disposable between one major edge and an interior surface of a end. The padding element not only functions to enhance user comfort if on the sitting end of the system and/or reduces the likelihood of mattress puncture if on the ground end, but also may be used as a sleeping pillow when the mattress is no longer in cylindrical form.
 As intimated above, the at least one linking portion of the article embodiments of the invention may also comprise adjusting means for modifying the distance between ends in order to accommodate inflatable bodies of disparate lateral or width dimensions. The adjusting means may be static (e.g., adjustable strap(s)) or may be dynamic (e.g., elastic cord(s)). Similarly, article embodiments may also comprise circumferential adjusting means such as draw strings or elastic cords for modifying the constitution of a peripheral compression portion so that inflatable bodies of various lengths and/or thicknesses may be accommodated.
 In preferred form, article embodiments of the invention have major edge restraining portions with a working diameter of approximately 14 inches and have a working height of approximately 18-23 inches.
 Method aspects of the invention comprise forming a cylindrical inflatable body from an elongate inflatable body, associating a first major edge portion of the cylindrical inflatable body with the first end of the article referenced above, associating a second major edge portion of the cylindrical inflatable body with the second end of the article, and urging the two ends towards each other. Additionally, the cylindrical inflatable body can be partially inflated at any time after association of the first and second ends therewith, and preferably after urging the two ends towards each other.
 If a substantially encompassing article is used, the methods comprise introducing an inflatable body having a valve into a space defined by the article, extending the valve of the inflatable body through an orifice formed in the encompassing article, inflating the inflatable article with sufficient pressure to ensure a positive outward bias to all materials surrounding the inflatable body.
 For completeness, the disclosure of U.S. Provisional patent application No. 61/470473 filed on 31 Mar. 2011 is incorporated herein by reference.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first invention embodiment particularly illustrating top and bottom end, associated peripheral compression portions and linking straps;
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 further showing the inclusion of a padding element between a first end and an interior; and
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the padding element shown in phantom in FIG. 2.
DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION EMBODIMENTS
 Preface: The terminal end of any numeric lead line in the several drawings, when associated with any structure or process, reference or landmark described in this section, is intended to representatively identify and associate such structure or process, reference or landmark with respect to the written description of such object or process. It is not intended, nor should be inferred, to delimit or define per se boundaries of the referenced object or process, unless specifically stated as such or facially clear from the drawings and the context in which the term(s) is/are used. Unless specifically stated as such or facially clear from the several drawings and the context in which the term(s) is/are used, all words and visual aids should be given their common commercial and/or scientific meaning consistent with the context of the disclosure herein.
 With the foregoing in mind, the following description is presented to enable a person skilled in the art to make and use the claimed invention. Various modifications to the described embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the generic principles disclosed herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications thereof without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention, as defined by the appended claims. Thus, the claimed invention is not intended to nor should be limited to the disclosed and/or described embodiments, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein.
 Turning then to the several embodiments, wherein like numerals indicate like parts, and more particularly to FIGS. 1-3, a first embodiment of the invention is shown as article 10. Article 10 is preferably constructed from 200 denier nylon or similar light weight material, and may further bushed polyester to provide a better hand and/or slip resistance. Article 10 includes ends 20 and 30, each, respectively, including major edge restraining portions 22 and 32, and peripheral compression portions 24 and 34. Linking ends 20 and 30 are linking straps 40, which include webbing 42 and adjusting buckles 44. In particular, FIG. 2 illustrates the inclusions of cushion 50, which is shown in more detail in FIG. 3.
 As described above, it is also possible to include a radial constriction element such as a band or draw cord (not shown) with peripheral compression portions 24 and 34, as well as a substantially wholly enveloping structure for receiving structurally compliant inflatable bodies wherein an orifice is provided for receiving and accessing the mattress valve so that the mattress can be inflated to fill the chamber created by the article, thereby establishing a suitably rigid seating structure.
Patent applications by Cascade Designs, Inc.
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