BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to the field of human hydration systems. In particular, the present invention relates to a hydration system having a rigid liquid container with a remote vent that is located away from the container's liquid reservoir, a unique construction of a mouth operated liquid dispenser that is adapted to be placed in the mouth of a user and can maintain liquid at any level in a liquid tube.
Human hydration systems are used to hydrate or to re-hydrate a person that has lost, or is losing, body fluids as a result of heat, physical exertion, or the like. Generally, there are two types of human hydration systems; i.e., a hard or rigid container system and a soft or flexible bladder system.
2. Description of the Related Art
A hard container system typically includes a hard, rigid or semi rigid liquid reservoir or container that is made from plastic, metal, glass, or another material that holds its shape when the container is empty. Examples of hard containers include, but are not limited to, NALGENE brand bottles, sports cycle bottles, canteens, and glass bottles. Hard containers can be easily washed, and one container can hold a number of different liquids, including water. Because the container is rigid, it is difficult to puncture, and the container typically retains its shape in a back pack when items are placed on top of the container. A rigid container system can be transported separate from or away from the user, for example, in a water carrier on a bicycle. A hard container system can also be mounted in a waist pack, allowing the weight of the liquid to be transferred to the user's hips.
Hard container systems generally require that the container be physically removed from a carrier or holder that holds the container. This often means stopping a physical activity, and removing the container from its carrier or holder in order to enable the user to re-hydrate. Virtually all hard containers are carried in this fashion. NALGENE Outdoor Products has a system that includes a tube that is passed through the lid of the container. The user obtains liquid by sucking on the end of the tube and the tube is compressed with a medical clamp that prevents liquid from flowing through the tube when it is not desired. In this system the vent is positioned in the lid of the liquid container. For liquid to be removed from a hard container the container must be vented to the atmosphere to permit air to enter and replace the volume of liquid being removed from the container. Exposure to harsh environmental conditions could allow dirt to enter the container, resulting in contamination of the liquid. Dirt can also obstruct the vent, thereby rendering the vent inoperable. Mechanical vents require a pressure differential that must be overcome to operate and this pressure differential adds resistance to the overall system.
The elevation difference from the container to the end of the liquid tube or mouth dispenser can often be many feet. This requires the user to suck the liquid through the length of the tube at each use. Some systems utilize check valves to prevent the liquid from returning to the container and remain in the tube. Other systems use motorized or manual pumps to force the liquid through the liquid tube, while other systems require complicated manual valves either in the liquid tube or mouth dispenser.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,301,858 describes a bicycle mounted hard container water bottle system wherein a liquid tube includes a mouth piece, and an oversleeve is provided so that the drinking tube can be shortened for non-bicycle use, and wherein the bottle includes a mechanical lid mounted rocker vent and a mouth piece with a one way valve. The one way valve maintains liquid in the system up to the mouth piece and allows liquid to move only in a single exiting direction. U.S. Pat. No. 5,431,308 describes a waist mounted hydration system, which uses an on/off valve positioned at an intermediate location in the liquid tube. U.S. Pat. No. 4,852,781 describes a waist mounted hard container that contains a curved hollow only slightly flexible sipping tube open at both ends. In this system the liquid returns to the container after each use and must be sucked through the length of the liquid during each use. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,265,769, 5,215,231 and 4,139,130 shows portable hydration systems with rigid or semi rigid containers that utilize in line check valves at various locations to the container to prevent liquid from returning to the container. U.S. Pat. No. 5,755,368 shows a portable hydration system that utilizes pressure from a carbonated beverage or alternate means of creating pressure within the container. U.S. Pat. No. 513,769 shows a portable hydration system for military use whereas pressure to move a substance through a tube is either created by a mechanical pump or sucking on a mouth dispenser. U.S. Pat. No. 4,971,048 shows a hydration system with a remote vent tube that a user blows into to create pressure inside the container to move liquid through a liquid tube to the user. The vent tube and liquid tube each contain an unidirectional valve that allows fluid movement in one direction. A company named Check Water has a system that attaches to bottled water containers and uses a break away inline check valve to maintain liquid in the tube extending to the mouth operated liquid dispenser. This check valve, patented by Paczonay, prevents liquid from returning to the container.
Check valves and unidirectional valves have a set value that must be overcome for the valve to operate properly. This set value is a pressure differential that must be overcome for the valve to operate. To achieve this value most valves generally uses spring tension or the resilient nature of a plastic or rubber material to close the valve. This tension is preset so the pressure to overcome the valve remains constant. If a liquid tube or vent contains an inline check valve the force to overcome the valve remains constant regardless of all other conditions in the system. Generally speaking, check valves are expensive to manufacture, degrade over time, malfunctions when dirty, freezes easily and allows fluid to flow in a single direction.
A soft bladder container system includes a soft liquid container or bladder as a liquid reservoir. A soft bladder system is easily compressed, folded or deformed. Examples of this type of system include, but are not limited to, the CAMELBACK brand system, the PLATYPUS brand system, bota bags, and collapsible water pails. The bladder that is used in this type of system is pliable, and requires some type of structural support when filled with liquid such as water. A tube is often used to draw water to the user's mouth from the reservoir of the soft bladder system. This enables the user to re-hydrate without stopping an activity. In use, the soft bladder or soft container collapses as liquid is removed from the reservoir. Because the soft bladder is not vented, and the bladder collapses when liquid is withdrawn, the soft bladder must be operated with its tube at the container's lowest point, for example the lid, facing generally downward in order for the bladder to be fully evacuated of fluid.
Soft bladder systems are susceptible to punctures and leaks. While positioned upside down and supported inside a carrier pack, a leak can drain the bladder of liquid onto vital gear, such as a sleeping bag or clothing. The soft materials that are used to manufacture the soft bladder hydration systems are selected to withstand water, but will often deteriorate or absorb non-water constituents present in other liquids. A soft bladder type of system is transported on the back of the user, which may increase the risk of back fatigue and back injury. The construction of a soft bladder hydration system typically causes water to flow from the liquid dispenser when the bladder becomes compressed during use. In addition a soft container is extremely difficult to clean. Many manufactures of soft bladder hydration systems such as CamelBak and Cascade Design offer secondary products such as patch kits, cleaning brushes, cleaning holders and extensive cleaning chemicals for their systems.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,816,457, 5,971,357 and 5,727,714 describes bladder type hydration systems. The system is carried in a back pack on the user's shoulder. The mouth operated liquid dispenser in these systems are designed to hold water from flowing through the valve as the bladder is compressed or when the bladder reservoir is positioned higher than the liquid dispenser, which is a common position while using the hydration system while riding a bicycle. U.S. Pat. No. 5,730,336 describes an elastomer material dispensing valve for a hydration system wherein the valve's front face comprises a diaphragm in the shape of a concave surface that faces the chamber side of the valve, this concave surface also contain slits and the slits remain in a closed position when the diaphragm is not distorted. This patent also describes a function of the valve where it is intentionally deformable from a greater pressure outside of the valve. This refers to a negative pressure within the valve when compared to outside pressure. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,085,349, 6,032,831 and 6,070,767 describes a hydration system wherein a liquid dispensing valve resists a positive pressure within the valve by incorporating a sealing angle or lips on the internal surface of the sealing face. These sealing angles and lips increase sealing pressure within the liquid dispensing valve when pressure is greater within the valve than the ambient surroundings. U.S. Pat. No. 6,062,435 shows a hydration system with a liquid dispensing device that opens and closes by a pressure deferential on the device. The liquid dispensing device will not allow air to enter, keeping a liquid at the level of the liquid dispensing device. This design also contains a necessary baffle to dampen unexpected compression of the reservoir.
The present invention shows a hydration system with a rigid or semi rigid container, a liquid tube and a mouth operated liquid dispenser. More specifically the present invention shows a hydration system with a mouth operated liquid dispenser that will maintain any desired level of liquid in the liquid dispenser or liquid tube with a supply reservoir located significantly lower than the liquid dispenser. The present invention also shows that the liquid in the liquid tube and mouth operated liquid dispenser may be further adjusted to any location in the liquid tube or returned to the container if desired. The present invention also shows a remote vent to a container to help assure that returning air through the vent is clean when the container encounters a harsh environment. The present invention also teaches that a remote vent is not necessary when the hydration system is used in casual or normal situations.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The above-discussed problems and other problems with prior hydration systems are overcome by the human hydration system of the present invention. The present invention details a hydration system where a rigid or semi rigid reservoir is used and transported at an elevation significantly lower than the mouth operated liquid dispenser. In this situation liquid in the liquid dispenser and liquid tube tries to equalize with liquid in the reservoir. If liquid returns to the rigid reservoir during use the user must expend energy and time sucking the liquid through the tube to the liquid dispenser multiple times. This can be frustrating and time consuming when the user requires liquid. The mouth operated liquid dispenser must be able to maintain liquid in the liquid tube and liquid dispenser. Liquid must also be able to be returned to the reservoir at any desired time especially when encountering conditions such as a freezing environment or desert conditions. This prevents the liquid from freezing in the liquid tube or from becoming over heated. Hydration systems that incorporate inline check valves and one way valves cannot do this.
The present invention has a vent to a container that is remote to the container itself. This allows the container to be placed or transported in a harsh environment and the air returning to the container will be separate from the environment of the container. This helps assure that the liquid will not become contaminated while the container is in a harsh environment. These conditions only exist in the most rugged of environments and to individuals that explore these regions. The present invention is intended for the harshest of conditions, as well as, casual users on daily hikes. Casual users will probably never encounter severe changing environmental conditions so in this situation a remote vent is not necessary. A vent near the rigid container is sufficient in average environmental conditions but the performance of the hydration system and liquid dispenser is critical in all systems. The present invention is intended to satisfy the needs of the most rugged of environmental conditions to the casual user without compromising performance on any level.
The present invention utilizes a filtered passive, non-mechanical, vent. This type of venting is easier to clean and maintain and adds less resistance to the overall system. Mechanical vents generally include check valves and, as shown earlier, check valves add resistance to any fluid system. The remote vent is a flexible tube that enters the container on one end and the other end is positioned some distance away from the container. The remote vent tube creates a passage for air to return to the container as liquid is removed.
Any fluid traveling through an enclosed passage such as a tube or opening encounters resistance from the walls of the tube and a micro layer of fluid that does not flow with the fluid but remains stationary with the passage wall. The resistance depends on characteristics of the fluid, passage wall and the diameter and length of the tube. In the present invention it is preferred a remote vent tube area is about 33% the area of the liquid tube. In a vent that is attached directly to a container the resistance is much less due to the length of the vent passage. It is preferred that a container attached vent has a area of about 15% the area of the liquid tube. It is preferred that moving air through a vent, or vent tube, adds less than 5% total resistance to the system. It is preferred that a passive vent is used in a rigid hydration system where a pressure differential of less than 2½ pounds per square inch is required to draw liquid through the liquid dispenser from the rigid container, creating a partial vacuum in the container that pulls outside air through the vent into the container.
The reservoir of this invention includes a rigid or semi rigid container that is made from hi-density polyethylene or other material. The container includes a void or fill openings through which liquid may enter the container for storage therein. This fill void is covered by a removable lid. The lid is securely attached and sealed to the containers fill void in a manner that prevents fluid leakage from the interior of the container, for example by the use of mating threads.
As used herein, the term closed, rigid, semi rigid and/or hard container for a human hydration system is intended to mean a container in which a partial vacuum is created when a user draws a quantity of liquid out of the container: stated another way, a closed container that does not collapse as liquid is withdrawn therefrom. While conventional cylindrical-shaped containers will be described, any container shape is usable with the invention, including military flask-like canteens.
As used herein, the term remote vent, remote end of a vent tube, for a human hydration system is intended to mean a vent, or an end of a vent tube, that is separated by an interval from a hard container, or is spaced from the container by a distance that is greater than the usual amount. A distal end of a vent tube in accordance with this invention is generally open to the ambient atmosphere, and may include an air filter element. The distance measured from this distal end of the vent tube to the fluid containing container that is being vented varies in accordance with specific usage. For example, the vent tube may be as short as 1.0-inch, or it may be on the order of a few feet in length. Examples of vent tubes that are a few feet in length include an arrangement in which the vent tube's distal end is attached to an accessory article, such as a user's back pack, or when the vent tube's distal end is placed within a gas mask that the user is wearing.
Herein is an introduction to the performance of a mouth operated liquid dispenser with a brief detail of force and weight explained. A column of water with an area of 1 square inch and 27.7 inches high produces a weight of 1 pound. This can also be referred to as 1 pound per square inch (1 psi) of pressure that is being exerted on the 1 inch square portion of the column. If a 1 inch square column of water is held stationary at a level of 27.7 inches, by a partial vacuum, then a negative force of 1 psi would be required to hold the position of the liquid. A column of water that has ¼ square inch area and 27.7 inches high has a water weight of ¼ of a pound or 113.5 grams but the pressure would equate to 1 psi. So every additional 27.7 inches of water height in a tube equals an additional 1 pound per square inch.
The internal area of a liquid tube multiplied by its length will provide a volume that can be equated into a weight that a mouth operated liquid dispenser must hold in order for a liquid to maintain a given level in a liquid dispenser or liquid tube. For example; if a liquid tube has an internal diameter of 0.250″ it has a volume of 0.04908 square inch. Multiply the area by the tube length, as an example 40 inches, 0.04908×40=1.9632 cubic inches. In the previous paragraph it is shown that one pound of water occupies a volume of 27.7 cubic inches. Therefore the weight of water in the tube is (1.9632 divided by 27.7) 0.0708 pounds or 32.17 grams. The force exerted by this 40 inch column of water is (40 divided by 27.7) 1.44 psi. The liquid dispenser of the present invention will hold a negative 12 feet column of water in a 0.250″ diameter tube for over 24 hours. This equates to a water weight of 115.86 grams or a force of 5.19 pounds per square inch. Since 1 cubic centimeter has a volume of 1 gram of water, the liquid dispenser held a volume of 115.8 cubic centimeters of water. If a rigid container hydration system is mounted in a bicycle water carrier the liquid tube may reach 60 inches in length. To maintain a water level in a liquid dispenser of the above example the liquid dispenser must hold a negative static pressure of 2.17 psi.
In an embodiment of the invention, a relatively long, internal, and hollow rigid tube is coupled to the underside of the lid by means of a relatively short, intermediate, and pliable hollow tube. These two tubes are connected in series, they extend from the bottom of the lid inside the container, and the heavier rigid tube is the lower of the two tubes in this series tube connection. The rigid tube and its series joined pliable tube have a total assembled length that is slightly shorter than the corresponding internal depth of the container. The rigid tube is selected to have a mass or weight that causes the relatively short pliable tube to flex and bend when the container is tilted off axis. This construction allows the rigid tube to pivot or move off axis, so as to reach the lowest area of the container reservoir, in the event that the axis of the generally tubular shaped container is tilted or rotated to a non vertical position.
At the internal lid location whereat the top end of the pliable tube couples with the underside of the lid, a first passageway is provided through the lid to allow liquid to pass through the lid from the container. The lid also includes a second opening or passageway that allows ambient pressure air to pass from outside the container to the inside of the container. This second opening has an external hollow vent tube attached thereto on top or outside of the lid. A container internal vent tube may also be connected to this second passageway on the underside of the lid, although this tube is not required. When such an internal vent tube is provided, the tube's lower end, inside the container, is positioned near the top of the container, rather than at or near the bottom of the container.
Two externally-extending hollow tubes comprising a liquid tube and a vent tube are attached to the two above-described lid passageways that are on the top or outside of the lid. The bottom end, or lid end of the liquid tube, is attached to the first lid passageway, this first passageway also being coupled to the serially-arranged pliable tube and rigid tube that extend generally to or near the bottom of the container. The bottom end, or lid end, of the vent tube is coupled to the second lid opening or passageway.
A mouth operated liquid dispenser is attached to the top end of the liquid tube that is attached to the end of the liquid tube that is located opposite of the container. A filter containing a cap or member is positioned on the top end of the vent tube, again this top end of the vent tube being the tube end that is opposite the container. In an embodiment of the invention, the vent tube and the liquid tube are both flexible, both extend along a common path, and they are physically joined, bound together, or connected together, along a majority portion of the length of the two tubes.
The mouth operated liquid dispenser of a human hydration system, in accordance with this invention, is attached to the flexible liquid tube and to the vent tube at the top end of the two tubes, that is the end that is opposite the container reservoir. The mouth operated liquid dispenser is constructed and arranged to be placed in the user's mouth, and liquid is drawn from the interior of the container to the user by the liquid dispenser being deformed by way of a biting action.
A pliant section or member of the liquid dispenser includes a first internal cavity defined by four side wall members an open inlet side and an enclosing wall opposite the inlet side. The inlet wall has a generally flat inner surface facing the cavity and two angled planes on the exterior surface. The angled planes form a truss shape to the outer surface of the enclosing wall. A slit through the enclosing wall forms a passage which liquid or air can flow when the liquid dispenser is deformed by a biting action on opposing side wall members. Liquid can then be drawn from the interior of the first cavity, and from the hard liquid container, to the user's mouth by the user sucking to create negative pressure within the container. Air can also be drawn into the interior of the first cavity which will cause the liquid to return to the hard container by deforming the liquid dispenser breaking the slit seal.
The above-mentioned pliant member preferably also includes a second cavity that removably receives a relatively small air filter element, this second cavity including open slits or openings that communicate to the ambient air that surrounds a portion of the pliant member that is external to, but relatively close to, the user's mouth.
In an embodiment of the invention, the liquid dispenser preferably includes a rigid member having two generally parallel through passageways. The lower end of this rigid member mounts the upper end of the fluid tube in communication with the passageway of the rigid member in a relatively permanent manner, and also mounts the upper end of the vent tube in communication with the second passageway in a relatively permanent manner. The upper end of this rigid member removably receives the above-mentioned pliant mouth piece, and when the pliant mouthpiece is so mounted thereon, the first passageway is placed in communication with the first cavity of the pliant mouthpiece and the second passageway is placed in communication with the second cavity of the pliant mouthpiece.
The pliant member within the liquid dispenser of this invention also includes a generally annular physical stop member that protrudes from the pliant member, and that operates to prevent inserting the pliant member either too far or too shallow into the user's mouth, thus insuring proper operation of the liquid dispenser. This protruding stop member is also designed to increase the sealing of the user's lips to the liquid dispenser, this end result being extremely important in cold and dirty environments. The protruding stop member is also designed to prevent accidental swallowing of the liquid dispenser, such as may occur in the case of a sudden trauma, such as a bicycle accident or a hiking/skiing fall.
In an embodiment of the invention, the above-described liquid dispenser consists of two plastic members, one being a pliable member and the other being a rigid member. The pliable member provides a section or cavity that houses the air filter, as well as a mouth piece section that is adapted to be placed in the mouth of the user. The rigid member is constructed to enable the above-described fluid tube and vent tube to be joined thereto. The pliable member is removably coupled to the rigid member and its fluid tube, so that the pliant member can be easily removed from the rigid member; for example, for cleaning, maintenance, and filter replacement. In addition, since the pliant mouth member is easily removed from the rigid member, each user may have his or her own pliant mouth member, if common use of the mouth member by a number of individuals is not desirable.
Another advantage of the passive vent of the present invention is that the remote vent of this invention allows a hard container hydration system to be used in conditions in which prior hard container hydration systems with a lid vent, with a near container vent, cannot be used. Conditions of the type wherein the present invention finds utility are on the carrier of a mountain bike that is being used in muddy conditions, being positioned deep inside a backpack, and being positioned on a waist pack of firefighters or in biological or chemical hazardous situations, where the above-described liquid dispenser on the top of the liquid tube and the above-described air filter vent on the top of the vent tube can both be located within a sealed face mask of an individual firefighter, etc.
Another advantage of the hydration system of the present invention is that its hard container will not leak or puncture, which is common in bladder-type hydration systems. Yet another advantage is that the container of the present invention is capable of carrying different liquids, because the container is easily washed, and the material from which the container is made does not absorb the constituents of the liquid that is within the container. One such non-water fluid may be a carbohydrate drink that is used to replenish fluids, carbohydrates and minerals. In accordance with the spirit and scope of this invention, the four top ends of two liquid tubes and two vent tubes may be run into, or near, the mouth of the user as the opposite ends of the four tubes run into two different containers; for example, one liquid tube and one vent tube to a water container, and a second liquid tube and a second vent tube to a container that holds a carbo-loading liquid or drink.
Cleaning the human hydration system of this invention is as easy as placing it into a dishwasher or a sink. The hydration system of the present invention is not readily susceptible to outside trauma, puncture, or compression. The weight carrying impact on the user is minimized since this system can easily be balanced and transported at the user's waist instead of on the back, thus reducing spinal column compression.
Other objects, features, and advantages of the human hydration system of the present invention will become clear with reference of the accompanying drawings and descriptive matter in which they are illustrated and described preferred embodiments of the invention.