US 20020113102 A1
A backpack that is foldable into a compact configuration. The straps on the backpack are made of a lightweight, thin material, allowing the backpack to be rolled into the compact configuration. A compressible storage bag is included in a pouch of the backpack, into which the rolled backpack may be placed. The storage bag may be tethered to the backpack so that it cannot be misplaced. In use, the storage bag is tucked into a pouch so that it does not take internal space in the backpack. When the backpack is emptied, the storage bag is removed from the pouch and the backpack is rolled or compressed into the compact configuration. The compressed backpack is then placed into the storage bag.
1. A backpack comprising:
a shoulder harness;
an outer shell attached to the shoulder harness and comprising a flexible material and reconfigurable between a first configuration in which the backpack is expanded and the shoulder harness may be placed on the shoulders of a user and a second configuration in which the outer shell is compressed; and
a storage bag into which the backpack may fit when the outer shell is in the second configuration.
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17. A backpack comprising:
a shoulder harness comprising a flexible, soft material;
an outer shell attached to the shoulder harness and comprising a flexible, soft material and reconfigurable between a first configuration in which the backpack is expanded and the shoulder harness may be placed on the shoulders of a user and a second configuration in which the outer shell is compressed;
a storage bag into which the backpack may fit when the outer shell is in the second configuration; and
a tether attaching the storage bag to the outer shell.
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 The present invention relates generally to luggage, and more particularly to a backpack.
 Backpacks have become quite popular, especially for use by students, or by professionals wanting a more casual bag, instead of the traditional briefcase, in which to carry personal items to work. Most contemporary backpacks include two shoulder straps so that a backpack may be carried entirely on the back and/or shoulders of a user, allowing the user to have both hands free for carrying other items or for steering a bicycle, for example.
 In addition to shoulder straps, many backpacks include other additional outer straps, such as a top carrying strap, a waist belt, and/or straps for attaching other items, such as jackets or gloves. The backpacks may also include zipper pulls or other pulls that aid in opening and accessing the pouches on the backpacks.
 While the prior art backpacks work for their intended purpose, a drawback to these prior art backpacks is that, due to the size of the backpacks, their storage may be difficult. For example, a student that transports items to school in a backpack may not have space in his or her locker to store the empty backpack. In addition, the straps and pulls that hang on the outside of the backpacks tend to make the backpacks appear larger than they actually are. Thus, an empty backpack lying in an exposed location in a small office may make the small office appear to be cluttered.
 The present invention provides a backpack that is foldable into a compact configuration. The outer shell and the straps on the backpack are made of a lightweight, thin material, allowing the backpack to be rolled into the compact configuration. A compressible storage bag is included in a pouch of the backpack, into which the rolled backpack may be placed. The storage bag may be tethered to the backpack so that it cannot be misplaced.
 In use, the storage bag is tucked into the pouch so that it is not visible and does not hang from the backpack. The storage bag is preferably made of a soft, foldable material so that the storage bag does not consume a large amount of storage space in the backpack. When the backpack is emptied and is ready to be stored, the storage bag is removed from the pouch and the backpack is rolled or compressed into the compact configuration. The compact backpack is then placed into the storage bag.
 The present invention thus provides a backpack that may be stored in a far more compact and orderly fashion than prior art backpacks. In addition, the outer surface of the storage bag may be designed with an attractive surface, so that its appearance may be a pleasant addition to an office space or other storage area.
 Other advantages will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a backpack made in accordance with the present invention, shown with the backpack rolled into a compact configuration and inserted into a storage bag;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the backpack of FIG. 1, with the backpack unrolled and the storage bag contained within a pouch on the bottom of the backpack;
FIG. 3 is rear view of the backpack of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a partial-cutaway, perspective view of the bottom portion of the backpack of FIG. 2, with the storage bag shown removed from the pouch;
FIG. 5 shows a beginning stage of folding of the backpack of FIG. 2; and
FIG. 6 shows the backpack of FIG. 2 folded into the compact configuration and ready for insertion into the storage bag.
 Referring now to the drawing, in which like reference numerals represent like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 2 shows a backpack 20 incorporating the present invention. Briefly described, the backpack 20 is configured so that it may be opened and expanded to a use configuration (FIG. 2), and may be folded into a compact storage configuration wherein the backpack fits into a storage bag 22 (FIG. 1).
 Turning now to FIG. 2, the backpack 20 includes a front panel 24 that is attached to a bottom panel 26. A continuous, rounded side panel 28 extends along the front panel, from the left side of the bottom panel 26, upward to the top of the backpack 20, and down to the right side of the bottom panel. The side panel 28 is attached to a back panel 30 (FIG. 3). As is further described below, the front panel 24, the bottom panel 26, the side panel 28 and the back panel 30 are preferably formed of a soft, foldable material, such as a fabric (e.g., canvas, leather, nylon, or the like). For the embodiment of the backpack 20 shown in the drawings, these components make up an outer shell 32 (FIG. 2) of the backpack. However, a backpack having a different configuration may be designed that incorporates the present invention, but includes additional panels, does not include some of panels described with reference to the backpack 20, and/or includes different panels than the backpack 20 shown in the drawings. However, despite the configuration used, the outer shell 32 of a backpack incorporating the present invention is preferably flexible and soft so that it may be folded into a shape so that it may fit into the storage bag 22.
 The front panel 24 preferably includes a zipper or other attachment mechanism (not shown, but known in the art) so that the front panel may be detached from the side panel 28. When the zipper is unzipped (or the front panel 24 is otherwise detached from the side panel 28), the front panel 24 may be hinged down and away from the rest of the backpack 20. This feature allows convenient access to the inner compartment or compartments of the backpack 20.
 Returning now to FIG. 2, the front panel 24 may include one or more pouches 34 (one is shown in the embodiment in the drawings, but more may be provided) on its front side for storage of quickly-accessible items. Additional pouches, straps, or containers may be provided at different locations on the backpack 20 so that a user may attach or store other items (e.g., additional baggage, a laptop computer, or a cup) on the outside of the backpack 20.
 The bottom panel 26 preferably includes a flap 40 that provides access to an internal pouch 41 (FIG. 4). The storage bag 22 is stored in the internal pouch 41 when the backpack 20 is in the expanded configuration. The internal pouch may be formed by adding a layer of material (not shown) on the inside of the backpack 20 and against the bottom panel 26. If the layer of material is used, the pouch is formed between the layer of material and the bottom panel 26. The pouch may also be a separate pocket sewn or attached to the outside, or just inside, the backpack 20. Alternatively, a separate pouch may not be provided, and the storage bag 22 may be stored in the main internal compartment of the backpack, or in one of the pockets of the backpack.
 The flap 40 may be closed by hook and loop material or other closing mechanisms, e.g., a zipper. A tether 42 (FIG. 4) is attached to the inside of the pouch and is attached at its distal end to the storage bag 22. The tether 42 may be made of a suitable material such as rope, twine, ribbon, or the like, but in the embodiment shown is made of a webbing material. When the backpack is in the use configuration (FIG. 2), the tether 42 and the storage bag 22 are stored inside the pouch. When the backpack 20 is stored in the storage bag 22, the tether 42 is arranged inside the storage bag (FIG. 1).
 The storage bag 22 is preferably made of a soft, durable material, such as canvas or cloth. Using soft material permits the storage bag 22 to be folded into the pouch. In addition, when in the pouch, the storage bag may add cushion to the bottom of the backpack 20.
 The outer surface of the storage bag 22 may be decorated as desired, such as in a pleasing manner so that it is attractive to the eye, or in a relatively bland manner so that it does not conflict with surroundings. As such, the storage bag may be placed in conspicuous locations in an office or another environment without appearing to add clutter.
 Turning now to FIG. 3, a shoulder harness 50 is attached to the top edge of the back panel 30. The shoulder harness is configured in an H, with the cross bar of the H located adjacent to the top edge of the back panel. The lower legs of the H extend to the left and right bottom edges of the back panel 30. The shoulder harness 50 includes buckles 52, 54 on the lower legs for adjusting the shoulder harness to a user's shoulders and back.
 Although shoulder straps for contemporary backpacks are typically made of padded materials, the shoulder harness 50 is preferably formed of a more flexible, thinner, lightweight material, such as a mesh material. The use of the thinner material permits easier folding of the backpack 20, and allows the backpack to be folded into a more compact configuration.
 A belt 60 is included for attaching the backpack around a user's waist. The belt 60 is also preferably made of a flexible, thin, lightweight material, such as a mesh material. Again, as with the shoulder harness, by using the thinner, flexible material, the backpack 20 is easier to fold into a compact configuration.
 FIGS. 4 to 6 generally show the folding and storage process for the backpack 20. Beginning at FIG. 4, a user opens the flap 40 on the pouch (e.g., by unzipping the flap or disconnecting a hook and loop connection) and removes the storage bag 22. The tether 42 maintains the storage bag in close proximity to the backpack 20, but permits enough slack to allow the user to fold the backpack, as is described below with reference to FIGS. 5 and 6.
 The folding process for the backpack 20 is shown in FIGS. 5-6. As stated above, the front, side, and bottom panels 24, 28, 26 and the shoulder harness 50 are preferably formed of soft, flexible materials. The soft, flexible materials aid in folding of the bag, and permit the backpack to be lightweight. The materials are also preferably thin so that the backpack may be folded into a more compact configuration. In addition, the materials that divide the internal compartments of the backpack are preferably made of soft, flexible, thin materials, such as nylon, to aid in compact folding.
 In any event, to begin the folding process, while the storage bag 22 is removed from the backpack 20 (FIG. 4, above), the user starts rolling the backpack from the upper end of the backpack, as is indicated by the arrow 60 in FIG. 5. The rolling process continues until the backpack 20 is rolled into a cylindrical shape (FIG. 6). The rolled backpack 20 is then placed into the storage bag 22, as is indicated by the arrow 62 in FIG. 6. The backpack 20 is shown inserted in the storage bag 22 in FIG. 1. The storage bag 22 is preferably cylindrical in shape and slightly larger than the rolled backpack 20, so that the storage bag fits over the rolled backpack. A drawstring 64 (FIG. 1) may be provided for closing the storage bag 22 around the backpack 20.
 Alternative embodiments of the backpack 20 are contemplated. For example, the backpack 20 may be folded instead of rolled, so that the backpack fits into a storage bag of a particular shape. For example, the backpack may be folded into a square, and placed into a square-shaped storage bag. The storage bag 22 may be stored in another location on the backpack, such as adjacent to the back of a wearer of the backpack 20, so as to add additional cushioning support. The storage bag may or may not be tethered to the backpack 20, but tethering the storage bag ensures that the storage bag will not be misplaced unless the tether is broken.
 The shoulder harness of the backpack 50 may include cushioning materials, but, if included, it is preferred that the cushioning materials be flexible and soft so that they may be folded or rolled along with the backpack. Alternatively, the backpack may include a somewhat stiff shoulder harness, and could be rolled along a vertical axis so that the shoulder straps for the harness are not bent or folded. In such an embodiment, an elongate storage bag (e.g., tube-shaped) or the like may be used.
 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.