US 20030205601 A1
A sports equipment bag (10) having a water-resistant outer shell (12) with multiple ventilation assemblies (25) for exposing the interior of the bag to free air circulation. Each ventilation assembly includes an opening formed in the outer shell (12) that is covered by a mesh lining (42) and a flap (30) which can be selectively opened and closed using a zipper (93). In one embodiment, the bag (10) includes openings on both sides (16, 18) and both ends (20,22) of the bag (10). In an alternate embodiment the bag (57) includes openings (66) on both sides only. In another alternate embodiment, the bag (68) includes a vent (73) at one end and a fan assembly (80) located at the other end (74). The fan assembly (80) includes an electric fan (76) which draws air through the interior of the bag through a vent (73) located on the opposing end of the bag (68).
1. A bag, comprising:
a shell defining an interior volume;
a fan assembly including an electric fan and means for providing electric current to said electric fan;
a ventilation assembly including a vent, said ventilation assembly being located approximately opposite said fan assembly;
said electric fan being adapted to draw air inwardly through said vent, through said interior volume, and outwardly through said fan assembly.
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16. A bag, comprising:
a shell formed of water-resistant material and including, a top, a bottom, and front and back ends, said front and back ends opposing one another, said top, bottom, and front and back ends defining an interior volume, said top including a zippered flap for inserting and removing objects from said interior volume;
a ventilation assembly located on said front end, said ventilation assembly comprising a vent;
a fan assembly, said fan assembly including an electric fan, a protective housing for protecting said electric fan from damage, and means for providing electric current to said electric fan, said fan being adapted to circulate air through said interior volume.
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 This invention relates to a bag for carrying sports equipment to and from an athletic event.
 When a person is engaged in an organized sport, such as basketball, hockey, baseball, football, track, tennis, etc., uniforms and other equipment must be carried to and from the contest. While playing, athletes sweat, causing their uniforms to become wet and smelly. After the game, the players shower, but their uniforms and equipment do not. Instead, they are thrown into a bag for transport home. Sometimes it is days before they are unpacked for cleaning. Mildew, odors, and deterioration of clothing result, conditions which are alleviated by the disclosed invention.
 In addition, sports equipment, e.g., shoes, pads, balls, pucks, racquets, etc., often become wet and/or dirty. It is desirable to be able to convey them safely without soiling the environment around them, such as the bus, car, or house through which they travel before they can be cleaned.
 Prior inventors have addressed some of these issues. A representative sample known to the inventor follows:
 U.S. Pat. No. 1,251,404 issued to Mills discloses a beach bag having a top compartment for receiving wet swimsuits, towels, etc., connected to a lower, water-tight compartment by means of apertures in a dividing wall. Dripping wet items drain their fluids through the apertures into the lower compartment where they are trapped until the reservoir can be emptied through a closable outlet. While loose liquids can drip from the wet items, the items themselves do not dry. They remain moist and subject to mildew and rot, until they are removed from the beach bag.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,264,755 issued to Moore discloses a clothes drying bag in which a fluid-tight bag is divided into two compartments: one, a pressure compartment selectively attached through an open connector to the outlet hose of a hair dryer, and two, a drying compartment into which wet clothing is placed. Venturi ports connect the two compartments which allow heated air to be forced through the compartments to escape through eight small holes at the top of the second compartment. Until the hair dryer is attached, the clothes remain damp and sealed in a virtually air tight bag. However, loose water is free to drain out indiscriminately through the holes and the open connector onto whatever is near.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,674,073 issued to Hendon discloses a cotton harvesting bag made of waterproof material for storing newly harvested cotton. A pair of vents, with oversized flaps loosely hanging over them to “rainproof” the cotton, provides “for air circulation through bag 10 . . . commensurate with waterproofing.” The thrust of the patent is to prevent the cotton from becoming wet, for in spite of the vents, the bag is unsuited for drying wet cotton.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,949,842 issued to Mokiao, U.S. Pat. No. 5,323,897 issued to Sperber, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,676,296 issued to Masters disclose bags with mesh exterior walls so that wet items, e.g., wetsuits, in their internal compartments can dry. There are no means provided for covering the mesh in order to seal the interior compartments. Consequently, moisture and dirt can enter through the mesh, and odors can egress therefrom. Being exposed, the mesh is subject to damage by being snagged on passing objects.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,288,150 issued to Bearman discloses a beach bag having a fluid impervious outer bag and a smaller internal mesh bag. Wet beach clothing, towels, etc., are placed in the mesh bag where the sand thereon can sift through the mesh into the outer bag. The outer bag has a pair of openings, one in the top for entry into the mesh bag and one in the bottom for dumping the sand from the beach bag. Bearman does not contemplate the problem of drying the clothing while in the bag, and the two openings, normally closed, would be insufficient even if opened to allow the clothing to dry.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,413,199 issued to Clement discloses a sports equipment bag having a water resistant outer bag and a removable inner mesh bag. The outer bag has external pockets for such items as shoes and other sports equipment. Sweaty uniforms and other wet equipment are placed in the mesh bag for transport. Should the athlete not take the time to remove the mesh bag, it remains totally confined in the outer bag, and the wet clothing is once again subject to rotting or mildew. If the athlete is diligent and removes the mesh bag, air will circulate through the mesh material, permitting the wet items to dry. But then the two bags must once again be reassembled.
 It is an object of the invention to provide a sports bag designed to transport wet or damp articles enable wet or damp articles stored within to dry without being removed from the bag.
 It is a further object of the invention to provide a sports bag which can be used to transport wet and dirty articles without soiling surfaces to which the bag comes in contact.
 It is a further object of the invention to provide a sports bag having a top opening for removing and inserting articles which can be easily opened and closed.
 It is a further object of the invention to provide a sports bag which can be carried as a backpack to allow easier transport of heavy and/or bulky articles.
 It is a further object of the invention to provide a sports bag having the above-noted features which is simple and economical to manufacture.
 The present invention overcomes the difficulties described above by providing a sports equipment bag having a water-resistant outer shell with multiple ventilation assemblies for exposing the interior of the bag to free air circulation. Each ventilation assembly includes an opening formed in the outer shell that is covered by a mesh lining and a flap which can be selectively opened and closed using a zipper. In one embodiment, the bag includes openings on both sides and both ends of the bag. In an alternate embodiment, the bag includes openings on both sides only. In another alternate embodiment, the bag includes an opening at one end and a fan assembly located at the other end. The fan assembly includes an electric fan which draws air through the bag.
 The foregoing and other objects, aspects, uses, and advantages of the present invention will be more fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood from the following detailed description of the present invention when viewed in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first preferred embodiment of a sports bag with the flaps closed;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the inventive sports bag of FIG. 1 with the side flaps open;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged partial view of a zipper arrangement of the invention of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the sports bag of FIG. 1 fitted with back-pack straps;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a second preferred embodiment of a sports bag with one of the side flaps open;
FIG. 6 is a perspective end view of a third preferred embodiment of a sports bag with the front end flap open;
FIG. 7 is a perspective end view of the third preferred embodiment of the sports bag with the back end flap open;
FIG. 8 is an enlarged partial view showing a fan mounted inside the back end of the third preferred embodiment of the sports bag; and
FIG. 9 is an exploded view of the fan structure showing its mounting on the back end of the third preferred embodiment of the sports bag of the present invention.
 Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a sports bag 10 is shown. The overall shape of bag 10 is preferably substantially as shown, elongated with roughly square or arcuate ends (FIGS. 2 and 6, respectively), and is particularly suitable for carrying padding, helmets and other equipment worn by ice hockey or football players. It should be noted that the inventive concepts disclosed herein with respect to sports bag 10 have many applications beyond the three disclosed embodiments, such as pet carriers, backpacks, computer bags, suitcases and the like.
 Bag 10 has an outer shell 12 formed of a water-resistant material, such as nylon fabric. Obviously, shell 12 could be formed from any suitable flexible, water-resistant material, such as vinyl, leather or DuPont Kevlar® fiber.
 Shell 12 comprises a bottom 14 (FIG. 4), opposed sides 16 and 18, opposed front and back ends 20 and 22, respectively, and a top 24. Front end 20 is permanently joined with sides 16 and 18 and top 24 by a seam 26. Seam 28 similarly joins back end 22 with sides 16 and 18 and top 24. Seams 26 and 28 may comprise reinforced stitching, heat sealed plastic strips, or any other conventional method of forming corners of bags.
 Bag 10 also includes ventilation assemblies 25, 27, 29 and 31, each of which being substantially similar in function and composition. As seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, ventilation assembly 25 is located on side 16 and includes a flap 30 which can be selectively opened and closed by a zipper 32. Ventilation assembly 27 is located on back end 22 and includes a flap 39 secured by a zipper 43. Ventilation assembly 29 is located on side 18 and includes a flap 34 secured by a zipper 36. Ventilation assembly 31 is located on front end 20 and includes a flap 38 secured by a zipper 40.
 Bag 10 also includes a lining 42, which can be seen through opened flaps 30, 34 and 39 in FIG. 2. Lining 42 can be made of any flexible and durable porous material, for example, expanded mesh fabrics formed from nylon, polyester, DuPont Kevlar® fiber, or combinations of such fibers. Knitted or woven nylon is preferred because of its combination of low cost and hight tensile strength. Regardless of the fabric used, lining 42 should have openings which are large enough to allow air circulation, but small enough to prevent articles stored inside bag 10 from protruding therethrough.
 The function of lining 42 is to retain articles within bag 10 when flaps 30, 34 and 38 are open. Preferably, lining 42 comprises individual pieces, each of which cover one of the openings exposed when flaps 30, 34 and 38 are opened. Lining 42 is fixed around each opening, using stitching or an adhesive, sealing the perimeter against gaps. Alternatively, lining 42 could comprise a single piece of material which lines the entire interior of shell 12. Mesh lining 42, therefore, completely covers the flap openings, preventing articles stored within bag 10 from falling out while permitting air to circulate through bag 10.
 It is an important feature of the invention that each of the flaps occupy a majority of the surface area, at least 50% and preferably between 75-90%, of its respective side or end, for when the flaps are all open, virtually the entire interior of bag 10 is open to the external environment. Unlike Moore, Hendon, and Bearman, supra, who never intended their small vents to provide air circulation for drying purposes, the wide open flaps of this invention are designed to promote natural, virtually unrestricted air flow through bag 10. And, unlike the open meshes of Mokiao, Sperber, and Masters, which are exposed to harm when in transit, the open mesh of lining 42 is protected by the flaps.
 A relatively wide, elongated flap 44 closes most of top 24. Flap 44 extends for substantially the entire length of bag 10 and is hinged to end 22 along seam 28. Two parallel zippers 46 and 48 operate simultaneously to open or to close flap 44 under the action of zipper pulls 50 and 52 (FIG. 3). A rigid leather handle 54 is connected to zipper pulls 50 and 52 and spans the width of flap 44. Being rigid, handle 54 maintains zippers 46 and 48 in proper alignment which facilitates their operations. When flap 44 is unzipped and folded back, a large opening is provided into the interior of bag 10 which allows easy access for the insertion and removal of articles.
 Bag 10 also includes padded straps 108 for carriage of bag 10. Straps 108 may be gripped in one hand and carried horizontally, as is conventional. As shown in FIG. 4, straps 108 are also preferably designed to allow bag 10 to be carried in as a backpack (i.e., in a vertical position). The user's arm 110 slips through each loop 112 of strap 108 to support bag 10 on the shoulders. Straps 114 (FIG. 1) cross the chest and connect loops 112 to prevent straps 108 from falling off the shell of the carrier.
 The basic operation of the invention is now apparent. When an athletic contest has ended, the players throw their sweat-soaked uniforms, including shirts, pants, pads, shoes, etc., into bag 10. While carrying it to the bus or car, the flaps remain closed, protecting the articles within. As soon as is practicable, when bag 10 is at rest, the flaps are opened so that air may circulate freely therethrough to begin the drying process. Even if the bag is left closed until the owner thereof arrives home, the bag does not have to be unpacked that night. Opening of the flaps allows items contained therein to dry naturally without further concern.
 A second embodiment of the inventive concept discussed above can be seen in FIG. 5. Bag 56 is a less expensive version of bag 10, comprising only two ventilation assemblies: ventilation assembly 57 having a flap 58 secured by a zipper 60 and an identical ventilation assembly (not shown) on the opposite side of bag 56. A single zipper 62 closes top 64 which opens to provide access to the interior. Side openings, only left side opening 66 being visible, are sufficiently large that adequate air flow is provided to dry the equipment located therein.
 FIGS. 6-9 disclose a third preferred embodiment of the present invention as bag 68, which is very similar in shape and includes many of the same features as bag 10. However, bag 68 includes only one ventilation assembly 69 having a vent 73, a ventilation flap 70 (FIG. 6) secured by a zipper 71. This third embodiment is even more effective than bags 10 or 56 at drying articles contained therein, due to the inclusion in back end 74 of a fan assembly 80 (FIG. 7) which includes an electric fan 76 (shown schematically) built into a wall 78 located beneath a fan flap 72. Fan 76 is preferably a conventional small electric fan, such as the type used for cooling a micro-computer.
 Fan 76 is preferably configured to exhaust air outwardly through fan assembly 80, after drawing air inwardly through ventilation assembly 69. Of course, fan 76 could be configured to blow air into bag 68 through fan assembly 80, however, the former configuration is preferable because it results in greater and more uniform air circulation to the interior of bag 68.
 In order to further improve the performance of bag 68, ventilation assembly 69 may optionally include a heat transfer unit 123 (shown schematically in FIG. 6). Unit 123 is designed to heat the air being draw into bag 68 through ventilation assembly 69, thereby expediting the drying of articles contained therein.
 Due to the fact that the types of articles designed to be contained within bag 68 often emit a somewhat unappealing odor, a pocket 121 may be provided for removably retaining a replaceable air freshener (not shown).
 As illustrated in the exploded view in FIG. 9, fan assembly 80 comprises a fan 76 which extends through wall 78, shown as double-walled at 82 and 84 for strengthened support for fan 76, and a central aperture 86 that opens through an inner supporting ring 88 into a protective housing 90. A peripheral flange 92 integral with motor 80 abuts the outer surface (not shown) of wall 84. Housing 90 is rigid to protect motor 80 from damage and is freely perforated for unrestricted air flow therethrough. A mesh screen 94 covers the exhaust port of fan 76 to prevent external debris from entering. A supporting ring 96 provides additional external protection for fan 76 and increases the rigidity of back end 74 (FIG. 7). When assembled, fan assembly 80 is secured with rivets 97, although any suitable fastener could be substituted for rivets 97. The mounting arrangement of fan assembly 80 ensures that fan 76 remains within the interior of bag 68 (FIG. 8) and that no portion protrudes from back end 74, where it would be prone to damage.
 As the preceding suggests, fan assembly 80 has two primary functions: to retain and protect fan 76. Obviously, many variations of the structure of fan assembly 80 are possible, provided that its two primary functions are achieved.
 Any convenient means for providing electric current to fan 76 is within the scope of the invention. For instance, an electric cord 127 (FIG. 7) could be hard-wired to fan 76 on one end and include a plug on the other end for use with a conventional household outlet (not shown), which would supply 120-volt AC power. Such a cord could be stored in a small zippered pouch 102 above fan flap 72 . Alternatively, fan 76 could be powered by a dry cell battery pack or through an AC/DC adapter (both not shown).
 Fan assembly 80 also preferably includes a timer 129, which may be incorporated into power cord 127, as shown in FIG. 7, or contained within fan assembly 80 . When activated, timer 129 preferably turns fan 76 on for a pre-determined period of time (e.g., 2, 4 or 6 hours), at which time the fan will automatically turn off. This feature is preferable because it allows fan 76 to dry the articles contained therein unattended.
 The inventive bags may include many conventional features which are known in the art. For example, a side pouch 104, shown in FIG. 1 on the exterior surface of flap 30, may be included. (In this vein, an exterior compartment can be added to any of the flaps, ranging in size from small enough for keys to large enough for tennis racquets or ice skates. Side pouches are preferably sealed, so that dirt and debris which temporarily sticks to articles placed therein will not soil the environment through which the bag passes.) A small pocket may also be located on an interior wall (not shown). As shown in FIGS. 1 & 2, loops 106 at opposite ends of top 24 may be included as extra handles or to carry hockey sticks. A removable laundry bag (not shown) may also be included to allow smaller items, such as T-shirts and undergarments to be easily removed from the bag and laundered.
 It is clear from the above that the objects of the invention have been fulfilled.
 Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.
 It can be seen from the above that an invention has been disclosed which fulfills all the objects of the invention. It is to be understood, however, that the disclosure is by way of illustration only and that the scope of the invention is to be limited solely by the following claims: