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Publication numberUS20030209396 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/337,645
Publication dateNov 13, 2003
Filing dateJan 7, 2003
Priority dateJan 12, 2001
Publication number10337645, 337645, US 2003/0209396 A1, US 2003/209396 A1, US 20030209396 A1, US 20030209396A1, US 2003209396 A1, US 2003209396A1, US-A1-20030209396, US-A1-2003209396, US2003/0209396A1, US2003/209396A1, US20030209396 A1, US20030209396A1, US2003209396 A1, US2003209396A1
InventorsL. Bernbaun, Scott Vermillion
Original AssigneeBernbaun L. Harrison, Scott Vermillion
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Soft-sided carrying case
US 20030209396 A1
Abstract
A soft-sided carrying case comprises a lower compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall, at least one upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall, and at least one hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the upper compartment to a selected sidewall of the lower compartment. The hinge permits the upper compartment to pivot about a hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with at least a portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position. In at least one exemplary form, the hinge may be defined exclusively by first and second flexible layers, with each of the layers including a first longitudinal edge secured adjacent to a longitudinal edge of the lower compartment and a second longitudinal edge secured adjacent to a longitudinal edge of the upper compartment.
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Claims(30)
What is claimed:
1. A soft-sided carrying case comprising:
a lower compartment, the lower compartment including a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall;
at least one upper compartment, the upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall;
a hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the upper compartment to a selected sidewall of the lower compartment, the hinge permitting the upper compartment to pivot about a hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with at least a portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position; and
wherein the hinge includes a first fabric layer arranged to maintain the bottom wall of the upper compartment in a generally horizontal position when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
2. The carrying case of claim 1, wherein the hinge includes a second fabric layer, the second fabric layer maintaining an edge of the selected sidewall of the upper compartment closely adjacent to an edge of the selected sidewall of the lower compartment.
3. The carrying case of claim 2, wherein the first fabric layer is sized to be slack when the upper compartment is in the folded position, and further wherein the first fabric layer is sized to be stressed in a direction generally perpendicular to the hinge line when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
4. The carrying case of claim 1, wherein lower compartment includes a pair of long sidewalls and a pair of short sidewalls, and wherein the selected sidewall of the lower compartment comprises one of the long sidewalls.
5. The carrying case of claim 1, wherein lower compartment includes a pair of long sidewalls and a pair of short sidewalls, and wherein the selected sidewall of the lower compartment comprises one of the short sidewalls.
6. The carrying case of claim 1, including a second upper compartment, the second upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall;
a second hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the second upper compartment to a second selected sidewall of the lower compartment, the second hinge permitting the upper compartment to pivot about a second hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the second upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with another portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position; and
wherein the second hinge includes a first fabric layer arranged to maintain the bottom wall of the second upper compartment in a generally horizontal position when the second upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
7. The carrying case of claim 6, wherein the first hinge line is parallel to the second hinge line.
8. A soft-sided carrying case comprising:
a lower compartment, the lower compartment including a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall;
at least one upper compartment, the upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall;
at least one hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the upper compartment to a selected sidewall of the lower compartment, the hinge permitting the upper compartment to pivot about a hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with at least a portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position;
the hinge defined exclusively by first and second flexible layers, each of the layers including a first longitudinal edge secured adjacent to a longitudinal edge of the lower compartment and a second longitudinal edge secured adjacent to a longitudinal edge of the upper compartment.
9. The carrying case of claim 8, wherein the first and second flexible layers comprise a fabric.
10. The carrying case of claim 8, wherein the first longitudinal edge of the first and second flexible layers are secured along a common seam on the lower compartment, and wherein the second longitudinal edge of the first and second flexible layers are secured along a common seam on the upper compartment.
11. The carrying case of claim 8, wherein the first and second longitudinal edges of the first flexible layer are spaced apart a first distance, the first distance sized so that the first flexible layer is stressed in a direction perpendicular to the hinge line only when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
12. The carrying case of claim 11, wherein the first and second longitudinal edges of the second flexible layer are spaced apart a second distance, the second distance sized so that the second flexible layer is generally unstressed in a direction perpendicular to the hinge line when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
13. The carrying case of claim 12, wherein the first longitudinal edge of the first and second flexible layers are disposed generally parallel to the top wall of the lower compartment, and wherein the second longitudinal edge of the first and second flexible layers are disposed generally parallel to the bottom wall of the upper compartment.
14. A soft-sided carrying case comprising:
a lower compartment, the lower compartment including a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall;
at least one upper compartment, the upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall;
at least one hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the upper compartment to a selected sidewall of the lower compartment, the hinge permitting the upper compartment to pivot about a hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with at least a portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position;
means for maintaining the bottom wall of the upper compartment generally parallel to the top wall of the lower compartment when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position, the means defined at least in part by a flexible fabric layer carried by the hinge.
15. The carrying case of claim 14, the means further defined by a spacing member, the spacing member carried by at least one of the selected sidewall of the upper compartment and the selected sidewall of the lower compartment.
16. The carrying case of claim 14, wherein the selected sidewall of the lower compartment and the selected sidewall of the upper compartment together define an end, and wherein the means is further defined by a spacing member mounted to the end, the spacing member including a ground engaging surface to thereby permit the carrying case to be supported on the end in an upright position on a support surface.
17. The carrying case of claim 14, wherein the upper compartment covers more than fifty percent of the top wall of the lower compartment when the upper compartment is in the folded position.
18. The carrying case of claim 17, wherein the upper compartment covers at least sixty percent of the top wall of the lower compartment when the upper compartment is in the folded position.
19. The carrying case of claim 18, wherein the means is further defined by cooperating first and second structures, the first structure carried by the selected sidewall of the lower compartment and the second structure carried by the selected sidewall of the upper compartment, the first and second structures engaging each other when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
20. The carrying case of claim 19, wherein the first structure comprises a stiffened panel, and wherein the second structure comprises a foot having a ground engaging surface, the ground engaging surface cooperating with a set of wheels mounted adjacent the selected sidewall of the lower compartment to thereby permit the carrying case to be supported on an end in an upright position on a support surface.
21. A soft-sided carrying case comprising:
a lower compartment, the lower compartment including a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall;
at least one upper compartment, the upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall; and
a hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the upper compartment to a selected sidewall of the lower compartment, the hinge permitting the upper compartment to pivot about a hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with at least a portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position; and
the hinge including a separable connection, the separable connection permitting the upper compartment to be separated from the lower compartment.
22. The carrying case of claim 21, wherein the separable connection of the hinge engages at least one of the top wall of the lower compartment and the bottom wall of the upper compartment so as to be accessible for separation only when the upper compartment is in the unfolded position.
23. The carrying case of claim 21, wherein the separable connection includes a loop and a strap sized to extend through and engage the loop, the strap including a securement mechanism for maintaining the strap in engagement with the loop.
24. The carrying case of claim 23, wherein the securement mechanism includes an item selected from the group consisting of snaps, buttons, velcro, buckles and zippers.
25. The carrying case of claim 21, further comprising:
a second upper compartment having a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall, and a bottom wall; and
a hinge pivotally joining a selected sidewall of the second upper compartment to a second selected sidewall of the lower compartment, the hinge of the second upper compartment permitting the second upper compartment to pivot about a second hinge line between a folded position in which the bottom wall of the second upper compartment is disposed in confronting relation with another portion of the top wall of the lower compartment, and an unfolded position;
the second hinge including the separable connection;
the separable connection permitting both of the upper compartments to be separated from the lower compartment; and
the separable connection on both of the upper compartments arranged to cooperate with each other to permit both of the upper compartments to be joined to each other after removal from the lower compartment.
26. The carrying case of claim 25, wherein the separable connection includes an item selected from the group consisting of snaps, buttons, velcro, buckles and zippers.
27. The carrying case of claim 21, wherein the upper compartment includes a fastener arranged to maintain the upper compartment in the folded position.
28. The carrying case of claim 21, wherein the separable connection includes a post and a receiver shaped to receive the post, the post disposed in the receiver when the separable connection is connected.
29. The carrying case of claim 28, wherein the post is sized to be frictionally received within the receiver, and wherein the post is withdrawn from the receiver by shifting the upper compartment along an axis parallel to a longitudinal edge of the selected sidewall of the lower compartment.
30. The carrying case of claim 29, wherein the post includes a limit flange.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority from earlier filed U.S. application Ser. No. 09/759,683, filed Jan. 12, 2001.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to soft-sided carrying cases and, more specifically, to soft-sided carrying cases having at least one shiftable compartment supported by a hinge assembly, thus permitting the shiftable compartment to shift between a folded position and an unfolded position.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Soft-sided luggage or soft-sided carrying cases are generally well known in the art. Soft-sided carrying cases typically offer one or more distinct advantages over conventional luggage. For example, soft-sided luggage is typically lighter weight than conventional luggage, it can typically be carried using a shoulder strap, it typically includes external pockets that can be accessed without completely opening the case, and, if it is well built, it is less prone to damage from improper handling.

[0004] Despite the popularity of known soft-sided carrying cases or luggage, there is a continuing need for improvements in the art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0005] Certain features and advantages in the apparatus disclosed and claimed herein will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed descriptions and the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0006]FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a first preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0007]FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the soft-sided carrying case of claim 1 shown with the upper compartments opened to their unfolded positions;

[0008]FIG. 3 is a perspective view similar to FIG. 2 but illustrating the flaps to the various compartments opened;

[0009]FIG. 3A is a perspective view similar to FIG. 2 but showing an alternate form for the panels or flaps;

[0010]FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the device of FIGS. 1-3 but illustrating an optional leg assembly;

[0011]FIG. 5 is a view of the device of FIG. 4 but taken from a different perspective;

[0012]FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a second preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0013]FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a third preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0014] FIGS. 7A(i) through 7A(v) are enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional views of a number of alternative arrangements in the area of the hinge line, which alternative arrangements are equally applicable to any of the embodiments disclosed herein;

[0015]FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 7 but illustrating the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0016]FIG. 8A(i) through 8A(v) are enlarged fragmentary views in perspective taken about the circumscribed portion of FIG. 8 and illustrating a number of alternative details in the area surrounding the hinge, which details are equally applicable to any of the embodiments disclosed herein;

[0017]FIG. 8B(i) through 8B(v) are enlarged fragmentary elevational views taken about the circumscribed portion of FIG. 7 and illustrating alternative details similar to those shown in FIGS. 8A(i) through 8A(v), but illustrating those details applied to the outside surface of the soft-sided carrying case;

[0018]FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a fourth preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0019]FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 9 but illustrating the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0020]FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a fifth preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0021]FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 11 but illustrating the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0022]FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a sixth preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0023]FIG. 14 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 13 but illustrating the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0024]FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a seventh preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0025]FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 15 but illustrating all of the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0026]FIG. 17 is a perspective view of two of the upper compartments that have been separated from the balance of the soft-sided carrying case of any of the previously shown embodiments and which are being shown being attached to each other to form an additional smaller soft-sided carrying case;

[0027]FIG. 18 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of an eighth preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0028]FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 18 but illustrating the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0029]FIG. 20 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a ninth preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0030]FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 20 but illustrating the upper compartments in the unfolded positions;

[0031]FIG. 22 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a tenth preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0032]FIG. 23 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 22 but illustrating the upper compartments in partially unfolded positions;

[0033]FIG. 24 is a perspective view similar to FIG. 23 but illustrating the upper compartments in more fully unfolded positions;

[0034]FIG. 25 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of yet another preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0035]FIG. 26 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 25 but illustrating the upper compartments in unfolded positions;

[0036]FIG. 27 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case having at least one shiftable compartment supported by an improved hinge assembly according to a still further example of the invention;

[0037]FIG. 28 is a perspective view similar to FIG. 27 but showing the shiftable compartment in an unfolded position;

[0038]FIG. 29 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 29-29 of FIG. 28;

[0039]FIG. 30 is a perspective view similar to FIGS. 27 and 28 but showing the two shiftable compartments in an unfolded position;

[0040]FIG. 31 is a perspective view of the device of FIG. 27 taken from the opposite perspective;

[0041]FIG. 32 is a perspective view of a soft-sided carrying case having at least one shiftable compartment supported by an improved hinge assembly according to yet another further example of the invention;

[0042]FIG. 33 is a fragmentary view in perspective of the carrying case of FIG. 32 showing one of the compartments in an unfolded position;

[0043]FIG. 34 is an enlarged fragmentary view taken about the circumscribed portion of FIG. 33 and showing an exemplary two-panel fabric hinge for use on one or more of the preceding exemplary soft-sided cases;

[0044]FIG. 35 is a fragmentary view in perspective similar to FIG. 33 but employing a detachable hinge mechanism;

[0045]FIG. 36 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line 36-36 of FIG. 35;

[0046]FIG. 37 is an enlarged fragmentary view in perspective of another detachable hinge mechanism;

[0047]FIG. 38 is a fragmentary view in perspective similar to FIGS. 33 and 35 but employing another exemplary form of a detachable hinge mechanism;

[0048]FIG. 39 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view of the detachable hinge mechanism of FIG. 38 and showing the compartment in an unfolded position;

[0049]FIG. 40 is a fragmentary view in perspective similar to FIGS. 33, 35 and 38 but employing still another exemplary form of a detachable hinge mechanism;

[0050]FIG. 41 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view of the detachable hinge mechanism of FIG. 40 and showing the compartment in an unfolded position;

[0051]FIG. 42 is an enlarged fragmentary view in perspective illustrating one possible manner by which the hinge mechanism of FIGS. 40 and 41 may be detached;

[0052]FIGS. 43 through 46 illustrate another soft-sided carrying case similar to those shown in FIGS. 11 through 14 and having at least two detachable compartments that may be detached from the main compartment and mated with each other to form another, smaller carrying case; and

[0053]FIG. 47 is an elevational view of a soft-sided carrying case disposed in an upright position with one end supported on a support surface.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0054] The following description of the preferred embodiments is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the precise forms disclosed, but instead is intended to be illustrative of the principles of the invention so that others skilled in the art may follow its teachings.

[0055] Referring now to FIGS. 1-3 of the drawings, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of the present invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 10. The soft-sided carrying case generally includes four sidewalls 10 a, 10 b, 10 c, and 10 d, a bottom wall 10 e and a top wall 10 f (FIG. 1). The case 10 further includes a lower compartment 12 and a pair of upper compartments 14 and 16. The lower compartment 12 includes a plurality of sidewalls 12 a, 12 b 12 c, and 12 d. The lower compartment 12 also includes a bottom wall 12 e and a top wall 12 f (visible in FIGS. 2 and 3). The first upper compartment 14 includes four sidewalls 14 a, 14 b, 14 c (obscured in FIG. 1 but visible in FIGS. 2 and 3), and 14 d. The first upper compartment 14 also includes a bottom wall 14 e and a top wall 14 f (the bottom wall 14 e being visible in FIGS. 2 and 3). The second upper compartment 16 includes sidewalls 16 a, 16 b, 16 c (visible in FIG. 3), and 16 d. The second upper compartment also includes a bottom wall 16 e and a top wall 16 f (visible in FIG. 2). The first and second upper compartments 14, 16 are separated from the lower compartment 12 by a boundary or interface 18.

[0056] As will be outlined in greater detail below, the first upper compartment 14 is pivotable about a first hinge line 14 g between the closed or folded position of FIG. 1 and the open or unfolded positions of FIGS. 2 and 3. Similarly, the second upper compartment 16 is pivotable about a hinge line 16 g between the closed or folded position of FIG. 1 and the open or unfolded positions of FIGS. 2 and 3. It will be noted that the hinge lines 14 g and 16 g are generally adjacent to the interface 18 (i.e., the hinge lines 14 g and 16 g may lie in the same plane as the interface 18).

[0057] In the embodiment of FIGS. 1 through 3, it will be noted that the sidewall 14 a of the first upper compartment 14 is generally contiguous with the sidewall 12 a of the lower compartment (i.e., the sidewall 14 a of the first upper compartment 14 is an extension of the sidewall 12 a of the lower compartment). Similarly, the sidewall 16 a of the second upper compartment 16 is contiguous with or is an extension of the sidewall 12 c of the lower compartment 12.

[0058] The soft-sided carrying case 10 preferably includes a zipper 20 which engages each of the first and second upper compartments 14, 16 in order to secure each of the first and second upper compartments 14, 16 in their respective closed positions, such as is shown in FIG. 1. Upon release of the zipper 20, the first and second upper compartments 14, 16 may be pivoted about their respective hinge lines 14 g, 16 g to their respective unfolded positions as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. The zipper 20 may be disposed along a longitudinal edge 14 h, 16 h (FIG. 1), of the first and second upper compartments 14, 16.

[0059] Instead of the zipper 20, it will be appreciated that alternate closure mechanisms may be provided in order to secure the first and second upper compartments 14, 16 in there respective folded positions. At least some of these possible alternate mechanisms are discussed below with respect to other forms of preferred embodiments. It will be understood that the closure mechanisms of the various embodiments may be readily substituted for each other as would be apparent to those of skill in the art.

[0060] Referring to FIG. 1, the soft-sided carrying case 10 will preferably include a handle 22, which in the preferred embodiment shown will include a pair of straps 22 a, 22 b, which straps 22 a and/or 22 b may be removably attached to the soft-sided carrying case 10 by a releasable mechanism such as one or more buckles 24, such as commercially available Litelock® buckles. Alternatively, the straps 22 a and 22 b may be permanently affixed to the soft-sided case 10, such as by sewing, etc. The straps 22 a and 22 b will preferably be joinable to form the handle 22 using a section 25 of flexible material which is joinable using hook and loop closures or similar material as is known in the art. Additional handles 26, 28 may also be provided as desired, with the number of additional handles being within the choice of the designer. At least one of the handles (i.e., the handle 28) may be extendable, and when used in conjunction with a plurality of wheels 30 will enable the soft-sided carrying case 10 to be wheeled in a fashion similar to a luggage cart. The handle 28 may be made of commercially available materials, and further will preferably have a telescoping handle 28 a enabling the entire handle 28 to be stowed in a zipper pocket in the bottom wall 10 e of the carrying case 10. The wheels 30 are preferably commercially available in-line skate style wheels using sealed ball bearings. Other commercially available wheels may also be used.

[0061] Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, the lower compartment 12 preferably includes one or more panels or flaps 32 a, 32 b in the top wall 12 f of the lower compartment 12. As shown, the flaps 32 a, 32 b each include a zipper 34, which enable the flaps 32 a, 32 b to be opened as shown in FIG. 3 to provide access to the lower compartment 12. It will be appreciated that one or more interior dividers 36 may be provided as desired inside the lower compartment 12.

[0062] Each of the bottom walls 14 f, 16 f of the first and second upper compartments 14, 16, respectively, will preferably include a panel or flap 36 a, 36 b, respectively. A zipper 38 maybe provided for each of the flaps 36 a, 36 b, thus enabling the flaps 36 a, 36 b to be secured in the closed position shown in FIG. 2 or opened to provide access to the first and second upper compartments 14, 16, as is shown in FIG. 3. One or more interior dividers 40 may be provided in either of the upper compartments 14, 16.

[0063] It will be appreciated that the soft-sided carrying case 10 may include additional compartments, such as side compartments or pockets (not shown) and/or end compartments or pockets (not shown), all of which are commonly used in the art. The soft-sided carrying case 10 may also include one or more mesh pockets of known construction.

[0064] The zippers used herein are preferably heavy-duty zippers, which zippers preferably have been taped as is known in the art. Further, the soft-sided case 10 may constructed of any one of a variety of commercially available fabrics and/or materials, all of which may be chosen based on design considerations for the specific application and all of which would be known to those of skill in the art. Rip-stop materials, which are readily available, may also be used.

[0065] In operation, the soft-sided carrying case 10 would normally be used and/or transported in the configuration of FIG. 1 with the first and second upper compartments 14, 16 in their respective closed or folded positions, generally overlying the lower compartment 12. The zipper 20 is shown securing the upper compartments 14, 16 in the folded positions. Using the section 25 the straps 22 a and 22 b may be joined together to form the handle 22. It will be understood that the soft-sided carrying case 10 may be readily assembled using known methods of manufacturing.

[0066] When it is desired to access the lower compartment and/or the first and second upper compartments 14, 16, the zipper 20 (or other closing mechanism) should be disengaged, as should the section 25 holding the straps 22 a and 22 b together. Either or both of the upper compartments 14, 16 may be pivoted about their respective hinge lines 14 g, 16 g to the unfolded positions shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Access to the upper compartments 14, 16 may be gained by disengaging the zippers 38 (or other closing mechanism), thus enabling the flaps 36 a and 36 b to be opened. Access to the lower compartment 12 is gained by disengaging the zippers 34 (or other closing mechanism) thus enabling the flaps 32 a and/or 32 b to be opened.

[0067] In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-3 the hinge line 14 g may be defined solely by a flexible portion 10 g of the sidewall 10 a, while the hinge line 16 g may be formed solely by a flexible portion 10 h of the sidewall 10 c, with no actual physical hinge structure being employed. It will be appreciated that the flexible portions 10 g and 10 h are disposed substantially in line with the interface 18 between the lower compartment 12 and the first and second upper compartments 14 and 16. Alternatively, the hinge lines 14 g and 16 g may be defined by actual physical hinge structures as shown and described below with respect to the other embodiments.

[0068] Each of the upper compartments 14, 16 may also include an additional exterior flap or zipper (not shown) in order to provide access to the first and second upper compartments 14, 16 without pivoting the upper compartments 14, 16 to their unfolded positions. Further, additional side pockets may be provided on the soft-sided carrying case 10 in a manner that is known to those skilled in the art. Further, it will be understood that the bottom wall 10 e may be constructed of a relatively stiff material or a rigid material for greater durability. Such relatively stiff and/or rigid materials are known to those skilled in the art and are readily available.

[0069] Compression straps (not shown) may be provided in order to secure the upper compartments in their closed positions.

[0070] Also, it will further be appreciated that zippers shown above may be replaced with any number of known closing or securing mechanisms, such as, by way of example and not limitation, straps, buckles, snaps, buttons, and hook and loop closure materials.

[0071] Referring now to FIG. 3A, an alternate form for the soft-sided carrying case is shown, also designated as 10 for ease of reference. The soft-sided carrying case 10 illustrated therein is substantially similar to the soft-sided case 10 discussed above, with each of the like elements retaining the same reference characters. As shown in FIG. 3A, the lower compartment 12 includes only a single flap 32 a with a zipper 34. It will be appreciated that the lower compartment 12 may include additional access flaps (not shown), with the actual number and configuration of the access flaps being governed by design considerations.

[0072] Referring now to FIGS. 4 and 5, any of the embodiments of the soft-sided carrying case disclosed herein may optionally be equipped with a retractable stand 42. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the soft-sided carrying case 10 is shown equipped with the optional stand 42. As shown in FIG. 5, the stand 42 may include a pair of legs 44 and 46. The leg 44 includes an upper end 44 a attached to the soft-sided carrying case 10 by a pivot 44 b, while the leg 46 includes an upper end 46 a attached to the soft-sided case 10 by a pivot 46 b. A cross bar 48 is disposed to connect a lower end 44 c of the leg 44 to a lower end 46 c of the leg 46. A strap 50 engages the cross bar 48 and the case 10 in order to limit the extension of the stand 42 away from the case 10. A pair of hook and loop retaining straps 52 are provided in order to retain the stand 42 in a retracted position against the bottom wall 10 e of the carrying case 10 when the stand 42 is not in use.

[0073] Referring now to FIG. 6, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a second preferred embodiment of the invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 110. For ease of reference, all elements that are the same or similar to the elements described above with respect to the first embodiment will retain the same reference numerals, but which have been increased by 100. The soft-sided carrying case 110 generally includes four sidewalls 110 a, 110 b, 110 c, and 110 d, a bottom wall 110 e, which may be rigid, and a top wall. The case 110 further includes a lower compartment 112 and a pair of upper compartments 114 and 116. The lower compartment 112 includes a plurality of sidewalls 112 a, 112 b, 112 c, and 112 d. The lower compartment 112 also includes a bottom wall 112 e. It will be noted that no top wall is shown for the compartment 112, with the upper extent of the compartment 112 being defined upon the closing of the compartments 114 and 116. Alternatively, a top wall (not shown) or a mesh panel (not shown) may be provided.

[0074] The first upper compartment 114 includes encircling sidewalls 114 a, a bottom wall 114 e and a top wall 114 f, which may be defined by a flap or a mesh panel. The second upper compartment 116 includes sidewalls 116 a, and includes a bottom wall 16 e and a top wall 16 f, which may be defined by a flap or a mesh panel. The first and second upper compartments 114, 116 are pivotally joined to the lower compartment 112 by one or more hinges 14 g, 16 g which lie along an interface 118 between the upper compartments 114, 116 and the lower compartment 112, and which permit pivotal movement of the upper compartments between the folded positions (i.e., with the upper compartments 114, 116 disposed above the lower compartment 112 in the manner described above with respect to the first embodiment) and the open or unfolded positions shown in FIG. 6. Preferably, the embodiment of FIG. 6 will include a seal 119 disposed at the interface 118 of the lower compartment 112 and the upper compartments 114, 116. Flaps 136 a, 136 b are provided for the compartments 114, 116, respectively, each of the flaps 136 a and 136 b being closeable with a zipper 138 or similar closing mechanism. The carrying case 110 preferably includes one or more closing buckles 120. The soft-sided carrying case 110 will also preferably include one or more handles 126, 128, with the handles 128 being extendable. A plurality of wheels (not shown) may also be provided.

[0075] Referring now to FIGS. 7 and 8, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a third preferred embodiment of the invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 210. For case of reference, all elements that are the same or similar to the elements described above with respect to the first embodiment will retain the same reference numerals, but which have been increased by 200. The soft-sided carrying case 210 generally includes four sidewalls 210 a, 210 b, 210 c, and 210 d, a bottom wall 210 e and a top wall 210 f. The case 210 further includes a lower compartment 212 and a pair of upper compartments 214 and 216. The lower compartment 212 includes a plurality of sidewalls 212 a, 212 b, 212 c, and 212 d. The lower compartment 212 also includes a bottom wall 212 e and a top wall 212 f (FIG. 8).

[0076] The first upper compartment 214 includes a plurality of sidewalls 214 a, a bottom wall 214 e (FIG. 8) and a top wall 214 f (FIG. 7). The second upper compartment 216 includes a plurality of sidewalls 216A, and includes a bottom wall 216 e (FIG. 8) and a top wall 216 f (FIG. 7). The first and second upper compartments 214, 216 are pivotally joined to the lower compartment 212 by a flexible fabric hinge 214 h, 216 h, respectively, defined in the sidewalls 210 b and 210 d of the soft-sided carrying case 210, and lying generally along an interface 218 between the upper compartments 214, 216 and the lower compartment 212. The fabric hinges 214 h, 216 h permit pivotal movement of the upper compartments 214, 216 between the folded positions (i.e., with the upper compartments 214, 216 disposed above the lower compartment 212 in the manner described above with respect to the first embodiment) and the open or unfolded positions shown in FIG. 8.

[0077] An access flap 232 a having a zipper 234 is provided in the top wall 212 f of the lower compartment 212. Flaps 236 a, 236 b are provided for the compartments 214, 216, respectively, each of the flaps 236 a and 236 b being closeable with a zipper 238 or similar closing mechanism. The carrying case 210 preferably includes one or more sections of hook and loop closure mechanisms 220. Alternatively, straps or other mechanisms may be used. The soft-sided carrying case 210 will also preferably include a shoulder strap 226 (FIG. 7), or a handle (not shown).

[0078] Referring now to FIGS. 7A(i) through 7A(v), alternative details are shown for the construction of the soft-sided carrying case 210 in the region of the hinge line 216 h. It will be understood that the details shown therein are equally applicable to the hinge line 214 h, and also are equally applicable to any of the other embodiments described herein. However, for the sake of brevity, the details will be discussed only with respect to the embodiment of FIGS. 7 and 8. For ease of reference, to the extent possible similar elements will retain like reference numerals through each of FIGS. 7A(i) through 7A(v).

[0079] As shown in FIG. 7A(i), a fabric strap 217 having an upper edge 217 a and a lower edge 217 b is secured to the soft-sided carrying case 210. The upper edge 217 a is secured to the upper compartment 216 by a line of stitching 217 c, while the lower edge 217 b is secured to the lower compartment 21 by a line of stitching 217 d. Two additional straps 219 a and 219 b are provided, with the strap 219 a being stitched to the upper edge 217 a as well as to the upper compartment 216, and with the strap 219 b being stitched to the lower edge 217 b as well as to the lower compartment 212. Preferably, the lines of stitching may be bartack stitching for greater durability in high stress areas.

[0080] As shown in FIG. 7A(ii), a single fabric strap 217 may be employed, having an upper edge 217 a stitched at 217 c to the upper compartment 216, and further having a lower edge 217 b stitched at 217 d to the lower compartment 212.

[0081] As shown in FIG. 7A(iii), a line of piping 217 may be employed along the hinge line 216 h.

[0082] As shown in FIG. 7A(iv), a zipper 217 may be disposed along the hinge line 216 h. The zipper 217 is preferably a #8 or #10 heavy-duty, taped, clear coil zipper.

[0083]FIG. 7A(v) is similar in all respects to FIG. 7A(i), except for the addition of a line of stitching 217 at the hinge line 216 h which may be required when the upper compartment 216 and the lower compartment 212 are manufactured of dissimilar materials or dissimilar colors.

[0084] Referring now to FIGS. 8A(i) through 8A(v), further alternative details are shown for the construction of the soft-sided carrying case 210 in the region of the hinge line 216 h. It will again be understood that the details shown therein are equally applicable to the hinge line 214 h, and also are equally applicable to any of the other embodiments described herein. Again, for the sake of brevity, the details will be discussed only with respect to the embodiment of FIGS. 7 and 8. For ease of reference, to the extent possible similar elements will retain like reference numerals through each of FIGS. 7A(i) through 7A(v).

[0085] As shown in each of FIGS. 8A(i) through 8A(v), a fabric strap 217 having edges 217 a and 217 b is secured to each of the upper and lower compartments shown, 216 and 212, respectively. In each of the details shown, the straps are secured such that the straps 217 are only revealed upon opening of the upper compartment 216 to its unfolded position. In FIG. 8A(i), the strap 217 is secured by one or more fasteners 217 c, such as a snap, a rivet, a threaded bolt, a button, or any other suitable fastener, either alone or in combination with stitching.

[0086] FIGS. 8A(ii) and 8A(iii) illustrate straps 217 having different overall dimensions secured by bartack stitching. FIGS. 8A(iv) and 8A(v) illustrate straps 217 secured in a manner similar to that shown in FIGS. 7A(i) and (ii), albeit with the details being applied to the inside of the hinge line 216 h rather than to the outside of the case 210.

[0087] Referring now to FIGS. 8B(i) through 8B(v), illustrated therein are arrangements similar to FIGS. 8A(i) through (v), but with each of the respective arrangements being shown secured to the outside of the soft-sided carrying case 210.

[0088] Referring now to FIGS. 9 and 10, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a fourth preferred embodiment of the invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 310. For ease of reference, all elements that are the same or similar to the elements described above with respect to the first embodiment will retain the same reference numerals, but which have been increased by 300. The soft-sided carrying case 310 generally includes four sidewalls 310 a, 310 b, 310 c, and 310 d, a bottom wall 310 e and a top wall 310 f. The case 310 further includes a lower compartment 312 and a pair of upper compartments 314 and 316. The lower compartment 312 includes a plurality of sidewalls 312 a, 312 b, 312 c, and 312 d. The lower compartment 312 also includes a bottom wall 312 e and a top wall 312 f(FIG. 10).

[0089] The first upper compartment 314 includes a plurality of sidewalls 314 a, a bottom wall 314 e (FIG. 10) and a top wall 314 f. The second upper compartment 316 includes a plurality of sidewalls 316 a, and includes a bottom wall 316 e and a top wall 316 f. The first and second upper compartments 314, 316 are pivotally joined to the lower compartment 312 along a pair of hinge lines 314 g, 316 g, respectively, defined in the sidewalls 310 b and 310 d of the soft-sided carrying case 310 by a two lines of stitching 314 h, 316 h, respectively. The lines of stitching 314 h, 316 h are disposed lying generally along an interface 318 between the upper compartments 314, 316 and the lower compartment 312. Other suitable hinges may be employed. Thus, the upper compartments 314, 316 are shiftable between the folded positions (i.e., with the upper compartments 314, 316 disposed above the lower compartment 312 in the manner described above with respect to the first embodiment) and the open or unfolded positions shown in FIG. 10.

[0090] An access flap 332 a having a zipper 334 is provided in the top wall 312 f of the lower compartment 312. Flaps 336 a, 336 b are provided for the compartments 314, 316, respectively, each of the flaps 336 a and 336 b being closeable with a zipper 338 or similar closing mechanism. The carrying case 310 preferably includes one or more sections of hook and loop closure mechanisms 320. Alternatively, straps or other mechanisms may be used. The soft-sided carrying case 310 will also preferably include a suitable handle 322 and or an extendible handle 328.

[0091] Referring now to FIGS. 11 and 12, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a fifth preferred embodiment of the invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 410. For ease of reference, all elements that are the same or similar to the elements described above with respect to the first embodiment will retain the same reference numerals, but which have been increased by 400. The soft-sided carrying case 410 generally includes four sidewalls 410 a, 410 b, 410 c, and 410 d, a bottom wall 410 e and a top wall 410 f. The case 410 further includes a lower compartment 412 and a pair of upper compartments 414 and 416. The lower compartment 412 includes a plurality of sidewalls 412 a, 412 b, 412 c, and 412 d. The lower compartment 412 also includes a bottom wall 412 e and a top wall 412 f(FIG. 12).

[0092] The first upper compartment 414 includes a plurality of sidewalls 414 a, a bottom wall 414 e (FIG. 12) and a top wall 414 f. The second upper compartment 416 includes a plurality of sidewalls 416 a, and includes a bottom wall 416 e (FIG. 12) and a top wall 416 f. The first and second upper compartments 414, 416 are pivotally joined to the lower compartment 412 along a pair of hinge lines 414 g, 416 g, respectively, defined in the sidewalls 410 a and 410 c of the soft-sided carrying case 410 by a releasable zippers 414 h, 416 h, respectively. The zippers 414 h, 416 h are disposed lying generally along an interface 418 between the upper compartments 414, 416 and the lower compartment 412. Other suitable releasable mechanisms may be employed. Thus, the upper compartments 414, 416 are shiftable between the folded positions (i.e., with the upper compartments 414, 416 disposed above the lower compartment 412 in the manner described above with respect to the first embodiment) and the open or unfolded positions shown in FIG. 12.

[0093] As with the above embodiments, suitable access flaps may be provided to provide access to the various compartments. Also, carrying case 410 preferably includes one or more closing straps 420, each of which may include one or more buckles 421 or other suitable releasable closing mechanisms, such as straps having hook and loop closures, snaps, buttons, etc. The soft-sided carrying case 410 will also preferably include a suitable handle, such as the handle 422.

[0094] Referring now to FIGS. 13 and 14, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a fifth preferred embodiment of the invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 510. For ease of reference, all elements that are the same or similar to the elements described above with respect to the first embodiment will retain the same reference numerals, but which have been increased by 500. The soft-sided carrying case 510 generally includes four sidewalls 510 a, 510 b, 510 c, and 510 d, a bottom wall 510 e and a top wall 510 f. The case 510 further includes a lower compartment 512 and a pair of upper compartments 514 and 516. The lower compartment 512 includes a plurality of sidewalls 512 a, 512 b, 512 c, and 512 d. The lower compartment 512 also includes a bottom wall 512 e and a top wall 512 f(FIG. 14).

[0095] The first upper compartment 514 includes a plurality of sidewalls 514 a, a bottom wall 514 e (FIG. 14) and a top wall 514 f. The second upper compartment 516 includes a plurality of sidewalls 516 a, and includes a bottom wall 516 e (FIG. 14) and a top wall 516 f. The first and second upper compartments 514, 516 are pivotally joined to the lower compartment 512 along a pair of hinge lines 514 g, 516 g, respectively, defined in the sidewalls 510 b and 510 d of the soft-sided carrying case 510 by lines of stitching 514 h, 516, respectively. The lines of stitching 514 h, 516 h are disposed lying generally along an interface 518 between the upper compartments 514, 516 and the lower compartment 512. Other suitable hinge mechanisms may be employed. Thus, the upper compartments 514, 516 are shiftable between the folded positions (i.e., with the upper compartments 514, 516 disposed above the lower compartment 512 in the manner described above with respect to the first embodiment) and the open or unfolded positions shown in FIG. 14.

[0096] As with the above embodiments, suitable internal and/or external access flaps may be provided to provide access to the various compartments. Also, carrying case 510 preferably includes one or more closing straps 520, each of which may include one or more buckles 521 or other suitable releasable closing mechanisms, such as straps having hook and loop closures, snaps, buttons, etc. The soft-sided carrying case 510 will also preferably include a suitable handle, such as the handle 522, and/or a shoulder strap 523.

[0097] Referring now to FIGS. 15 and 16, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a sixth preferred embodiment of the invention is generally referred to by the reference numeral 610. For ease of reference, all elements that are the same or similar to the elements described above with respect to the first embodiment will retain the same reference numerals, but which have been increased by 600. The soft-sided carrying case 610 generally includes four sidewalls 610 a, 610 b, 610 c, and 610 d, a bottom wall 610 e and a top wall 610 f. The case 610 further includes a lower compartment 612 and three upper compartments 614, 615, and 616. The lower compartment 612 includes a plurality of sidewalls 612 a. The lower compartment 612 also includes a bottom wall 612 e and a top wall 612 f (FIG. 16).

[0098] Each of the upper compartments 614, 615, and 616 includes a plurality of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall. As shown in FIG. 16, all three compartments 614, 615, and 616 are pivotally joined to the lower compartment 612 by hinges 614 g, 615 g, and 616 g, respectively, disposed along an interface 618. Thus, all three of the upper compartments 614, 615, and 616 are shiftable between the folded positions (i.e., with the upper compartments 614, 615, and/or 616 disposed above the lower compartment 612) and the open or unfolded positions shown in FIG. 16.

[0099]FIG. 17 illustrates the manner by which any of the upper compartments of the previously mentioned embodiments (for example, the upper compartments 414 and 416 of the embodiment of FIGS. 11 and 12) may be removed from the case and may be joined together to form a second, smaller carrying case 411. A handle (not shown) may be provided.

[0100] FIGS. 18-21 illustrate two different configurations for a tri-fold soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of still further embodiments of the present invention, each designated as 710. The cases 710 shown therein each include a lower compartment 712 and pair of upper compartments 714 and 716. It will be noted that the hinge lines 714 h and 716 h are in different planes when the cases 710 are in the folded positions of FIGS. 18 and 20. The remainder of the cases shown therein may be constructed in accordance with the teachings of the above-described embodiments.

[0101]FIGS. 22 and 23 illustrate a soft-sided carrying case 810 having a plurality of compartments 812, 814, 816, 818, and 820. The compartments 814 and 816 pivot about vertical hinge lines 814 h and 816 h, while the compartment 818 may pivot about a horizontal hinge line 818 h (FIG. 23). The compartment 820 my be removable as shown in FIG. 23, or may pivot about a hinge line 820 h (FIG. 23).

[0102] FIGS. 24-26 illustrate two additional embodiments incorporating the teachings of the present invention.

[0103] Referring now to FIGS. 27-31, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a further disclosed example of the invention is shown and is referred to by the reference numeral 910. As shown in FIG. 27, the carrying case 910 includes a lower compartment 912 and at least one upper compartment, with a pair of upper compartments 913, 914 being shown. The carrying case 910 includes an end 916, which may include a pair of wheels 918 and a foot 920 that also functions as a handle. The foot 920 may perform an additional function as will be discussed in greater detail below. It will be noted that when the wheels 918 and the foot 920 are provided, the carrying case 910 may be positioned in a generally vertical position similar to that shown in FIG. 47.

[0104] The carrying case 910 also may include a number of external pockets, with two such pockets 911 a, 911 b being shown. Each of the pockets 911 a and 911 b may be provided with a suitable closing mechanism such as a zipper, a hook and loop closure, or any other suitable mechanism. The carrying case 910 also may include a retractable handle 915 (FIG. 31) of the type commonly employed in the art, and may also include one or more carrying straps or additional handles of the type commonly employed in the art.

[0105] Referring to FIGS. 27 and 28, the lower compartment 912 includes a top wall 922 (FIG. 28), a bottom wall 924, and a plurality of sidewalls 926 a, 926 b, 926 c, and 926 d. The top wall 922 of the lower compartment preferably includes an openable flap surrounded by a zipper (FIG. 28). The upper compartment 913 includes a plurality of sidewalls 913 a, 913 b, 913 c (FIG. 28), and 913 d, along with a top wall 913 e and a bottom wall 913 f. Similarly, the upper compartment 914 includes a top wall 928, a bottom wall 930, and a plurality of sidewalls 932 a, 932 b, 932 c, and 932 d.

[0106] Each of the upper compartments 913 and 914 preferably includes an openable flap surrounded by a zipper (FIG. 28). In the disclosed example, the openable flap is defined in the exposed bottom wall 930, although the flap may be defined in one of the sidewalls or on one of the sidewalls and the bottom wall. It is also conceivable that the flap may extend to or be defined solely on the top wall.

[0107] It will be noted that each of the sidewalls, top walls, and bottom walls for the aforementioned lower compartment 912 and upper compartments 913 and 914 may be suitably sized so that the carrying case 910 has the desired dimensions and may, when viewed in plan, be square or rectangular. Similarly, each of the sidewalls for the aforementioned lower compartment 912 and upper compartments 913 and 914 may be suitably sized so that the carrying case may, when viewed in elevation, be relatively short or relatively tall.

[0108] A hinge 934 pivotally joins the upper compartment 914 to the lower compartment 912. It will be understood that the upper compartment 913 will also include a hinge (not shown). For the sake of brevity, only the hinge 934 connecting the upper compartment 914 to the lower compartment 912 will be described herein in detail. It will also be noted that the upper compartment 914 is sized so as to cover more than fifty percent (50%) of the surface area of the lower compartment 912, and such that the upper compartment 914 is significantly larger in terms of volume than the upper compartment 913. In the disclosed example, the upper compartment 914 may cover as much as sixty to seventy five percent (60% to 75%) or more of the surface area of the lower compartment 912. The upper compartment 913, due to its smaller size, need not include the same hinge 934 as will be described below, but instead include a more conventional hinge.

[0109] The sidewall 926 a of the lower compartment 912 includes a longitudinal edge 936, and the sidewall 932 a of the upper compartment 914 includes a longitudinal edge 938. The hinge 934 is positioned on the carrying case 910 so as to extend generally parallel to the longitudinal edges 936 and 938. It will appreciated that the hinge 934 may be disposed along other longitudinal edges of the upper and lower compartments as desired. A zipper 939 is preferably provided for securing the upper compartments 913 and 914 to each other. In the disclosed example, the zipper 939 serves to maintain the upper compartments 913 and 914 in the folded position of FIG. 27 in which the upper compartments 913 and 914 are disposed over the lower compartment 912.

[0110] Referring now to FIGS. 28 and 29, the hinge 934 includes a pair of flexible layers 940 and 942. The layer 940 includes edges 940 a and 940 b, while the layer 942 includes edges 942 a and 942 b. Preferably, both of the layers are manufactured of a flexible material, with a flexible fabric material being preferred. More specifically, the layers 940 and 942 may be manufactured of a suitable grade of nylon material, such as denier nylon. Other flexible materials that may be sewn in place or otherwise suitably secured may also prove suitable.

[0111] Preferably, the layers 940 and 942 may be secured in place by sewing. More specifically, a generally planar widened section of the edges 940 a and 942 a are preferably sewn (e.g., immediately over, immediately under, or otherwise sandwiched therein) to the top wall 922 of the lower compartment 912, with the widened sections of the edges 940 a and 942 a disposed parallel to the top wall 922. Similarly, a generally planar widened section of the edges 940 b and 942 b are preferably sewn in a similar manner to the bottom wall 930 of the upper compartment 914, with the widened section of the edges 940 b and 942 b disposed parallel to the bottom wall 930 of the upper compartment 914. Bartack stitching may prove especially beneficial for purposes of durability.

[0112] As shown in FIG. 29, the layers 940 and 942, when viewed in cross-section, have different widths. Thus, when the upper compartment 914 is positioned as shown in FIG. 29, the layer 940 is stretched taut (e.g., the layer 940 is stressed in a direction perpendicular to a longitudinal axis of the hinge 934). When the upper compartment 914 is in the unfolded position of FIG. 34, it will be noted that the layer 942 may be slack. Also, when the upper compartment 914 is in the unfolded position of FIG. 29, the foot 920 makes contact with the a stiffened section 943 (FIGS. 27 and 29). Thus, the foot 920 helps to maintain a desired distance between the sidewall 934 a of the upper compartment 914 and the sidewall 926 a of the lower compartment. In the disclosed example, the desired distance is chosen such that the bottom wall 930 of the upper compartment 914 will remain generally parallel with the top wall 922 of the lower compartment 912 when the upper compartment 914 is in the unfolded position. As shown in FIG. 27, the layer 942 is sized so as to maintain the edge 936 of the upper compartment 914 closely adjacent to the edge 938 of the lower compartment 912. In this folded position, the layer 940 may be generally slack.

[0113] Referring now to FIG. 32, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of yet another disclosed example of the invention is shown and is referred to by the reference numeral 1010. The carrying case 1010 includes a lower compartment 1012 and at least one upper compartment, with a pair of upper compartments 1013, 1014 being shown. The carrying case 1010 includes an end 1016, which may include a pair of wheels 1018 and a foot 1020 that also functions as a handle. It will be noted that should the wheels 1018 and the foot 1020 be provided, the carrying case 1010 maybe positioned in the generally vertical position shown in FIG. 47.

[0114] The carrying case 1010 also may include a number of external pockets, with three such pockets 1011 a-c being shown. Each of the pockets 1011 a-c may be provided with a suitable closing mechanism such as a zipper or a hook and loop closure or any other suitable mechanism. The carrying case 1010 also may include a retractable handle 1015 of the type commonly employed in the art, and may also include one or more carrying straps 1017, also of the type commonly employed in the art.

[0115] The lower compartment 1012 includes a top wall 1022, a bottom wall 1024, and a plurality of sidewalls 1026 a, 1026 b, 1026 c, and 1026 d. The top wall 1022 of the lower compartment preferably includes an openable flap surrounded by a zipper (FIG. 33). The upper compartment 1013 includes a plurality of sidewalls 1013 a, 1013 b, 1013 c, and 1013 d, along with a top wall 1013 e and a bottom wall 1013 f. Similarly, the upper compartment 1014 includes a top wall 1028, a bottom wall 1030, and a plurality of sidewalls 1032 a, 1032 b, 1032 c, and 1032 d.

[0116] Each of the upper compartments 1013 and 1014 preferably includes an openable flap surrounded by a zipper (FIG. 33). In the disclosed example, the openable flap is defined in the exposed bottom wall 1030, although the flap may be defined in one of the sidewalls or on one of the sidewalls and the bottom wall. It is also conceivable that the flap may extend to or be defined solely on the top wall.

[0117] It will be noted that each of the sidewalls, top walls, and bottom walls for the aforementioned lower compartment 1012 and upper compartments 1013 and 1014 may be suitably sized so that the carrying case 1010 has the desired dimensions and may, when viewed in plan, be square or rectangular. Similarly, each of the sidewalls for the aforementioned lower compartment 1012 and upper compartments 1013 and 1014 may be suitably sized so that the carrying case may, when viewed in elevation, be relatively short or relatively tall.

[0118] A hinge 1034 pivotally joins the upper compartment 1014 to the lower compartment. It will be understood that the upper compartment 1013 will also include a hinge (not shown). For the sake of brevity, only the hinge 1034 connecting the upper compartment 1014 to the lower compartment 1012 will be described herein in detail. The sidewall 1026 a of the lower compartment 1012 includes a longitudinal edge 1036, and the sidewall 1032 a of the upper compartment 1014 includes a longitudinal edge 1038. The hinge 1034 is positioned on the carrying case 1010 so as to extend generally parallel to the longitudinal edges 1036 and 1038. It will appreciated that the hinge 1034 may be disposed along other longitudinal edges of the upper and lower compartments as desired. A zipper 1039 is preferably provided for securing the upper compartments 1013 and 1014 to each other. In the disclosed example, the zipper 1039 serves to maintain the upper compartments 1013 and 1014 in the folded position of FIG. 32 in which the upper compartments 1013 and 1014 are disposed over the lower compartment 1012.

[0119] Referring now to FIGS. 33 and 34, the hinge 1034 includes a pair of flexible layers 1040 and 1042. The layer 1034 includes edges 1040 a and 1040 b, while the layer 1042 includes edges 1042 a and 1042 b. Preferably, both of the layers are manufactured of a flexible material, with a flexible fabric material being preferred. More specifically, the layers 1040 and 1042 are preferably manufactured of a suitable grade of denier nylon. Other flexible materials that may be sewn in place or otherwise suitably secured may also prove suitable.

[0120] Preferably, the layers 1040 and 1042 may be secured in place by sewing. More specifically, a generally planar widened section of the edges 1040 a and 1042 a are preferably sewn to the top wall 1022 of the lower compartment 1012, with the widened sections of the edges 1040 a and 1042 a disposed parallel to the top wall 1022. Similarly, a generally planar widened section of the edges 1040 b and 1042 b are preferably sewn to the bottom wall 1030 of the upper compartment 1014, with the widened section of the edges 1040 b and 1042 b disposed parallel to the bottom wall 1030 of the upper compartment 1014. Bartack stitching may prove especially beneficial for purposes of durability.

[0121] As shown in FIG. 34, the layers 1040 and 1042, when viewed in cross-section, have different widths. Thus, when the upper compartment 1014 is positioned as shown in FIG. 34, the layer 1040 is stretched taut (e.g., the layer 1040 is stressed in a direction perpendicular to a longitudinal axis of the hinge 1034). When the upper compartment 1014 is in the unfolded position of FIG. 34, it will be noted that the layer 1042 may be slack. Also, when the upper compartment 1014 is in the unfolded position of FIG. 34, there may be contact between the sidewall 1034 a of the upper compartment 1014 and the sidewall 1026 a of the lower compartment. Thus, if the layer 1040 is properly sized, the bottom wall 1030 of the upper compartment 1014 will remain generally parallel with the top wall 1022 of the lower compartment 1012. Further, as shown in FIG. 32, the layer 1042 is sized so as to maintain the edge 1036 of the upper compartment 1014 closely adjacent to the edge 1038 of the lower compartment 1012. In this position, the layer 1040 may be generally slack.

[0122] Referring now to FIGS. 35 and 36, soft-sided carrying case 1110 is shown which employs a detachable hinge 1134. The detachable hinge 1134 may be used with one or more of the foregoing exemplary soft-sided carrying cases. The carrying case 1110 includes a lower compartment 1112 and at least one upper compartment 1114. The carrying case may include one or more additional upper compartments in accordance with one or more of the foregoing embodiments. Further, it will be understood that the upper compartment(s) 1114 and the lower compartment 1112 may include wheels, handles, straps, openable flaps with zippers or other suitable closing mechanisms, in accordance with one or more of the preceding examples.

[0123] The lower compartment 1112 includes a top wall 1122, a bottom wall 1124, and a plurality of sidewalls, with only a selected sidewall 1126 a being shown. The upper compartment 1114 includes a top wall 1128, a bottom wall 1130, and a plurality of sidewalls 1132 a, 1132 b, 1132 c, and 1132 d.

[0124] One or more detachable hinges 1134 are provided for pivotally joining the upper compartment 1114 to the lower compartment 1112. In the example shown, the hinge 1134 includes a strap 1136 having a pair of ends 1138 a, 1138 b. The end 1138 a is secured to the bottom wall 1130, such as by bartack stitching. The ends 1138 a, 1138 b are provided with a hook an loop closure 1140. A loop 1142 is secured to the lower compartment 1112. Preferably, the loop 1142 will be secured along a longitudinal edge 1144 of the lower compartment 1112. The strap 1136 is sized to extend through the loop 1142 and fold back upon itself, such that the ends 1138 a, 1138 b may be secured to each other using the hook and loop closure 1140.

[0125] Referring now to FIG. 37, another form of the strap 1136 is shown, in which a snap 1146 is used in place of the hook and loop closure. It will be understood that other forms of closing or securing mechanisms may be provided, such as, by way of example rather than limitation, buttons, clips, and/or buckles.

[0126] Referring now to FIGS. 38 and 39, another form of the strap 1136 is shown, in which a buckle 1148 is used.

[0127] Referring now to FIGS. 40, 41 and 42, an elongate cylindrical post 1150 is secured to the upper compartment 1114. A receiver 1152 having a slot 1154 is secured to the lower compartment 1112. The post 1150 slides into the receiver 1152 in a direction generally parallel to the hinge line A, which in turn is disposed parallel to the adjoining longitudinal edges of the lower and upper compartments 1112, 1114, respectively. Preferably, the post 1150 will include a flange 1151 to limit the insertion of the post 1150 into the receiver 1152. The post 1150 may include a web 1150 a secured to the upper compartment 1114 by bartack stitching or any other suitable attachment. Similarly, the receiver 1152 may include a web 1152 a secured to the lower compartment 1114 by bartack stitching or other suitable means.

[0128] Referring now to FIGS. 43 through 46, a soft-sided carrying case assembled in accordance with the teachings of a further disclosed example of the invention is shown and is referred to by the reference numeral 1210. The carrying case 1210 includes a lower compartment 1212 and at least one upper compartment, with a pair of upper compartments 1213, 1214 being shown. The carrying case 1210 includes an end 1216, which may include a pair of wheels 1218 and a foot 1220 that also functions as a handle. The carrying case 1210 also may include a number of external pockets as desired. The carrying case 1210 also may include a retractable handle 1215 of the type commonly employed in the art, and may also include one or more carrying straps 1217, also of the type commonly employed in the art.

[0129] The lower compartment 1212 includes a top wall 1222, a bottom wall 1224, and a plurality of sidewalls 1226 a, 1226 b, 1226 c, and 1226 d. The top wall 1222 of the lower compartment preferably includes an openable flap surrounded by a zipper (FIG. 44). The upper compartment 1213 includes a plurality of sidewalls 1213 a, 1213 b, 1213 c, and 1213 d, along with a top wall 1213 e and a bottom wall 1213 f. Similarly, the upper compartment 1214 includes a top wall 1228, a bottom wall 1230, and a plurality of sidewalls 1232 a, 1232 b, 1232 c, and 1232 d. Each of the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 preferably includes an openable flap surrounded by a zipper (FIG. 44). A zipper 1239 is preferably provided for securing the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 to each other. In the disclosed example, the zipper 1239 serves to maintain the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 in the folded position of FIG. 43 in which the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 are disposed over the lower compartment 1212.

[0130] A detachable hinge 1234 pivotally joins the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 to the lower compartment 1212. The sidewall 1226 a of the lower compartment 1212 includes a longitudinal edge 1236, and the sidewall 1232 a of the upper compartment 1214 includes a longitudinal edge 1238. In the example shown, the hinge 1234 is defined by a zipper, thus enabling the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 to pivot as outlined above with respect the preceding examples. The zipper also enables the upper compartments 1213 and 1214 to be detached from the lower compartment 1212, and subsequently be attached to each other as shown in FIGS. 45 and 46 to form a second, smaller soft-sided carrying case 1210 a.

[0131] Although certain exemplary embodiments constructed in accordance with the teachings of the invention have been described herein, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the invention fairly falling within the scope of the appended claims either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7240778Jul 20, 2005Jul 10, 2007Umagination Labs, L.P.Personalizing luggage
US20080245096 *Nov 15, 2007Oct 9, 2008The Coleman Company, Inc.Fold-up insulated container
US20120145718 *Dec 13, 2011Jun 14, 2012Quarry Brendan EApparatus and kit for containing sports equipment
Classifications
U.S. Classification190/18.00A, 190/126, 190/109
International ClassificationA45C13/00, A45C13/02, A45C13/10, A45C5/14, A45C3/00, A45C7/00
Cooperative ClassificationA45C13/10, A45C5/14, A45C7/0054, A45C3/00, A45C13/02, A45C13/005
European ClassificationA45C3/00, A45C7/00C6, A45C5/14
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 18, 2003ASAssignment
Owner name: HIGH SIERRA SPORT COMPANY, ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BERNBAUM, L.H.;VERMILLION, SCOTT;REEL/FRAME:014182/0014
Effective date: 20030528