This invention relates generally to a wearable garment that functions as a carrier for miscellaneous items, and more particularly to an X-shaped utility vest or utility garment referred to herein as a strapvest.
Various types of workers, including painters, carpenters, electricians and the like, need to carry many small tools and other items with them during the course of their work. For a particular task, they may need to have many different tools close at hand for immediate access, as well as various fasteners and personal items. These needs arise while working at a site far removed from tool boxes or secure storage sites, and it is often very inconvenient or even dangerous to have to step away from the work in progress to search for an item that is needed. For example, a painter may need to carry a caulking gun, a paint scraper, brushes, tape, a hammer or screwdriver, and the like. A carpenter may need to carry a tape measure, hammer, chalk line, pencil, nail sets, chisels, screw drivers, and the like, as well as cutting tools, nails or screws. Many workers also enjoy listening to music or other audio programs while working, in which case they will need to carry a portable mp3 player, CD player or other portable audio device requiring headphones, or they may carry a cell phone that needs to be readily accessible and may include an earphone for privacy or just so they can hear over the noise of the workplace. Recreational enthusiasts experience a very similar need for easy access to diverse items when they may be outdoors for fishing, hiking, or other activities.
A variety of tool holding belts and backpacks are available for workmen and others; however, those often make it difficult to access the tools or difficult to sit or drive while the devices are worn. Additionally, only so many tools can be carried on a belt due to the limited portion that is accessible to the user when it is being worn. Backpacks and fanny packs provide personal storage for items their wearers needs to have travel with them, but provide limited access and organization.
A few specialty vests have been developed, for example, a vest that holds batteries for users of electric equipment, or a vest that holds camera lenses and accessories for a photographer; however these vests cover the entire torso of the user, thereby reducing the amount of ventilation to the torso—they become an item of outerwear that may be unwelcome or inappropriate for the conditions, and are typically designed to close in front in ways that restrict the wearer's ability to sit down, for example, when loaded with items. See U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,211,321; 4,369,526; and 5,247,707. Additionally, these specialty vests have to be made in a variety of sizes because one size does not fit a range of different users well enough for comfort and convenience; indeed, one that fits a user in the summer may not be compatible with changing outerwear for different seasons even for the same user, i.e., it may be unduly warm to wear in warmer weather, and may be difficult to wear over a coat in colder weather. Finally, known vests are generally designed to fulfill one specialized function and cannot be adapted to fulfill multiple functions: their pockets and other features for carrying items are typically ‘fixed’ in size and location, while a user may have quite different needs at various stages of a project, or for different projects, and it is impractical for one person to buy and store a variety of different specialized garments. There thus remains a need for a highly flexible utility garment that complements or replaces pockets found in typical pants or shirts, and is more convenient to use than a purse, handbag or backpack. The ideal garment would accommodate variations in a user's size and outerwear choices; it would be versatile enough to carry many different items required for a particular trip or project, yet would not be unduly burdensome or hot to wear. It might be suitable to wear while driving with minimal inconvenience, and still provide ready access to the most frequently-used items. The strapvest of the invention addresses needs such as these by providing a flexible, functional utility garment suitable for a wide range of tasks while minimizing interference with the user's movements and choice of clothing.
One object of the invention is to provide a garment or vest that is versatile enough to be used by workers such as painters, carpenters and the like, as well as by sports enthusiasts, hikers, and other recreational users. The garment can have multiple integral pockets and pouches for the purpose of carrying a variety of items, and/or it can have a variable number of receptacles attached to it in order to provide flexibility with respect to items it is adapted to carry. The garment serves to carry and organize tools and supplies that need to be conveniently accessible to a mobile user, and to provide storage compartments for other items a mobile user needs to have close at hand. The strapvest should be adapted to allow storage of items in a variety of positions around the wearer's person, where the items are placed and held to be conveniently accessible for storage and retrieval by the wearer.
Another object of the invention is to provide a utility garment that can be adapted with a variety of different pockets, pouches, or other attachments, depending on the type of tools or supplies the user needs to have close at hand.
Another object of the invention is to provide a versatile garment providing wearable organized storage of items to which the user needs ready access, and one which can be made in a single size that is adjustable to fit users of various sizes, and which can be adjusted to accommodate the user's chosen outerwear. Such a garment might be worn while sitting or driving, and usable for a variety of different types of work and recreation activities.
A further object of the invention is to provide a garment that is light weight and allows the user maximum movement, while providing greater carrying and organizing capacity than a utility belt, for a user who needs ready access to a variety of different small items while remaining mobile. It can be worn and used in combination with a utility belt, which may provide additional carrying capacity and may be better suited for carrying certain items like a larger cordless drill or larger hammers. The garment of the invention also is compatible with a variety of users, and is adjustable to accommodate outerwear the wearer may need to wear concurrently with the vest, for protection or comfort.
Yet another object of the invention is to provide a garment for carrying many items that is adapted to accommodate a head phone or earphone assembly for an audio device like a cell phone, CD player, mp3 player, or the like, so such devices can be readily accessible to a user.
Still another object of the invention is to provide a garment for carrying many items that provides maximum ventilation to the torso of the user, and which can be worn with other appropriate outerwear the user may need for warmth or protection. Typically, the strapvest will be adjustable enough to be worn over a coat or protective garment according to the wearer's needs, and will be adjustable in size to fit securely either with or without such garments.
Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following descriptions, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein, by way of illustration and example, various embodiments of the present invention are disclosed.
The drawings constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments of the invention, which may be combined in various forms as appreciated by a person of ordinary skill. It is to be understood, however, that the drawings depict only certain embodiments and do not limit the invention.
Detailed descriptions of some of the preferred embodiments are provided herein. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but rather as a basis for the claims and as representative examples for teaching one skilled in the art to employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed system, structure or manner.
The invention provides a particularly versatile garment or wearable device adapted for conveniently carrying a variety of small tools and parts, etc., while keeping the wearer's hands free and movements unencumbered. The device is adapted to be worn on the user's torso, with straps running over the wearer's shoulders, and is adapted to accept a variety of removable pockets or receptacles that can be attached or detached, and can be flexibly positioned to adapt to a particular user's carrying needs on a given day. The device has the straps joined across the user's back (note that descriptions of ‘front’, ‘back’, up, down, right and left, etc., unless otherwise stated, refer to positions or directions relative to a user's or wearer's perspective, assuming the device is being worn in its intended fashion by a user who is standing up).
Some embodiments of the invention, which is further described below with reference to the Figures provided herein, include:
A wearable strapvest, comprising a juncture having an upper right edge, a lower right edge, an upper left edge and a lower left edge;
a right shoulder strap extending upwards from the upper right edge and having a first buckle portion near its distal end;
a left shoulder strap extending upwards from the upper left edge, having a second buckle portion near its distal end;
a right lower strap extending downwards from the lower right edge, having a third buckle portion compatible with either the first or second buckle portion near its distal end; and
a left lower strap, extending downwards from the lower left edge having a fourth buckle portion compatible with either the first or second buckle portions near its distal end;
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, at least one of the two lower straps comprises two layers joined along their lower edges and a zipper near their upper edges to provide access to a pocket formed between the two layers of the strap.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the juncture is bisected either vertically or horizontally into two parts that are adapted to zip together reversibly or to connect together by a single-point attachment.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, it includes at least one elongated receptacle that has an opening at the top that is sufficiently rigid to remain open when not subject to pressure and is positioned on the strapvest (one of the straps, or on the juncture, or attached to the cross-strap, or attached to the cross-strap and the juncture for example) at a point on the wearer's back to receive an elongated object that can be placed in the receptacle by a wearer reaching over his shoulder. This receptacle is particularly useful for carrying longer items, which can be put into or removed from the receptacle by a user reaching over his shoulder like an archer taking an arrow from a quiver. This receptacle holds elongated items that would be awkward to have in front of the wearer or on his side, yet provides relatively convenient access to them. The opening or mouth of this receptacle faces up and its lower end can be either open or closed, depending upon its use; commonly the lower end is closed and the receptacle length is more than half the length of the item(s) it is intended to contain so that they are securely held. The opening or mouth of this receptacle is preferably held open so the user can easily put items into it, such as by a band of plastic or similar material that is nonetheless typically flexible enough to permit the mouth of the receptacle to lie relatively flat when empty if the wearer's back is in contact with, e.g., the back of a chair or car seat.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the first buckle portion connects to the third buckle portion, and the second buckle portion connects to the fourth buckle portion. In those embodiments, the straps of the strapvest effectively cross in front of the wearer.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the first buckle portion connects to the fourth buckle portion, and the second buckle portion connects to the third buckle portion. In those embodiments, the straps of the strapvest effectively run up and down in front of the wearer's body. In such embodiments, the two main straps may be joined together in front of the wearer's body as further described herein.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the juncture is bisected by a zipper.
In another aspect, the invention provides a strapvest as further described herein, comprising:
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, each of the straps includes a buckle that can be disconnected, wherein each buckle is positioned to be accessible to the wearer when the vest is being worn as intended so the wearer can disconnect one or both buckles to remove the vest. Alternatively, the main straps may be continuous, i.e., they may not include a buckle. Such embodiments can be put on or taken off by lifting the strapvest over the wearer's head; or versions wherein the main straps are releasably connected in front rather than crossing over can be removed like a conventional vest, by releasing the connection between the main straps.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, each strap has a first layer and a second layer along at least a portion of its length, and the first layer and second layer are connected along at least one edge and optionally along both edges to form a compartment between the two layers. In some embodiments, the first and second layers are further connected together across the width of the straps (e.g., the strap layers can be sewn together transverse to the main length of the strap) to form a first end and a second end of the compartment, and a zippered opening along the length of the strap between the first end and second end of the compartment can be included to provide access to the interior of the compartment. In other embodiments, the first and second layers are connected together transverse to the strap's length to form one end of a compartment, and an opening is provided in the outer layer of the two-layer strap to insert items into the compartment. The opening is typically at the end of the compartment that is positioned higher up when the strapvest is worn, so items placed in the compartment (a built-in pocket) tend to stay there. Optionally, the straps can also be connected together (by, e.g., being sewn together) just past (above) where the opening is provided. The various types of compartments disposed on the straps can be positioned on parts of the straps that are in front of the wearer's body, or on portions that fall on the wearer's sides or back that are accessible to the wearer's hands when the strapvest is being worn.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the strapvest has one or more cord holders on at least one of said straps positioned near the shoulder of a wearer. These cord holders are adapted to retain a wire for a headphone or earphone or microphone of an audio device and bring it conveniently close to the wearer's ear or mouth (voice) while keeping it constrained so it does not get in the way of the active wearer.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the cross strap is adjustable in length.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, each main strap has an inwardly facing curve at its lower end (i.e., in the section that wraps around the wearer's body) to aid in the tailored fit of said vest straps with regard to a person's torso.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the portions of the straps that run down the front of the wearer's body cross over each other in front of the wearer's body before they run around the wearer's torso at a level below the level of the junction, and curve upward if necessary to rejoin to the junction.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the portions of the straps that are in front of the wearer's body are connected to each other in front of the wearer's body. In such embodiments, the straps may not cross in front of the wearer's body, so the strapvest can be put on or taken off by sliding it backwards off the wearer's shoulders like a conventional vest.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the portions of the straps that are connected to each other in front of the wearer's body are connected by a zipper, button, post, buckle, hook and loop fastener, or strap, or by other conventional releasable closures. A buckle, button, post, hook and loop or other releasable closure typically comprises two mated parts; those parts can be placed directly on the main straps, or one or both of the mated parts of the releasable closure can be put on a securing strap that is connected to the main strap. This securing strap can optionally include a length adjustment, such as a slider device or a cam-type buckle.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, wherein the portions of the straps that are connected to each other in front of the wearer's body are connected by a single point closure such as a button or snap.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, at least one pocket or removably attachable receptacle is positioned on a strap portion on the wearer's back. Typically, such pocket is positioned high on the wearer's back so items can be placed there or accessed by a wearer reaching over on shoulder: a portion of an item in such a pocket will extend up and be reachable by a wearer reaching over the shoulder near the wearer's ear. Alternativlye or in addition, a pocket or compartment on one of the main straps positioned on the wearer's back may be on a part of one of the main straps below the juncture, and typically would be a relatively flat compartment for comfort reasons. For this compartment (see, e.g., compartment 47 on
In yet another aspect, the invention provides a strapvest as further described herein, comprising two main straps which meet at a juncture, where the juncture is positioned on a wearer's back and the main straps run upward from the juncture so that one main strap goes over each of the wearer's shoulders; and
a cross strap above the juncture and running across a portion of the wearer's back, where the cross strap connects the main straps together;
wherein each main strap runs from the juncture up over the wearer's shoulder, down a portion of the wearer's torso, and around one side of the wearer's body to reconnect to the juncture at a lower portion of the juncture; and wherein each main strap comprises two or more pockets or is adapted to mount two or more detachable receptacles. The main straps may be continuous, or one or both of them may be interrupted by a releasable connection such as a buckle.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the two main straps are permanently connected to each other in front of the wearer's body. In other embodiments, they are configured to be releasably connectable, as by a button, zipper, strap, buckle, hook and loop closure and the like.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the two main straps are connected in front of the wearer by a single-point closure.
In some embodiments of this aspect of the invention, the single-point closure comprises a button, snap or stud-type closure on one main strap and a complementary (mating) connecting feature on the other main strap; and the single point closure is positioned to be placed over the lower sternum of the wearer or just below the sternum of the wearer.
In any of the above aspects and embodiments, the strapvest can comprise a plurality of receptacles adapted to detachably connect to the strapvest by means of the attachment structures on the strapvest. The receptacles may be attached to the strapvest, or they may be packaged with the strapvest for distribution to a user. Preferably, the strapvest and a plurality of receptacles of varying sizes are packaged together so a user or buyer can select a suitable number of receptacles of suitable size for the particular needs of the day. Alternatively, the carrying capacity of the strapvest may be comprised partly or exclusively of compartments integral to the strapvest, such as pockets built into the straps or sewn onto the straps, and/or loops or bands of material permanently attached to the vest, and the like. Pockets integral to the straps may be made by adding a layer of material onto a portion of a strap, or they may be built into a strap as between two layers of strap material as further described herein. Pockets may be open on one edge, and may also have a closure such as a zipper or a flap that can be buttoned or held in place by e.g. a hook and loop material like Velcro™ to retain contents in the pockets. Loops or bands attached to the straps for holding items may be elastic bands that provide pressure and friction to hold an item in place, or they may comprise a loop of material extending outward from the surface of a main strap like loops on a typical utility belt, designed to hold a hammer (for example) that can swing loose without falling out. These bands or loops are typically sized according to the item to be carried.
The invention provides an X-shaped vest having two main strap-like portions that meet at a juncture that would be located on the back of a wearer when in use. The main straps can be made of materials commonly used for a utility belt or similar products, such as nylon, polypropylene, polyester, or cotton material, which can be a woven fabric such as webbing; a heavy fabric such as canvas, a breathable fabric such as GoreTex®, or a flexible non-woven material such as leather or microfiber. The main straps can be single-layer straps of this material, or two layers of material can be attached together. Optionally, the main straps can be made of a layer of material such as nylon webbing that runs the full length of each strap and a second layer that is present only on selected portions of the strap: for example, a strap might be made of polypropylene webbing and have a backing layer in sections that can be present on sections where it could be used to form pockets on the inner surface of the strap (toward the wearer's body), or it can be used to provide a smoother inner layer of material where it runs over the wearer's shoulders for comfort. Typically the straps are between about 2″ and 6″ in width, but the straps are not necessarily of a consistent width along their length, so the width may vary to meet the needs of a particular design.
When two layers are used to form a strap, there is an inner layer that faces the wearer's body when the strapvest is being worn and an outer layer facing away from the wearer's body. The two strap layers may be made of the same material or different materials. For example, the outer layer could be nylon webbing for strength, and the inner layer could be leather, cotton or other fabric, or microfiber for increased comfort or to reduce the wear on the wearer's clothing where the strapvest comes in contact with the wearer's clothing or body. As further described below, where two layers are used, the layers are commonly attached together along their edges, creating an interior space. This interior space can be used to form pockets integral with the strapvest straps, and these pockets can be open or closed at their upper and lower ends as further described below. Alternatively, the straps can be formed of a tubular material, which may have a seam or not; where a seam is present, it may be positioned to face the wearer's body or it may face away from the wearer's body, on the outer surface; or it may be positioned as an edge of the strap. It is also sometimes desirable for the two main straps to be made of different materials, and of course the selection of colors and aesthetic patterns can be made in accordance with the planned use of the strapvest.
Each main strap portion can include a buckle that allows the main strap-like portions that form a loop when worn to be opened or allows the strapvest to be removed, and each said strap portion optionally has a plurality of removably-attachable pockets or sleeves (receptacles) adhered or connected to the outside surface. Portions of the main straps can be formed from two layers and can have a zipper connecting the layers in places to form accessible pockets inside the strap, so a person can store flat items in a pocket formed by the layers and accessible/closable by use of the zipper. One or more of the straps can have hooks or loops capable of retaining a wire or cable, such as a wire to a headphone or earphone for portable audio devices.
The garment also can have an optionally adjustable cross strap that connects the two straps together to maintain the X-shape of the garment; this cross strap would be positioned on the back of the wearer, above the juncture, and is sized to keep the straps from slipping off of the wearer's shoulders when in use, and positioned to keep the strapvest from slipping forward under a load that is often disproportionately positioned on the front of the wearer's body for convenient access. The strap portions are contoured to conform to the body of a user so that they generally lie reasonably flat and comfortable when the garment is worn.
Each main strap portion can include a buckle that allows the main strap-like portions that form a loop when worn to be opened or allows the strapvest to be removed, and each said strap portion optionally has a plurality of removably-attachable pockets or sleeves (receptacles) adhered or connected to the outside surface. The receptacles can be made of the same material as the straps or of different materials; commonly they are made of plastic material that is flexible enough to conform to the contours of the strapvest when it is worn. In some embodiments, the strapvest includes hook-and-loop material in patches or strips along its length or across its width, to serves as attachment points for the receptacles, which can have complementary hook-and-loop material in order to fasten them to the material on the straps. The Figures illustrate suitable placements and sizes for these patches or strips; typically, a plurality of such patches or strips are provided on each of the main straps along a majority of the length of the portions that are accessible to the users hands when the strapvest is being worn.
The receptacles can be relatively flat pockets, or they can be expandable to accommodate items that are up to 0.5″ thick, or even up to 3″ or more in thickness. Such pockets having collapsible sides to lie flat but having sufficient sidewall material to expand for holding thicker items are well known in the art. In some embodiments, the receptacles are pocket-like containers that have a width (the dimension of the receptacle that will align with the width of the main straps up to about the same width as the main straps, and having a length (defined as the dimension corresponding to the length of the straps) between about 1″ and 6″, or even up to about 8″. Typically the receptacles are substantially rectangular in shape, but they can be of any shape that is suitable for their intended purpose, e.g., a receptacle specifically sized and shaped to hold an MP3 player or cell phone can be provided. Selection of the size and shape for the modular receptacles that can be used with the versatile strapvest design is within the skill of an artisan familiar with the user's needs.
Optionally, receptacles can have a clear plastic portion on their outer surface (a side away from the portion of the receptacle that is adapted to attach to the straps of the strapvest) or a portion covered by an open material like fishnet that permits the wearer to see the contents of the receptacle without opening it. Commonly the receptacles are made of a nylon, polyester, polypropylene, cotton, or similar fabric or blend of these fabrics, for example a 200 or 300 or 400 or 600 or 1000 denier nylon fabric can be used. The material for the receptacles, and for the straps, can be treated to provide waterproofing or to resist staining if desired; methods for such treatments are known in the art. Optionally the receptacles can be made of a waterproof material or lined with a waterproof material to keep their contents dry, such as a non-porous fabric or a breathable fabric like woven polytetrafluorethylene or GoreTex® with pores too small to admit water in liquid form.
In some embodiments, the receptacles are open for quick access; in some embodiments, the receptacles have a flap with, e.g., a snap or button closure; and in some embodiments, the receptacles have a zipper or a Ziploc™-style closure. A strapvest can be used with a combination of such receptacles, each of which has a structure for fastening the receptacle to the vest, such as at least one patch or strip of complementary hook-and-loop material adapted to fasten the receptacle to a corresponding attachment structure on the main straps. Thus in some embodiments, the strapvest is packaged with a plurality of these receptacles, such as a selection of receptacles of varying sizes.
The various embodiments described herein may comprise buckles in the main straps, cross straps, or securing straps. The buckles can be made of metal, like a common belt buckle, or of plastic like the buckles commonly used on backpacks; typically the buckles are configured to permit the length of the straps to be effectively varied by sliding the buckle along the relevant strap, or by adjusting the length of a typically narrower secondary strap carrying the buckle with a conventional slider, where the secondary strap is in turn attached to the main strap. The selection of materials and designs for these buckles is routine in the art.
Portions of the main straps can be formed from two layers and can optionally have a zipper connecting the layers in places to form accessible pockets inside the strap, so a person can store flat items in a pocket formed by the layers and accessible/closable by use of the zipper. One or more of the straps can have hooks or loops capable of retaining a wire or cable, such as a wire to a headphone, microphone, or earphone for portable audio devices. The garment also can have an optionally adjustable cross strap that connects the two straps together to maintain the X-shape of the garment; this cross strap would be positioned on the back of the wearer, above the juncture, and is sized to help keep the straps from slipping off of the wearer's shoulders when in use. The strap portions are contoured to conform to the body of a user so that they generally lie reasonably flat and comfortable when the garment is worn.
In some embodiments, the garment has a fastener that connects portions of the two main straps in the front of the wearer's body; the fastener may connect the two straps so that they can be connected or separated when putting the garment on or taking it off. In some embodiments, the straps connect to each other by a zipper or button(s) or hook-and-loop fastener or snaps or similar closure mechanisms in front of the user's body to facilitate removal or secure the garment on the user's body. In some embodiments, a single attachment via a button, snap, hook, or the like, is provided near the wearer's chest to allow the garment to be readily secured in place, but also allowing it to flex or pivot about the this single point attachment so it adapts to the wearer's body as the wearer sits down or bends over, for example. In some embodiments, a combination of such fasteners can be used.
The device is described as ‘X-shaped’ due to the general appearance of the device when viewed from behind the wearer: the straps intersect each other at a juncture near the center of the wearer's back when in use. The main straps may cross over each other on the wearer's back to form this juncture, or they may connect to a separate juncture on the wearer's back, which may be made of the same material as the straps or of different material; either way, the general appearance is of an X-shaped device, as the upper parts of the main straps run from the juncture up over the wearer's shoulders and the lower straps go downward from the juncture and around the wearer's torso or waist, forming an X shape on the wearer's back.
The device can be configured to be flexible enough to adjust to fit most adults, so that a single size fits most typical users. Alternatively, it may be of a fixed size. It comprises a pair of main straps that are optionally divided into sections, and intersect at a juncture, or connect by joining to a juncture, which is on the wearer's back. The juncture can be formed by the intersection or overlap of the main straps, or it can be a separate piece of material that can be the same as the strap materials or different. The main straps can be adjustable in length so a user can adjust the effective size of the vest as desired. Suitable methods for making the strap lengths adjustable are known in the art, and include, for example, belt-type adjustments where one strap portion has a series of holes and the second strap portion has a buckle or similar fitting to connect to insert into the holes in the first strap portion. Similarly, sliding adjustments such as the slider devices and buckles as commonly used on shoulder straps for a backpack can be used. Alternatively, conventional cam-type buckles that compress onto a strap can be used to adjust the effective length of one or both main straps to resize the strapvest or to adjust the effective lengths of or as releasable closures for cross, secondary or securing straps described herein. Hook and loop connectors can also be used to allow strap length to adjust.
The juncture can be positioned on the back of a wearer when in use. It can take various shapes, but can generally be considered diamond-shaped, with the straps extending from the upper right edge, upper left edge, lower right edge and lower left edge of the juncture. The juncture can be longer along its edges than the width of the straps, but typically each edge is as at least as wide as the straps are where they attach to it. The straps can be integral with the material of the juncture, or they can be attached to it by any convenient method, such as with adhesives, stitching, rivets, or the straps can run through an opening in or on the juncture and at least one of the straps would then be fastened to the juncture, or to a strap portion attached to the juncture, or to itself in a way that holds it securely to the juncture. In some embodiments, one or both of the main straps can be slidably fitted onto straps attached to the juncture or slots in the juncture, and may optionally have a catch, buckle, clasp, or other mechanism to hold the juncture at a desired position on the strap(s).
In some embodiments, the juncture is bisected by a closure device so that the juncture can be separated into two pieces. The juncture can be bisected by this closure device vertically or horizontally relative to the wearer in a standing orientation. The closure device can be a zipper, one or more buttons or snaps, or a hook-and-loop fastening In some embodiments, the juncture is bisected vertically and has a zipper that connects the two portions of the juncture, where the right portion has the upper and lower right strap portions extending from it and the left portion of the juncture has the upper and lower left strap portions extending from it. The juncture can thus be separated by unzipping this zipper, or it can be assembled by zipping its right and left portions together. This permits the strapvest to be opened and removed from a wearer by unzipping the zipper, or the juncture can be zipped apart to make it easier to clean, adapt, or store the device. The wearer can thus remove the strapvest by an alternative method, rather than by disconnecting any buckles holding the strap portions together. Additionally, a vertically oriented closure device in combination with a releasable closure in front of the wearer allows the strapvest to be separated into two separate shoulder-wearable utility carrying devices.
Note that the term ‘upper portion’ when referring to one of the main straps are used to refer to the portion of a main strap running upward from the juncture over a wearer's shoulder and down to the point where the two main straps intersect or are releasably connected in front of the wearer. The term ‘lower portion’ refers to a main strap section extending downward from the juncture around the wearer's toso, and up to the point where the two main straps are connected or intersect in front of the wearer.
In some embodiments where the juncture is bisected by a zipper or similar separable closure device (e.g., hook-and-loop fastening material such as Velcro™ or snaps could be used instead of a zipper), the straps may not need to have buckles to permit disconnection; the straps may be continuous.
Alternatively, the juncture can be separable into upper and lower portions, where the upper portion attaches to the right and left upper strap sections, and the lower portion attaches to the right and left lower strap sections. Again, the user can remove the strapvest by unzipping the zipper to separate the juncture into two pieces. This permits removal of the strapvest without unbuckling the buckles that connect the strap portions, and permits the buckles to be omitted.
The upper straps run upwards and outwards from the juncture to go over the wearer's shoulders, and the lower straps run downward and outward from the juncture to curve around the torso of the wearer. The straps, once in front of the wearer, may or may not cross over each other in front of the wearer, and they may or may not be connected in front of the wearer's body. In many embodiments, the main straps do not cross over each other in front of the wearer. Instead, one remains on the ‘right side’ of the wearer's body and the other remains on the left side of the wearer's body. Optionally, the vest can include a releasable closure component permitting the wearer to connect the two main straps together in front, which holds the vest more securely on the wearer's body yet permits easier removal than does the closure device in the juncture on the wearer's back. In such embodiments, the wearer can slip the strapvest on or off over the shoulder, like a vest; and it can be hung on a standard clothes hanger when not in use.
The upper and lower straps on each side of the body typically come together, and these straps may be continuous straps or they may be interrupted by a connection that allows them to be adjusted in length. Suitable connections for this purpose include the types of buckles used on a belt, the types of buckles used on the straps for a backpack; a zipper transverse to the length of the strap; or a hook-and-loop section that adheres an upper strap to its corresponding lower strap. Adjustable connections for these straps are often preferred, to provide readily accessible means for adjusting the device to fit a particular wearer or to adjust to accommodate a wearer's changing attire.
Where the straps run up-and-down in front of the wearer's body, the two main straps may optionally be connected to each other. In some embodiments, the straps are joined to each other along their edges (the edges nearest the centerline of the front of the wearer's body) on a portion of the straps in front of the wearer, e.g., for a distance up to about 12 inches and preferably less than 10 inches, and frequently less than about 6 inches, the edges of the two main straps may be zipped together or overlap enough to permit them to be attached to each other by one or more connector straps that can buckle together, snaps, buttons, hook and loop closures, or other conventional fasteners. This joining of the right strap and left strap portions better secures the device around the wearer's body; but limiting the length of the connection makes the device more flexible and more comfortable. Optionally, the straps may be joined in front by one or more snaps or buttons or similar types of connectors instead of a zipper. Other closure methods such as a hook-and-loop closure, or a connecting strap (securing strap) joining the two main strap portions together can also be used.
In a preferred embodiment, the right and left portions of the main straps are joined together by a single button, snap, or stud/hole in front of the wearer's body, to provide a pivoting single-point closure connecting the straps. This pivoting closure holds the device securely in place, but permits the two main straps to pivot about the closure, which provides an advantage by preventing the device from interfering when the wearer sits down or bends over. Because the straps are often relatively rigid in comparison to a strip of cloth, for example, they can cause inconvenience by sliding around, or lifting away from the body, when the wearer stands up, sits down, or reaches out. With the single point closure, when the wearer sits down, for example, the lower parts of the right and left straps in front of the body swing outward to accommodate the wearer's legs and permit the portions on the wearer's sides to spread out on a seat, for example. The ability to pivot about a single-point closure lets the right and left strap portions swing outward to accommodate the wearer's legs and seating surfaces when the wearer sits or bends forward, so that even if there are relatively rigid items held in or on the straps, the items and straps can remain secure and near the wearer's body without interfering too much with movement.
Referring now to
The two main straps can be sewn together at juncture 6, or otherwise permanently connected such as by rivets or by being interwoven, or they can be attached in a detachable manner such as with a button, snaps, or hook-and-loop type fasteners, or for example, one strap can pass through a loop on the other strap, or between two layers used to make the other strap. The juncture 6 can be simply an overlapping portion of two main straps that cross each other, or it can be a portion of material either separate from or integral with the straps. The juncture can be made of the same material as the straps or of different material, such as leather or plastic or woven nylon like a backpack material. The two straps do not have to be immobilized together at the junction; they can be connected with a button, snap or stud/hole to permit the straps to pivot where they overlap to form a juncture; but in many embodiments, the two straps are immovably connected to each other or to a juncture.
Above the juncture when in use, there is a cross strap that connects the two upper (shoulder) straps to each other. The cross strap can be of a fixed length, or it can be adjustable in length. In
One or both of the two main straps that form the strapvest are optionally interrupted by a buckle that permits the strap to be separated into upper portions called shoulder straps, and lower portions called lower straps Commonly where buckles are used, each of the main straps will have one to facilitate adjusting the overall size of the strapvest. The upper and lower portions on one side can be buckled together at a point on the side or front of the wearer's body, often near the waist of the wearer. In some embodiments, the main straps cross over each other in front of the wearer (across the wearer's chest, for example). In those embodiments, the right shoulder strap (upper right strap) connects to the left lower strap, and the left shoulder strap connects to the lower right strap. In other embodiments, the main straps do not cross over in front of the user, so the right shoulder strap connects to the lower right strap, and the left shoulder strap connects to the lower left strap.
Strap sections 8 and 10 are attached to buckle portions 16 and 18 that are designed to mate with buckle portions 48 and 50; and these buckle portions can optionally be connected to the shoulder or lower straps by attached adjustment straps 44 and 46 that are in turn sewn or securely fastened to the end of the shoulder straps 2 and 4. The adjustment straps permit the effective length of the main straps to be adjusted to fit most any user; these are similar to the adjustable straps on a backpack or similar device employing conventional adjustable-length straps.
The shoulder straps are also connected to each other by an additional cross strap (22) as discussed above. In
Pockets, pouches, or other containers referred to herein as receptacles selected by a user, features 20, 36, 38, 40, and 42, can be removably attached to the main straps by snaps, or hook and loop fasteners, or zippers, or the like. These receptacles can be readily replaced, added or removed, so the strapvest of the present invention can be customized to accommodate tools or equipment needed by the user. The receptacles can be designed to hold whatever item(s) a wearer may want to carry on the strapvest. For example, 20 is an elongated receptacle that can be positioned on a portion of a shoulder strap that lies on the wearer's back, above the juncture. This can be used to hold longer items such as, for example, a caulking gun, and is accessed by the user by reaching over his/her shoulder, like taking an arrow from an archer's quiver. See
Optionally, the strapvest can be packaged for sale with a variety of these receptacles, which variety may include more receptacles than the strapvest can accommodate at any one time; thus a user may be provided with a variety of receptacles suitable for tasks or tools specific to a particular day or project, and can customize the strapvest accordingly. Extra receptacles can thus serve as temporary storage for expendable items or small specialty tools. A painter may choose receptacles for paint scraping tools, paint lid openers, masking tape and a caulking gun for the morning; then replace these with receptacles suitable for a screwdriver, sandpaper, and sanding blocks for the afternoon. A carpenter may choose to have receptacles suitable for a chalk line, tape measure, marking pencil, cutting tools, and small fasteners; and for recreational use, the carpenter may modify the receptacles to provide means to carry maps, compass, water bottles, a GPS unit and a cell phone for hiking, by simply removing the receptacles selected for work and substituting for them receptacles suitable for recreational activities. When the user's needs change from day to day or task to task, the user can simply remove a pouch of roofing nails, for example, and replace it with a pouch of drywall screws or finishing nails selected to fit the next project. If the user would like to listen to music or other audio entertainment, or to operate a hands-free cell phone, he or she may choose a pocket that is large enough to hold a CD player, radio, tape player or the like, and the strapvest can include hooks, loops or channels designed to retain earphone cords routed from a pocket or receptacle holding the phone or mp3 player, etc. to a point conveniently near the wearer's ear, to minimize the amount of loose wiring. The user may have a personal cell phone in an inner pocket or receptacle, and a work-related cell phone set up for hands-free operation, and the strapvest can accommodate those items along with tools and the like to allow the wearer to have easy access to each item he needs.
Similarly, an outdoors person can wear and use a strapvest of the present invention for whatever purposes he or she sees fit, too. Receptacles can be sized to hold items like drink bottles, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and the like, and even a windbreaker designed to fit into a small pouch, enabling a person to use the strapvest for hiking and other outdoor activities, without the wearer overheating while exerting himself. Loops 70 or similar retaining structures located on main strap 4 can retain a headphone cable for music or cell phone devices, so that the cable does not interfere with the user's movements while hiking or fishing, for example, and the available receptacles can be employed to carry snacks, sun screen, a compass or GPS device, a knife or folding saw, or whatever other paraphernalia the wearer needs to have readily available.
A second layer 102 underneath a top layer 101 of one or both of the main strap sections (33, 35) can be attached to the main strap section along one edge 103 (not visible) to form a bilayer section that forms a flat pocket space inside, which is accessible by a slot or zippered opening on or near the other (open) edge 104 of the bilayer strap portion. Zippers 28, 30 can be unzipped to allow a user to insert flat items into the slots in these pocket-containing sections of the straps (32, 34), and zipped closed to protect the items inside. Optionally, these pockets in the straps may be lined with a plastic or similar water-proof material to protect contents such as cash, credit cards, ID cards, etc., in the event that water, paint, or other liquid contacts the outside of the strap in these sections.
Pockets or receptacles used with the strapvest or built into it can be open, or they can have a variety of different types of operable closures. A pocket or pouch with an opening that is at the ‘top’ of the opening when the user is wearing the strapvest can be left open for easy access or to allow long objects to protrude; openings along an edge of a strap oriented where items are more likely to fall out, would typically have an operable closure or at least a flap to retain the contents inside the pocket. For example, a hook and loop closure can be provided (e.g., a flap having hooks that mates to a surface on the receptacle having compatible hooks), or a zipper, or a drawstring, or one or more snaps or buttons, or a magnetic closure can be used. Pockets built into the straps can be made of the same material as the strap, e.g., they can be formed by a space between two layers of strap material, or they can be formed by addition of separate material to the strap, so that a strap surface can be part of the pocket; thus a receptacle or pocket may have mesh or transparent plastic forming an external surface, as befits the contents of the receptacle or pocket. Where appropriate, a pocket in or on a vest of the invention can have a clear plastic covering or window, and can be designed to hold an item like an identification card, electronic access card, or business card, so that it can be seen or used without taking the card out of the pocket.
The main straps 2, 4 are optionally curved (80, 82) so that they can conform to the torso of the user without buckling or distorting excessively. This curvature refers to lateral curvature of the strap across its width, as the strap is typically quite flexible in its thickness dimension. The upper strap portions can be curved inwardly (toward each other) as they approach and pass over the wearer's shoulders, as shown in
At the upper portion of the strap, where it passes over the wearer's shoulder, a resilient pad 62 can optionally be inserted in the space between the main strap 2 and the sub strap 35, or it can simply be attached to the inner side (underside) of a shoulder strap that does not have a second layer; or the section of this strap running over the shoulder of the wearer can be made of a softer, better padded, or wider material to better distribute weight over and provide padding to the wearer's shoulders. Padded section 62 of the shoulder strap helps evenly distribute the weight of the vest and its contents as well as preventing the straps from digging into the user's shoulders, reducing discomfort associated with wearing a strapvest that may be heavily loaded with tools or supplies, water bottles, etc.
Features 74 and 76 represent hook and loop strips used to attach the receptacle 46 to the strap, on the outer face of a strap preferably positioned in the front of the user. This detachable way of mounting the receptacles helps adapt the strapvest to users of various sizes and for receptacles of various sizes, and of course permits the user to mount a number of different receptacles needed for one project, e.g., one receptacle for each size or type of fastener when the user requires multiple sizes of nails or screws.
The cross strap as shown (90) can be used to support a receptacle in some embodiments, and can be adjustable; in the embodiment in
In such embodiments, a front juncture may be positioned in front of the wearer in addition to the juncture in the back, and the main straps can simply cross over each other in the back (see
Moreover, in this embodiment, the straps at the wearer's sides do not need to have buckles or other connectors; they can be continuous straps, since the wearer can fasten and unfasten the strapvest by a closure in the front that connects the main straps together.
In still other embodiments, the strapvest can be designed much like the one depicted in
In some embodiments, the strapvest performs as a combination tool belt and wallet for a user who needs to carry many items. Because valuables may be put into the straps, and it may at times need to be temporarily removed and put down by a wearer in a nonsecure location, a modest amount of security for the vest and/or its contents can be provided by a cable-type locking mechanism similar to ones used for a notebook computer, e.g, one requiring a conveniently small key or a combination to open the lock. Such a cable-lock can be used to secure the strapvest temporarily to a banister, large piece of furniture, or other item that is difficult to move or break. Additional security for items in the flat pockets inside the bilayer straps can be provided by concealing the zipper from casual view, for example by placing the opening or zipper on the side of the strap facing the wearer's body, and possibly concealing it under a flap of strap material.
In the above illustrated and described ways, a person can make and wear an X shaped vest of the present invention to carry various items in close proximity to their body so that the user may have easy access to the items contained in the pockets and/or receptacles of the vest. The vest is light weight and provides maximum ventilation to the user, allowing the user to select suitable outerwear or protective wear with minimal interference. The strapvest can include removable and replaceable receptacles so that the vest can be customized to meet the user's needs, even when they change. The length of the straps of the vest can be adjustable so that one size vest can fit a wide variety of body sizes, or to accommodate different outerwear choices. Pockets formed inside the straps provide places to store or conceal additional items. And the vest can be designed to be removed either by disconnecting buckles in the main straps, or by opening a closure that connects the main straps to each other, typically in front of the wearer's body.
Other special features can be provided on a strapvest for specific types of users. For example, a string-cutting tool can be built into a readily-accessible portion of the strapvest for use by fishermen, or construction workers, or electricians, with a protected blade that can be positioned to permit the user to cut a string with only one hand. Such cutters are known in the art, and typically have a sharp blade that is almost fully enclosed, but is accessible by a slot that is too narrow for a user's fingers or body parts to fit into, providing safety even in the presence of a very sharp cutting implement that is useful for cutting strings and the like. Protected cutting implements suitable for this are known, and by attaching such implement to the strapvest, the wearer is enabled to work more efficiently by avoiding the need to have two hands free each time a string or wire needs to be cut. The string-cutting tool can be built into a strapvest strap or surface, or it can be tethered to the strapvest near a convenient receptacle. It is advantageous to have the string-cutting tool secured to the strapvest near the center of the wearer's body for easy use for cutting strings or wires.
Similarly, the strapvest can include a pocket specially adapted to hold the body of a retractable measuring tape (commonly called a “tape measure”) in such a way that a user can pull the measuring tape out with one hand, without needing to hold the body of the device at all, as the body remains held in place by the pocket or receptacle. This is achieved by providing a pocket sized to hold a tape measure device and having a secure closure such as a snap or zipper, where the pocket also provides an opening through which the end of the flexible measuring tape can be reached, and through which the flexible tape can extend when in use. The closure should be secure enough to hold the device in place while the measuring tape is pulled out for use, and the measuring tape device is typically ‘spring loaded’ so that it will retract the flexible tape when the user releases it. The pocket adapted for this purpose can be near the user's side or waist, or near the front of the strapvest, so that the tape is easily accessible to the user's hands; or this pocket can be on the user's shoulder or even on the back, so that the user reaches up for the measuring tape and pulls it out near eye level where it is easy to read, all depending upon the user's particular applications and needs. Again, this permits a user to perform operations with one hand that would otherwise take two; thus a worker can, for example, measure an item or distance with one hand and record the measurements with the other, and the strapvest can hold both the measuring tape and a writing implement, so it provides easy access to the tools needed for both making the measurements and recording them.
Similarly, the strapvest can comprise a receptacle or pocket specially adapted for dispensing adhesive tape, such as electrical tape, with an integral cutting device to enable a user to pull and cut tape with one hand. Configurations akin to the arrangement of a dispenser for transparent tape can readily be adapted for attachment to or incorporation into the strapvest or a receptacle or pocket of the strapvest.
In some embodiments, the strapvest incorporates a mesh pocket sized to hold a water bottle for carrying a beverage. A convenient placement for this item is along the wearer's side, for example it might be attached to the surface of the strap between pockets 3 and 4 on a device like the one shown in
In some embodiments, the strapvest further comprises attachment points with which items can be tethered to the vest for security. A user may carry in the vest items that are fragile if dropped, such as handheld electronic devices, or tools that are dangerous when dropped, like cutting implements; and a user may wear the vest for tasks such as working on a ladder or roof where retrieving a dropped item is highly inefficient. For such applications, the strapvest can comprise attachment points for connecting one or more tethers that can be used to attach items to the wearer's person and prevent dropping such items. For example, holes can be provided along an edge of one or more of the straps, preferably near a pocket or receptacle used to hold items that require additional security. Alternatively, loops of suitable material can be provided near the receptacles or pockets holding such items. Thus dangerous or fragile items can be tethered so that they don't fall far when dropped, so that, for example, a knife would be less likely to harm the user when dropped because it would not fall far enough to gather momentum to become dangerous. And items that are secured are less likely to cause the user to grab at them when they are dropped; such sudden movements place the user at risk of falling from a precarious position, such as a ladder or roof.
The features of the strapvest can be selected for the needs of a particular user, and can elevate the strapvest to function as an additional tool that increases safety and efficiency for the user.
In some embodiments, the strapvest can comprise additional features to help stabilize the vest on the wearer's body. For example, it can include hanging straps or elastic straps with clips like those found on suspenders, to connect the strapvest to a wearer's trousers. For example, while not shown, in some embodiments the strapvest further comprises connecting straps on the lower portion of a strapvest such as the one depicted in
While the invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment, it is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the particular form set forth, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined b the appended claims.
This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/756,140, filed Apr. 7, 2010, (scheduled to issue as U.S. Pat. No. 8,490,216), which claims benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/167,434 filed Apr. 7, 2009, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.
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