Zippers are one of the most used, and most necessary parts of outdoor gear. From tents to jackets to sleeping bags, zippers are what keep the warmth in, the bugs out, the under layers dry. They are also terribly abused by most adventure-seekers. There are several things you can do to extend the life of your zippers and simple steps you can take to repair them, but most of all, remember that zipper care includes treating them with a little extra TLC. Sure, it would be nice if zippers were burlier and tougher, and some are, such as waterproof zippers on diving suits or drysuits. However, most outdoor apparel companies try to reduce the weight of each piece, and that involves using zippers that are slightly more sensitive.
Here are several things you can do to increase the life-expectancy of your zippers:
Use Your Hands: Pull the material together before you zip. This is a common mistake. Zippers will get worn out more quickly if you use the zipper to pull, or force, the material together.
Stuck Zippers: As soon as you feel the zipper get stuck, stop zipping, undo the zipper, take the material out gently, and re-zip. If you try to force it, the material will get chewed up and you will have holes in your outdoor gear. Your zipper will also wear out faster.
Stressed Out Zippers: If you plan to stuff a backpack or suitcase, or put a lot of stress on your zippers, then zip them all a time or two before you fill the bag. This will allow you to figure out any glitches in the zipper and fix them without the extra stress on the zipper of weight or expansion.
Cleaning Zippers: Clean your zippers often. Soap and water does the trick, but keeping grease and grit out of your zippers will help them last much longer
Troubleshooting: In the event that your zipper will not stay closed, try unzipping it to the beginning and zipping it again. If after several tries it still won’t stay zipped, check if any of the teeth look worn or broken. If not, you may need to replace the slider. Some manufacturers will replace it for a small cost, otherwise, check with your local outdoor shop.