How to Get the Most Out of Your Zippers
When you are out in the mountains, zippers matter more than you imagine. However, for some reason, it seems that many people blame zippers when something goes wrong.
But then again, is it really fair to blame zippers themselves?
After all, zippers can be found everywhere, yet most of the time, people take them for granted even if they silently do their jobs and endure all forms of abuse until the day finally comes that they already have had enough and begin screaming for your attention.
If you feel like your current relationship with your zippers can use a bit of change and rehabilitation, below are a few approaches that may be able to help.
Anatomy of a Zipper
Before anything else, it is important to be clear on what you are dealing with in the first place. Every zipper comes with three parts: the pull, slider, and tape. All of these parts should be compatible with one another, and every component is subject to wear and tear and possible failure.
The sizes of zippers are roughly equivalent to the width of the coils or teeth when the zipper is closed and are measured in terms of millimeters. Zipper size standards have changed over the past few years. For instance, almost all zippers for sleeping bags used to be 8C or 8mm-wide coil zippers.
However, most manufacturers now use 5C zippers. Similarly, tooth zippers are ideal options for shell jackets since their improved abrasion resistance when the jacket is open. But many high-end shells are now made with lighter-weight waterproof coil zippers. The sleeker look gets rid of the need for a cover flap although it is less durable.
All people count grams, and this is why manufacturers are always under pressure to reduce the weight without cutting corners when it comes to features. This is the reason why zippers, buckles, fabrics, and webbing are now being downsized so that they will be lighter, and sometimes even weaker.
It is nice to have reduced weight to carry in the backcountry, but you also need to be much more careful if you want your equipment to last and not leave you disappointed.
You might also consider using your purchasing power to reward those companies that design and manufacture gear that will last long, even when it ends up a bit heavier or with a much shorter list of bells and whistles.
Maintenance and Care
Basic maintenance and care for all zippers start with keeping them clean. Keep zippers protected from dirt, rinse them as needed out in the field if possible, and avoid forcing them, particularly when they are iced up or dirty. Standard metal sliders are more prone to corrosion, so be sure to rinse them properly after contact with salt. Salt, dirt, and ice all put additional wear on both the tape and slider of the zipper.
Avoid excessive force and be gentle. Cross-loading is mostly hard on zippers, so prevent any sideways pull if the zipper is not completely closed. To put it simply, hold packs and bags closed before zipping, use buckles and snaps that help protect zippers from sideways forces, close zippers properly before laundering, and unzip the tent doors entirely before squeezing through them.
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