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    Zippers, and zipper care?

    Zippers on tents and gear seem to have gotten “frailer” and more prone to failure over the years. That may be a manufacturer (or my) penchant towards lighter weight gear, or increased gear use in zipper-harsh environments, or less expensive zipper sourcing on some cheaper off-brand stuff.

    Originally posted by Mike McCrea View Post
    In a yellow (once upon a time, now 30 years old dingy) 5 x 7 inch YKK zippered nylon bag:
    That filthy MEMAQUAY bag is at least 30 years old; it has been everywhere and done everything and is still going zipper strong. It is a YKK zipper; kinda wish they stamped a “model” number on the zipper pull instead of just “YKK” on both sides.

    Eh, the design/quality/durability of zipper pulls is another occasional dissatisfaction with cheap zippers; a broken pull tab is easily replaced with some Zingit cord or a zip tie, or in a Can’t-get-my-coat-off-dammit! struggle with a bread wrapper twist-wire. But a simple pull tab should outlast the zipper teeth.

    I think most YKK zippers are worth the cost, and they are nearly ubiquitous except on the cheapest products. My nightmare is a tent door zipper failing in bug country, but anything with a broken zipper becomes problematic gear.

    https://slate.com/business/2012/04/y...-use-them.html

    I do (try) to maintain zippers; running a damp piece of clean sponge over open zippers when camped in dust and sand blown area, especially across the tent door zippers. Hopefully before the tent zipper begins to enunciate ‘GRRZZLLGURDGRIND” instead of a smooth “ZZZZZZZZZ”. The grit that comes off on the sponge is amazing when the wind has been blowing in a fine dust environment.

    Beyond that field maintenance I clean and lubricate gear zippers at home. I tried wax, silicon spray and etc before settling on Teflon Non-stick Dry Film lubricant; I don’t need a sticky substance catching and holding windblown gunk in the zipper teeth.

    Are there now better zippers, or YKK manufactured zippers to look for, or zippers to avoid?

    #2
    Mike, My experience is that manufacturers are down sizing zippers from previous generations. I have a tent that has ykk #3 zippers and the pulls need to be replaced every other year. This tent should have been built with #5 zippers but manufacturer wanted the tent to come in under 4lbs, supposedly it weighs 3lb 15oz. Next time you shop for a tent make sure the zippers are upmto the task. There should be a little number stamped on the zipper pull in addition to the ykk.

    95% of the time it is the zipper pull that wears out, unless you do something to bugger the zipper tape. This is a good thing since replacing a pull is about 2% of the work to replace an entire zipper. In an emergency you can take a pair of pliers and squeeze down the wings on the pull, which will likely get you through a trip.

    I think that replacing zipper pulls is part of basic maintenance for oudoor gear. Plus you can charge your friends a 12 pack of decent beer to do the work. All you really need is a seam ripper which might cost $1, new zipper pulls, and a needle and thread. Some patience is required too since it can be a little fiddly to get the new pull on the tape. Having a sewing machine makes it look more professional. Nowadays when I pull apart the zipper I just add a few extra pulls. A door with 2 pulls now gets 4. When one zipper pull goes bad you just move it up to the end of the line and deploy a new one.

    I don't put any lubrication on the zipper. After a desert trip I blow out the zipper with compressed air, or i wash the tent then blow the zipper. I have used my toothbrush on a trip to clean the zipper (everything you carry shoukd have at least 2 uses!) I think dirt and sand, and how much its used are what wears out the pull. Thats in addition to how the tent or item is made. I have one tent that has an impossible curve in the door. Unless you hold the tent fabric in a certain place, the zipper binds and is obviously wearing on the pull. Oh, one more thing....It bugs the he'll out of me when I'm camped with people who are constantly in and out of the tent, zip zip zip zip zip all night long. Those zipper pulls are destined to fail.

    What I've written here applies to coil zippers, not plastic tooth zippers. Plastic tooth zippers are non maintenance items, meaning, if something messes up the entire zipper has to be replaced.

    Mark

    Comment


      #3
      I think most YKK zippers are worth the cost, and they are nearly ubiquitous except on the cheapest products.
      You must be living in the past! It's a bit shocking but I'm finding low-grade (non-YKK) zips from a lot of the well known but not absolute top-end brands. For a lot of things it doesn't really matter as the use is light duty, the zips are short (= not too expensive to replace) but for things like tents with huge zippers if definitely is. Nothing more infuriating than a $400+ tent with blown out zips. My current bug shelter, a Sierra Designs from around 2008 is still in fairly good shape but the zips are toast, two doors, each one more than 3 metres long, my local repair shop quotes me over $300 to replace them!!!!!!!! For $25 they replaced the pulls which kept them going for my 2019 trips but they were starting to fail again by the end of the season even using extreme care to avoid getting snags (the teeth are worn so any pull replacement is only a temporary fix) or contaminated with sand.

      All summer I lived in fear that a few days into a multi week trip they would blow out and I'd be confined to my small tent to avoid being eaten alive!

      I recently bought a new NRS dry suit, I was a bit shocked to find they have switched to plastic zips. I'm hoping they last as I expect this might be my final dry suit purchase (I'm still using my old one until it completely dies).

      In addition to trying to reduce the raw materials cost there is also a bad trend to produce items at the lowest possible weights, the fabrics get thinner and thinner, the zips get smaller and smaller and there are far too many bad designs that tend to allow fabric to get caught in the zips, too much of that and the teeth get misaligned and now you are halfway to failure that pull replacement won't effectively fix.


      Comment


        #4
        The low weight craze is the fault of a public that is often mesmerized by statistics and not particularly well educated as consumers. It exists in everything from climbing equipment to spoons and is I suspect aggravated to some extent by the same self defeating drive that causes folks to shop around for the rock bottom price, usually found at larger retailers, and then wonder why their local stores went out of business.

        At least some companies still stand solidly behind their products. A year ago I bought a used Eureka Equinox 6 person tent to replace one lost in a fire some years ago. It was in great shape and had seen little use but the door zipper (YKK) had issues. As I had an upcoming road trip that passed right by the Eureka factory store in Congdon, NY I called to ask how much it would cost to repair the zipper. Based on my description they offered to send a new pull with instructions to install it. They then added that if we didn't want to repair it ourselves or the repair didn't work to send them the tent. They would replace the zipper and return it free of cost.

        I told them I had bought the tent, likely at least twenty years old, second hand. Their response was that they guaranteed then tent not the buyer and, if I wanted to send it back the sooner I did so the sooner they'd have the repaired tent back to me..... It took my wife about twenty minutes to replace the pull.....

        Good folks there at Eureka....


        Best regards to all,


        Lance

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by LanceR View Post
          Their response was that they guaranteed then tent not the buyer[.]
          Wow, what a great line!

          When I've gone on guided trips, I've used Eureka tents the guides provided. Probably 10 or more years old, heavily used and still going strong. They seem pretty bomb-proof.

          Comment


            #6
            Zipper lubricant will help.
            https://duckduckgo.com/?q=zipper+lub...tp&ia=shopping

            Comment


              #7
              Keeping the zipper slider clean, lubricated (silicone spray, or lubes as mentioned above) and not forced will extend the slider life.
              If you do need to replace a slider, add an extra slider or one on each end.
              This will let you have a spare, emergency slider if the old one wears out.
              Just clip off the old one from the center of the slider.
              The best slider, at least for continuous coil zippers, was the stainless steel version used on some North Face tents. They should have been for $10 each!

              As far as the zipper itself: if you need to replace it, you can cut off the tape from the adjoining fabric.
              Use a scissors or a hot knife.
              There is often no need to seam-rip the zipper from the fabric.
              It may not be as pretty but it saves time and may make it easier to install new zipper tape since the fabric won’t stretch and you can use the old stitching/tape as as a guide.

              Comment


                #8
                Tent and PFD zippers were getting balky after 20 days of desert camping. When I got home, I washed the tent, and the zippers were restored to smooth, like-new, operation. I washed the PFD, too, but was still having a problem operating the zipper. I put a bit of dry-suit zipper wax on it, and it now is working smoothly.

                I worry about lubing zippers because I think the lubricant is bound to absorb dust/dirt and clog the zipper. Is that not an issue?

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Chip View Post
                  Tent and PFD zippers were getting balky after 20 days of desert camping. When I got home, I washed the tent, and the zippers were restored to smooth, like-new, operation

                  I worry about lubing zippers because I think the lubricant is bound to absorb dust/dirt and clog the zipper. Is that not an issue?
                  It doesn’t seem as much or frequent an issue when tented on forest floor duff, but in a desert environment, with windblown dust the consistency of finely sifted flour, I don’t want a potentially sticky lubricant on the zippers.

                  Sugar sand on Florida beaches is almost as insidious. Dry crusty windblown mud flat blackflour may be worse.

                  I bring a thumb sized piece of sponge, wet it, and run it along the open zipper halves of the tent doors and vestibules every couple of days. The occasionally visible crud that comes off on the sponge tells me this is a good practice even without having some re-lubricant available.

                  Some teeny container of non-stick zipper lubricant would be worth stashing in the Spares & Repairs bag for long trips/group trips. Not the big aerosol can of Teflon Dry Spray. Is there some couple ounce dry film lubricant that has no dust attractant stick?

                  Eh, just bothered to Google and found the answer to my own question:

                  http://www.performancelubricantsusa....-lubricant.php

                  I have an aerosol can of Teflon Dry Spray in the shop, but for $4.50 I could bring (or further decant) that 4oz bottle to re-lube crusty zippers on long trips.

                  Just ordered a bottle. New rule with additions to the Spares & Repairs bag - anything new that goes in has to find something like-sized (and least used) to come out.

                  Thanks Chip; you started me down the road to a solution for which I’d been searching

                  Comment


                    #10
                    No idea I’d this works as advertised but might be good to have in one’s kit if it does. https://taillow.com/products/instant-zipper-set-of-6

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Mike McCrea View Post

                      It doesn’t seem as much or frequent an issue when tented on forest floor duff, but in a desert environment, with windblown dust the consistency of finely sifted flour, I don’t want a potentially sticky lubricant on the zippers.

                      Sugar sand on Florida beaches is almost as insidious. Dry crusty windblown mud flat blackflour may be worse.

                      I bring a thumb sized piece of sponge, wet it, and run it along the open zipper halves of the tent doors and vestibules every couple of days. The occasionally visible crud that comes off on the sponge tells me this is a good practice even without having some re-lubricant available.

                      Some teeny container of non-stick zipper lubricant would be worth stashing in the Spares & Repairs bag for long trips/group trips. Not the big aerosol can of Teflon Dry Spray. Is there some couple ounce dry film lubricant that has no dust attractant stick?

                      Eh, just bothered to Google and found the answer to my own question:

                      http://www.performancelubricantsusa....-lubricant.php

                      I have an aerosol can of Teflon Dry Spray in the shop, but for $4.50 I could bring (or further decant) that 4oz bottle to re-lube crusty zippers on long trips.

                      Just ordered a bottle. New rule with additions to the Spares & Repairs bag - anything new that goes in has to find something like-sized (and least used) to come out.

                      Thanks Chip; you started me down the road to a solution for which I’d been searching
                      As a long time cyclist, a lubricant for bike chains that does not attract and retain road grit is the holy grail. I’ve used not the DuPont product, but something called Tri-Flon, a Teflon product claiming many of the same benefits. Grit still accumulated on the chain.

                      The product lists over 40 applications without mentioning zippers. Maybe Zipper’s are just a variant of slides, rollers, and bearings, which are listed.

                      Call me a doubter. From those who try this product, I’ll be interested in results of using the product. Still, probably not as grit retentive as zipper wax, so a step in the right direction.
                      Last edited by Chip; 01-11-2020, 01:32 PM.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Chip View Post
                        As a long time cyclist, a lubricant for bike chains that does not attract and retain road grit is the holy grail. I’ve used not the DuPont product, but something called Tri-Flon, a Teflon product claiming many of the same benefits. Grit still accumulated on the chain.

                        The product lists over 40 applications without mentioning zippers. Maybe Zipper’s are just a variant of slides, rollers, and bearings, which are listed.

                        Call me a doubter. From those who try this product, I’ll be interested in results of using the product. Still, probably not as grit retentive as zipper wax, so a step in the right direction.
                        Bike chains and tire thrown grit may be the worst case scenario, and not quite the same as week’s worth of fine windblown desert grit accumulating on tent zippers. I bought the biking Missus a mechanical chain cleaning brush device, but I don’t think such a thing exists for tent zippers.

                        Yes, at least the right direction. Teflon dry film has proven far less grit attractant than wax products, and less attractant than oils, silicon spray or, gawd forbid, WD40. I’ll eventually let you know how the liquid version performs; a 4oz of that squeeze bottle of dry film lubricant is en route for the Spares & Repairs bag.

                        I clean and (aerosol) dry film spray tent zippers when I get home And other =zippers; rain gear zippers, small pouch zippers, jacket and pants zippers. Especially anything I’m wearing on crusty salt water trips.

                        I’m a believer in cleaning zippers, and in using Teflon spray on zippers, applied at home after dust abusive trips, or even after seemingly non-abusive forest trips. If only for the ease of application; it takes two seconds of pfffft-pfffft spray, and some Teflon lubed zip/unzip on each zipper while I’m airing out the tents or my rain jacket before repacking.

                        On windy desert or blowing sands beach trips it is probably more important to wet a sponge and remove the accumulated grit from the opened zipper teeth every few days than to apply new lubrication. That fine desert dust, as you found, will kill a zipper in short order

                        I’ll try applying that Teflon dry film liquid after sponge cleaning next time a zipper starts to feel/sound gnarly, or maybe before the zipper sounds fatally wounded. The difference between a clean, smooth pull “zzzzzzzz” and a teeth gnashing, force it “GGGRLLLZZZGLLL” sound and feel on the zipper is telling.

                        Yeah. . . .don’t pull that gritty zipper closed again before at least sponge cleaning the teeth. One of those times when you walk over to the tent to get something out, bring a little piece of clean, damp sponge to run over the opened zipper teeth. Rinse it out when you are done for next time.

                        I have mentioned this before, but I force myself to look away when I see a companion only partially close a tent zipper in windy conditions. That unzipped area, flapping around in the wind, does the zipper teeth no favors.

                        Comment

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