Zippers are everywhere from our pants and jackets to sleeping bags and backpacks. They’re far more convenient than a row of buttons or snaps and can be opened and closed in a matter of seconds. For these conveniences, zippers are used so often for a variety of products around the world.
Because zippers are used in a range of products, both heavy-duty and not, using a variety of different materials and fabrics, there are of course multiple types. You wouldn’t use a basic nylon coil zipper on a 3-season tent or a heavy-duty travel backpack. With each type of zipper, there are suggested products and uses, as well as quality standards.
In order to understand the types of zippers, you must first be familiar with the anatomy of each zipper to understand the individual roles of each piece.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF ZIPPERS
There are five common types of zippers that can be found on a range of products in your every day life. Below are the names of each type of zipper as well as their most common uses:
1. Separating Zipper (Open-End)
Commonly found on jackets, vests and other outerwear, a separating zipper allows both sides of the tape to come apart completely when the zipper is fully undone.
If you refer to the zipper on the left in the photo above, you see that the end of the zipper is accompanied with an insertion pin and a retainer box. These pieces play an especially important role when zipping up a jacket or other piece of outerwear because if the pin is not inserted into the retainer box appropriately, the zipper will not operate correctly.
I’m sure we’ve all been there once, fumbling with the zipper, claiming it’s broken but really, the pin has not been inserted correctly. When you take your time, the zipper will operate correctly.
2. Closed-End Zipper
Look at the trousers in your closet or the cute, leather boots you bought last month in the front hall, the zippers you see on these products are closed-end zippers. This type of zipper does not separate at the bottom (unless it’s broken).
Located at the bottom of the teeth on a closed-end zipper is a bottom stop. This is a single part which, unlike the separating zipper, does not allow the two sides of the tape to separate.
3. Two-Way Separating Zipper
A two-way separating zipper can be found on a sleeping bag, a rain coat and on winter parkas. These zippers allow an item to be fully zipped at the top while also being able to be unzipped at the bottom.
Two-way zippers are especially common in winter parkas. They are convenient while you are sitting or driving as the bottom zipper can be unzipped to eliminate any restrictions and open up the jacket to provide more space.
4. Two-Way Head-to-Head Zipper
Mainly found on backpacks and travel bags, when done up these zippers will have two sliders face-to-face in the center of the teeth or on one side of the bag. The ends of the two zippers have two stops which cannot be divided or separated, so the two tape sides remain attached like a closed-end zipper.
5. Two-Way Tail-to-Tail Zipper
For this particular type of zipper, there are sliders at opposite ends of the teeth when the zipper is fully closed. The sliders glide along the same teeth and because they are back-to-back, they cannot be separated.
Technical ski or snowboard pants that are generally made of GORE-TEX will often use these type of zippers on the sides. These zippers are used to provide ventilation and sometimes allow the user to take footwear on and off without having to remove the pants.
OPERATING A ZIPPER CORRECTLY
Zippers are a little like people in the sense that you get what you give. If you’re patient and calm while zipping a new zipper, you should have no problems. If you’re rough and forceful, well the zipper most likely won’t budge.
Operating a zipper correctly means inserting the pin into the retainer box correctly and using two hands. With one hand holding the bottom of the jacket and the other on the slider, pull the pull tab towards yourself in order to close the zipper.
COMMON ZIPPER ISSUES THAT MAY ARISE
When you purchase a coat with a zipper, you have high hopes that everything will be perfect throughout your ownership because high-quality products are made with high-quality pieces. This is the case with multiple, if not all high-end brands, but there are other issues that may arise that have nothing to do with the zipper itself.
1. Slider Only Slides Up One Side of the Tape
The most common mistake when having difficulties while operating a zipper is that the pin is not correctly inserted into the retainer before the pull tab is pulled. This can result in the slider only sliding up one side of the tape while the other remains stuck.
Gently pull the slider back down to the bottom while holding the other side with one hand. Holding the one side straight and tight will allow the slider to glide more smoothly.
2. Zipper Peels Open from the Bottom
Having a zipper peel open from the bottom like a banana peel even while the zipper is closed could mean that the pin wasn’t fully inserted into the retainer box. Any slight movement could dislodge whatever part of the pin was slightly inserted, making the zipper open from the bottom.
This particular case can be extremely frustrating and can be difficult to reverse. It’s best to notice the problem before the entire zipper opens so you have less reversing to do.
In this case, the best solution is to reinsert the pin into the retainer box and ensure it is in correctly. Next, you will gently tug on the pull tab bringing the slider back down to the bottom. You may have to jiggle the slider slightly once you get to the point where the two sides of the tape are separated.
3. Zipper is Jammed
If you have ensured the pin is correctly inserted into the retainer box and you’re holding the jacket straight and flat with one hand while pulling gently with the other and the zipper still won’t budge, it is possible there are some damaged teeth. The smallest misalignment of teeth can affect the entire zipper and cause it to malfunction.
Inspect the teeth for any bent teeth, missing pieces or even kinks in the tape that don’t allow the teeth to lineup flush. Some zippers are malleable so you can make little fixes if the teeth are bent slightly. This isn’t the case for metal or moulded plastic teeth.
If you’re ever in doubt, you can take the item to a tailor and they may be able to make a small fix, or they may suggest an entire new zipper if it’s possible.
In any of the above cases, it is easy to get impatient and yank on the pull tab, but this risks ripping the tab directly off of the slider itself. If you treat the zipper gently and calmly, you’ll have a better chance of a positive outcome.
4. Fabric or Thread Gets Caught in the Slider
Sometimes if you are trying to zip up the zipper too fast, the surrounding fabric or thread can easily be caught if you are not careful. When this happens, the slider will, in most cases, become stuck and the only way to un-stuck it is to go in reverse.
The easiest solution for this is to pull the slider back in order to remove the fabric or thread. If the slider is very stuck, you may have to jiggle it gently. Try to avoid forcing the slider backwards because this could damage the zipper teeth or the fabric that is stuck.
Once the slider is un-stuck, you can try to zip it up again carefully and pay attention to keep any surrounding fabrics and threads out of the way.
5. Feeling The Wind Through the Zipper
One common issue is feeling the wind through the zipper on your coat. You’ve spent all this money on a new winter coat but you can feel the wind blowing through the zipper. What you have to remember is that a zipper is made of two pieces. Almost always, unless you’ve got taped zippers, there will be a minuscule gap between the teeth where cold air may find its way through.
If you are really worried about wind blowing through your zipper, shop for coats that have storm flaps that protect the zipper like the Quartz Co. Jane Down Parka for women or the Vallier Toolo Down Parka for men. There are also some coats that will have a flap of fabric on the inside that lies flat against the zipper when closed so there is nowhere for cold air to penetrate. If you’re a picky person, be a picky shopper.
6. Self-Opening Zippers on Coats
Another issue that may arise with the zipper on your new coat is finding that it is always falling down. This too can be incredibly frustrating although isn’t something to cry over. While trying on potential purchases, it is always beneficial to move around in the ways you would while wearing the coat.
Sometimes this issue can’t be avoided but some companies have come up with technology to combat this. Thanks to them, because there’s nothing worse than having a zipper constantly fall down when you’re trying to focus on the pitch ahead while climbing.
Look for No Slip Zip technology. This particular zipper is constructed in a unique way that enables the wearer to unzip with one hand when needed but having the zipper self-open is not an issue.
The top few teeth on the zipper are covered with a series of bumps that make it difficult if not impossible, for the zipper to come open on its own. Talk about innovative!
The Final Word
While zippers can easily be the most frustrating thing when they aren’t functioning properly, at the end of the day, a zipper is a zipper. Whether it’s a basic coil zipper or you’re rocking a WaterTight zipper, it’s still a zipper with teeth, two tapes and a slider.