OUTDOOR BASICS

Tent Zipper Repair: The Only Barrier Between You And One Million Mosquitoes

repair zipper tent
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Our lives become more over-scheduled every year and camping is a good chance to escape from the daily routine. Not to mention that it is a low cost vacation, because you do not have to spend a fortune for hotels.

There are a plenty of reasons why you should consider camping. It boosts your brainpower, health, happiness and physical condition. Moreover, the most important camping gear is our tent.

repair zipper camping tent

All camping enthusiasts know that the most delicate part of our tent is the zipper, because if it breaks it can ruin the camping trip. The tent zipper repair procedure can be really irritating, but this article will help you to understand some basic repair techniques.

Why should we keep the doors closed?

Camping means sleeping out under the stars, relaxing, communing with nature and attaining knowledge of the surrounding territory. The vision of a perfect trip can quickly turn into a horror, if you are feeling drowsy or if your sleep cycle is interrupted multiple times throughout the night due to lack of sleep.

zipper close outdoor camping

There is nothing worse when you cannot close the door of your tent, especially if you are at a campsite full of mosquitoes, snakes or bugs and the tent is your only shelter. The only way to keep them out of the tent is to keep the door shut. The only barrier between you and the danger is a simple zipper. Why is it so important to keep the doors and little screen of our tent closed? Here are some very good reasons.

  • Mosquitoes – Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and nerve wracking. They can make you sick, as many of them are infected by diseases like Zika and Chikungunya. Some entomologists describe mosquitoes as the most dangerous animals in the world because they carry many diseases.
  • Bees and wasps – It is impossible to sleep with a bee in your tent, especially if someone is allergic.
  • Snakes – Snakes, for the most part, are not interested in humans. But that does not mean we should not be aware of them when out in areas where snakes may live. However, snakes are usually more afraid of us, but if they feel threatened or if you make sudden movements the may strike. No-one wants to cuddle up with any unwanted visitors at night.

snake in camping tent

Various Kinds of Zippers

First of all, zippers are fastening tools. This tool can be characterized as a wonder, as we use them every day. Moreover there are three categories of zippers based on material and functionality.

Material

  • Metal Zippers: This is the oldest type of zipper and you they are used for thick materials like leather due to their durability and strength. Most of them are made of Nickel, Aluminium, Brass or White Brass (lack of nickel).
  • Invisible Zippers: True to their name, they have a special construction so that the teeth remain totally invisible.
  • Plastic Zippers: This type of zipper is commonly used for almost all outdoor products like tents or sleeping bags. The teeth of this zipper are made of molded high grade Delrin plastic attached on a polyester tape. You have to take into consideration that they are extremely light, mechanical strong and weather-resistant. Not to mention that they come in a wide variety of colors.

materials for tent zipper

Functionality

  • Closed-End: These zippers are not separating from each other, so the chain cannot separate completely.
  • Open-End: The bottom part of the zipper has two ends with an attached box which works as a protection for the slider.
  • Two-Way: This is the most common type of zipper of almost all tents and consists of two sliders at the center of the chain. You cannot divide them because the bottom parts have two stops.

functionality of tent zipper

How to Fix a Tent Zipper

Unfortunately zippers are very delicate and with a wrong movement or due to rust or corrosion, they can break. They usually fail due to grit stuck in the teeth or rust. When it is stuck it feels like it is getting caught on something.

Fortunately there are repairable and you have only to follow some steps which will be analyzed below step by step. There is no need to buy a new tent. However, we cannot guarantee that this will work but we will also show you how a zipper can be replaced.

ways to repair camping tent zipper

It would be beneficial to consider investing in a zipper repair kit, as they come with zipper sliders and a variety of tools that are needed to fix any broken zipper. Many of them also include helpful instructions you’re not stuck trying to figure things out for yourself. With that said, here are a variety of zipper problems and how they can be fixed.

Teeth are popping open

Tools:

  • A pair of pliers
  • a bottom stop
  1. Locate the end of the zipper
  2. Apply some mild soap just to lubricate it. (Put some soap in a plate and some water and then dip a small piece of cloth. After that you have to apply all the way up)
  3. If these two steps do not work you have to check the teeth one by one.
  4. Make sure that there is not a piece of cloth or grit stuck.
  5. If any of the teeth stick out you have to put them back into place with a pair of pliers.
  6. If that fails, you have to move the slider to the bottom.
  7. Insert the opposite side of the chain into the slider.
  8. Pull the tab all the way up.
  9. Now you have to secure the bottom. Put the prongs of the stop between the teeth.
  10. Crimp it with the pliers.

The zipper is ready!

If these instructions are still a bit confusing, here is a helpful video that better explains the process.

Now, you are ready to repair the zipper of your camping tent.

Broken slider

Tools:

  • A pair of pliers
  • new slider
  • top and bottom stop
  • tube of glue
  1. Grab the tent and locate the broken zipper.
  2. Remove zipper stops with your pliers.
  3. Pull down the slider and remove it.
  4. Slide one side of the teeth into the new slider and slowly slide also the opposite.
  5. Pull it to the start
  6. Now you have to put the stop at the bottom and top.
  7. Crimp the top and bottom stop with your pliers.
  8. Slide it up and down to make sure it works.
  9. Apply some glue on the bottom.

Check out the video below for a quick and easy way to repair a broken slider.

Done!

Replacing the Zipper Slider

This is a small tool made of zinc and nickel and you can use it to replace a slider without any other tools.

Tools:

  • screwdriver
  • new zipper slider
  1. Loosen the screw.
  2. Slip the slider over one side of the teeth.
  3. Tighten the thumbscrew.
  4. You are ready to zip!

Here’s a great video that explains the process described above.

Zipper Replacement

Sometimes there is no way to repair the zipper. As a result you have to replace it. This procedure is a little tricky as the tent is a little bulky for the sewing machine.

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • new zipper
  • seam ripper
  1. Grab your tent and locate the zipper.
  2. You have to buy a zipper that is the same length as the broken one.
  3. If the new zipper is wrinkled, you have to iron it.
  4. Make sure that you have a good light source.
  5. Pull out all of the stitches with your seam ripper.
  6. Make sure that you did that on both sides.
  7. Insert the new zipper.
  8. Use pins to secure it so it does not move as you will sew.
  9. Now you have to sew over the original stitching line.
  10. Do the same thing on the other side.
  11. The zipper is like new!

 Protect your tent’s zippers

If you want to have your tent for a lifetime you have to take care of it. Zippers are very important and below we will discuss some things you have to do in order to protect your zippers. Zipper corrosion occurs when the tent is exposed to the elements of nature and with a harsh move you can completely ruin it.

Adding lubricant to corroded tent zippers

Here are some steps you have to do after every camping trip.

  1. Lubricate the zippers with wax or mild soap.
  2. Fill your bathtub with water
  3. Put the tent in the water
  4. Use your hands to create the washing action and rub the zippers
  5. Drain the water from the bathtub
  6. Fill it with fresh water
  7. You have to repeat this procedure more than three times in order to make sure that you removed all the soap.
  8. Now you have to dry the tent unzipped on a washing line and try to choose a sunny day.
  9. Do not put the tent to direct sunlight because it will cause the colors to fade.

Zip care with special lubricants

There are several lubricants on the market in liquid or a stick which will protect your zippers from corrosion especially if you are camping next to salt water. You can apply the lubricant with a toothbrush, but many of them have a brush applicator.

  1. Open the tube or bottle and apply some liquid on the toothbrush.
  2. Apply it on the whole zipper on both sides.
  3. Run the zipper up and down.
  4. Let it dry and it is ready.

Other important tips to protect your zippers

Zipper Repair Kit

Just to be sure, pack a zipper repair kit before every camping trip to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Do not force them

Do not put much effort to close the tent. Try to pull the two sides together and then start to zip. When it feels that it is getting caught on something, do not force it to close. You can make the situation worse. You have to be gentle with them.

If you’d like to learn a bit more on how to take care of your tent zipper, please watch this helpful video.

Emergency Situation

If you are in the woods with a broken zipper and you do not have any tools to repair it, the only thing you can do is to secure it with some pins or to cover the tent from outside with a blanket. Try to keep every source of light off so you do not attract any insects.

Conclusion

There are many ways to take care of your tent zippers. However, you can send it to a professional repair service. You have to take care of it if you do not want to buy a new one every year.

The most common problem of tents is the zipper. With the protection steps we mentioned above, you can be sure that the zippers will last a lifetime.

Do not let anything to ruin your camping gear. The tent zipper repair procedure is a little difficult so protect them it is the safest way.

Do you have any helpful tips? Please share your stories with us in the comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Mark Garrett

    Your article is very informative Daniel. I am so glad that you included videos too. I am so guilty when it comes to not really looking after my tent zippers, which, of course, is not ideal. I will surely take note of all the tips you have shared to your readers.

  • John Austin

    What I am really concerned about are the snakes. I have a phobia that’s why I really make sure that whenever I go camping, the tent is in good condition. This, of course, includes the zipper which is super important. I can still remember a story of a friend of mine. His tent had a zipper problem and he woke up with a small non-venomous snake beside him.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Thank you!

  • Daniel Carraway

    That’s scary!

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