Repairing and maintaining your hiking gear will extend its lifespan, which is great for your wallet and the planet. A busted zipper is no reason to trash your favorite jacket (or sleeping bag, or pack). With a few tools, you can fix a separated zipper or broken slider at home.
But what happens when your gear fails in the field? Follow these steps to perform a temporary fix on the trail, so you never have to go cold.
The most common zipper failure is separation—when you zip the slider to the top, but the teeth don’t engage, leaving you exposed to chill or with your tent fly flapping in the wind. This type of failure is caused by a loose slider that’s unable to push the zipper coils together.
Start by engaging the zipper as normal, and zipping the slider an inch or two upward. Using the pliers on your multitool, pinch each side of the slider (one jaw of the pliers on the inside of the slider, one on the outside). Apply just enough force to gently squeeze the front and back of the slider closer together.
Try the zipper again. If the teeth still don’t engage properly, repeat the above steps, this time squeezing the bottom of the slider, being careful not to overtighten. Continue pinching, applying more pressure as needed, until your zipper fastens properly.
When you’re back home, consider replacing the zipper slider.