How To Fix A Tent Zipper – Tips And Tricks For Repairs In The Wilderness

3 zippers on a tent

Your tent zipper failed?

It might seem like the end of the world, but a broken zipper doesn’t mean you have to pack and go home early. At least, not when you know how to repair it.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to learn how to fix a tent zipper.

In this article, I’ll cover everything there is to know about failing zippers – whether they’re stuck, split or even broken.

Let’s dive in!

How To Fix A Tent Zipper

a tent with the zipper open

Zippers tend to fail.

Whether it’s due to our misuse or the production quality – it doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing what to do when it happens.

In most cases, the zipper slider is usually the “trouble maker.” That’s why everyone needs to know how to replace it.

Here’s how you can do that, step by step.

Step 1. Get A Zipper Repair Kit

Zipper repair kits are quite affordable, so there’s no excuse for it not being a staple of your camping equipment checklist.

They usually include different slider types and sizes, as well as top and bottom stop replacements.

These kits are rather compact and can fit in just about any pocket on your backpack.

One thing that doesn’t usually come in the kit is adjustable pliers. This tool is ideal for zipper repairs, so make sure you pack it.

Step 2. Remove The Sewn-In Zipper Stop

As you might know, there are two types of zippers – separating and non-separating.

The first type is usually on jackets and some high-end tents. They have an insertion pin and a stop box system at the bottom.

Separating zippers are great because they don’t put so much strain on the zipper like the other type does. But, they’re more pricey than the other type.

Non-separating zippers are more commonly used on tents. They feature a stopper at the bottom, which doesn’t allow the zipper to separate all the way.

This type of zipper is more prone to damage if not handled carefully. Luckily, the repair is just as easy.

You should start by removing the stopper at the end of the zipper track. For this, you can use either pliers or nippers if you have them close at hand.

Just be careful not to damage the tent webbing as you’re taking the stopper out.

Step 3. Pull Off The Slider

Once you’ve removed the stopper, you can pull the slider all the way down and off of the zipper tape.

If it’s stuck and won’t come off, you can grab your pliers again and start bending and gently pulling the slider. This should loosen it enough for you to be able to take it off.

Step 4. Slide The New Zipper Slider Back

Look through your zipper repair kit for a replacement slider that’s similar to the one that was installed originally. Tents usually feature medium-sized zippers, so finding a replacement shouldn’t be hard.

When installing a new slider, make sure it’s facing the right way, just like the slider before it. Otherwise, it won’t work.

Step 5. Do A Test Run

Once the slider is in, pull it up until you’re left with at least 2 to 3 inches of the closed zipper.

This is just a test to see if the chosen slider is the right fit. If there’s little friction when opening and closing, then it’s a good one.

Step 6. Resew The Stopper Seam

Once you’ve made sure the new slider is up and running, it’s time to resew the stopper seam back to the way it was originally.

Most kits contain a needle and a thread, but in case yours doesn’t, always have these two things packed for any camping trip.

Close the zipper all the way, to make sure all the teeth are perfectly aligned. Then, add the stopper and stitch the finish.

It doesn’t have to look neat, just make sure no loose thread can get stuck in the slider, or else it will bring you back to step 1.

What To Do About A Stuck Zipper

a stuck zipper

Your zip slider won’t budge?

Trying to slide it up and down like you’re bat crazy won’t magically make it work again. Actually, it’s more likely you’ll break the zipper, or even rip up your tent doors.

There are many reasons why a zipper gets stuck sometimes.

The first thing you should always do is check if any part of the tent fabric might have gotten stuck inside the slider. If that’s the case, take it out, and try moving it again.

This usually happens when we open and close tent doors with too much pressure.

To me, that always occurs at the worst possible moments, like when nature calls in the middle of the night. That’s why I always keep my repair kit close at hand.

But stuck tent fabric is just one possible cause for a jammed slider.

We camp on all kinds of soil, so it’s not surprising that both sand and dirt can easily get inside the slider, causing it to get stuck.

In this case, you’ll need to get a lubricant out of your kit box. Both Q-tips and toothpicks work great as applicators here. They allow you to smear the lubricant all over the zipper teeth and even inside the slider.

If this didn’t manage to solve the issue, then it seems like the problem lies in bent teeth. In such a case, you need to take your pliers out and put them to use.

Open the zipper and straighten any teeth that are not in alignment with the rest. Don’t press too hard though, or you might accidentally break them.

How To Fix A Split Zipper

a split zipper

Personally, I can’t decide which is more annoying – a zipper that won’t budge, or the one that keeps splitting even when nothing has touched it but air.

In most cases, the culprit is the same as with a stuck zipper – dirty teeth.

Grab some soap and water, and remove any dirt stuck between the teeth. Once you’re done, wipe them down with a clean cloth.

But the problem doesn’t always lie in zipper teeth.

In fact, there’s a possibility that the slider is the cause of all your troubles. In that case, try tightening it with pliers. If that doesn’t solve the issue, replace the slide altogether.

Zipper Care Tips

With zippers, like with most things, prevention is the best cure.

So what can you do to keep your zipper working smoothly?

Here are a few care tips that will prolong the life of zippers on your tent.

Clean Them Regularly

As I mentioned earlier, both dirt and sand can easily get inside the slider. If the particles build up, it’s very likely the zipper will jam.

To avoid that, clean your zipper regularly.

A little bit of vinegar will do just fine. Sailors use vinegar to remove salt from their zippers. But generally, this liquid is great for removing all kinds of dirt while being gentle on the fabric.

Lubricate

To keep your tent zippers in optimal condition, lubricate them on a regular basis.

You can use petroleum jelly, wax and similar things found in your house for urgent fixes, but I wouldn’t recommend them for regular upkeep.

Why?

Because these things build up, and might eventually cause the zipper to stop working. Instead, buy a lubricant specially designed for zippers.

Keep Your Tent Doors Closed When Pitching

Before you start pitching your tent, close the doors. That way, there’s no risk of dirt or sand getting inside the slider or between the teeth.

What’s more, keeping the doors closed makes sure you don’t stretch the tent too much. As we all know, stretching puts too much strain on both sides of the door, causing the zipper to split.

To Zip Things Up

No matter how high-quality your tent is, it’s prone to one thing – the zipper failing.

It’s annoying, but it isn’t difficult to repair.

With a simple repair kit and a pair of pliers, you can easily fix any zipper issues that happen during a camping trip.

But keep in mind – a stitch in time saves nine. Treat your zippers with care, and you might not even have to use the repair kit at all.