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What Makes or Breaks a Bag: Zippers

Posted by Edward Wang on
What Makes or Breaks a Bag: Zippers

Are zippers just an afterthought or is it more important than some people realize?

When it comes to bags, you may look for pockets, waterproofing, liter sizing, and design but did you take a look at the zippers? If the devil is in the details, then zippers can be what keeps your gear safe or utterly destroyed. 

Why Zippers?

I remembered back in 2009. I was a wee whippersnapper and knew nothing of the importance of bag detail and design. Earlier that week, I was told that the bag I had at the time was made of a recycled tire and while good for the environment, it was also good to keep the rain off the stuff inside. What he failed to mention to me as I found out later that day, was the zippers itself wasn't waterproof nor was it water resistant. The rain had seeped through the zippers and completely soaked my brand new 13-inch laptop. I was devastated both emotionally and financially as that laptop was for the work I was traveling for.

Got your attention? 

Great because more often than not, zippers are a component that many overlook. We enjoy the convenience and simplicity of zippers but fail to consider how weatherproof, how durable, and how easy it is to open when your pack is full.

Components of Zippers

To understand the different kinds of zippers, let’s establish what the various components are called. Then we’ll get into how they fit together.

Top Stop: This is the part that stops and prevents the slider from coming off the top of the zipper.

Slider Body: This is what joins and separates the zipper together.

Pull Tab: This is what you pull on to bring the slider up and down the zipper.

Zipper Pull: Usually attached to the Pull Tab to accessorize or add an extra function.

Chain (or element): This describes the use of teeth or coil part of the zipper.

Tape: This is the fabric that the chain is connected to. 

Bottom Stop: This is what prevents the slider from falling out the bottom. It's connected to the teeth of the zipper

Two-way Zippers: These are often seen in clothing but can also be occasionally be seen in bags as well. It's usually two sliders instead of just one to allow for the zipper to be open and closed in several ways.

Retainer Box: This looks like a box at the bottom that allows the slider to dock and stay held in place until you need to zip back up again.

Image courtesy of

Tips to Look Out for.

1. It should actually help open and close.

What? It sounds really obvious but I can't tell you the amount of time that we bought a bag that required a herculean amount of strength to open and close. Or you close and halfway, you realized another part of the zipper had opened under load. If it was that difficult, imagine being on the field. Struggling to open your bag when the whole point is to conveniently open your bag quickly.

Bonus: There are also different zippers pulls that have different bonus functions. Some have a grip for easier pulling, others have visual ones such as leather to match the look.

2. It needs to be durable.

Zippers are one of the most used parts of any bag. So it is often under a great amount of stress every day. While there's always a possibility for any zipper to break, if it is of high quality, it should last a long time. It's another nightmare when you're pulling and then your zipper breaks in slow motion just leaving the Slider Body. Now you have to use your pinky or pinch the Slider Body to close the bag. It makes me shudder to think about it.

3. It should match your purpose

Are you often commuting in the city? Or are you always outdoors? Are you meeting high executives? Or are you often on the move with a bike or the like? Bags have specific looks and zippers have specific design reasoning behind them.

Some bags like The Black Ember Pack have a YKK Aquaguard Zippers that completely prevents water from getting in regardless of heavy rain or a trek through a waterfall. Great for motorbike riders, people find themselves in very wet climates, or often find themselves in the outdoors.

Image courtesy of Black Ember & Evergoods

On the Evergoods CPL24, they use the YKK RC (Racquet coil) zipper designed for luggage purposes so they are durable and tough against abrasion with a smooth zipper experience. They are also treated with a DWR coating which allows for the repelling of light rain. Great for people who bike, commuting in the city, spending equal time indoors and outdoors. 

image courtesy of Evergoods

Met the Criteria? Here are some other bonus things to look out for.

1. Security 

Bag theft is a real issue in many parts of the world. Maybe even in your hometown. That's why having security provisions would be a great feature to have. Whether it's a slot for your TSA locks or a Pull Tab that clips onto another part of your bag, there are many options out there. The only downside is that it adds to the amount of time opening your bag. If you're confident that you can balance both and the security is worth the extra hassle, then definitely go for it.

Images Courtesy of PacSafe & Desley

2. Useful Zipper Pulls 

While most bags have unique Zipper Pulls, they are still pretty basic in the grand scheme of things. There are many out there who add functionality by replacing the original Zipper Pulls to something like a Gerber Multitool or compass or an LED light. It adds a little flavor to make your bags yours while keeping it practical. 

Image Courtesy of BoredParacord, Gerber, and Nite Ize

We're all bag geeks here at UrbanCred and we've been through it all. It gets rough and tough out there regardless of what you do. Although zippers are just one part of a bag, we believe it makes a huge difference in the bag and travel experience.

What do you think? Are zippers even worth consideration? What kind of zippers do you like to use? Ever had a bad experience with really bad zippers?

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