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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?

Zippers are indeed a crucial component in many products, especially bags, clothing, and various accessories. They play a significant role in the functionality, durability, and aesthetics of these items. Here's why zippers are important:

  1. Functionality: Zippers are designed to open and close quickly and securely. They provide convenient access to the contents of bags, pockets, or clothing. The ease of use can greatly affect a user's experience.

  2. Durability: The quality of the zipper can significantly impact the lifespan of a product. High-quality zippers are less likely to break, get stuck, or wear out quickly. Manufacturers often invest time and resources in selecting durable zipper components.

  3. Security: Zippers offer a level of security by keeping items inside a bag or pocket. A reliable zipper ensures that belongings remain safe and protected from external elements.

  4. Aesthetics: Zippers can be both functional and decorative. They come in various styles, sizes, and colors, allowing designers to incorporate them into the overall look and design of a product.

  5. Customization: Some brands take pride in using unique or custom-designed zippers that set their products apart from competitors. Customized zippers can be a selling point for certain brands.

  6. User Experience: A smooth, well-designed zipper enhances the overall user experience. Frustration with a zipper that constantly jams or breaks can lead to dissatisfaction with the product.

Why Zippers?

I can still vividly recall 2009. Back then, I was just a young, clueless soul who didn't pay much attention to the intricacies of bag design. It was during that week when someone told me that my current bag, made from a recycled tire, was eco-friendly and great at keeping rain out. Little did I know, as I discovered later that day, that the zippers on that bag weren't waterproof or even water-resistant. The rain sneaked its way through those zippers, completely drenching my brand-new 13-inch laptop. It was a heart-wrenching moment, both emotionally and financially, especially since that laptop was crucial 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 grasp the nuances of different zipper types, let's familiarize ourselves with the various components and how they interlock:

Top Stop: This component serves as a barrier, preventing the slider from detaching from the top of the zipper.

Slider Body: The slider is the key player, responsible for connecting and disconnecting the zipper.

Pull Tab: It's the handle you tug on to move the slider up and down the zipper.

Zipper Pull: This is often an accessory or functional addition attached to the Pull Tab.

Chain (or Element): The chain refers to the teeth or coil portion of the zipper that interlocks to close or open it.

Tape: The tape is the fabric strip to which the chain is attached.

Bottom Stop: This counterpart of the Top Stop keeps the slider from slipping off the bottom end and is affixed to the zipper's teeth.

Two-way Zippers: Frequently found in clothing but occasionally in bags too, these zippers feature two sliders, enabling the zipper to open and close from both ends.

Retainer Box: Situated at the bottom, this box-like structure secures the slider in place until you're ready to zip 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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