How to Fix a Sleeping Bag Zipper

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A sleeping bag zipper slider with a missing zipper pull

If your sleeping bag has lost its zip, then a broken or worn-out zipper slider is often the culprit. Whether the zipper pull has come off, or the slider is worn out and unable to properly join the zipper teeth together, your best solution is to replace the slider on your sleeping bag zipper. Here’s how:

  1. Get a pair of end nippers and a pair of needle-nose pliers.
  2. Buy a new zipper stopper and some new zipper sliders.
  3. Remove the old stopper and sliders.
  4. Slip on the new sliders.
  5. Attach the new stopper.

According to Lindsey Stone, operations manager for Rainy Pass Repair, a Seattle-based company that specializes in sewing repairs on outdoor gear, replacing the slider fixes the vast majority of zipper problems. If your zipper’s teeth are damaged, or you have a different type of problem with your zipper, you may want to contact Rainy Pass (most of their business is done by mail order).


Video: How to Fix a Sleeping Bag Zipper


Tightening a Zipper Slider

Crimping an old sleeping bag zipper back to its original size

Often the problem is that the zipper slider opening wears down over time and becomes enlarged: It no longer joins the zipper teeth properly, and the zipper doesn’t stay together. Sometimes it’s possible to use a pair of needle nose pliers to crimp your old slider back to its original size. However, if this trick does get your zipper working correctly again, the fix should be considered temporary.

You can do this without removing the old slider. Give a few gentle squeezes to each side of the slider and then check to be sure that both sides are even. Be careful not to apply too much pressure as you crimp or you can break or jam the old slider (a common occurrence).


Replacing a Zipper Slider

Tools and supplies necessary to replace a zipper slider

Before you get started on your project, make sure you have all the tools and parts you need.

  1. An end nipper tool to remove the old zipper stopper
  2. Needle-nose pliers to crimp the new zipper stopper into place
  3. Zipper sliders*: Most sleeping bags have a double-slider zipper (so you can open them at the foot or the top), which means you’ll need two sliders.
  4. Zipper stopper: You only need one, but they’re typically sold in packages containing multiple stoppers.

*Note: It’s important to find the right replacement slider, and it’s not always easy to do. Look at the back of your zipper slider to get the model number, then look online to find the correct slider. If you can’t find the right one, it’s time to take the bag to a repair service.


Removing the Old Zipper Sliders

Using an end nipper tool to remove the zipper stopper from a sleeping bag zipper

  1. Move the old sliders all the way to the bottom of the zipper to get them out of the way.
  2. Use your end nippers to gently pinch the stopper* at the top of the zipper: You’re aiming to grab the stopper securely, not cut it.
  3. Carefully pull the stopper away from the fabric.  
  4. Pull the old sliders off, making a mental note of their orientations so that you can match that when put on the new sliders.

*Note: You only need to remove the stopper on the side the sliders are on.


Installing the New Zipper Sliders

Putting a new zipper slider onto a sleeping bag

1. Slip the new sliders onto the zipper, making sure they’re on the same side and in the same orientation as the old zipper.


Placing a new zipper stopper onto a sleeping bag zipper

2. Now place the new zipper stopper onto the top end of the zipper.


Using needle nose pliers to pinch a zipper stopper into place on a sleeping bag

3. Use your needle-nose pliers to pinch it into place, but be careful not to pinch so hard that you damage it.

Check your work by zipping your sleeping bag open and closed a few times. Everything should work like it did when you first bought your bag.


Other Common Zipper Problems

If you have a slider that won’t move up and down properly, you may be tempted to try some home remedies to lubricate the zipper. According to Stone of Rainy Pass, things like Vaseline, oil or soap aren’t great lubricants for technical outdoor gear and they can attract dirt, leading to more zipper issues down the line.

“In my experience, sliders very rarely just ‘get stuck.’ There is usually something caught in the teeth (like dirt, grit, sticky stuff, etc.) or the storm flap behind the zipper is getting stuck,” says Stone.

Inspect your zipper teeth closely and if anything’s in there, do your best to take it out. Try using a toothbrush to remove any small particles of dirt or grime. If this doesn’t work, you may need to have the zipper replaced.


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