Friday, March 13, 2009

Praxis: Sleeping Bag Zipper Repair


In my constant procurement scrounging for militia equipment, I often come across deals on USGI sleeping bags. Sometimes, as in this week, I find one in great shape save for the zipper, which does not close. In my favorite local thrift store I found an Intermediate Cold Weather Sleeping Bag, much like the one above, in excellent condition for $6.00.

Note: In the same trip I got two GI duffel bags for $2.00 each and an ALICE Y-harness (minus LC belt) with two canteen covers (sans canteens), one stainless steel canteen cup, one first aid/compass pouch and two M16 30 round magazine pouches, at $2.70 for the lot. Of course I had a belt (two bucks), canteens (a buck each) and battle dressings (free) in my garage from earlier forays, so I put it all together and packed it away in a two gallon plastic bucket that will shortly join other similar buckets in one of several caches. One complete combat LBE ready to issue for maybe $7.00 total.

Back to the sleeping bag:

I figured I'd have to replace the zipper, until in searching the web for a new zipper I came across these instructions from Mountain Equipment Co-op on how to repair a zipper.

I figured, hey, what have I got to lose? So, I followed the directions and, sha-zam! I've got a perfectly serviceable sleeping bag to put back in a five gallon bucket for issuance if, as and when. All I had to do was tighten the slider with a pair of pliers and all it cost was $6.00 for the bag.

Not bad, eh?


Zipper Repair

Over time, a zipper's sliders can become loose. If you pull up the slider and the teeth don't stay closed behind it, the slider should be tightened or replaced. If the teeth themselves are damaged, you may need to replace the entire zipper.

Required Equipment

Hinged or adjustable (not needle-nose) pliers

You may also need:

Zipper stops, found at fabric stores or MEC


Replacement slider

Needle and thread

Tighten Sliders

Move the slider to the bottom of the zipper.

Put the pliers around the slider, so that the pliers are gripping it from the inside and outside of the garment (you may need to undo some stitching). Needle-nose pliers will place uneven pressure on the slider, and can wreck it.

Gently squeeze the left side of the slider, then squeeze the right side. Test the zip. You may have to re-squeeze the slider until the zipper functions, but avoid squeezing so hard that you jam or break the zipper.

If the zipper does not separate at the bottom (ie, the fly on a pair of pants), a few teeth at the bottom may not properly engage. To fix this, install new bottom stops, or sew the teeth closed.

Replace Sliders

For zippers that do not separate at the bottom you may need to open the seam and remove the bottom stops, or cut away the bottom half inch of the zipper. For zippers that separate at the bottom, such as a jacket, remove one or both of the top stops.
Zip the slider off the end of the zipper where you removed the stops.

Place the two ends of the zipper teeth into the front two openings of the slider.
Holding the teeth together, move the slider up or down the zipper. It may require a few tries to get it sliding evenly.

Once the slider is operating, attach new bottom or top stops. If necessary, sew the bottom of the zipper closed and re-sew any seams required.


jon said...

for clothes that get thrown in washer/driers, always zip up the zippers before they go into that drier on high heat. if they're going to get whipped around and deformed with heat, you want them closed, so that the teeth will always fit, and so the slider won't get whipped hard against the walls of the drier and break.

Longbow said...


As a soldier, I very rarely used a sleeping bag. They do have their place "camping" and such.

As far as repair goes, I have one word...velcro.


Anonymous said...

thank ya! thank ya! My boy scouting son has his sub-zero sleeping bag back in commission! :)