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Here's What You Should Know About Zippers

By Katherine Donnelly on

Sure, it might not be the most sexy of topics to dive in to but it should go without saying that zippers are a crucial part of the garment industry - and that goes double (maybe even quadruple) when we talk about technical outerwear, where zippers are the last line of defense from the natural elements we throw ourselves in to any chance we get.

Since we take our gear seriously here at TREW, we thought it was high time for us to delve into the world of zippers and offer some insightful knowledge, care tips, and overall transparency into our relationship with these equally innovative and pesky mechanisms. 

The Intro

If you are reading this, then you are most certainly familiar with zippers and the broad concept behind their design and purpose. Zippers are all over the place, and they come is all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, etc.

Now we're not going to get into the nitty gritty of the history or evolution of zippers, and this article will keep to the subject of zippers that we use within our designs and supply chain. If you do want to learn more about zippers, by all means head over to the world wide web and explore the plethora of information available to you. But since no one here has volunteered to write a book about zippers, we'll be keeping it short, simple, and within the limited scope of TREW Gear and our gear's relationship with zippers.

You may see some parallels between our zippers and those used by other brands within the outdoor industry, and that is because there are industry standards and best practices; some specific types of zippers work really well for rugged, outdoor use and so you will see the same zippers used in many of the same applications across different companies and their respective products. 

The Basics

The Anatomy of a Zipper: Let's start with a quick lesson on the anatomy of a zipper. Nothing too detailed, but rather just a look at the main components that make up a zipper so that we can reference back to these in the below information.  

^The above photo is from the front main zipper on our Stella Jacket.

Types of zippers: Here at TREW, we work with two main types of zippers: coil and toothed. Since it's much easier to show rather than just describe these two types, see below for photos of each. 

Above is an example of a coil zipper from our Capow Bib (leg vent). This photo is taken from the back (or inside) of the zipper, as the frontside is covered in a moisture-protecting material and it is hard to see the coil details. Coil zippers do in fact have teeth, just as the toothed zippers do, although they are constructed differently and when zipped look like a coil - hence the name. 

We use coil zippers for pockets, bib side zips and vents, pit zips, and other applications. They are great for use in areas where the zipper may curve or move a lot with your body, as they are more flexible than toothed zippers. 

Because coil zippers are not as waterproof as some other types of toothed zippers (shown below), the majority of coils seen on TREW Gear will have waterproofing seals or added fabric flaps added to the face of the coil to add protection from moisture. 

Above is an example of a toothed zipper from the very same pair of Capow Bibs (thigh cargo pocket). As you can see, it is aptly named as the molded teeth are much more pronounced and visible than the coil counterpart. The particular type of toothed zippers that we use are known as Vislon zippers, and the teeth are made from molded plastic.

We use these for specific zippers in a few select places where we feel that they add an increased durability and rigidity to our products, including some cargo pockets on bibs, center front zippers on jackets, etc. The rigidity in these zippers allows for a better zip 'feel', and our athletes and guiding partners specifically request these zippers for their ease of use while out in the mountains. 

Vislon zippers are also known to be very waterproof, and as such they are great for technical outerwear and do not require additional fabric or waterproofing seals to be added over the teeth. It is not uncommon to find Vislon zippers being used in marine and fishing garments. 

Zipper Warranty Coverage

There's a good chance that this is the section that you came here to read, so let's just dive straight in. While we do our best to design great gear and only use the best zippers at our disposal, there's no way around it: things can still go wrong. The truth is that zippers are the most nuanced item component that we interact with in our gear and as such we have some slightly different warranty policies concerning them. We'll do our best, however, to keep it as simple as possible...

Just like all other product issues, zipper failures can fall into two different categories: manufacturing defects or wear & tear. But unlike other types of gear issues (think rips, tears, stitching failures, etc.) it is very difficult to discern the root cause on most zipper failures. Because of this, we cover zippers under our TREW Warranty in the following manner: all zippers on TREW Gear have a 1 year manufacturing defect warranty, and after that it will be considered wear + tear and not covered by us. 

So what does this mean? If you run into an issue with your TREW zipper within 1 year of purchase (and there isn't any evidence of misuse, improper care, or any other warranty-voiding items -- see Warranty page for details) then TREW will cover the cost of repairing or replacing the zipper. After 1 year, any zipper malfunctions or failures will be fixed at the customers expense, although we will help you out with a subsidized rate with one of our trusted technical sewers. Note that each TREW warranty instance is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and we are always more than willing to listen to your story and hear you out no matter how old your gear is.

Some of the More Common Zipper Issues

After over a decade in this business, you wouldn't believe the amount of things we've seen happen to our products out in the wild. But there are definitely a handful of zipper issues and failures that pop up more so than others, which we will discuss in this section.

Zipper pull tab comes off

This is by far the most common issue that we see and you have likely experienced or seen it at some point in your life. The pull tab is attached to the zipper slider, and is what you grab and pull on - hence the name 'pull'. When a zipper is yanked too hard or incorrectly, the pull is more likely to come off or break. A pull can also fall or break off if it gets caught on something, or is bashed hard enough in a crash. 

Fix: luckily this is a very easy and affordable fix, as it does not require any repairs other than adding a new pull to the slider. This is even something that most people can do on their own in the comfort of their own homes.

^ Zipper pull fell off of Chariot Bib pocket zipper

Zipper slider comes off

Instead of the pull tab falling off, in this case the entire slider (or zipper car) comes off of the zipper. It is not always easy to tell why it happens, but some common causes are: excessive yanking on zipper, attaching lift tickets or zip ties to zipper, direct force to zipper slider, zipper getting caught on something and being ripped off, etc. 

Fix: similar to replacing a zipper pull, a slider replacement is a quick fix. Even if your item is not covered under warranty, the average cost of a new slider with installation is approx. $25.*

^ Zipper slider came off on TREWth Bib hand pocket

Zipper slider fails to work

Another relatively common slider failure that we have seen is when the slider is still attached to the zipper but is not working correctly. This can present itself in a manner of ways, but the typical issue we see most is when the zipper slider can be zipped up and down without engaging the zipper teeth and therefore not connecting the two sides. Despite the slider usually not showing any signs of wear or damage, this issue derives from the slider being too wide and therefore not applying the needed force to properly zip the teeth together. 

Fix: just like the above two issues, this once can be fixed easily and all that is usually needed is a new slider to be installed.*

*Please note that we do not recommend trying to fix a malfunctioning zipper slider yourself unless you have the necessary tools and previous experience! While it may seem like an easy fix to take a pair of pliers to the slider for a DIY fix, this will almost certainly lead to further issues with the zipper teeth. An easy and affordable repair can quickly turn into a full zipper replacement.

^ Zipper slider failing to work on a Powfunk Jacket

Broken coil tooth/teeth

This issue is less common than the above slider issues, but its definitely still worth mentioning here. A myriad of things can lead to this sort of zipper failure arising, but the story that we normally hear most is that the zipper slider gets caught on something (tree, ski lift, etc) and is yanked hard; the teeth will usually be best or broken at the place where the slider was when the force was applied, and very often the slider will be ripped off from the zipper teeth that failed. This zipper issue is nearly always from wear & tear.

Fix: We wish we had better news, but this sort of issue on a coil zipper typically requires a full zipper replacement. 

^ Broken coil teeth on cuff zipper from old TREWth Bib

Missing teeth in a Vislon zipper

When a great force is applied to a Vislon tooth, there is a possibility of that tooth (and possibly surrounding teeth) falling off or breaking apart. This issue is most often seen when someone takes a hard crash or runs into a larger tree branch while moving at speed, but it can happen on a myriad of other instances.

Fix: unfortunately if this issue occurs, the missing tooth (or teeth) will detract from the functionality and waterproofing features of the zipper as a whole and a replacement zipper is almost always needed. 

^ Capow Bib thigh cargo pocket with a broken tooth

Insertion pin breaks

To round out this list of zipper issues is one of the least common. Sometimes we see the insertion pin rip, peel off, or come off the zipper altogether, and it's usually pretty tough to know how it happens unless the user remembers the exact moment or instance that led to the failure. This is not something that we see very often, especially as the zipper we use on TREW products continue to get better every year.

Fix: you may be starting to pick up on the theme, but this zipper issue will require a zipper replacement from our of our technical sewers.

^ Main zipper failure on an older Powfunk Jacket


We hope that you've enjoyed this relatively deep dive into the world of zippers! If you have any questions or concerns, you can always reach out to us at

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  • Charlie Noble on

    I have some missing teeth on the side zipper of my bibs. I’m hoping that you can fix them and I know that it’s not a warranty claim but I prefer that your talented seamster’s and the proper zipper be replaced. Please let me know what I need to do to get this repair started. Thank you, Charlie Noble

  • Katherine at TREW on

    Hey Jamie and Will, Thank you for reaching out with zipper issues. Both of these instances sound like zipper replacements will be needed, which our technical seamsters are more than happy top help out with. I will email both of you individually to get you rolling with repair options ASAP :)

  • Jaimie Mitchell on

    Hi there –
    I figured I’d reach out to ask about my recently broken zipper :( My issue fits under: MISSING TEETH IN A VISLON ZIPPER

    Reading through your info here, it sounds like mine would not fall under warrantee (My bibs are from 2013) but can I pay to have the zipper fixed/replaced?
    Otherwise, I’ll go to a seamstress, and that’s obviously not my first choice.

    I love the pants and hope I can continue to wear them. I’d be happy to email you pix of them?

    Thank you for your time,

  • William Frederick on

    Reaching out in regards to a repair on a zipper. I originally emailed you guys towards the tail end of last season regarding this issue but procrastination and a pandemic got the best of me. I have a pair of the green capow bibs from 2019 (I purchased them on 11/30/19). Two of the teeth fell off the leg pocket zipper at the end of February last season. It’s pretty difficult to open the pocket now and of course it’s not waterproof anymore. I wore them maybe 20 times. I’m located in Seattle, WA.

    Kind regards,

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