Zipper maintenance will help to keep a tent snug and the weather and bugs out.

Zippers have been called the Achilles heel of gear. Even the best zippers can fail and, with enough use, they will eventually. When a tent zipper fails from poor zipper maintenance, here comes the rain, the mosquitoes, the muddy pup and the cold breeze.

It’s best to keep tent zippers in good shape. Here’s how:

Be gentle

Never force a zipper, even when fabric gets stuck in it. Yanking can rip fabric and damage the slider, the metal tab you hold to zip. Gently work the zipper over the fabric, wiggling it with a gentle back-and-forth movement until the bind is released. Notice the emphasis on “gentle.” Be gentle, really gentle.

Keep the zipper clean
toothbrush cleaning a zipper
A toothbrush used to clean dirt and grit from a zipper can extend the life of the zipper.Adventure Pro Magazine

A dirty, gritty zipper will eventually wear out the slider. Use a small brush — a toothbrush is perfect — to clean the zipper of dirt and grime. If a section of the zipper gets muddy, wash off the mud before attempting to drive a zipper through it. If you want to lube a zipper, use a dry lube and avoid greasy products like Vaseline. A wet lube only attracts more dirt and grime.

Zip all the way

Stopping a slider partway along the zipper track has the potential of crimping or stressing the zipper as people come and go through the entry. Zipping it either completely closed or open will reduce the risk. Zipping a tent closed before collapsing it alleviates the potential for damaging the zipper during roll up or when it is crammed into its stuff sack or a pack.

Loosen up

If you’re in the habit of staking a tent as tight as possible, you increase the stress on the zipper. Ease up.

Expect the expected

Off-brand zippers need more love than brand zippers. The sliders wear out faster and the zipper teeth spread sooner. You knew that; we’re just reminding you.

Watch your step

Step on a collapsed tent and risk stepping on a zipper. It’s your tent!

Use the buddy system

Train your tent partner to follow all the precautions to preserve the zipper on your tent.

Keep it together
Zipper maintenance with pliers
Gently crimping each side of a slider can help to avoid zippers from splitting.Adventure Pro Magazine

If the zipper splits, gently back up the slider until it tracks back onto the zipper. If the splitting continues, use a pair of pliers to gently squeeze the slider for a tighter hold on the zipper teeth. Too much force, however, can crimp the slider onto the zipper. Once a slider starts to fail, the best repair is to replace it or upgrade to a new tent.

Ziper double failure
Double dang! When a tent zipper separates in two places it’s a good time to replace the sliders and check your zipper habits.Adventure Pro Magazine