The Field Fix
Jacket zipper not sealing properly on your sheep hunt? Many zipper problems can be fixed in the field. you can clean the teeth with water and your toothbrush if you need to, and a candle can be a decent lubricant. Most zipper problems come about quickly and really impact gear performance. Usually these problems are caused by a faulty zipper slider, the small metal chunk that slides up and down the zipper chain its self.
The simplest problem to fix in the field is a broken pull. Many zippers have a locking mechanism that is activated by pulling on the zipper pull, the mechanism requires a rigid, somewhat lightweight wire that can fit into the zipper slider body. A paper clip is likely the easiest solution, though I've seen small split rings or bailing wire used as well. A thin string can be tried, but often won't have the rigidity to deactivate the locking mechanism.
It turns out that zippers are a precisely calibrated part, and over time the sliders can wear to the point of not working.
A quick and dirty fix is to gently squeeze the sides of the zipper slider together, as the reason your slider isn't engaging the zipper teeth is because it has either stretched or worn out of spec. Use caution, because your slider is already worn in some way, you risk breaking it when you squeeze the top and bottom together. Pinching your zipper slider tighter may fix your immediate problem, but over time you may wear out the actual zipper tape, the fabric that the zipper chain is attached to; which will then require a full on zipper replacement.
A broken slider needs to be replaced, a job that can be done in the field with some simple tools you may already have, but unless you have a spare with you, your probably asking yourself if it's a good idea to sew your jacket shut with dental floss. Do what you need to get yourself out of the mountains, then come see us.
In Zippers Part 2 we'll demonstrate how to replace the slider with simple tools you probably already carry.