Have you ever been enjoying the sounds of nature while on a hike or camping, just soaking in the crickets, frogs, or silence? If so, you may well know the annoying sound of a noisy zipper clinking as you walk, or the opening of a tent that tears through the night.
To quiet your zippers, you can replace the pull, tie some string through the pull as a bumper, coat or cover the pull in a plastic or other material, replace the pull with a plastic alternative, use lubricants on the zipper, or even replace the metal zipper with a plastic version.
Some of these solutions are faster or easier than others, but all of them will help to keep the outdoors sounding more like nature.
Why Are They So Noisy?
In an everyday situation, zippers don’t seem to be too loud. But, have you ever tried getting out of a tent late at night in the middle of the woods? How about trying to sneak up on wildlife for a great photo opportunity, only to have a clink with every step give you away?
Zippers are commonly made of metal. When the metal pull hits the zipper, it makes a light clink from the contact. But when we zip or unzip a zipper, it’s much louder. This is because the zipper isn’t just pulling together two pieces of material.
When the slide goes over the zipper, it forces the small metal teeth to interlock. These teeth have hooks and hollows that keep them interlocked, but also cause friction and grinding when they are forced together. The faster they are forced together, the louder the noise will be.
How to Quiet Zippers Down
Quieting your zipper may seem like such a small thing, but it can make a world of difference when you are camping, doing wildlife photography, hunting, or just don’t want to hear the extra noise. So, let’s look at some methods of fixing this little problem.
Quieting The Pull
The pull is, as the name suggests, the part that you pull. Here are some solutions for quieting it.
1. Replace the Pull with Plastic
There are plenty of kits (Amazon) available online to replace your zipper pull. Simply cut the old pull off with a pair of snips and tie or clip on the new one.
- Very quick and easy to install
- Extends zipper pull length
- Usually comes in multi-packs for replacing multiple pulls on all your gear or clothing
- Comes in a wide variety of colors and designs to fit your gear and style
- Can look a little cheap
2. Replace the Pull with Paracord
Remove the pull with snips. After removing the old zipper pull, you can replace it with paracord or another string or small diameter cord.
- Paracord is readily available at hardware stores in long lengths
- Paracord has a lot of uses, so you don’t have to worry about wasting excess material
- Can increase the length of your pull
- You can use fancy knots to make a unique look
- Paracord comes in many colors and patterns
- You have to tie your own knots and loops
- If you do not seal the ends, they can fray and be unattractive
3. Tie Paracord Around or Through the Pull
If your old pull has holes on each end of it, you can just muffle the sounds it makes. Thread a piece of paracord through the bottom hole that is closest to the zipper. Run the paracord up both sides of the pull and through the other hole and then tie them together.
This will create a barrier between the zipper and the pull, reducing the likelihood that it will hit the zipper.
- Along with the pros mentioned above, with this method, you don’t have to disassemble anything
- You have to tie your own knots
- Your pull holes may not be big enough to fit certain diameters of cord
- Your pulls on some gear or clothing may not have a second hole at all
4. Coat the Pull in Plasti Dip
Plasti Dip (see one on Amazon) is a rubberized coating that can be used on most materials. Just dip in what you need coated and let it dry.
- Can coat nearly anything
- Improves grip
- Limited color choices
- Difficult to coat pulls without removing them first
- Takes up to 4 hours to cure
5. Cover in Tape
As simple as it sounds. Use duct tape any other tape to cover the pull.
- Can have a variety of colors or patterns
- Not as clean or nice looking
- Can leave a residue, especially with duct tape in high heat
- Will break down or come apart after washing or excessive moisture
The teeth are what holds the zipper together when it is zipped up and what makes the most noise. There are some ways to make them quieter, as well.
1. WD-40 or Other Liquid Lubricant
Using WD-40 or another liquid lubricant on your zipper can be a quick short-term solution to consider. You will want to be sure to cover or protect the rest of the material that you don’t want to be oiled and then apply directly to the teeth.
- Easy to apply
- Can be very messy
- Can bleed oil onto other materials
- Can stain surrounding material
- Would need to be reapplied regularly
- Not suitable for clothing
- Might have an unpleasant smell
Powdered graphite (Amazon) has long been used to reduce friction in moving parts. The same can be said for using it on zippers.
- Easy to apply
- Being dark dust, it can show on lighter materials
- Not suitable for clothing
- Can be messy
Wax has been one of the longest-used, most reliable solutions for a loud zipper. It coats the teeth in a pliable, protective layer that reduces friction. You can use a bar of soap, beeswax, surf wax, or even an old candle.
Simply rub the wax in both directions across the teeth while the zipper is unzipped. Then, pull the slide back and forth a couple of times to work the wax between the teeth.
- Also helps to keep zippers from getting stuck
- Colorless wax means no discoloration
- Readily available
- Makes snagged fabric easier to remove
- Can take a little longer than most other methods
4. Replace the Entire Zipper with a Plastic Zipper
Zippers can be removed and replaced completely with plastic zippers. You will need to remove the stitches to pull the old one out. Then, measure the length of your new zipper, cut, and then sew it back to the fabric.
- Plastic zippers are quieter, and the other methods above can make them even quieter
- No corrosion
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Incredibly time-consuming
- You must be able to remove old stitching without damaging the material
- You must be able to accurately sew the new zipper into place
- You must finish the zipper with small clamps to keep it from coming off the track
- Not as resistant to damage as metal
If You’re Going to Do It, Do It All
If you are going to spend the time quieting down one of your zippers, you might as well handle all your gear at once, right? After all, why would you quiet your tent zipper only to have a noisy zipper on your sleeping bag? Here is a list of some common zippered items to consider giving attention:
- Sleeping Bags
- Lunchboxes or Soft-Sided Coolers
Zip to the End
There are plenty of sounds in nature, from the frogs and crickets to the calls of birds. We don’t need to have the “clink clink clink” of our zipper pulls or the metallic ripping sound of the teeth of our zippers to take away from that. With this guide, you now know how to quiet noisy zippers. Your outdoor hobbies, and potential campmates, will thank you for your diligence!