April 6

How To Get A Zipper Unstuck On A Backpack

When you’re out camping or backpacking, your pack is one of your most important pieces of gear. It contains all your essentials and is instrumental in ensuring you have a smooth journey.

So, what happens when you’re preparing for your trek and realize the zipper is stuck? Or, more frustratingly, what do you do if it happens while you’re out on the trail?

There are a couple of tricks that can help you get a zipper unstuck on a Backpack, and some tricks that will help prevent it from happening in the first place. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to get a zipper unstuck on a backpack.

Tips For Getting a Zipper Unstuck

The frustration of going to open your backpack to pull out some important gear and realizing the zipper is stuck has happened to everyone at some point.

It can be tempting to be rough with your bag in a desperate bid to free the zipper, but that’s unlikely to help matters.

Instead, try one of these tricks to get your zipper unstuck so your backpack is back in working order.


The most likely cause of your stuck zipper is that fabric has gotten caught in it. When you find your zipper stuck, this should be the first thing you check for.

"Take a look at your zipper and take note of where the fabric has gotten caught."

how to get a zipper unstuck on a backpack

Then you can take a pair of tweezers to gently grasp the fabric that’s gotten stuck and stopped the zipper. Hold onto your bag firmly and use the tweezers to carefully pull the fabric back and away from the zipper.

If you don’t have a pair of tweezers on you, then a safety pin or paperclip could work just as well. Use the pointed end of the safety pin or paperclip to press on the fabric where it’s caught in the zipper.

Gently press the fabric and move it away from the zipper until the fabric is no longer caught.

Move The Zipper

Another trick to getting the zipper on your backpack unstuck is to jiggle the zipper back and forth.

Don’t be particularly forceful, and check the zipper first to see how much fabric has gotten caught or whether the track isn’t lining up properly on the zipper.

Try moving the zipper back and forth slowly at first. Gently tug any fabric that is stuck away from the zipper while you move it.

Be careful not to be too forceful as you could damage the teeth on your zipper’s tracks and create an even bigger issue.

Use a Lubricant

Most backpackers carry a type of lubricant with them, although you may not even realize it! If you’ve brought along Vaseline or a Chapstick for your chapped lips then this can work as a lubricant in this situation.

Take a pea-sized amount of Vaseline, or another lubricant, and rub it along your zipper and its tracks. You don’t want to use too much as this could create another obstacle that can keep your zipper stuck.

Once you’ve rubbed the lubricant onto your zipper and its tracks, pull away any fabric that may be caught, and gently jiggle the zipper back and forth until it’s moving freely again.

Make sure to wipe down your backpack’s zipper and surrounding area to clean away any remaining lubricant or residue.

Lubricant is generally very sticky and if you’re out backpacking then it will cause any dirt, leaves, or debris that you run into to stick to your backpack.

Use a Pencil

There’s a simple method for getting your zipper unstuck and all it takes is a pencil! You can’t use a pen or a mechanical pencil for this method though, it has to be a regular lead pencil like the one you’d use in grade school.

How To Get A Backpack Zipper Unstuck

Many hikers and backpackers bring along a map or notebook and pencil so if you don’t have the other items suggested, then this method should work for you.

"Take your pencil and make sure that it’s sharpened so that a good amount of the lead is showing."

Then you need to rub the head along your zipper and its tracks. If the zipper is stuck on a piece of fabric, then rub the lead along the fabric it’s stuck on as well. Next, hold back the fabric on either side and move the zipper back and forth until it’s working as normal again.

The lead will work as a natural lubricant, and it’s a great alternative because it doesn’t have the same sticky quality that lubricant has.

It’ll wipe off easily when you’re done and can save you a lot of hassle when it comes to getting a zipper unstuck on your backpack.

Tips To Prevent Your Zipper From Getting Stuck

When you find yourself out on the trail you want everything to go smoothly, including the zipper on your backpack!

Finding yourself getting ready to settle down for the night, or packing up in the morning, and having to deal with a stuck zipper can be a real mood-killer.

Here are some tips to keep this from happening so you can enjoy your trip frustration-free.

1. Keep Fabric Away From Your Zipper

It may seem like a minor annoyance to worry about this every time you zip up and unzip your backpack, but it’ll save you some major frustration in the future.

When you go to use the zipper on your backpack, make sure that there’s no fabric sticking out toward your zipper.

Check both sides of the zipper's tracks and, if you see some fabric encroaching on the tracks, make sure to gently hold it out of the way while you use your zipper.

2. Keep it Clean

Keeping the zipper on your backpack clean may not seem like a high priority, but it’s the best way to prevent snags. When you’re out in nature, your backpack goes through a lot.

Anytime you set it on the ground, or when a strong wind kicks up, there’s the potential for dirt, leaves, and other debris to come into contact with your zipper. Small pieces of dirt and other debris can get caught in the zipper and prevent it from functioning as it should.

Your best bet is to regularly clean your zipper at least once a day to prevent a build-up of debris and prevent snags. You can use a cloth with some water, wet wipes, or even a simple damp paper towel to get the job done.

3. Be Gentle With Your Backpack

Your backpack is an essential piece of gear, just like everything you carry inside of it. At the end of a long day, you may be tempted to throw your backpack down and collapse into your sleeping bag, but this isn’t the best way to treat your gear.

Never be rough with your backpack, especially with the zipper itself. This will help prevent the zipper from coming off its track or becoming damaged.

4. Upgrade Your Gear Regularly

If your backpack is getting a lot of use, then it should be upgraded regularly. A good hiking backpack can last 10 years or more if you take proper care of it, but this largely depends on the brand and how well cared for it is.

Don’t overstuff your pack so there’s less strain on your zipper. As soon as you notice fraying around your zipper then it’s a good indication that it’s time to get a new pack.

Things To Avoid When Your Zipper Is Stuck

It can be frustrating trying to get a zipper unstuck on a backpack. It can even make you angry if it’s stalling your progress on the trail.

No matter how frustrated you get, there are some things you should never do when your zipper is stuck.

1. Too Much Aggression

Don’t be overly aggressive with your zipper. Trying to force it down when it’s stuck can cause you to tear the fabric that’s stuck, or even rip the zipper right off of your backpack!

"Neither of these will help your situation, and will only make things worse."

Try to take some deep breaths when you start to get frustrated. Remember that this is an important piece of gear and should be handled with care. Then, try one of the tips outlined above to get your zipper unstuck.

2. Heavily Applying Lubricant

It can be tempting to slather your zipper in lubricant in the hopes that it’ll be a quick fix to getting it unstuck, but this would actually be counterproductive.

Applying too much lubricant can actually cause it to build up inside the zipper and create a new problem that will keep your zipper locked in place until you can wash the excess lubricant away.

Only use a very small amount of lubricant to get a zipper unstuck. Rub it along the edges of the zipper itself and the zipper’s tracks.

Make sure you wash the lubricant away afterward so that it doesn’t dry and cause your zipper to get snagged again!

3. Holding Fabric Apart

Some people may be tempted to grasp either end of their backpack and pull in an attempt to force the zipper down when it’s stuck firmly in place.

"This is not a good idea and can cause a ton of damage to your pack."

If you try to hold and then pull the fabric on your backpack apart to get the zipper unstuck then you’re likely to make the situation worse.

The fabric on your backpack is likely to tear, and the zipper itself may pop right off, leaving you with a half-zipped backpack and no way to fix it if you’re out on the trail.

You should only gently try to move the fabric that’s been caught away from the zipper. Don’t try too hard to force it, and don’t try forcing the fabric on either side apart.

Try one of the tips above to get your zipper unstuck if a bit of caught fabric is the cause.

Final Thoughts

There are a few things that can cause the level of frustration that a caught zipper causes. You’re out on the trail or sitting at your campsite for the evening and just want to pull out one single piece of your gear.

But there’s a caught zipper that’s preventing you from getting into your bag, and it can be tempting to use aggressive methods to force your bag open.

Instead, your best bet is to find the cause of the snag and respond appropriately. If your zipper is caught on a piece of fabric then try using a pair of tweezers or something similar to gently pull the fabric free.

However, if the cause is a build-up of debris, then using a damp cloth or paper towel to thoroughly clean the area should help free your zipper.

About the Author


Hussain is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences.

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