Zip Pulls: A primer

We are kind of doing this post in the wrong order, talking about a little feature of a bigger component first, but heck, little things still matter alright!!! What am I already ranting about? Zip pulls. You know, (usually) those little tabs of metal that you grab hold of to open and close a zip.

For those that have been following us a long time, you might have noticed that we have are slowly releasing more zipper based products (interestingly enough they are all “travel” based), most notably our Spare Camel or BullPup Backpacks, our Royd bike bag, as well as including our smaller organisation pouches such as the CellBlock M or CellBlock L. The zips we use are YKK branded, which we will talk about in more detail in another post (see we do do things backwards!). The zip pulls are also YKK. Technically you can mix and match zip pull brands to different brand zips, although this can wear the zip prematurely as well as cause other issues such as accidental opening, not as smooth a slide, and so forth due to differences in materials and manufacturing tolerances.

We source YKK non-locking single pulls.


Non-locking means they slide smoothly regardless of whether you are pulling on the zip pull or not. It is this feature which means you can “rip open” our bags for quick access if needed. Locking on the other hand mean that the zip pull will not move along the zip unless the zip pull body arm as been lifted. As the name suggests, a “locking pull” locks down on the teeth.

Single pulls mean there is only one puller/handle on it. Double pulls have two pullers/handles – one on each side (top surface and bottom surface).


Thankfully the zip pulls that come standard are actually really well made and do their job perfectly. They slide along the zip nicely, give a good hand to grab hold of, and in a pinch can be locked together if required. However bag geekery requires you to upgrade everything that you can, including the little things like zip pulls. So… lets talk upgrades.

First off, why would you want to change over your pulls?
Simply to make them better. But here are some basic reasons:

1. *Jingle Jangle*
Bag pulls jangle a lot, and when you are active in your adventurous lifestyle this can get a tad annoying. You are not a domestic cat, nor are there (usually) any bears around, so remove those “bells”! If you could easily replace the jangling bits, and it didn’t change the functionality of the rest of the zip, wouldn’t you?

2. Smoother pull
Most standard pulls are metal, and because of this only have a limited range of movement before they physically cannot continue in that direction. Say you were to grab a zip without looking and then open a three sided zip. With a standard metal pull, there is a high chance that the body and pull will lock towards the end, causing you to put a lot of force both on the zip body, and the zip teeth. This causes premature wearing of the entire system, usually rendering your bag useless without a full zip replacement. You can tell if this is the case as zip pulls become a touch bent – have a look at your bags… chances are one of them are like this.

3. Gloves on Gentlemen
Sure most zipper pulls have a substantial body to grab hold of, but what if it is -10 and you are wearing super thick gloves. Suddenly a simple opening mechanism becomes the most infuriating thing in the entire universe. If you often wear gloves, chances are you are going to want a beefier pull. You know what, most of the time you are going to want a beefier pull (mind out of the gutter people).

So what can you do to modify your pulls?

1. Paracord Upgrade
This is the most simple upgrade. You simply cut a length of Paracord, or other cord substitute, wind it through your zip pull and then knot it. There is no need to remove the zip pull itself for this upgrade, and it ticks most of the upgrade boxes (jangle free, glove friendly)


2. Remove pulls + Paracord Upgrade
This is a slight step up again, with the added bonus of also ticking the “smoother pull” box. You simply cut the zip pull “arm” off, and weave paracord or other such cord through the zip pull body and then tie a knot. This is my personal favourite as it is quick and easy to do and costs next to nothing. And if you are feeling crafty you can get very fancy with different knot types, or by weaving beads onto the cord before knotting.

FYI, we can sell you some Paracord should you be interested in doing this upgrade.


3. Shrink tubing
This is exactly the same step as above but takes it up a notch again. Plus it looks super classy, and very professional. Remove your zip pull arm, insert paracord or cord substitute, put on some shrink tubing, tie a knot, and then hit the tubing with some heat. The tubing shrinks down and wraps around the knot and the cord giving a very substantial hand feel for when you are wearing gloves.

You can really start to geek out on different knots and such. Examples of such geeking out on ITS Tactical.

4. Custom Hypalon Upgrades
Want to take it to the next level yet again? Check out WTFidea’s custom laser cut and engraved hypalon pulls. These are cut and then engraved with super fine detail allowing you to create custom labelled pulls such as “rescue gear”, “first aid” and so forth. These require you to remove the zip pull arm, and are easy to install giving a good hand hold and all the benefits of paracord upgrade with the custom labelling to boot. Freaking neat!



Zip pulls… how have you upgraded yours? Me personally? Love the #2 paracord upgrade. Simple, effective AND no jangle! The best bit though is the colour options. SO MANY COLOURS! Enjoy this rainbow of paracord… (don’t hesitate to let us know if you are keen on paracord upgrade when you place a custom order here)

Paracord colours

Categories: Backpacks, How To, Our Gear, Tips & Tricks

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