Imagine getting a brand new backpack at your local back-to-school event. You’re excited to show it off to your friends, along with all the new school supplies you received. Two weeks into the school year, the zipper breaks. You resort to carrying everything by hand.
This scenario is based on an actual situation. Backpacks are essential for going back to school, so many organizations provide them for their clients before the start of the school year. Unfortunately, a seemingly decent backpack can quickly fall apart from a poor-quality zipper. That’s why it’s critical to inspect zippers on low-cost backpacks.
Remember these valuable tips and tricks when selecting a low-cost backpack for your school supply program. .
What Is a Zipper?
First thing’s first: a zipper is used to open and close backpacks. They’re typically found on jackets, sweaters, sofa cushions, dressing curtains, winter boots, and yes, backpacks!
Zippers come in a few styles, but the primary types of zippers are plastic-molded zippers, coil zippers, and classic metal zippers. They also come in “separating” or “closed” form.
Clothes with zippers, like jackets and sweaters, typically have “separating” zippers. “Separating” zippers separate completely once unzipped. That’s why these types of zippers are ideal for clothes or items that you want to remove.
What Type of Zipper to Look For: Closed vs Separating
Backpacks shouldn’t have separating zippers, whether they’re expensive or low-cost; they should have “closed” zippers. These zippers should feature a small bar that connects both sides of the zipper.
The connecting bar should be at the base of the backpack zipper. A broken closed zipper is easy to spot. The bar will be removed, leaving two dangling fabric strips on the bottom.
To find a broken zipper, inspect the bottom of the zipper on the backpack. You may need to dig in a little bit, but you should be able to see the small bar on the base of the zipper. If you pull out two fabric strips with no bar, the zipper is broken.
Sometimes you’ll find broken closed zipper strips tucked into the side of the backpack. Make sure the end of the zipper is sewn into the backpack. You should not be able to pull out the zipper fabric.
Checking the Zipper Size
Another important aspect about zippers is its size. Often you will see zippers described as a “#10 zipper” or a “#8 zipper”. This number refers to the width of the zipper teeth measured in millimeters. A #10 zipper would be about 10 mm across and so on. The larger the number, the larger the tooth or coil.
The zipper size makes a big difference in the durability of the bag. The lowest cost backpacks often use #6 or #7 zippers. These zippers break or mis-align easily, often during volunteer packing events even before the backpacks are handed out. Look for at least a #8 zipper when selecting your backpacks – some higher quality backpacks even have #10 zippers. Beyond #10, you’re better off evaluating other features of the backpack (padding, shoulder straps, etc.) since those other features will affect the life of the backpack more.
The zipper size may or may not be obvious just looking at it. If you take the ruler out and are not sure, ask your backpack vendor and they should be able to tell you the zipper size of the backpack you are looking at.
Plastic Backpack Zippers: Yes or No?
Next, you need to spot the right zipper material. The main types of zippers are coil, metal, or plastic. While many backpacks are made with plastic-molded zippers, what you really want for school backpacks is the coil zipper.
Plastic molded zippers are the most cost effective option, so they are used typically for lightweight projects and often found in low-cost backpacks. Plastic zippers may seem safer and easier to use. Unfortunately, these zippers can buckle under pressure, causing backpacks to break at the worst possible times.
Plastic molded zippers are not ideal for heavy use, so they are not recommended for students who carry around a lot of heavy items and books. Avoid backpacks with these zippers for middle and high school supply drives. However, they may be acceptable for younger elementary school students, since these backpacks do not endure as much wear and tear.
Classic Metal Zippers
These types of zippers are the oldest. People trust metal zippers because they’re sturdy and still hold after some wear and tear. However, metal zippers are also the heaviest, and not as smooth as other zipper types. Since middle and high school students are already carrying a lot of weight, most backpack vendors tend to choose a lighter zipper alternative for these backpacks.
If you do select a backpack with metal zippers, make sure both sides of the zipper align when you zip up the backpack. Look closely as you unzip the backpack as well. Look for little curves and bumps in the zipper when zipped — these are potential problems. All it takes is for one zipper tooth to get bent out of shape to ruin a backpack. Another problem to look for with metal zippers is rust. Donated backpacks that have been left in the rain may have weak metal zippers from rust.
Coil Zippers for Backpacks
A third zipper option is the coil zipper. These zippers are also called nylon or polyester zippers, and they have teeth that look coiled (the teeth on the plastic molded are straight). They come in a variety of sizes and stand out for their flexibility and durability.
Today’s coil zippers have a tendency to “self-repair” – when some of the teeth mis-align, the zipper can often repair itself by moving the slider back and forth over that location. As a result, these zippers are more durable and can last longer on backpacks.
Many higher cost backpacks are using the coil zippers for all the reasons discussed. Especially for middle and high school backpacks, look for coil zippers with a high zipper size to maximize zipper health.
Common Zipper Problems with Low Cost Backpacks
School supply drive volunteers are experts at spotting backpack zipper damage. Here are several problems volunteers notice at backpack drives.
Zippers that separate in the middle are a common problem. Once this happens, the zipper should be replaced. Zipping up and down multiple times may realign the zipper temporarily, but it will cause too much wear and tear.
The next common issue are backpack zippers with broken slider bodies. Remember to test out the zipper before donating a backpack. Zippers should smoothly zip and unzip with ease.
The next issue for donated backpacks are broken tabs. Broken tabs make zipping and unzipping extremely difficult, and not to mention annoying. Plus, frustrated students may end up separating the zipper with their hands, potentially ruining the zipper beyond repair.
When selecting a low-cost backpack, make sure the zipper is a durable #10 coil zipper. Invest in a backpack with heavy-duty polyester fabric, as well. You want these backpacks to stand the test of time.
Purchase Low-Cost Backpacks that Last
Don’t invest in backpacks that fall apart within weeks. Follow this guide to find low-cost backpacks that exceed expectations in quality. Remember, zippers matter!
Do you need more tips for finding quality low cost backpacks, or running a successful school supply drive? Backpacks are just the start. Start your own Roonga school supply drive or contact us today to learn more about the quality low cost backpacks that we recommend.