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Zippers: What about Urethane, Do I Need It?

  |   Outdoor Gear Repair

Many modern outerwear brands boast about  “water resistant urethane zippers” on their products. But what is the meaning of this and why would you want (or not want) this feature? BMR is here to break things down so you have a better understanding of the urethane coatings on zippers in outdoor gear. 

What is Urethane?

Urethane is short for polyurethane. Without getting too technical, polyurethane is a chemical compound and is used in everything from insulation to memory foam to watch bands. And Urethane is also a coating on zippers often used in outdoor garments.

Why is My zipper coated?

Zippers have a narrow piece of fabric, called the zipper tape. The zipper tape is what is sewn into a garment or pack. Refer to our blog post, Zipper Diagnostics, which covers zipper anatomy for more information about the parts of a zipper. In the case of a weatherproof garment like a ski jacket or rain jacket, the zipper is now the only part that is not “sealed” against the elements. A urethane coating on a zipper creates a more water and wind repellent surface, so now the zipper is not as much a weak point in your weather sealing. The urethane coating covers the zipper tape and thus seals that piece of fabric from wind and water. Because of this feature, urethane zippers are very popular amongst outerwear companies, where their priority is to keep you warm and dry.

When to use a urethane zipper

So now we know why urethane zippers are so popular and widely used in the outdoor industry. However, there are some downsides that come with this super cool technology. One of the main down sides is that action on a urethane zipper is not as smooth and can feel sticky. You have to give that slider a good pull and its mainly because the zipper is thicker with the extra coating but they use the same size slider as a normal zipper. So that slider is actually clamping down on the tape causing some resistance when you zip it up and down. This makes it a bit more prone to breakage and harder to maneuver, especially with gloves on.

Ultimately the choice is yours: urethane or not! Now that you have a better understanding of urethane coatings on zippers, you might find you have a preference for different outdoor gear. If you have a strong preference in zipper type, make sure to look close at your next shell to make sure it has the features you’re looking for. Of course, if you’re zipper needs a repair or replacement BMR is here to help. If you’re on the market for a new outer layer, shop our Garage Sale or check out Geartrade for some sweet, gently used outdoor gear.