Zippers are seemingly unimportant to the common observer, however, their utility cannot be understated when they’re present in nearly every object we use on a regular basis (like the zipper’s interesting founding story).

The use of a backpack becomes obsolete if nothing can be contained and while some backpacks are even designed around the style of zipper used, zippers come in countless designs, each intended for a different purpose and impression.

Due to this variety, the process of identifying and understanding what zipper is being used in a new bag that you’d like can be oftentimes overwhelming. This guide is intended to simplify the key information about zipper structure and zipper function to remove the complexity from this process.

What is a Zipper Made Of?

The style of a zipper pairs with utility of each bag. In other words, the bag style chosen will determine the zipper that is the best match.

Each zipper has a few essential components that exist in all types of zippers:

  • The Slider
  • The Pull
  • Teeth
  • Top Stops/Bottom Stops
  • Tape

Each component has a multitude of designs. However, only the basic definitions will be included in this section.

The Slider

The slider is the formal name for the plastic or metal piece that moves up and down the zipper to open or close the bag. It possesses a small finger grip for easier movement.

The Teeth

The teeth, also known as elements, are the pieces on either side of the zipper that intertwine or separate when the slider moves.

Top Stops & Bottom Stops

When both sets of teeth are intertwined, it is now known as a chain. At the ends of each side of teeth there are stopper pieces, called top stops or bottom stops,  that stop the slider from going off the tracks.

The Tape

Lastly, the tape is the section of fabric that is the connection between the teeth and the bag; it is most commonly found in polyester but can be made in other materials.

Common Zipper Types

The zipper comes in a few types of form factors that can have different use cases. Here are the 5 main types of zippers commonly seen in everything from your pants zipper to that of your backpack:

Closed End Zipper

This fashion of zipper has one slider that opens the teeth but halts at the end of the zipper. The end of the zipper does not come open. This is common to find on a bag or purse where there is no need to completely separate the two sides of the zipper. This simplifies the use of the bag because you never have to be concerned about reconnecting the left and right sides.

Open End Zipper

This style of this zipper has one slider that opens the zipper, but this zipper completely separates the left and right side due to a box pin and insert pin at the end of the zipper. This allows for each side to completely separate and to be combined again when needed. This is seen in coats and larger zippers where the bottom opening is used to remove the coat without pulling it over your head.

Invisible Zipper

The invisible style of zipper is comprised of a single, tiny slider and tiny teeth on the left and right sides, giving the appearance of lack of a zipper.

This is a sleek look made for items that are for fashion and aesthetic, opposed to durability.

Two Way / Bottom to Bottom Zipper

This fashion of zipper is unique in that it has two sliders with the zipper pulls facing each other.

This is designed so that something can be opened or closed from either end.

Head to Head Zipper

This style of zipper also has two sliders. However, the zipper pulls face away from each other.

This kind of zipper is common for duffel bags and other kinds of bags. It allows for both zippers to be used to open the top of the bag.

The Zipper Slider

A zipper slider is the component of the zipper that glides down the zipper to either open or close a bag. It is usually made of metal, but can come in plastic or other materials. The purpose of the slider is to combine or separate the two sides of teeth from each other to allow for access or safe keeping of the contents of the bag.

Non-Lock Slider

This slider does not lock on to teeth when zipped.

It has no locking system and is the most simple style of slider.

Auto Lock Slider

This slider automatically locks when you stop use of the pull tab.

Use of the pull tab on the slider will allow for movement again.

Pin Lock Slider

This slider has a lock system that has a pin inserted into a lock when the zipper is not moving. The prevents unwanted movement of the slider.

Double Pull Slider

This slider has a lock system that has a pin inserted into a lock when the zipper is not moving.

With the double pullers, they can prevent unwanted movement of the slider.

Key Lock Slider

This slider has an actual separate key that locks the slider into place. The key is a separate entity from the slider.

This can be useful when locking a bag at the airport or locking something with important documents.

Zipper Pulls & Their Different Use Cases

Zipper pulls are crucial to the zipper anatomy. A zipper pull is exactly what it sounds like: ‘the zipper puller” is the part of the zipper that pulls the slider up and down the track of teeth. Listed below are a few design examples of pulls.

Cord Pull

Made of cord, this pull is usually attached through the crown of the slider and attached at the end with a piece of plastic or metal.

This is often seen on rain jackets and camping gear.

Paracord Pull

A cord made out of paracord and braided at the end. This is made for durability and strength.

This will most likely be seen in camping gear.

Chain Pull

A pull that has chain links, usually metal, and can have jewels or other ornaments on the end.

This is usually seen on high fashion items.

Tape Pull

A pull that if made out of some sort of fabric, and is attached at the top of the slider by a separate piece. The pieces of fabric hang down in two separate strands with one strand cut diagonally.

This type will usually be found of purses or aesthetic pieces, though are more durable than other pulls.

Leather Pull

A pull made out of leather than comes in many shapes and sizes. This is often used for bags that are also leather.

This pull is mainly for aesthetic purposes and can be seen in backpacks and fashion oriented carry items.

Self Knot Leather Pull

A pull made of leather that has been looped through a hole to create a knot and has a piece of leather dangling.

In other terms, think of a belt that is extremely long on a person; the tail of the belt is similar to the piece of leather dangling in this pull.

Braided Leather Pull

This pull, also made of leather, is comprised of strands of leather braided together.

This pull is usually seen on leather bags and is of aesthetic purpose.

Tassel Pull

This pull is comprised of pieces of fabric hanging down to create a tassel.

This is mainly aesthetic in purpose.

Zipper Teeth

Zipper teeth are the pieces on the tracks of the zipper on both the left and right side. When the slider glides over the tracks, the zipper teeth intertwined to close the zipper. Inversely, if the slider glides in the other direction, the zipper teeth with separate. There is a wide variety of zipper teeth; a few examples are listed below.

Molded Plastic Teeth Zipper

Zipper teeth that are made of plastic and are designed to fit perfectly together. This teeth style is common in backpacks, rain coats, and some travel bags.

Nylon Coil Teeth Zipper

Zipper teeth that are made of nylon, though they have a metallic appearance.  The teeth are very small in comparison to the molded plastic teeth, giving a more esteemed look. This teeth type is often used on purses, dresses, and other high fashion items.

Metal Teeth Zipper

Zipper teeth that are made of metal. These teeth can be as large as the molded plastic teeth. This style is common in edgier pieces such as leather jackets and dresses.


Zipper teeth that are almost invisible. The seal must be airtight to avoid allowing water to enter through the zipper, which is why the teeth are difficult to detect. This teeth style is common for water sports bags and weather-proof bags.


In conclusion, zippers contain much more than what initially meets the eye. Their versatility and simplicity of design allow for maximized utility for all. Examining the key features and types of each zipper is essential knowledge to deciding the best zipper for your needs in a bag.