Zipper pulls, even on most tactical bags out of the box, are just awful. A simple modification is to replace them with 550 paracord, which is quiet, durable, and easy to grab (even with gloves). It also upgrades the look of any bag and paracord is available in a rainbow of colors.
I generally prefer gutted paracord, which is easy to work through even the smallest of zippers. However, being thinner, gutted paracord has a tendency to work it’s way back into the zipper.
One solution is to use heat shrink tubing. GoRuck popularized the use of heat shrink tubing when they included it on their pulls on the GR1 backpack. Sheathed zipper pulls are even easier to manipulate and look great. They are also relatively easy to put together.
It helps when you start with the right tools and materials:
You’ll need 550 Paracord, butane lighter, sharp knife, scissors, measuring tape, heat gun, heat shrink tubing, and beer – especially on a hot summer day like today. 😉
You can replace the heat gun with a hair dryer or even a small torch, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A hair dryer will add time to the process and an open flame can melt the paracord or even the bag it’s attached to. Here I’m using a Wagner HT1000 Heat Tool, which currently retails for only $22 at Home Depot. The heat shrink tubing can also be found at Home Depot or your local hardware store in the electrical section. I use 1/4″ (6mm) tubing which shrinks to half that size when heated.
Make sure you have a solid surface to work on and one that you don’t care gets burned if there is a mishap with the heat gun. I do this on my garage workbench and not inside the house.
Notice: Loadedpocketz is not responsible for any injuries resulting from following this procedure. Do it at your own risk and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions when using any piece of equipment.
STEP by STEP
This is personal preference but I’ve found pulls that are about 10″ long are easy to tie and work with if you’re doing a simple knot. A more complicated knot will require more cord. You’ll have to experiment so make sure to have plenty of paracord to start. Once you get the right length, hold one cut piece in reserve to use as a template. That way, all of your pulls will be the same length. Use a sharp knife or box cutter to cut the cord. Otherwise, you’ll have frayed ends that won’t look great when you melt them.
Once cut, gut the paracord by pulling the inner strands away from the sheath. This isn’t a required step but realize that you’ll have a hard time working non-gutted paracord through smaller zippers. Set the strands aside.
Melt both ends of the paracord with your lighter. Wave it back and worth over the end for 1-2 seconds until you see the cord start to melt.
Then pinch the end with your fingers to make it flat. Yes, it will burn a little. Men play with fire. It’s what we do. Be a man. And if you’re a woman, this is your opportunity to show your husband that you’re every bit as tough as he is.
Work the flattened end of the cord through the zipper. It might not go easy, but I’ve never had a zipper that I wasn’t able to get gutted cord through.
Now it’s time to cut your heat shrink tubing. The tubing I purchased for this was 3″ long. I cut them in half – again making sure everything is of consistent length.
Slide the tubing onto the untied cord.
Now it’s time to shrink the tubing using the heat gun. Turn the gun on the lowest setting (in the case of the Wagner, 750 degrees F), and wave it over the tubing. Be careful not to touch the tubing or anything else to the nozzle.
Move the nozzle back and forth and come at it from different angles. The reason I cut my cord this long is so I can manipulate it without coming close to the gun. If you are new at this, wear gloves while handling the gun. And keep it away from children, pets and others while in use. Most importantly, take your time. The tubing shrinks fast enough without rushing things.
The tubing will be hot to the touch. Allow it to cool to warm and then work it down towards the zipper. It has a tendency to fuse with the paracord if you don’t.
Tie your knot. There will be excess. Make sure it’s tight.
You can then trim the excess with a sharp pair of scissors.
And burn the ends with the lighter again one at a time to ensure they don’t fray.
Now you’ve created a zipper pull that should look something like this.
It’s really that easy folks. If you’ve found this helpful, make sure to subscribe via email to this site as we will be doing additional DIY articles in the future. The subscription is free.