Zipper on dry suit

I have an Immersion Research dry suit with the entry/zipper on the back. Have only used it twice. It’s great in many way. Unlike my old Tropos Kokatat front entry, the IR is horizontal and just below the back shoulder. Although I find it very comfortable to wear, you guys know all too well it takes a contortionist to zip and unzip. This time, the zipper was really tough. I know there is a wax zipper lubricant that makes it easier, but has anybody tried some silicone lube or other products?

Regards to all.


McNett ZipTech
Comes in a tube like a large Chapstick tube. It works well. I’ve also used natural beeswax. The ZipTech is slightly softer and easier to apply.

Be careful not to get either substance onto the fabric.

stick with specific products
Stick with products made specifically for wetsuit zippers. The solvents, even the silicone, in other lubricants could damage neoprene, goretex, seam sealer and other components of a dry suit. We used to run into that problem in the outdoor gear business when certain silicone water proof agents would dissolve the glue used to laminate the soles and midsoles of leather hiking boots.

Dive shops sell several different type of zipper lube or you can order it from Seattle Fabrics.

Adding a pull cord of old nylon shoelace to the zipper tab can help in reaching and manipulating it, if you don’t already have one.

another McNett product
the one I use is McNett Zipcare. It’s a gel, brush on the bottle to saturate the zipper. Works pretty well. Specifically for wet/drysuits per the bottle.

Ziper Help

– Last Updated: Feb-06-12 6:28 PM EST –

You say it takes a contortionist to zip and unzip. Here's a trick that might help. I keep a small loop of string on the zipper tab. For locations along the length of the pull which are awkward to reach, it sometimes helps to loop a longer length of rope through that loop of string, allowing you to put the pulling hand in a completely different location. I've used this method on both my dry suits to avoid cramped, inefficient pulling positions. You can apply many times as much pulling force simply by having more comfortable arm positioning.

For a zipper across the back, you could start with a rope that's doubled through the pull tab. Tie the free ends together if you wish, but it's not necessary. Get progressively new grips on that extra rope as the zipper pulls along its path, and when finished, pull one strand to get the whole length free of the zipper. If the fully closed zipper has the tab parked on the back of one shoulder, re-threading the rope to open the zipper will be no problem, but this time, pull with the other arm, positioning the hand well out from the other side of your body.

With this method, it will never be necessary to reach behind your back to operate the zipper, though grabbing a handful of fabric on each side of the zipper with your other hand helps a lot. Grab a handful of fabric on the 'tension' side of the zipper (this eliminates "bunching" ahead of the slider).

got a friend who has a Palm
with the zipper on the back. He tack welded a hook on his drivers door, and uses that for his zipper.

No doubt your friend has a true paddler’s vehicle, the kind he can leave at a put-in and know it won’t be the most tempting vehicle for would-be thieves.

ask the manufacturer about lube
I forget which brand, but one suit maker uses a zipper that requires silicone lubricant. Other types of zippers should only get wax lubricant. Check with your manufacturer to make sure you use the right stuff for your suit.

About the tricky zipper position, I’d add a short piece of 1/4" tubular webbing (like climbers use for prusik loops). Don’t use a loop, just tie one end through the zipper pull, and tie a stopper knot in the other end to give you a better grip.

I hit my zipper with 303 plus I use chapstick on my Kokatat.

I know the kayak chemist will disagree but it works and my zippers are fine.

Chapstick…Oh yeah…Thanks!
I have heard before to use chapstick as it’s a mild wax formula with some oil for the skin. I just forgot about that advice. I have an Immersion Reseach with the brass zipper. I really don’t have a problem with reaching back as I also have a longer strap to facilitate the reach. The zipper is just a bit hard at times and even when I am not wearing the dry suit, the zipper is hard to move. Perhaps I will give chapstick a try. It’s small enough to even carry in your PFD pocket and you can buy it in a pinch in just about any store. Thanks to ALL for your advice.



chapstick is petroleum jelly
I thought petroleum products like chapstick were death for goretex and latex. I think there are better things to use on your zippers. If you’re in a pinch, and need some lube, you can use a candle, or some Burt’s Bees, but I wouldn’t use chapstick, personally.

I’m with Nate…
I can’t imagine using Chapstick on a zipper on a $1000+ piece of paddling apparel.

Beeswax, usually available in disc form at a “real” hardware store like Ace of True Value, works the best and I carry this item in my paddling kit.

In a pinch, a candle will work but, after a few years of experimentation, beeswax works best for those sticky, pesky zippers.

No, it isn’t petroleum jelly
While some formulations do contain some petrolatum, original Chapstick contains:

arachidyl propionate, camphor, carnauba wax, cetyl alcohol, D&C red no. 6 barium lake, FD&C yellow no. 5 aluminum lake, fragrance, isopropyl lanolate, isopropyl myristate, lanolin, light mineral oil, methylparaben, octyldodecanol, oleyl alcohol, paraffin, phenyl trimethicone, propylparaben, titanium dioxide, white wax, propanol

No petrolatum in sight.

Can’t thank everyone enough…
Thanks for all your advise and comments. This is a great paddling community. Gotta go. I have to buy BeesWax from Ace!

Kind regards!


Palm Zippers
The zippers on the Palm drysuits don’t use a wax based lube, they use a silicone based lube! This is part of the system for keeping water out as well as lubricant.

yes, but . . .

– Last Updated: Feb-08-12 10:53 AM EST –

That list of ingredients includes petroleum distillates, such as Mineral Oil. (maybe a chemist in the bunch can spot some others as well.)

The point is, both the fabric and the gasket material in our expensive drysuits is known to be damaged by petroleum distillates, so why take the chance by using $0.69 chapstick, instead of $4 McNett? Or whatever other product your particular manufacturer recommends.

checked Kokatat’s site…
They suggest any of silicone, paraffin or bees wax. They even suggest a small dab of Vaseline at the ends of the zippers to help prevent minor leakage there. The zippers aren’t near the latex so no issue there. Even if some of these were bad for Goretex there’s a reasonable margin between the zipper and the Goretex so that should be pretty safe.

I’ve picked up a tube of food grade silicone to use around my neck and may use a dab in addition to wax at times for the zipper. Food grade silicone has zero petroleum products mixed in and is often used for things like water filter fittings that need lubrication but may contact some drinking water.

Silicone lube
I’d try the silicone grease around your neck first before using it on the zipper. I’ve used it to prevent neck chafing against the gasket, and it works well for that. But even though it doesn’t have petroleum products, it behaves very much like grease. It is hard to wash off. It left marks (just like regular grease) on my old drysuit. It is also sticky enough that I would be leery of it holding sand on the zipper. The waxy lubes don’t do that.

I never had trouble with McNett ZipTech (the Chapstick-like tube) contaminating other areas.

One hint – lubricate frequently
The zippers on my Kokatat suit are so heavy-duty and hard to pull that I lubricate them almost every time I use the suit – say every 2 weeks at this time of year. Sure makes it easier. I apply Ziptech very lightly.

Getting in and out of a drysuit reminds me of a prom dress eons ago. If you came home late with no one awake in the house to unzip your dress (proper young girl I was), you had to figure out some ingenious hook to grab that zipper at your back and pull it down. Anyhow, I sure like my drysuit way better than ANY prom dress. But I did practice getting it on and off before I used it for real the first time. Good thing I did. You gotta have a system for getting in and then pulling those zippers.

G in NC