Skip to Content

How to replace backpack zipper

 There is something really quite frustrating about a broken zipper which will just not stay shut! My daughter’s backpack zipper failed this week leaving her struggling with plastic bags at school.

If your backpack zipper has broken let me show you how to change it. If any item is broken my attitude is we don’t loose anything by to repair the item, after all we can’t make it any worse!! (My son did amuse me the other day when requesting a ”proper repairman”, my husband pointed out he couldn’t make it any worse!).


You will need a sturdy sewing machine that is comfortable with layers of fabric – I have a Bernina 830 which is perfect for a job such as this.

How to replace a backpack zipper


  • Seam ripper
  • zipper
  • denim needle
  • sewing machine
  • top stitch thread
  • needle
  • pins

The first step in replacing your backpack zipper is to measure the length of the existing zipper. This is the length required for your new zipper. I suggest buying a zipper which looks the same strength, for example this backpack zipper has metal teeth so I ensured I bought a metal teeth zipper as the replacement.

Next lets take note of how the existing zipper is installed, on this backpack there is the lining fabric, zipper, fabric , outer bag fabric. If you are uncertain take a photograph so you can refer to it later if need be.


Using your seam picker unpick the stitching holding the zipper in place. Having unpicked the obvious seam I discovered a second seam to unpick.

Starting at the base of the zipper pin the zipper in place, ensuring your layers align nicely and the lining fabric will not get caught in the zipper teeth. Methodically work your way across one side of the backpack then repeat on the second side.



This next step is optional, a little old school but I like to tack the zipper in place. Tacking stitches are effectively very large running stitches which will hold the layers in place as a temporary measure. I like to take the time to do this as I find I have much more control for the next step.


Now lets set up the sewing machine. Change the needle to a new denim needle and thread the top and bottom with a top stitching thread. Lastly change the foot to a zipper foot and lengthen the stitch length to 4.


We are nearly there! Machine stitch the zipper in place, if your sewing machine struggles stitch slowly. 


Check your zipper opens and closes happily then unpick your tacking stitches.



Lastly lets finish the ends of the zipper install. On this backpack I unpicked a few stitches which run horizontally to the zipper. As my sewing machine won’t quite reach this angle handstitch to finish.



There is no doubt that replacing a backpack zipper is fiddly and time consuming but also incredibly satisfying. My daughters backpack was merely six months old, and originally cost £40 – the new zipper £5, by tackling the job I saved myself £35 🙂 Never mind reducing an item going to landfill.

If you also love repairing items check out how to repair inner thigh of jeans, how to replace the zipper in jeans, and how to repair frayed towels.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Sunday 7th of May 2023

I came across a free backpack (most likely due to it having a broken zipper) that my kids really like (it's a black leather deal with green leather spikes so it kind of looks like Bowser). It is still usable but I want to replace the zipper before it causes problems. I was already fairly sure how to do it and your post confirmed the exact order of operations for me. Hopefully my machine will be able to handle the leather (its a 1896 Singer treadle)!

Vicky Myers

Sunday 7th of May 2023

Good luck, hopefully, your machine will handle the leather.


Friday 16th of September 2022

I'd never heard of double-sided tape (DS tape) until I looked into bag making. But, this would be a perfect basting application for it.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.