Do you use 'waterproof' zippers?

  1. For the Carry-on and Daily, we went all-out against rain, with highly water-resistant core fabric, water-repellent treatment on the zippers, and a seam-sealed rain cover bundled as standard.
  2. Compared to water-resistant zippers, this approach gives you a better deal, makes the bag easier to use and gives it a longer lifespan, protects better against rain, gives you more usage options, takes weight off your shoulders, and makes it easier to replace parts without unnecessary waste. We go into more detail on all of these below!
  3. The Rolltop and Crossbody are also water-resistant, taking an approach which doesn't require rain covers, but still benefits from our coated fabric and water-repellent zipper treatment. 

The (Very) Long Version

In this article

Our mission is to make great gear that lives a long, long life. 

We also make gear that protects the valuables you put inside. For example, our Pictonβ„’ bag fabric is internally coated to a 1800mm+ rating, which in everyday language means water will have a very, very, very, very, very hard time getting through and soaking your stuff.

HEADS UP πŸ”Ž

If you're looking for a more general, less zipper-focused deep dive, check out our article Are Minaal bags water-resistant?

Having a protective fabric is all well and good – but when we reviewed and researched our first component list in 2012, we discovered that the biggest challenge to a long lifespan is zippers. They're the bag equivalent of a full hairline, or flexibility, or youthful optimism – that is, often the first things to fail. 

woman doing a crazy stretch

Most zippers won't be doing this when they're 10 years old.

Zippers are also usually the Weakest Link in the bag when it comes to rain protection. Some bag companies address this by using polyurethane ('PU') coated zippers and naming them "water-resistant" (or in more ambitious moments, "waterproof" – spoiler alert, they are not waterproof).

If PU zippers help protect against rain, why don't we use them on any of our bags?

Starting with the core mission of long lifespan: in our research, on average these zippers live an even shorter life than regular zippers. Especially when not actively maintained, they can degrade and crack to a point where they're not only failing to protect against moisture, they're not even working as regular zippers.

HEADS UP πŸ”Ž

We'll get into some of the other downsides of PU zippers as we explore how Minaal bags do deal with rain.

So – how can we maintain bag lifespan while also making sure we keep rain away from your valuables?

Carry-on & Daily

The Carry-on and Daily are our 'life on the road' workhorses, so they have heavy-duty rain protection included as standard. 

Non-toxic Water Repellent Dipped Coating

We use best-in-class YKK zippers, and on top of that, apply a water-repelling 'dip' treatment to increase their water resistance. The dip-style treatment lasts longer than the more common spray-style treatment, and is non-toxic to boot. 

Compared to PU-coated zippers, our dipped versions:

  • ...are faster and easier to pull open and closed
  • ...use less material, meaning less future waste
  • ...decrease your carry weight
  • ...can be re-coated with repellent spray whenever you want, infinitely
  • ...mean the zippers themselves are easier to replace in a local shop anywhere in the world, if needed.

close up of lockable Minaal zippers

The zippers on our Carry-on and Daily models are also lockable.

Seam-sealed Rain Cover

But if you know anything about us, you'll know we didn't stop at the dip 😎

We also include a seam-sealed, custom-fitted rain cover as standard – an accessory which some companies charge $50+ for. 

The ultra-light fabric we use for the cover is double-coated and rated to 1500mm, which is equivalent with many outdoor/hiking-specific products. 

DESIGN INSIGHT ✏️

You might notice something crazy - that our main Picton fabric is rated more water resistant than our dedicated rain cover. That's a compliment to Picton, not a reflection on the cover – just be aware that the rain cover is still more weather resistant overall, due to the lack of zippers.

But what about the stitching? In a rain cover with no zippers, the sewn lines become the Weakest Link. To address this, we 'seam-seal' the cover, which means carefully coating the sewing lines with a strip of adhesive to ensure a water-tight fit.

You'll see some bags with 'all-in-one' fabrics, with the idea being that you can have your cake and eat it too. Imagine if you asked someone their job, and they said "well, I have a zoology degree, I sell watercolours on the street in Paris, and I engineer multi-lane motorway bridges when I have time"... doesn't exactly fill you with confidence about the structural integrity of the bridges, does it.

Unfortunately, the more roles your fabric is trying to play, the less specialised it is on any one role. Picton is our core fabric and its job is to be long-lasting and look good. The rain cover fabric is there to reject water and be super lightweight. 

Our approach is: specialised fabrics, specialised performance.

minaal carry-on with rain cover under a waterfall

This is the Carry-on rain cover. Comes with the bag. Beautiful, isn't she.

Speaking of weight – while the rain cover has its own dedicated secret pocket, it also packs into itself and can be fully detached from the bag, meaning it never adds weight or takes space unless you want it to. 

The final reason we went with a separate rain cover is that it can act as protection for the core bag when it gets gate checked / shoved inside a dusty chicken bus / dragged across gravel / take your pick of damaging moments. In turn, again, that means a longer lifespan for the bag. 

And if it the cover too much of a beating, it can be easily swapped out for a new one – instead of having to buy a whole new bag. 

PERSONAL INSIGHT: JIMMY (MINAAL CO-FOUNDER) πŸ‘‹

The rain cover isn't "waterproof", which means it can't be fully submerged in a river / the ocean / your bath(?!). 

But I've been caught in a summer storm in NYC, on the back of a motorbike during a typhoon in Vietnam, and on a remote beach on New Zealand's West Coast (if you've been, you know). 

The rain cover has never let through any water in any of those situations.

Rolltop & Crossbody

These bags fill a different role than the Carry-on and Daily, and have a different approach to match. Regardless, we still protected both bags with the same non-toxic, water-repelling zipper dip treatment to further minimise risk. 

The biggest threat with rain is zippers that sit on top of the bag, 'facing the sky'. The Rolltop simply doesn't have any of those, which is a huge advantage. That said, given the length of the zippers and rain's ability to fall sideways in some parts of the world(!), you'll want to be careful staying out in consistent rain too long.

The Crossbody does have a zipper facing the sky, but is small enough to hide under clothing if necessary (and given its size, wouldn't make sense with a full-on rain cover).

close up of Minaal Rolltop main zipper
The Rolltop's main zip doesn't face the sky, but we protected it anyway.

Summary

We make gear for people who need peace of mind when it comes to their bag, to maintain focus on what's actually important. 

For those people, the combination of strategic zipper placements, dedicated seam-sealed rain cover, and water-repellant dip treatment gives the best result. 

Minaal Approach PU Zippers
Repels water βœ… βœ…
Faster and easier to pull βœ… ❌
Longest possible lifespan
βœ… ❌
Minimise material/waste βœ… ❌
Minimise carry weight βœ… ❌
Re-coatable by owner / bag store βœ… ❌
Easily replaceable around the world βœ… ❌
Protects core bag fabric βœ… ❌

Is there a use for truly waterproof zippers? Yes: on fully waterproof bags that are designed to be submerged for extended periods. 

You generally don't want to haul those types of bags to your workspace every day!

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