Protecting your gadgets in the outdoors

After my recent posts about Choosing a Smartphone for the outdoors and the usefulness of the new Nexus 7 tablet, I figured I should follow it up with information on how I keep these gadgets safe when I’m out hiking and backpacking.

First of all, in my post about choosing a Smartphone for the outdoors, I hadn’t actually decided which phone to go for. Not long after that post, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was launched, and it was the perfect phone for me. With removable battery, large screen, android OS and all the bells and whistles available, I reckon it’s probably the best phone on the market right now. Admittedly, that’ll change reasonably soon, as there’s almost certainly going to be a faster, better phone out… that’s just the way of the technology market!

So, now that I have a shiny new phone and an excellent new tablet to take in the outdoors, how do I protect them from damage?

There’s two types of damage that these devices are likely to be affected by. Shock, as in from an impact, when you fall or drop the device – and water damage, when it gets wet. I’ll take a look at both of these in turn.

Impact Protection

So, how do you protect your device from scratches and drops?

There are several different types of case on the market for most devices, and they range in price from as little as £2 up to over £30. Getting the right one can be quite a challenge.
First of all, do you want to be able to use the phone/tablet whilst its in its case? In my case, the answer is a definite yes, so that rules out any slide in wallet case or fold open case.
The drawback of that is that the screen remains exposed, and as its probably the most fragile part of the device, and most easily broken. If you’re going down the cheap route, the simple answer is a screen protector. This should protect the device from scratches, but will it really protect the device from a serious impact? Probably not.

Below is my S3 without any protection at all














When I first got the phone, it was on the day of release, so the choices of case were a bit limit. The case I really wanted wasn’t available (and didn’t end up being available for over a month!), so I went for the cheapest possible option, which was to apple a cheap screen protector, from eBay as well as get a cheap case. This is shown below:














I have to admit, for the whole month that I had the setup above, I was really worried about dropping the phone. I knew that it simply wasn’t going to be enough to protect the phone if it was dropped. There just isn’t enough impact protection there.

Eventually, my case of choice was released, and this is a case I’d heartily recommend to anybody looking to protect their phone. It’s the OtterBox Defender. At £30, these things are not cheap, but this type of case offers the best possible protection for your phone, whilst still providing you with access to all of the phones functions. The case is in 3 parts, as shown below. There is a polycarbonate shell that encapsulates the phone, which includes a physical screen protector, to protect the screen from scratches and impact. This is then wrapped in a rugged silicone layer, to provide additional impact protection.

When connected together, they provide a substantial protective case for the phone, as shown below. Admittedly, this pretty much trebles the thickness of the phone, and doubles the weight, but for me, at least, that’s a price I’m willing to pay for a little bit of confidence.















A couple of other points to note about the Defender case, and why it appeals to me so much. The headphone and power ports can both be sealed off by silicone covers, making the device significantly more resistant to dust and sand. As can be seen in the photos above, everything is recessed, in the sense that if you lay the phone down flat, no part of the phone will be touching the ground. This, I hope, will provide that little bit of extra protection if the device is dropped.

Now, there are other options on the market, which are similar to the OtterBox Defender, and in the same sort of price range. I chose the OtterBox as it worked for me, but if you’re looking for a protective case you could look at a Ballistic Maxx case or for a slightly cheaper option (without dust protection for ports), the Case-Mate Tough. I’ve shown cases for the Samsung Galaxy S3, but these companies make cases for the vast majority of popular devices, including iPhones, iPads, etc.

Sadly, there are not any cases on the market as yet for my Nexus 7. The only thing I can find that still keeps the screen free is almost exactly the same as my first case for the S3, which isn’t exactly doing it for me. I also contacted OtterBox, and they’ve advised me they have no plans to release a case for this tablet.

Hopefully someone will, though!

Water Protection

This section is pretty easy from where I’m sitting. All of the case options mentioned above provide protection, to varying degrees, from impact, but none of them provide any sort of protection in the event of water ingress. How do you then protect the device from water damage, and do you still want to be able to use the device?

For me, I want to be able to use the device whilst having it completely waterproof, so the case needs to allow access to and use of capacitive touchscreen.

The answer for me was simple. An Aquapac. These waterproof cases allow you full access to and use of the device screen,  whilst providing complete protection from water ingress. I have the Medium Whanganui for the Nexus 7 (shown below) and the Small Whanganui for the Samsung Galaxy S3. Both are submersible to IPX8 standards – they can be submersed under water for periods of 30 mins or more, to depths of 5m. More than enough for a drop in a puddle while hiking, but also enough to protect from a drop from a packraft!

Again, there are other cases on the market, which do similar jobs, but for me, it’ll be an Aquapac every time.

The aquapacs are both big enough to cater for their respective devices in impact resistant cases, too, to provide the maximum possible protection for your gadgets when in the great outdoors.

So, there you have it. That’s basically how I protect my own devices when in the outdoors, and hopefully it will have provided some inspiration to others. You can never be too sure when you’re going to need devices such as your mobile phone, and in an emergency, let’s face it, it will have most likely suffered some sort of impact or been submerged, if you’ve fallen or the like – best to make sure you’ll still be able to contact the emergency services (assuming there’s some form of reception!)

3 thoughts on “Protecting your gadgets in the outdoors”

  1. Perfectly timed post. I got in yesterday from a walk when the heavens opened. The inside of my rain jackets pocket was no protection for my Galaxy Note which was quite damp. Quickly pulled the battery out and left to dry overnight and looks like no harm done, but I really must get an aquapac or similar

    1. I have to admit, dropping my old Nexus One in a puddle was what spurred me on to my first aquapac… it only seems to be after you’ve had an incident you realise quite how fragile these gadgets are!

      The same case that fits the S3 will take the Note, if it helps. (Though potentially not if you’ve also got a defender case)

      1. I’ve ordered the aquapac tonight. Whilst the phones are quite fragile I’m not sure I need a defender like case . The Note has fallen from my pocket onto the road whilst I was cycling and was fine apart from a scratch, so they must be pretty strong. unlike the iphone4

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