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Waterproof cases for your iPhone

The iPhone, with GPS and navigation capabilities, makes a perfect device to accompany most of your outdoor adventures. Except for one problem: it hates water. I know this, but I was forced to do something about it last fall.

My friend Mike has a sailboat. He asked me to take the dinghy back to get some more gear while he finished opening up the boat. I no longer got both feet into the rowboat before it flipped, sending me and my iPhone into the river. I immediately tried to get my phone out of my pocket and handed it up to him in case it could be saved. I couldn’t dry it out enough or get it working reliably, so I had to buy a replacement. I hate that dinghy.

Whenever I’m going around water, or if it might rain, I bring a waterproof pouch for my phone.

There seems to be a couple of approaches to protecting your phone. It depends on what you want to be able to do with your iPhone as to which approach is best. Some questions to ask:

  • How waterproof does it need to be?
  • How much functionality do you need from your phone?
  • Do you need it to be buoyant?
  • Does it have to be a hard case?

The Kitchen Solution
Besides the “it won’t happen to me” approach, which led to my own iPhone death, there seems to be a zipper plastic bag approach which is pretty popular. The idea is to take one or two zipper plastic bags and seal your iPhone inside. This approach leaves the iPhone touch screen functional but I would not rely on it being very water tight. I certainly would not try submerging the device in the bag. In case of accidentally dropping it into the water, unless you have it inflated, it won’t float. The camera should be functional, depending on the clarity of the plastic baggies, but there is no headphone access. You can make phone calls though, since the plastic does not interfere with the sound very much. This approach might work against splashing and it may be “better than nothing” but it’s not recommended.

Here are some other options available through Amazon.

Waterproof Bags
Aquapac makes more robust versions of the zipper-lock baggy idea.

Aquapac Waterproof iPhone/Droid Case
Aquapac Waterproof iPhone/Droid Case

These use a water locking seal and sturdy seams to protect your iPhone. They often include a lanyard. The one I’ve used is the Aquapac Waterproof iPhone/Droid Case, for example. The case seals with locking tabs and the clear plastic front allows full operation of the iPhone touch screen. It can float if it goes into the water. The back of the case is blue and does not allow the use of the built-in camera.

If you want to be able to use the camera’s camera, you may want to consider something like the Aquapac Waterproof Case for Small/Compact Camera. This has a clear LENZFLEX material for photography. This case can also float.

Kwik Tek is another company that makes waterproof bags for electronics. A good option might be the Kwik Tek 6×5 Dry Pak Camera Case. This model has a clear plastic material for shooting through and an adjustable neck strap.

If you want to hear your music, though, you’re going to need a case with a waterproof headphone jack.

Waterproof case with Headphone Jacks
I like to listen to music while I am exercising. The products we’ve seen so far have no way of connecting your headphones once your iPhone is sealed away.

H2O Audio Amphibx Waterproof Armband & Surge Headphones
H2O Audio Amphibx Waterproof Armband & Surge Headphones

I have tried the H2O Audio Amphibx Waterproof Armband with my iPhone. It has an adjustable arm strap and waterproof headphone jack. There is a ClearTouch screen to allow you to operate your touch screen through the case. It’s waterproof to 12′ and has a replacement policy for your electronics. The only problem I’ve had with this item is that the iPhone doesn’t stay in place and the action button can slip behind the rubberized window on the arm band. This can make it more difficult to operate. Also, headphones are sold separately. I have a set of H2O Audio Surge Waterproof Headphones. They come with multiple rubber cups so you can adjust them for your own ears. Mine work great. Another option, especially if your are a kayaking rapids or surfing might be H2O Audio IEN1-BK Surge Sportwrap Waterproof Headphones. They wrap around the back of your head and have an over the ear hook to keep them in place.

This solution doesn’t support a microphone and I’ve had to miss calls while working out. It’s really good for listening to music while your paddling or pedaling away though.

Waterproof case with Headphone AND Microphone Jacks

DryCASE DC13 Cell Phone Case (Crystal Clear)
DryCASE DC13 Cell Phone Case (Crystal Clear)

This may be the holy grail: the DryCASE DC13 Cell Phone Case (Crystal Clear) is a waterproof, buoyant, 3-way headphone/microphone compatible, clear case for your iPhone. It even includes an arm band.

The only problem I have been having is finding a set of waterproof headphones with a microphone. You can use the headphone/microphone combination that comes with your phone, but it’s not gonna hold up to water. Waterproof headphones with microphones may be cost prohibitive. Headphone replacements will run you less than $40 in the event of a brutal dunking. It would be pretty sweet to be able to go kayak fishing and be able to take a call if I get one. Or make a call to brag about the conditions to a buddy who couldn’t make it.

UPDATE: h2o audio has released a new Surge Contact Waterproof Headset for about $70.

Waterproof Hardcases
But, maybe you need something more rugged? Worried about your iPhone bouncing around in the bottom of your kayak? Maybe you need a Pelican i1015 iPhone/iPod Touch Case. This case is made of hard plastic and is watertight, crush proof and dust proof. It has a headphone jack and a carabiner clip.

Another option is the OtterBox 2000 Waterproof Drybox Case. This case is waterproof, crush proof and dust proof, too. There is no headphone jack though.

These products can help you keep you iPhone investment safe while you enjoy the outdoors. Don’t get wet without one! 🙂


Eric Holsinger
an outdoorsy husband/father living in Southern Maine. Eric began sharing his outdoor interests in the late 1990's and founded NETrailhead.com in 2001. Eric is also an amateur photographer. His photography can be found at HolsingerPhoto.com.
http://www.holsingerphoto.com

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