We love gadgets. Even more, we love gadgets we can take with us outdoors—which today means quite a few, what with the mobile technology revolution well underway. Leading the pack for the go-to device when you venture outdoors is, of course, the iPhone. Aside from its handy communication capabilities, the GPS chip and compass of the newer 3G and 3GS models make them ideal companions out on the trail and in the backcountry. The trouble with technology is that it is not typically made for the great outdoors, where events such as downpours, sandstorms, mud puddles, and the like can quickly turn your hundreds-of-dollars device into a paperweight. But never fear, where there is a gadget, an accessory is not far behind. Here are a handful of cases to consider that are built just to keep your iPhone high and dry in even the worst conditions.—Keene Haywood
Dahon BioLogic Bike Mount Case
This folding bike maker has decided it can build a pretty good iPhone case. And it seems they have. Their case is sleek and made to fit on (surprise!) bike handlebars or stem. The case is not waterproof, but called weatherproof. It should be able to take some rain and be fine. Plus you can still use the phone’s touch screen while it's in the case. Of the weatherproof cases, it's one of the more streamlined and worth considering if you are a cyclist or really need some weatherproof protection while still being able to use your iPhone. MORE >>
Otterbox 2600 Series PDA Case
This is a PDA case that fits iPhones. While it's not something you will put in your pocket, if you plan on getting wet and muddy, this case may be the ticket. It is not waterproof, but is crushproof and water-resistant so it can get wet, but don’t plan on taking it diving. This case maybe the perfect companion on your next mountain gorilla trip, should one of the silverbacks manage to get a grip on your iPhone as you snap a photo. As an added bonus, you can still use the touchscreen through Otterbox’s special membrane cover on the case. To talk with the phone in the case, though, you will need a bluetooth headset (preferably one that is weather resistant, too). MORE >>
Otterbox Defender Case
If you really just need a case for, say, camel trekking across the Sahara, then Otter’s Defender case is top notch. This case offers shock and dust protection while still allowing you to use the phone’s touch screen and ports, which are protected with heavy rubber caps. This case is not waterproof nor is it even advertised as water resistant, so this may be best for those dry, dusty places. MORE >>
Pelican i1015 iPhone Case
The venerable hard box maker won’t be left behind with the iPhone craze. Their solution is this custom-fitted case which, again, offers weatherproof, but not waterproof, protection along with being dust and crush proof. A handy feature of the “i” model is the fact you can plug in your headphones while the phone is still in the case which is a nice touch. MORE >>
Aquapac’s iPhone Case
This case won’t win any awards for looks or sleek lines. It is essentially a drybag scaled down for your iPhone or ipod. But, if you are running the rapids or doing your annual rainforest trek during the rainy season, this case should ease any worries about getting your iPhone soaked. It is waterproof! So if this is what you need, this may be the case to get. And its pretty reasonable at $30. They make a wide variety of waterproof gadget bags so check out their other offerings too. MORE >>
If you really need solid protection, then a case that allows you to actually use some of the features of the iPhone may not work so well. What you will need is more of traditional case. You will have to take the phone out of the case to use it so it could be vulnerable, but if you are in some extreme weather with the potential for a device getting crushed, a dry box is the way to go until you can use the phone on drier ground. While not specifically designed for these devices, the boxes will definitely keep them dry and protected. Check out Otterboxes, which come in a wider range of smaller sizes for keeping easy small items totally waterproof.
Worst-Case Scenario: Let’s say that your iPhone does take a swim (and hopefully not in saltwater), don't worry, all is not lost. The phone may not work after a drenching, but since it has no moving parts inside, if it is dried out carefully, it may very well come back to life. I drenched my iPhone on a hike in Colorado with water literally dripping out of it. I thought it was toast. I toweled it off and let it air dry for about 24 hours and sure enough it booted up and worked just fine. You can also try this trick. Put your soggy iPhone in a bag of rice and let the rice absorb the water. I’ve heard from more than one person that this really works.
Keep in Mind: There is a moisture sensor in the iPhone that will trip if it does get exceptionally wet. If you take the phone in for service after getting wet, you may get your warranty invalidated . So while your phone may come back to life after it dries out, Apple may charge you to service it going forward if they see that the sensor(s) have been tripped (they change color with moisture).
Photographs, from top, courtesy of: Pelican; Dahon BioLogic;
Otterbox (2); Pelican, Aquapac; Otterbox