Smartphones are now commonplace offshore, but many sailors hesitate to expose their beloved iPads to the elements. Fear not—there’s a growing number of weatherproof cases that make it possible to take your tablet sailing.
We tested a few contenders to see how well they keep the water out. Among other things, we found that a couple of the least impressive looking cases proved surprisingly effective. We also found that some especially rugged-looking models were not as durable as expected.
Bottom line: this market is still evolving, so take care when entrusting your iPad to any particular product, and make sure it does what you want.
Deep-Sea Dry (see image, top right)
The DryCase sort of blew our minds. It’s actually waterproof to 100 feet. Each time you insert your iPad, you use a pump (included) to quickly remove all the air from inside the device, vacuum sealing it so no water can get in. Surprisingly, you can still use your headphones even after sealing the case. The DryCase offers no shock protection, but is large enough to accommodate most regular iPad carrying cases, which are surprisingly effective at protecting an iPad from minor bumps and dings when encased in a waterproof bag. The enclosure also includes a pair of eyes for attaching a lanyard—another key feature in any iPad case. This was one of the cases that impressed us more the closer we looked at it. If you want to go underwater with your iPad to take pictures, video or utilize fancy apps while you’re diving, this is the way to do it. $59.99. DryCase
Surprisingly Good Protection (see image, top left)
The WaterGuard Plus Waterproof Case is another product that looked better the more we played with it. Like the DryCase, it’s basically a glorified Ziploc bag. However, it includes a sturdy lanyard attachment and a layer of foam padding that makes all the difference. Like the DryCase, the WaterGuard Plus is big enough to hold not just an iPad but its regular carrying case as well, which together with the foam pad offers a decent amount of shock protection. $24.Trendy Digital
It’s not cheap, but this case from Germany’s Andres Industries AG is as tough as they come. Built from U.S. military-grade materials, it is waterproof and protects against impact as effectively as any case we examined. It also floats and is among the easiest to use: just put the iPad inside, hinge it shut and then secure with four robust easy-to-use clips. A shoulder strap is available to free up your hands for, say, tailing a sheet, and a set of rubber feet allow you to set it down on a cockpit table without it immediately sliding off. A well-made bulletproof case. $430.
Hard to Beat
Designed specifically for the marine environment, Scanstrut’s Waterproof iPad Case is IP67 waterproof and shockproof and has a set of threaded inserts so it can be mounted on a fixed bracket. The case made its debut at the 2011 Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam, where it and the iPad it contained spent their time happily computing away at the bottom of a tank of water. It measures less than 1in thick and comes with a hand strap that can be adjusted for righties and lefties. A lanyard is also available. All in all, a good-looking case at a reasonable price: this is the only case we found built by a company in the marine business, and it shows. $106. Scanstrut
Affordable, but Limited
This is a reasonably priced sleeve that provides a certain amount of protection, but beware, the M-Edge is only water-resistant, not waterproof. It can shrug off a light splash, but it’s not for a rainy day or a wet ride on the rail, and you’d better not drop it overboard. The plastic is also quite reflective, as are all the flexible cases, and there’s no access to outlets or even the power button, as the zipper obstructs them; this restricts its usefulness to reading text or listening to music. $39.99.
If you don’t want your nice leather shoreside case to get battered on a cruise, or if you’re concerned about your iPad sliding off the chart table, the Otterbox Reflex and Defender cases should do the trick. But they’re not waterproof, so don’t bring them on deck if it’s wet out. They’re also a tough to put on, and we found the Defender didn’t always stay put. These may be fine for use on shore, but they’ll be of limited use at sea. From $69.95. Otterbox