Traveling is tough on electronics, and it’s phones and cameras that seem to have the hardest time. That’s no surprise – we carry them everywhere, in all kinds of conditions, from hiking the Inca Trail to exploring the Brazilian Amazon. This makes it all too easy for them to get dropped, knocked or drowned just when we need them the most.
Here are a few different ways to protect your phone or camera when you’re on the road.
♦ Keep That Phone Safe
If the number of smashed screens I see is any indication, a smartphone must be one of the easiest tech items to damage when you’re on vacation. It’s so easy to drop when you’re taking a photo or getting it out to check directions, not to mention getting caught out by changeable weather. If you think you don’t enjoy being soaked to the skin by a sudden downpour, imagine how little your iPhone likes it.
There are thousands of different phone cases out there, but many of them are more decorative than functional. If you need some real protection no matter what your vacation in Latin America throws at you, the Taktik cases are some of the best I’ve come across. The new 360 model (available for pre-order, $125) for iPhone 6 is designed to handle pretty much anything – heavy impacts, dust and dirt, even submersion in six feet of water for up to an hour. Unlike many such cases, removing and reinserting the phone (say, to change SIM cards) is a cinch, via a new key-locking mechanism.
If you’re still using an earlier iPhone model, the Extreme case ($125) has similar dust, impact and water ratings, just without the fancy locking technique.
♦ No More Dropped iPhones
If you’re looking for a way to protect your phone from both accidental drops and the attention of pickpockets, it’s worth spending a few dollars on the Kenu Highline. This interesting little device is basically a coiled bungee cord for your iPhone, with one end locked securely to the device and the other attached to your belt loop, zipper or anywhere else you can find.
It extends far enough to let you comfortably use the phone as a camera, but not far enough that it will hit the ground if you drop it. Any thief will be in for a nasty surprise if they try to take the phone from your pocket – it won’t be going anywhere, and you’ll know all about it very quickly.
The Highline costs $34.95 for the iPhone 5/5s version, and $19.95 for older versions. A revised model for the iPhone 6 is due out soon.
♦ Protecting Your Camera
Your phone isn’t the only thing that needs protection, of course. Whether you’re toting a high-end DSLR, a tiny point and shoot camera or almost anything in between, they all have one thing in common: they don’t like being knocked around, and they don’t like getting wet. I was talking to a fellow traveler recently who was telling how he’d got caught in a downpour in Sri Lanka for no more than a few minutes, that completely ruined the camera hanging around his neck.
There are many different styles of camera bag, depending on how much space you require and how you prefer to carry your gear, but a couple of Lowepro models stand out for most travelers due to their versatility and protection.
The Transit Sling 250 is designed for fast access to your camera, with plenty of padding and a waterproof cover that can be quickly folded out when the heavens open. There’s enough room to store a DSLR with one or two lenses and accessories, or you can use the extra space for a jacket, lunch or whatever else you might need for the day. The movable compartments let you store just about any configuration of camera gear, along with a dedicated section for an iPad or other tablet computer, in a size and design that make a lot of sense.
The Slingshot 102 offers many of the same features in a slightly different, more compact design. If you’ve got a smaller camera or fewer lenses, this might be an even better choice – and it’s noticeably cheaper as well.
♦ Heading Underwater
If you’re planning to spend any time snorkeling, diving or just being around water, consider how you’d like to protect your camera. At the most basic level, a decent dry bag will set you back under $20 and prevent accidental splashes from destroying your electronics. If you want to actually take photos in or under the waves, however, you’re going to need something better.
If you’re particularly serious about your underwater photography and already carry a good camera, consider investing in a waterproof housing for it. Just be aware that they aren’t cheap (often costing more than the camera itself), and can add significant weight and bulk to your luggage. If you’d prefer something smaller and lighter, the latest GoPro cameras are tiny, waterproof down to 130 feet and cost between $129 and $499 depending on the model. They can be used for far more than underwater shots, of course, making them even better value for many travelers.
How do you protect your phone and camera when you travel?