Enjoy the Outdoors? Protect Your Tech Devices From Disaster

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Ah, the Great Outdoors. The fresh air, the relaxing sounds of nature, the break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But if you’re like me, even here you can’t completely disconnect. While getting out of the house is good — in fact, you should at least try to disconnect as much as possible — the outdoors is a rough place for your gadgets.

A surprise rainstorm could damage the insides of your devices. In the same token, a trip to the beach could get sand in places where it doesn’t belong. Your phone might fall out of your pocket on a hike, or the hot sun could cause your device to overheat.

Following a few simple tips and picking up a few additional accessories will keep those gadgets operating even in the harshest of conditions.

Keep cool and dry

Your gadgets have tolerances to weather extremes just like humans do. Heat can cause devices to overheat and damage the screen and/or the internal circuitry. On the other side, cold weather drains your battery far quicker, electronics maker Samsung says. Give your device time to adjust back to normal room temperature before using them after coming indoors. Do your best to keep devices as dry as possible — most have very little tolerance to any kind of liquid. Keeping them in some type of watertight bag is probably the best idea while you’re out and about.

Of course sometimes getting your devices wet is unavoidable: If they do, do not attempt to turn the device on, dry it out in a container of dry rice or silica gel, outdoor retailer REI recommends. Back up all your data immediately if you’re able to get the device to turn back on, as corrosion might still form and cause problems down the road.

Your everyday case won’t cut it

Many of us already use a case to protect our phones, but typically these cases are more to provide a cushion in case of a hard fall rather than protection from the elements. Mashable recommends the Otterbox to actually protect your devices from more than just drops.

Otterbox cases are a little different from your standard case in that they are ruggedized to handle more abuse, and are often waterproof as well. While they do cost a bit more than your everyday case, the additional protection is well worth if you lead an active lifestyle outdoors.

Smaller devices are better

Lifehacker recommends that you put a good deal of thought into what devices to bring before you even make the trip. For example, laptops are bigger and bulkier and have lots of spots where liquids and dust and sand could make their way in and do some serious damage. On the other hand, tablets and e-readers are a bit smaller with less openings and are also easier to store overall.

If you have a tablet without Internet access, consider tethering it to your smartphone if you need a bigger screen to work with. Many modern smartphone plans now include mobile hotspot services with your data plan itself. iMore points out that if you have a polarized sunglasses, you may need to use your iPad in landscape mode. This is due to the way the pixels of the tablet screen are arranged and the way polarized lenses work.

Waterproof your device

Hate cases?  A service like that provided by Liquipel might be a good solution for you. The company has developed a special process where a liquid repellent is applied to your entire device which makes it nearly  waterproof. The coating does not change the operation of the device at all. The company claims it provides up to 80% protection against liquid damage, including “accidental spills, splashes and brief shallow submersion.”

The only bad thing is that you will need to live without your device for a few days, due to the fact that Liquipel must use a specialized machine that applies the coating. It’s also not cheap, ranging anwhere from $60-90 depending on the device you’re trying to protect.

Is insurance a good option?

Bad things can still happen even if you take every precaution. Some may want to consider insuring their devices, but there’s no simple one-size-fits-all recommendation, USA Today’s Jennifer Jolly says. She argues the decision on whether or not to get insurance will come down to how hard you are on your devices.

Read the terms and conditions carefully of any insurance plan you consider. Make sure they will cover the most common issues that can occur while using your electronics outdoors: water, sand, or dust damage, and breakage. Not every plan is the same, so it’s important to read the fine print. Jolly recommends skipping the insurance plans offered by the carriers, however.

If you own an iPhone or iPad, consider AppleCare to protect your device as it covers a wide variety of potential incidents. Jolly also recommends SquareTrade for insurance on other devices, although in some cases repair costs may be higher than any manufacturer-sponsored plan like AppleCare.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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