The best iPhone cases for outdoor enthusiasts are able to protect Apple’s fragile device from dirt, dust, water, and the occasional accidental drop. In the past, in order to get that level of protection, you generally needed to buy a case that added a great deal of bulk to the otherwise sleek iPhone design. But as new materials have become available, and design methods have progressed, that isn’t necessarily the case any longer. Now, it is actually possible to buy a case that not only provides a high level of protection, but actually looks and feels good too.
As someone who lives and works in the outdoors, I manage to put my iPhone through a great deal of torture on an almost daily basis. The device is with me at all times, and is constantly at risk of being smashed against a rock while climbing, plunging into a river while paddling, or simply being dropped on the floor while waiting in line at Starbucks. Over the years I’ve managed to break my iPhone, and the case that it is wrapped in, on multiple occasions. Because of these unfortunate experiences I am all too familiar with what’s available in terms of “rugged” cases for Apple’s smartphone, and just what those cases bring to the table in terms of protection.
Over the past nine months I’ve had the opportunity to test three different rugged cases designed for the iPhone 6. What follows are some brief thoughts on each of those products after putting them to the test in normal day-to-day situations. This is not intended to be a full, in-depth review of any of these cases, but hopefully it provides some insightful tips to help you navigate through the numerous options of cases that are available for the iPhone 6 today.
Lifeproof nüüd ($90)
Unlike most cases, the Lifeproof nüüd applies a tight seal around the entire screen rather than applying a separate screen protector. This accomplishes the goal of providing complete protection from the elements, but at the expense of significantly muffling both the microphone and speaker. If you’re someone who typically uses a set of headphones, or a Bluetooth headset, for most of your phone conversations or music listening needs, than this is really a nonfactor. But if you’re not the kind of person who carries earbuds with you everywhere, you’ll probably want to consider a different case altogether. In all other aspects the nüüd is incredible. Rugged and tough, it is just the kind of case that will appeal to the outdoor enthusiast looking to keep their phone safe on their adventures.
Otterbox Defender ($60)
Out of all of the cases I’ve used with my iPhone 6, the Otterbox Defender is easily my favorite. It is less bulky than previous versions of Otterbox cases for the iPhones and it truly does offer excellent protection from dirt, sand, shock, and water. Unfortunately however, the built-in screen protector on the Defender reflects so much light that it creates an incredibly bad glare that is tough to ignore. In order to remedy this situation I replaced it with an “Anti-Glare” screen protector from Power Support. This eliminated the problem altogether, but it also had the adverse effect of removing the waterproof features from this case too. Keep that in mind if you decide to make similar modifications of your own, as you’ll end up losing some of the protection that you bought the case for in the first place.
Catalyst iPhone 6 Rescue Ranger ($70)
The Catalyst Rescue Ranger is the only case that I tested that was built to meet military specifications. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t add much in terms of overall size or weight to the phone itself. The built-in screen protector on this case takes a little more effort to get into place, but once it is applied, the Rescue Ranger provides complete protection from moisture, dust, and accidental drops. This a product that isn’t quite as well know as the other two cases on this list, but I came away highly impressed. My only gripe would be that the back of the case is very slick, and as a result, I have dropped the phone on more than one occasion.
These are my thoughts on each of these rugged iPhone 6 cases after using them in real-world situations. In the past, I’ve relied heavily on both the Otterbox Defender and Lifeproof nüüd to keep my iPhone safe and secure, but the Catalyst Rescue Ranger has really impressed me so far. It has some unique features that I haven’t seen on any other case before, such as a special dial for turning the mute switch on and off. Traditionally, by now I would have switched back to the Defender, but so far I haven’t found a single reason to take the Catalyst case off my phone just yet.