A few years back, I convinced a couple of friends to go on a road trip to a Pennsylvania casino for some frivolous birthday fun. I figured I’d celebrate by taking a gamble and moving up from my normal penny slots, so I took a quick bathroom break to mentally prep. Cut to: a splash, and the visual of my phone swimming in the toilet bowl. Sure enough, I had left my phone in my jeans’ back pocket.
Eventually, after hurrying back to New York City to use Staples’ TekDry machine, which could zap liquid out of tech devices, I was able to save all my yet-to-be-downloaded pictures and my phone went (somewhat) back to normal. But that one careless moment ruined the entire trip. So instead of further testing my luck, I invested in a waterproof phone case. Once I snapped it on, my water-logged worries were history.
What to look for in a waterproof case
“Phone wipeouts are the worst,” Izzy Tihanyi, founder of a San Diego-based surf school, Surf Diva, says. “Especially while traveling, your phone is your concierge, travel agent, and tour guide all in one.”
During surf lessons, she doubles up with a hard plastic waterproof case inside a plastic pouch lanyard that she tucks in her rash guard. And she advises not to skimp on quality. “The hard case must be from a reputable brand or it won’t function properly with the touch screen,” Tihanyi explains, adding that “the cheap ones won’t hold up the waterproof seal.”
Tech care company Asurion reports seeing an 80 percent rise in water and liquid claims from June through August last year, a time when many travelers are out on the water. The company’s tech expert Gary Pitts points out that no two phones are created equal, so it’s essential to first find out how waterproof your phone is. For instance, the iPhone 11 and Pixel 4 both have an IP68 rating, which means they can survive being submerged in 13 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, while older phones that are IP65 can only be splashed gently.
“But if you’ve had a screen or battery replaced, be aware that after being disassembled, the waterproofing is no longer fully effective due to the protective coating seal being broken,” Pitts says. He adds that cracked screens can also be sensitive to water.
Whether you’re looking to waterproof your phone around the clock or only for specific water sports or activities, here are the best waterproof phone cases to ensure nothing’s ever left out to dry on your travels.
All products featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Best All-Around: Lifeproof FRĒ Case
Whether it’s for daily use or adventurous outings into the snow or water, the Lifeproof FRĒ has you covered. While the brand's older versions were a bit bulky, the new, sleeker design is like a thin second skin and the screen protector was barely noticeable. With five color choices and the ability to stay waterproof in three feet of water for an hour and drop-proof from three feet, this is the perfect case for everyday life. Plus, their customer service is top notch when it comes to the warranty. (Available for iPhones and Samsung Galaxy.)