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.)
Most Accident Proof: Catalyst Waterproof Case
If you’re adventurously spirited or accident prone, the Catalyst Waterproof Case’s durability is guaranteed to have your back. It can be submerged in up to 33 feet of water (about the height of a telephone pole), so that you can take it underwater on snorkeling trips and comes with a wrist lanyard so it doesn’t drift away. On land, it can survive drops of 6.6 feet (think the height of Michael Jordan) without a scratch. Plus, while many cases muffle the speaker and blur the camera lens, the True Sound Acoustic Technology keeps calls and music crisp and the hard-coated optics ensure photos stay sharp. (Available for iPhone.)
Buy now: $90, catalystlifestyle.com
Best Floating: AquaVault Waterproof Floating Phone Case
According to Pitts, one thing many people don’t consider when looking for a waterproof phone case is its ability to stay afloat. “If you’re going to be spending time in deeper bodies of water, like a lake or river, this is a feature you will want to consider,” he advises. Hands down, the most durable on the market is the AquaVault, a Shark Tank success story. The universal pouch fits any phone and the seal, roll, and velcro design gives three layers of protection against any droplets entering. Available in four colors, the case comes with a neck strap and the crystal clear plastic allows for underwater photography. Especially impressive is how quickly it resurfaces after being dunked. (Fits all phones.)
Best Day Use: Case-Mate Waterproof Phone Pouch
California surfing pro Teddy Navarro says to always be prepared when you’re in the vicinity of water. “Sometimes you are relaxing oceanside and the tide surges,” he says. “Also, there are times where you might have your phone in the pocket and run into the ocean.” So whether it’s a day on the beach or just an afternoon boat ride where there may be spills aplenty, the Case-Mate Waterproof Phone Pouch slips on quickly, turning your phone into a neck accessory, so you can enjoy the life aquatic hands-free. For camera fans, Case-Mate has also collaborated with Kodak on a custom design. (Fits all phones.)
Buy now: $20, case-mate.com
Best for Extreme Conditions: Otterbox DryBox 3250 Series
If you’re heading into the unknown—whether it’s a multi-day hiking trip or extreme weather conditions—and don’t want to risk damaging your phone at any cost, lock it away in the Otterbox DryBox, which can outlast a deep dive at 90 feet (the distance between baseball diamonds) for 30 minutes thanks to a pressure release slot design, and survive quite an impact thanks to its inner foam layer and tough polycarbonate shell. Plus, it can fit either two standard phones or a phone and a flat backup battery to ensure you stay powered up and connected. (Fits all phones.)
Buy now: $40, otterbox.com