Since the introduction of the Rockfax App last October, we have been on the lookout for a convenient case system for carrying the phone safely while climbing or scrambling. There are plenty of cheap and chearful solutions available that you can get from market stalls. These may well work fine but when in a climbing or hillwalking environment you really need something a little more robust and reliable. That is why we were keen to try the Overboard Waterproof Large Phone Case which, at £18.99, is hardly going to break the bank but is obviously a quality product designed to be used in the outdoors.
Overboard have a large product range of dry bags, tech cases and backpacks aimed originally at the surf/boat market, but which have now found fans in the outdoor world in general. Their tech cases offer secure carrying systems in waterproof pouches but with little padding - it is assumed that you have your own case system to protect the phone from knocks.
The Waterproof Large Phone Case we looked at is designed for large phones - iPhone 6 size, or reasonably large Android phones. There is a smaller version which is the same design just a little cheaper. It comes with a strong lanyard plus a small split ring and krab for attaching should that be required. This enables it to be carried around the neck away from your waist pockets which is obviously preferable when wearing a harness or a rucksack. The Slide Seal System is easy to operate and forms a solid, if slightly chunky, closure. If we were a watersport site I might spend some time testing how waterproof this is, but since we deal with climbing and hillwalking, and the system is definitely rainproof, then we can take it that the case is sufficiently waterproof.
So how does it perform? Inserting the phone is straightforward as long as it has a slim protective case, or no protective case. We did find that an iPhone 6 with a tougher protective case (like some of the larger Griffin cases) will not fit at all. Once inside, closing it up is a simple procedure.
Our preferred position for this case when climbing or hillwalking is with the lanyard around the neck, and the phone dangling down our front. The clasp on the lanyard allows you to choose how long the device dangles, which you can adjust to suit the clothing you are wearing and/or your eyesight. To use it like this you put the phone in upside down so that when you grab it and turn it to look at the screen, it is the right way up. The case works fine on the front in this orientation but curiously the way the back has been designed means that the camera is covered. I realise that there may be other ways you might use the lanyard for carrying the device but around the neck would seem to be obvious for most sports so it does seem to be a bit of an error to have configured it so that the camera is covered when the phone is upside down in the case. Obviously you could put the phone in the other way up so that the camera is useable but then each time you look at the phone you do need to hold the lanyard out of the way.
On this point Overboard commented - "With regard to the camera being obscured, it is a fair point and something we will look into with the possibility of the back window being extended to rectify the problem."
The covered camera
Stored inside a jacket
The tough vinyl screen allows touch contact so that you can control the phone without taking it out. The screen is quite glossy though and it makes the 'bright sun phone problem' significantly worse. I am not sure if a type of transparent cover exists that wouldn't suffer from this. For climbing and general hill use, a case that gave you the option to directly access the screen might be worth developing since being waterproof is only occasionally required. It is also worth noting that whilst the touch screen works fine through the vinyl, the finger-print button doesn't, so you do need to input the pass code each time you look at it.
Stored in a large Napoleon pocket
Stored on the lanyard attached to a large Napoleon pocket
When storing the phone away and getting on with the climbing or scrambling you have a couple of options. The easiest is to slip it down your jacket front. This will keep it in a safe position that will be free from swinging around or getting compressed (unless you tackle some weird off-width chimney). The other alternative is to use the Napoleon pocket you get in many modern fleeces and jackets. This pocket has definitely been developed in recent years with phones in mind. Unfortunately, on the fleece we tried, the extra bulk of the case meant that it didn't fit into the pocket. On another bigger jacket, it did fit. You can also use the lanyard and the split ring to attach the phone to the zip (or internal loop if one is fitted in the pocket) to keep the system more self-contained and away from your neck.
In a very fast developing market this product offers a decent solution at a reasonable price, and would appear to be significantly more reliable than the multitude of cheaper alternatives available. The design which makes the camera unusable when you put the phone in upside down appears to be a major mistake and the sizing is slightly restrictive for general use depending on how big your case and/or pockets are. Overall it is a good first try but there is some room for improvement, especially in developing a more climber-and-scrambler-specific solution.
Our 100% waterproof Slide Seal System™ combined with a transparent front and LENZFLEX back means you can browse, chat or snap away while your SMART Phone or Phablet device is safely sealed inside the waterproof pouch.
Big enough to accommodate even the largest of SMART Phones including the iPhone 6 Plus, the OverBoard Waterproof Phone Case is also guaranteed submersible to 19ft / 6m, meaning you can drop it in the water without losing your rag.
For more info see over-board.co.uk
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