You lead an active lifestyle, and your idea of a family vacation includes huddling around the campfire, hiking through rugged terrain or white water rafting. And while you have a great appreciation for the great outdoors, you also happen to love your iPhone.
Electronics and the elements don’t always get along. And even for the average iPhone user who doesn’t spend their days on a bike, hike or zip line, a cracked screen or sticky-substance-smothered device is a major bummer — not to mention an inconvenience.
Below, we talked to tech experts and outdoors enthusiasts about how they use and protect their devices when exploring the great outdoors.
Technology can augment your active lifestyle
While there’s something to be said for the peacefulness of a secluded camp spot, there are a variety of ways that your devices can actually help streamline or augment an outdoor adventure experience.
Many outdoors enthusiasts find certain modern luxuries, such as smartphones or tablets, are actually useful tools for everything from peace of mind in case of emergencies to entertainment for the kids on family campouts.
Below are just a few of the thousands of apps on the market that can help improve an outdoor or adventure experience.
- Astronomy: SkyView Free is an amazing, highly rated app that allows users to simply point their iPhone at the sky in order to find constellations, learn the basics of stargazing and more.
- Hiking: For everything from finding the best hiking spots to locating mountain bike trails for any level of expertise, MapMyHike GPS Hiking is a fantastic option. The app allows users to choose from a huge variety of workouts (more than 600 different types) and record and analyze their activity and data.
- Compass: Commander Compass is a helpful tool for users who may not be the savviest at figuring out their location based on which side of the tree the moss grows.
- Weather reports: AccuWeather can help you plan whether or not that outdoor campout will be smooth sailing or if you’ll get stuck in the midst of a torrential downpour.
- Outdoors skills and SOS: If you’re an adventurous camper, downloading the free version of the Survival Guide app is a solid idea. Learn all of the skills you forgot from your Boy (or Girl) Scouts outings, including the types of plants and animals you should avoid in the wild.
Additionally, there are a variety of external gadgets you can purchase that work in conjunction with your devices during outdoors adventures, such as flashlights, camera add-ons and sport-specific tools for everything from rock climbing to scuba diving.
Protecting your technology from the elements
Normal wear and tear is hard enough on your devices in the comfort of your home. Add sand, dirt, snow and campfires to the mix, and it’s a perfect recipe for disaster for your electronics. A sturdy case, screen protector and other protective gear is crucial for making sure your devices can survive your outdoors adventures.
Below are a few of the most common concerns that arise when using your electronics with an active lifestyle, and how to best prevent accidental damage.
- Sunlight: Direct sun can be your iPhone’s enemy on a hot day outdoors. Leaving your phone or iPad in the scorching sun can cause it to overheat, which is terrible for both the battery and the longevity of the device in general. You can literally cook your devices if you leave them out for too long, and they may not function properly after an extended period exposed to too much heat. (Note: A campfire can also cause your device to overheat, so the danger isn’t over when the sun goes down.)If your phone accidentally overheats, shut off the device and close unnecessary apps (if possible — your phone will automatically restrict use of certain functions and apps if it gets dangerously warm). Move the phone to a cool area, but under no circumstances should you try to counteract the heat by throwing the phone in a place that’s too cold, such as the fridge. This can cause condensation to form and become trapped within the device.
Consider external protective gear for your phone that can help keep your device cool and as safe as possible from heat and sunlight.
- Other extreme temperatures: On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also possible for your phone to get too cold. If you’re a skier or snowboarder, consider either leaving your phone at home or keeping it in a very warm, well-padded pocket to protect against the elements and any accidental falls.Even putting the phone in a Ziplock bag can help provide insulation and protection if you’ll be somewhere around ice or snow, but nothing beats a case that’s specifically intended for protecting your phone. Adding as many layers as possible between your bare phone and the elements is the first step toward ensuring your device says safe from impact and other damages.
- Scratches, dents and cracked screens: It’s easy enough to drop your phone when going about your day-to-day life — and when you’re out in the wild, there are even more obstacles and chances for your phone to end up taking a tumble.There’s a simple fix for this: Purchase a sturdy case to ensure that your phone is protected if you — or it — take a spill. “This is one of the easiest ways to increase your iPhone’s lifespan,” says Lauren Fairbanks, owner of a chain of iPhone repair shops, Digital Remedy Repair. “A good case will protect your phone from screen cracks, damaging the LCD, and water exposure, which are the most common ways that iPhones get damaged.”
Carefully consider your lifestyle and needs when purchasing this type of protective equipment — and remember that you don’t need to sacrifice aesthetic appeal for adequate protection.
- High altitudes: If you’re a skier, hiker or mountain climber, your phone should be able to function at most altitudes. However, it’s extra important to take measures to protect against changing temperatures, and a sturdy case becomes of the utmost importance.
- Sand, dirt and other debris: A case will also help to protect against anything getting into the crevices of your phone or making its way into the ports. If sand or dirt does get in there, use scotch tape, a dust buster or a soft bristled toothbrush to gently lift, blow or brush the debris out of the crevice.
- Sweat: Lastly, one of the hidden enemies of your phone is your own sweat, particularly if you keep your phone on your person in the middle of a physically demanding activity like running, cycling or mountain biking.”Sweat is the number one but least known killer of phones,” says Jeff Clemmensen, the MiPhone Doctor of Fresno and an expert on iPhone maintenance. To prevent inadvertent damage, he suggests that iPhone users never keep their phone directly next to skin (like in a sports bra or the elastic band of workout shorts) when physically exerting themselves. This is another scenario where a protective case or covering can come in extremely useful.
- Extending battery life: If you’ll be using utility apps — specifically ones that include a GPS function — on a hike or mountain biking trail, you’ll likely be draining your battery faster than usual. To counteract this kind of battery-depleting activity, when possible, turn your phone on airplane mode or off entirely. An external battery pack can be a lifesaver — quite literally, in some cases.”I am constantly traveling and have a very active lifestyle,” says CJ Johnson, a photographer, entrepreneur and outdoors enthusiast. “Sometimes I will be on shoots in the middle of the desert or a forest with no way to keep my battery life going. This is especially a challenge because I’m a well-known iPhoneographer so I need my iPhone.”
For Johnson, a unique approach to app organization and a little restraint on phone usage makes a big difference. “I position my apps on my phone in order of use. So, I can easily open one and move on to another quickly and seamlessly. I rarely post anything to social media. In fact, I only snap pics, edit them quickly, and I delete any I don’t want immediately. I also don’t respond very much to texts unless they’re urgent and only use my map on rare occasions (I’ll do a print-out of a map if I can).”