Now, we aren’t really the experts on outdoorsmanship, so we thought it wise to talk to someone who knew a thing or two about technology in hazardous conditions. Taking a quick stroll down to the University of Ottawa’s Earth Sciences Department, we got in touch grad student Jamil Sader. This guy’s done field work everywhere from the rocky James Bay Lowlands and parched deserts of New Mexico, to arctic tundra and the urban jungle of Ottawa. While on the job, he tends to stick to his iPaq, but we won’t hold that against him. Before anything, Jamil made it perfectly clear that there’s no substitute for paper out in the field. Technology will invariably fail, and when you’re paying $2000/hour for a helicopter to drop you off in remote wilderness, you can’t afford to send off for a replacement handset. Under those conditions, protecting your data is vital for saving time and money.
After looking over some of OtterBox’s products, he mentioned something similar that he had seen used by others, called Amphibian, which provided complete water protection, but at $875, it wasn’t a system he was typically budgeted for. (And by the looks of it, the OtterBox 1910 could do the job just as well for $69.95). Complete airtightness didn’t seem to be much of an issue for Jamil. You might be working in the rain, or drop your handheld in the mud, but it wasn’t often that you would end up completely submerging your device. This is perfect for OtterBox, since they’re explicitly water-resistant, but the little nooks and crannies will let water in if submerged. Jamil sided sooner with the 8700 case because of its sturdier construction, and wasn’t overly concerned with its bulky size. When hurriedly dismounting a chopper, you can’t be too concerned for your equipment’s well-being, after all. For urban work, though, he said the 8800’s case would work well, since the slimmer size would facilitate quicker access and easier holstering.
Although the GPS box wasn’t initially much to look at, Jamil was clearly impressed with it. Often a GPS puck had to be out in the open to get a satellite signal, so something which protected it while exposed was immediately valuable. The attached rope was also an eye-catcher for him, since it would allow tethering to backpacks, roof-racks, or wherever a signal could be found. We tested this case out a bit ourselves on a rafting trip, and sent it downstream for a trip. There were a few minor cracks along the joint as a result, but it otherwise handled the rapids like a champ.