Taking a tablet, phone, or e-book reader to the beach is second nature—and also nerve-wracking, given how easily water and sand can wreck gear.
We’ve told readers to use zipper or slider food bags to protect devices. But you can also buy special bags that makers claim offer maximum protection, some with features that include headphone jacks.
To see how well these products work, we matched the Hefty Slider Bag, which costs 10 to 13 cents depending on size, up against the DryCase, and larger DryCase Tablet ($29 and $38, respectively); the TrendyDigital WaterGuard Waterproof Case ($16); the Seattle Sports Dry Doc Waterproof e-Tablet Case ($16); and the Lavod LMB-011 Waterproof Bag ($19).
The special bags stayed dry inside when we gave each a brief dunking in water. They also kept out sand sprinkled along their seals. But the Hefty bag also passed both tests.
All the bags allowed us to control key functions of the devices. Screens could be swiped and pressed, for example, and volume and brightness controls could be adjusted.
We could even shoot photos, though the images were cloudy, especially when shot through the thicker bags. The bags’ shiny plastic also increased glare, so you may want to use them in the shade.
The tighter the bag, the easier the device was to use. The DryCase bags have a unique vacuum-sealing feature plus a headphone jack that’s protected against sand and water.
It took a few tries to eliminate wrinkling, but eventually we were able to seal the DryCase using the bulb-shaped hand pump that’s included. But you should be able to create a passable vacuum seal with many other bags by closing the seal all but the last half-inch or so, then pushing the air out before closing it completely.
Bottom line. We recommend that you bag your gear for the beach or any other place where handhelds might be ruined, say at a pool or on a camping trip. Any zipper or slider bag will probably provide passable protection, and the price is certainly right. Even a special bag will probably be less expensive than such alternatives as a special, supposedly weatherproof case, which also permanently adds weight and bulk.
Buy a few bags in different sizes to see which ones fit your gadgets the best. Consider replacing them periodically, particularly if sand has scratched the surface and affected how clearly you can see the screen and use its controls. Place devices in the bags before you leave home, and try not to remove them until you’re back home and have brushed sand and water off.
To take decent photos on the beach, though, you’ll need to unseal and remove your phone or camera. If that worries you, you can buy one of the heavy-duty cases or a new rugged device that's designed to be weatherproof. The latter includes the recommended Samsung Rugby Smart (for AT&T) and some recommended cameras (available to subscribers).