iPad cases for the boat, & some interesting apps


I find that my iPad is so sharp and slippery that I almost always use it in a case, and once I get it on the boat there will also be an increased danger of impact or water damage.  So I’ve been testing three candidates for Gizmo’s cruising iPad case.  That M-Edge Leisure Jacket above is far and away my favorite at this point.  Yes, it’s a bit bulky but the high-density fitted-foam bed and cloth cover are light, easy to handle, and highly protective; and the whole thing tends to stay where you put it.  Perhaps most important, the vinyl cover does not impede screen use nearly as much as you might presume.  I’ve used the Jacket a lot now, with all kinds of apps, and I’m rarely annoyed by the plastic.  The pocket on the back may be too tight to be very useful — and I wish it had a “kickstand” for typing comfort (though it’s easy to stick something under there to get the right tilt) — but  I like the Leisure Jacket.  Now, about that weird compass app…

The app shown in the top photo, Plaincode’s MagnetMeter, is actually a lot more than a compass, perhaps confusingly so.  And it doesn’t seem to work perfectly (geographic north should be 17 degrees different from magnetic north here at Panbo HQ).  But the graphics are stunning — also true of Plaincode’s Clinometer — and I’m wondering if it could be used to identify/quantify sources of disruptive magnetism around a boat.  I’m hoping one or more of you will spend some time figuring this app out.  It’s free, and also available for Android.
   Maybe you noticed that the M-Edge Jacket isn’t truly waterproof.  I don’t think that will be critical aboard a cruising powerboat like Gizmo, but should I want to bring the iPad along in the tender, I believe it would be very safe in the Dry Case tablet model seen below.  Sucking a vacuum into your case and having it hold is quite reassuring.  I did find that too much vacuum could make the iPad’s main button unusable, but that’s easily taken care of.  (The volume, mute, and on/off side buttons can be difficult to use with all these cases, by the way, but most of their functions can be done with the screen, as shown.)  The vacuum also lets you smooth out plastic ripples that might otherwise get in the way of your touch finger (the small air bubbles that show if you click on the photo are unavoidable but rarely seem to show in use).  And as with the Dry Case iPhone case I already tested, I’d personally like this design better without the clunky headset extension (I use Bluetooth).  But I don’t know how anyone can check out Dry Case’s testing routine and still dismiss iPads as unusable on boats because they aren’t waterproof (screen brightness being another issue ;-).
   The charting app seen below is the new iSailor from Transas.  So far in its development it’s pretty plain fare in terms of features, and it still has a few display bugs — like the fact that some shallows are blue shaded on the screen below, some not.  But I think this is the first commercial vector chart company to compete with Navionics on the iOS platform, and the Transas stradegy is somewhat less expensive if you don’t want access to a huge chart region.  The app is free and then regions — so far only in the U.S. — are $5 a piece.

The third cruising iPad case candidate is actually meant for important papers, I think, and came as a customer appreciation gift from my local insurance agent.  I haven’t located another source but maybe it’s worth noting that the Allen Agency has become a national presence in regard to all sorts of marine insurance.  At any rate, there’s a triple ziploc closure that gets rolled up under that yellow velcro flap, which pretty much assures waterproofness, I think.  Plus it’s easy to get the iPad in and out of the case, and once again I found that a layer of plastic did not appreciably impede use of the pad (though the crease it came with is a little annoying and I’m hoping it can be eliminated with a little reverse-rolled time in the sun).
  The app shown is the AIS viewer Sea Hawk Pro.  It’s a little buggy, and comes with limited feeds, but it does cover Miami (where I’m headed soon), it can purportedly be set up to display most any format of AIS feed you might know about on the Internet, and it only costs a dollar.
  Incidentally, it looks like Otterbox has some iPad cases that might work well on a boat, and maybe some of you know of other candidates?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

56 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    Here is a tip for the vacuum bag, drop two alkaseltzer tables into the bag before you apply the vacuum. That way if a little water gets into the bag it will cause the alkeseltzer to make gas and will quickly put a positive pressure on the bag thus keeping further water out of the bag. The vacuum otherwise will actually pull water into the bag if there is a problem.

  2. Dan Noiseux says:

    We have a new rugged enclosure for the IPAD that will be available in a few days. Please take a look here: https://sites.google.com/site/dndistribution2011/
    This is a watertight case the also allows complete usage of the IPAD.
    A version of the IPAD2 is also in the works.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Interesting idea, Peter! And thanks for linking to your waterproof case, Dan. But I’ve got to say that I’m leery about any design that puts much of bezel above the plane of the iPad screen. I’ve tried several friend’s cases and those bezels feel constrictive to me.
    Note that all the cases above are flat on top, and the case I chose for day-to-day use doesn’t interfere with the surface or even the sides of the iPad, except for the protective plastic corner grips. Here’s a link to it on Amazon, which seems to offer a nearly infinite variety of iPad cases:
    Yoobao iPad case on Amazon

  4. Dan Noiseux says:

    Sorry Ben but I fail to see how the Yoobao cases fit here, they don’t offer any protection against water and barely any shock protection.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    You’re right, Dan, but that wasn’t my point. In my wider exploration of iPad case ergonomics, I found that protruding bezels feel intrusive. Of course, it may just be me. It’s kind of amazing how many case designs there are, and for how many purposes. The perfect case is obviously elusive.

  6. Doug says:

    I’ve been using an iPad since the day the 3G version came out and mine is currently sitting all snug in an Otterbox case. It does add bulk and makes the iPad just a bit less sexy…and a lot less slim, but I love the protection it provides. It’s already saved me from one major “whoops” moment and a few smaller ones. The “bags” would appear to keep yours waterproof but where’s the shock protection when you hit some rude guy’s wake and your iPad hits the deck? I don’t find the depth of the bezel the case adds the least bit bothersome and I’ll be giving some serious thought to Dan’s offering once it’s available.

  7. grandsoleil says:

    Dizzying collection of cases for all uses…
    May I suggest a case/clamp is needed most.
    I am on a sailboat. I would rather clamp the pad to a piece of my stainless tubing than count on padding.
    In fact I dream of the day I can mount (perhaps the iPad2 because of sunlight readability) as an extra realtime repeater (by bluetooth or wifi?) at some wire challenged region of the boat.

  8. Bob Mueller says:

    I was hoping you would review the otterbox. I have an otterbox defender for my iPhone and I love it! I’m not sure if the iPad one would be just as good. It does add bulk, but there has not yet been designed a material that is sufficiently both squishy and svelte!
    Infinite choice is a great thing. What is best for you may differ from what is best for me. Everyone needs to decide which attribute compromises fits their own application best.
    We just need someone to come up with an invisible force field that deploys when it detects freefall, water, and pointy things.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Doug, I think those bags, particularly the vacuum one, provide some impact protection because of all the soft material at the edges and corners, where they typically make first contact with the deck. And I don’t think any other case has shock protection equal to the thick foam in the Leisure Jacket.
    Otterbox doesn’t claim any water protection for the Defender case but I’d guess it has some because of the silicone port plugs. I’d also guess that the Leisure Jacket is about equal in terms of water ingress, while of course the two bags offer really serious water protection.
    As for bezels, I can see that Otterbox wisely tapered their’s into the screen. The ones that have bothered me were square edged at the screen.
    Here’s some iPad damage testing. Interesting that they couldn’t scratch the screen with a nail:

  10. André says:

    I’ ve been using the iPad Case from Andres Industries now for 3 months.
    It is amazing how good everything works.
    I’ve been testing it first inside my house under the shower without iPad inside (just to be sure). Then I did the same with the Ipad inside.
    It works fine.
    In my opinion this is what you need on your boat when using the iPad as a navigationtool. No water / humidity inside, and the display works fine. even the buttons. I used it in some regatta’s (app: iregatta) and some cruising (iNavx and Navionics). For me it is the ultimate extra and flexible tool outside on the boat.
    This is for me the future.
    (maybe you think that it is my name but I have no connection with them).

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Andre, It sure looks to me like Andres Industries is selling the same iPad case that Dan Noiseaux linked to above. So “watertight” really does mean waterproof? (It’s not an expression used here very much.) Also, can you get your iPad in and out of the case “in seconds” as claimed, and does the bezel interfere with finger touch commands at all? Thanks.

  12. Dan Noiseux says:

    Yes, they certainly look like twins, in fact we are the North American distributor for the Andres industries products. Otterbox and Andres also have a mutual distribution agreement for the other cases but not the IPAD cases. Allow me to add that resellers and retailers inquiries are welcome.

  13. André says:

    Here is a link with a video I took to show you how easy it works.
    Waterproof? I didn’t put it underwater for a long time, as I also won’t do on my ship. I think it will be Ok for a longer time under water / Maybe hours but it is not totally waterproof with pressure I think. I tested it under a shower which is maybe a simulair situation like on board with bad weather.
    I tested it onboard with some rain, wet hands an salt water.
    All fine but you don’t have to open the earphone plug or powerplug.
    Then it isn’t watertight/proof anymore.
    As you can see on the video it opens in seconds (I had to do it on the video with one hand on my camera (iphone).
    Touch is good (even with a screenprotector still on my iPad) also the buttons.
    This stuff makes it nice to navigate.
    I used the iPad included this case also in a regatta on my friends yacht, responsible for tactics and navigation.

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks for making us a video, André! I was the first viewer. It certainly looks like it’s easy to get your iPad in and out of the case (which is a contrast from, say, the Otterbox or even the Dry Case, which takes some fiddling).
    Note that Dan’s distribution site lists the protection rating for the Andres case as IP54 and even has a link to the Wikipedia definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code
    The “4” indicates that it’s rated to protect from “splashing water”, which is better than spraying or dripping but not nearly up to immersion.
    How did you find iPad screen visibility on deck in sunshine?

  15. André says:

    Ben, visibility is not good enough, all MFD’ s are better. It is something that hopefully will be better on next iPad versions.
    Sometimes you can’t read anything on it.
    But this is for a MFD more important. You can’t change it’s location, sometimes you can use tilt but it is very important that it is bright.
    For a iPad you can change position and location (somewhere in the shade) so that it will be visible. I hope next release of the iPad will be with a brighter screen.
    Still the options, speed and Apps are so nice that I think this is future.

  16. Dennis says:

    I like the Aquapac as it has loops on all four corners that let you tie it up somewhere:
    {Also available at Amazon}

  17. Eric says:

    Slightly off topic (and maybe discussed elsewhere in Panbo?)… has anyone used and been really happy with a remote desktop (VNC or?) app for Ipad? For our use (bluewater), it has to be internet independent, so apps like LogMeIn will not work.

  18. Bruce says:

    M-Edge was actually started by a couple of naval architects, so maybe it’s not surprising that you’re finding their case useful.

  19. Sean Mcnulty says:

    Count me in on the Otterbox Defender Fan club. Their case for the ipad works WONDERFULLY and while it won’t save an ipad from swimming, I have taken mine out in rain, snow and spilled drinks with no ill effects. While its not in design specs, you could drive nails with the darned thing while its in their case.
    For all those looking for Mounts- check these guys out.
    Hat Tip to otterbox for recommending them.

  20. Marcello says:

    I’m still waiting for the ideal iPad case for an iPad on board…and I tell you why.
    Ideally the best position for an iPad would be in the cockpit, where I would permanently mount the case close to the wheel. Andres Industries seems to be the best case for this purpose.
    The problem is that it does not have (as well as all the others) the possibility to connect the power cable, that is in my opinion essential if you want to keep the iPad and its GPS turned on for a very long time: for example to record the GPS track of a long crossing.

  21. Dan Noiseux says:

    I agree with Marcell about the ideal case, unfortunately we are still a few years away from devices with displays always on that live on batteries for more than a few hours. With the Andres Case, one could probably slit the rubber cap just enough to let the wire through and keep the case waterproof (I haven’t tried it so this is just a gut feeling…)
    Just a quick note to inform those interested that the Andres IPAD cases are now available and can be purchased directly from the website (www.dndistribution2011.com).

  22. Eric says:

    The Andres case is really $400???

  23. JK XLR8 says:

    Is it really $400? Or is that a misprint? IPX54 technically isnt waterproof in my opinion, but I do love the idea!!!! Great job!!!
    As far as the Ipads battery goes, I have been on my boat running Navionics with brightness all the way up and set not to turn off (always on). I was on the boat (fishing) using the charting and GPS and I was out 7 hours. When I got back to my dock, I still had 18% life left. So I believe for the average boater, keeping the Ipad waterproof might outweigh putting a hole in the case to charge it? Just my .02c

  24. Jeffrey Siegel says:

    The iPad case and mounting solution market is sure to be big. There are some wonderful designs showing up. I’m surprised no one mentioned the Vogel RingO – this page has a video and info:
    Then there’s the ThankO (seriously – I’m not making up these names):
    The best for last – JoyFactory’s “Valet” mount. I love the video. Just watching it gives me tons of ideas of how iPad-like devices can be used onboard:
    I have to admit that I love the company name “JoyFactory” too…

  25. Anonymous says:

    I´m reviewing the Andres Case right now in snowy Sweden and I did send an e-mail to Andres and asked them about the IP protection. Here´s the reply:
    “the IPAD Case has in the moment IP 54; but are still working for getting IP 65”
    I´m not sure if they are reconstructing it or if they´re just trying to change the class. I don´t think the rubber plugs will stand immersing in water.
    In my opinion the case is good for protection but a bit clumsy, the bezel tends to be in the way when trying to reach on-screen buttons on the edge of the screen.

  26. John k says:

    Slightly off topic but I just came across a great iPhone rail mount case from Biologic.
    Claims to be waterproof but no IP rating.

  27. Dear Ben,
    as the Dutch distributor of Magellan products, I can tell you that Magellan is planning to produce a REAL waterproof case for the IPad. Because Apple is planning a new IPad, Magellan is in hold for their new model, due of the new IPad. Magellan already has a Toughcase for the IPod Touch and the IPhone 3.
    Including an extra battery and a SirfstarIII GPS.
    The Toughcase has already won prices. Best regards, Reinier Zwolsman

  28. Kees says:

    There is another interesting iPad case out by Vogel’s, they have a system where you’re able to lock an iPad to either a wall mount or a car headrest mount. It’s not so much the IP rating (which is non existant) but the fact that using this your iPad is going to remain in the place that you want it to be that I find appealing.
    Here’s what I’m talking about:


  29. slozomby says:

    with the zagg screen protector ( matte finish) its great in sunlight. i had a hard time w/o the screen protector in direct sunlight.

  30. Doug Campbell says:

    I’ve been following all this still hoping someone will combine a waterproof case (or at least highly splash resistant one) with a good fixed mount. RAM has had a iPad mount almost from day one, if I could combine that with my Otterbox (which does NOT quite do it as the headphone jack and speaker opening are unprotected) I’d have a setup I’d feel safe using on the bridge or in the pilot house. Unfortunately most of the good mounts need a “naked” iPad, and that’s just asking for trouble.

  31. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    The good gCaptain found another interesting iPad mount, but, sorry, it doesn’t work with a case:

  32. Rick says:

    I have been using a ram mount for six months, and while it is good for holding the ipad securely, it also reduces air circulation. The iPad uses the aluminum back as a heat sink,and sometimes bright sunshine will cause it to overheat and shut down. A breeze from an open window will solve the problem as will a small fan.

  33. Dave says:

    Have recently been informed by Andres Industries that they are re-tooling their Ipad case to incorporate a Ram Mount attachment.

  34. Luca says:

    Hi, there is a solutiont to FIX iPad with the M-Edge Leisure Jacket with a support?!? I didn’t find the right support (like te Ram mount) compatible with the M-Edge…
    I tink an adjustable one can work pretty, but were can i find it ?!?

  35. Dan Noiseux says:

    Hello everyone, we now have a new much lower cost hard case model now available for Ipad 1 and Ipad 2 that is spec to resist down to 32ft under.

  36. Dan Noiseux says:

    Another update, there is a very nice stand for the High end Andres waterproof / shookproof case that is build to be used with RAM mounts, you can see more information on our site or watch a youtube video here: http://youtu.be/8PgWRXZxaW4. We also received comments from customers stating the the sunlight ins’t very much of an issue for using an iPad as a chartplotter + on a sailboat.

  37. Dan Noiseux says:

    I forgot to add that the newest version of the Andres waterproof case is compatible with both iPad and iPad2 and is now rated IP65 (which means: 6 Dust tight No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact and 5 Water jets; Water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects. Test duration: at least 3 minutes
    Water volume: 12.5 litres per minute Pressure: 30 kN/m² at distance of 3m)

  38. timg says:

    I have used this case on my iPhone and just purchased one for my iPad. On my iPhone it withstood over an hour in a torrential downpour with no damage to the iPhone (don’t ask how this happened).
    The iPad case is rugged and will help shed water I probably wouldn’t want to submerse it but for $79.00 it has my vote for economy.

  39. Dan Noiseux says:

    Hello André I’d like to obtain your permission to quote your post on our website, since you seem to be very satisfied of the Andres iPad case that we distribute. Is it OK with you?

  40. Anonymous says:

    I’m thinking of getting one of these cases. Where did you order it from? Also, how much was it? I’ve seen them for around $400. These seems excessive.

  41. Sandy Daugherty says:

    Hmmm. $400 case. Ca-ching. $600 Ipad. Ca-ching. $300 mount. Ca-ching. Can only read it in shade. Ca-chunk.
    $1400 Garmin 740S. Route planning and Autopilot control. Engine Instruments. Depth. DSC. Radar capability. Weather overlay. AIS B w/ TCA. What’s missing?
    Angry Birds. Email. Face Book. Photo Album. Movies. 100,000 Apps, a few with something to do with sailing.

  42. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Good points Sandy. I would add, in addition to not being sunlight viewable, iPad is only touch screen, which becomes frustrating to use at times where as many chartplotters have left “touch only” behind in favor of a combination of manual controls and touch (called hybrid touch, etc.).

  43. Dan Noiseux says:

    The Andres cases are indeed expensive but to my knowledge they are the only one on the market offering real waterproof protection, impact resistance and the ability to mount them on a solid support worthy of that name and that will withstand hits and grabs that come with normal boating use.
    The only argument I can make against a real chartplotter is the versatility of the iPad that you will be able to use to watch videos, surf the web, email, etc. and this anywhere on the boat, at home, around the pool or anywhere you can thing of, not just at the helm. 1400$ + a laptop$ Ca-ching too… 🙂 (quick note: the mount should really be less than 200$)
    As with most things in life you get what you pay for. At first I was stund by the low cost of the Griffin survivor so I decided to acquired one to see. Well they appear well made and probably impact resistant (although they clearly state not to drop it) but I would certainly not use it on a boat unless it is a very calm and sunny day. I was also surprise that they only accept iPad2 no original iPad. They also don’t offer any means of fixation, same as the lower end waterproof model from Aquamate.
    Last but not least, the sun readability appears to be the biggest controversy on the web, with 50% saying no or barely any problems and 50% saying the opposite.

  44. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Put me in the 50% of people that say they are not sunlight readable, especially out on the water with the additional glare from sunlight reflecting off the water.
    Put an iPad side by side with a Garmin or Raymarine, and it’s a night and day difference. The iPad colors are washed out, text and graphics are both difficult to read. My only success in using an iPad on a boat is reading a book or newspaper in big print where I can focus on one square inch at a time, the boat is not moving, and I can position myself so the cabin is behind me to prevent light reflected off the water from reaching the iPad (the glare is awful).

  45. Sandy Daugherty says:

    Dan N:
    Make that $1400 plus $200 for a dataphone; oops, I have one of those already! And I shouldn’t be playing with it on watch.

  46. Rick R says:

    As a user of both an ipad and a Garmin chartplotter, my arithmetic is a little different than Sandy’s
    Waterproof case 2 cents (ziplock sandwich bag); iPad with GPS $629.; Ram mount $46; Swivel mount to turn screen away from direct sunlight, incl; iNavX app $50 (or Charts and Tides app which includes ActiveCaptain, $15); multiplexer to connect AIS, autopilot, engine inst, or whatever, $350; Anchor watch app, 99 cents; up-to-date charts, free. Weather app free. Total $1076.
    Garmin 740S. is a small screen. Garmin 4010 has a touch screen approx the same size as an iPad, $2200. Plus $160 every time you update the charts.

  47. Dan Noiseux says:

    For those who are seeking a solution where you can have the iPad continuously charging while in use at the helm.
    Well Andres as come up with a usb to iPad waterproof charging cable for their high end military grade case. As all their other products, it is not cheap but it quality and it works. See our site under Andres accessories to find out more.

  48. Jim Me says:

    The military model the GiPad will fix all of this. It is nearly indestructible, and the cradle it sits I’m , magnetic latched, includes inductive charging and audio, microphone feeds. Submersible.
    There is some problems with concussion damage in a blast area and also with encryption testing, but it will be great once complete.
    It will be made in US in case we are at war with another country.
    BTW it integrates well with GiPhone. It has cell phone capability and no tower cell messaging communicationi incase a cell network is not available. With the GiCam mounted on the medics helmet Bluetooth allows a doctor to see what the medic sees and help with decisions. I’m getting off topic.

  49. Taniwha says:

    For anyone who’s still interested in different waterproof case options, we bought this model which is made in Australia about 6 months ago.
    It’s similar to the Dry Case in Ben’s original review, but doesn’t have the vacuum or headphone sockets. In my view that’s good because there are less things to go wrong.
    It is claimed to be submersible waterproof, but we haven’t tested that with the ipad in (but we have with paper in, and it is).
    We’ve found it works well as an all-round protection case, so our ipad doesn’t leave it unless charging.
    I found the weight of the closure to be a bit cumbersome when using the ipad in the vertical, but then I remembered that the ipad doesn’t have orientation, and turned it around so that the seal is at the bottom – much better :).
    Doesn’t answer everyone’s needs, but it sure works well for us. I believe it’s also available in the US & Europe.

  50. Taniwha says:

    Forgot to add – one of the very useful features of this case is the diagonal strap on the back. Ipads should have this as a general feature themselves – makes holding the ipad much easier.

  51. Marcello says:

    An old post yet with still valid content.
    Here is another iPAD water proof rigid case (IP57 Rating Standard)
    at a very reasonable cost: 79,95 USD.
    The best I’ve found so far.

  52. Marcello says:

    Yet another iPAD waterproof case IP-68 and Military Standards at a reasonable cost (120 $) http://www.lifeproof.com/shop/us_en/ipad
    and the great advantage that you can plug the power charge cable to the case!

  53. JK XLR8 says:

    This seems to be an all in one solution…waterproof ipad case with mounting bracket specific to marine environment. It floats and has an anti glare screen. Simple to open and close….

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