Waterproof Phone Pouch / Bag / Case

There’s another thread “Oneida Lake kayak incident” in which a kayaker got into trouble in cold water. One of the kayaker’s poor decisions (in hindsight) was that he didn’t want to use his phone to call for help because he was afraid he’d lose the phone.

That got me thinking that perhaps there are folks who don’t know that you can get a clear, waterproof pouch for your phone that allows touchscreen use through the pouch. And for the one that I have, I’ve tested it and I can hear and be heard by a caller if I use the speakerphone, and the touchscreen function works with both the outside of the pouch and my hands wet. I keep mine tethered to my kayak but it would be even safer tethered to your body (I have a VHF radio tethered to my PFD).

This is probably not new news to most regulars on this forum, but maybe this post will help keep someone safer.

FYI, there are many such cases out there. The one I happen to have is shown below, and I only chose it because it was on clearance at Dick’s Sporting Goods a few years ago:


I use a Lifeproof case on my IPhone - I trust it enough to take photos with the phone partially underwater. I do replace the case every 9-12 months, mostly because the cover over the camera lens starts to get cloudy and messes with my pictures (I take a lot of pictures!). Nice to have the phone for emergency use and I also have Google Maps and Navionics to use when needed.

But yes, many good options out there for making your phone waterproof and usable while on the water.

Keeping it on a tether is very important. That way you don’t have to worry as much about dropping it.

I have a similar case (not sure of the brand) and I always tether it to my body. But I think I might need a longer tether and I should try actually using it to see how (or if) it functions.

Thanks for the helpful reminder :slight_smile:

As always, a little practice goes a long way (assuming you use it as part of your emergency plans). A couple of things I’ve noticed;
The screen works OK though the case, but fingerprint recognition, unsurprisingly, does not, so you have to be ready to get to where you can enter your passcode, depending on your phone set up.
If you’re in bright sunlight, the layer of plastic makes it even harder to read your phone.

A wrist worn device like an Apple Watch comes in fully submersible versions and some plans allow you to head out on the water without even having your phone with you. I can make and receive calls on the water miles from my phone from my wrist


My phone is waterproof so I just use a little tab like this inside my simple phone case. The part that protrudes from the case is soft and therefore unobtrusive when not needed. I clip it to a cord when I’m paddling in case I need to use my phone and drop it. Of course the screen doesn’t respond well when wet so it’s a good idea to set up voice dialing.


Try seeing and dialing a phone thought a plastic case when it’s rough out in some waves. VHF is the way to go push button and you’re done. Also a PLB is great.

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With an Apple Watch, all you need to say is Hey Siri, dial 9-1-1

Do agree that a PLB is an excellent Plan B or C.


Still take a VHF over a phone. You’re in direct contact with the CG and most boats in the vicinity if you need help. DSC on a radio is great. Yesterday a guy was calling for help he didn’t know where he was. CG was telling him to send a text so they could locate him from the GPS in his phone.

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I have several questions about VHF radios:

How widespread is the VHF coverage? VHF is primarily line of sight, correct?

The reason I ask is that where I do most of my paddling is in western North Carolina, no where near the coast. I wonder help much help a VHF radio would be on the small rivers and lakes around here. Maybe on the larger lakes there might be someone from the state or local departments monitoring?

BTW, when you use unfamiliar acronyms it makes communication more difficult. I was able to find PLB (personal locater beacon) but I cannot determine what DSC means.

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DSC means digital selective calling. I have it on my radio (which also has GPS).

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Take both phone and radio. Redundancy and there are places where there are no other boats and the phone is actually your best bet. I paddled last week in a place where the CG tells paddlers to dial 911 because local police are closer than the CG.

Where I live, the “local” CG station is seasonal. The volunteer FDs have boats but those folks aren’t monitoring the VHF radios. Call 911 and they are there in a jiffy.

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VHF coverage on coastal waters is generally excellent. The USCG has and is continuing to add tall towers to provide wide coverage that generally solves the line of sight issue.

On inland waters a VHF radio is mainly useful for communication if paddling with a group where others have VHF radios. In these areas a cell pone may be more useful, but many areas may have poor coverage. Few cell phones are truly waterproof at this time and the use of an external case may be problematic.

For inland wilderness paddling, a communication device that relies on satellite connectivity is the way to go.

You can’t go wrong with multiple means of communication.


Thank you for your clear answer.

I only brought up the line of sight issue because inland we have to worry about those little pesky mountains. On the coast, with tall towers that is less of an issue (and yes I know there are some coastal areas that have issues also.)

Even though my iPhone is IP67, if I’m going to have a case I think I’d still want the case to be at least IPX8 just for the extra protection. And definitely a tether. Still pretty cheap insurance.

I just read another near tragedy tale where the paddler specifically didn’t take his phone with him because he was afraid it would get wet.

Hi with regard to VHF two way radios - here is my 2c. The first aspect to took at is the Watts of the radio; 1Watt radios are only good for big group communication - the leader has one and the sweep at the back has one. 5Watt radios are excellent for offshore communication as we often get 5-8km range (5miles) and can be used to call any passing boats on channel 16 in case of emergency.
PLB’s are great but check where the company is based a mate bought and activated his in South Africa and was surprised to find out later that the signal went to a Scandinavian country who had no idea how to respond to a SA emergency.

Totally agree that every one should have a cellphone in a dry bag when they go paddling. In South Africa we have an app called SAFETRX on our phones that is managed by our CG called the NSRI. We run the app every time we get on the water as it allows the NSRI to pin point our location in case of emergency. Does the States CG have such an app?

They have something here in the USA. Guy was calling for help but didn’t know where he was. US CG was telling guy to send a text to a number so they could locate his phone GPS.

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Yes, the United States Coast Guard has an app which includes an emergency assistance button which calls the closest USCG center and provides your coordinates. Location services must be enabled on your phone.



I picked up this waterproof floating phone pouch at my local Walmart for $3. It works well, allows use of the touch screen (but doesn’t allow use of finger print unlock), and I use the lanyard to tether it to my life vest. I have others that don’t float that came free with purchase of a drybag on Amazon. There are others similar to it at many different price points all over the web. It’s good insurance, just make sure you tether it to yourself, because your phone won’t do any good if it goes in the water and sinks to the bottom. I have had phone conversations on the water with it in the pouch and the person on the other end could hear me perfectly.

That said, I do also carry a VHF radio with me when I’m paddling on the coast.