So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dry Case: You CAN Take It With You, With A Little Work...

Through hard trial-and-error I've learned the painfully obvious truth; electronics and elements, like Kipling's east and west, are best meant to be kept separate. When the two meet it can only mean less-than-happy outcomes for the electronics. I've seen more than my share of "OMG, just dropped/lost my 'Crackberry' out on the bay" Facebook status messages than I can count. Sometimes you feel bad for the victim. Other times there's a little bit of that schadenfreude, that little bit of joy over someone else's discomfort. Nevertheless, you kind of wonder why they would be so foolish as to take something out on the water with them without some sort of floatation or protection from the potentially damaging elements. Do we really HAVE to take it with us all of the time?

My wife's entire life is tied into the efficient operation of her laptop computer and its programs. So she was in a veritable panic a couple of mornings ago when I called from my office to chat about an upcoming business trip and the requisite dog care: We adopted an 85-pound retired racing greyhound not long after we got married; we've been able, and at times adamant with our employers, that our business travels not overlap. So far, it's been all of one week in seven years of marriage and dog-parenthood where we've both been away from home.

Rubin, our hound, is the equivalent of a three-year-old child...on steroids. He clearly refuses to realize his own strength. Suzanne, my wife, had spent several hours that morning working on podcast interviews in her home office. The door was not completely secured; Rubin finally decided "mom" had worked enough and it was time for him to go for a walk around the park across the street. He burst in to the room, knocking Suzanne's cup of coffee all over the keyboard and trackpad. Alas, he didn't get to go for his walk then, as my wife then had to go into emergency dry mode.

She's also had the electronic key to her company's Mercedes-Benz short out, triggering the alarm system in the parking lot where one of our local run groups congregated after a Sunday afternoon trot around one of the residential neighborhoods. The story of the "demon-possessed" Mercedes-Benz is still talked about to this day. Rubin wasn't to blame for that catastrophe, however. Blame that one on my highly-active sweat glands, which happen to be the marvel of coaches, friends and relatives. I've tried to use plastic zipper food storage bags and neoprene pouches to try and separate my sweat from things I prefer to keep (relatively) dry; most have worked with varying degrees of success, some with very little. It's forced me to learn to exercise without the benefit (or drawback, depending on your point of view) of electronics. I learn that electronics will die sooner or later when I use them...usually sooner.

So I have to admit I was excited and a little skeptical when my wife told me about a bunch of products she encountered made by Dry Corp, a company based out of Wilmington, NC. Dry Corp's DryCASE products let tech users take their gadgets - cell phones, MP3 players, tablet computers - out into the elements with little or no fear of water damage. I have had the privilege to road-test a few technology products in the past, and I usually get first crack at new gadgetry which lands at our front door. It's not that I'm tech-smart as much as I'm tech-savant; if I can figure out most of the basic functions on a piece of equipment it meets the definition of "user-friendly interface."

I've seen less-technical versions of products like the DryCASE, (which isn't a true case like a hard-shell one but we'll overlook those semantical differences) in the past; a pair of board shorts I purchased for my wife in Hawaii had a heavy-duty plastic zip-seal bag for money, identification or cell phone carriage. What makes DryCASE different is the ability to actually use your technology while it's vacuum sealed in plastic, with or without the DryBUDS.

The DryCASE comes in two sizes; the largest ($59.99) is intended for tablet devices. The small case I tested ($39.99) is about 4.6" x 8.5" and made of thick plastic, and contains a sealed-in 9" long 1/4" headphone jack. My HTC Hero smartphone fit comfortably within the DryCASE, as did my 32GB iPod Touch. The small DryCASE can be used for non-tech, but nice-to-keep-dry-and-available stuff, like identification, drivers' license, folding money, and credit cards, also. The top of the case is fitted with what at first appears to be a potato chip clip on steroids, but really is a very-strong dual twist knob latch. Once opened you can slide your desired "keep dry" stuff or technology into the case, and plug in the 1/4" jack, if you plan to use headphones.

The (top) seal takes a minute or two to figure out, but there's no doubt once you have the latches secured the odds of anything coming through the top is slim. But the seal on the DryCASE blows ordinary plastic baggies away by a long shot; a vacuum is achieved by one to two pumps of a one-way valve and bulb. DryCASE recommends waiting ten minutes after pumping to guarantee the seal will hold, but I cannot see most average users waiting that long.
The DryBUDS ($29.99) are adjustable by ear canal size (x3), and have a cord length of over 40"; probably too much cord for most runners, cyclists and definitely for swimmers. I guess if you were to wind the excess cordage up in the supplied (and very-comfortably-padded) neoprene armband you could control the chance of getting hung up in slack cord. Of course there's a bit of a technical mismatch; the buds are good down to ten feet under water, where the case is good to one hundred. But not many of us are going down to a hundred feet any time soon, I bet.

I tried the set/seal/use process the tirst time with my HTC Hero plugged into the phone jack. The vacuum seal pulls the plastic right down onto the touch screen, so nearly all of the "finger slide" functions of the typical smartphone user interface can be used, except for the trackball. In the case of my phone, especially, the trackball was engaged. Not so good. But I could turn and off my phone and answer a call if absolutely necessary.

About 30 minutes later I decided to give the DryCASE a live run, and take my iPod Touch to the gym. I didn't want to use the armband until I was comfortable with the screen functions. Besides I was planning on an elliptical trainer workout. The touch screen functions were perfect, but because I didn't pay attention to where the sealed 1/4" jack cord was in the case, it was difficult, actually, it was impossible to use the side "rocker" volume, as well as the on/off switch. Blame this on lack of attention on my part.

Rather than use the buds, I used my own music player headphones (a pair which allow ambient surrounding sound to be heard as well as the music). I've worn "sealed" waterproof bud phones in the past; they're comfortable and great for keeping outside noises at bay (especially for airline travel) but when I'm doing a workout, a run, or going for a walk I want to know what's going on around me as well as listen to my tunes. The buds are probably good for water skiiers or personal watercraft users, but I'll neither recommend nor condemn, as I don't know what the law says about being on the water with music blocking out other sounds.

The next morning, I took the case for a run workout at the gym. Again, I used my 32GB iPod Touch with the armband strap, which slides through a sleeve on the back side of the DryCASE. You definitely want to insert the band before sealing the player or phone; I'm not certain you'd want to try, or even be able, to insert the strap afterward. I set up the case with the 1/4" headphone jack at the top and the entrance "clip" at the bottom. I wanted to limit the amount of loose cord by keeping the jack on top near my shoulder.

Here's where things became interesting: The case width may be an issue for only the smallest-limbed user, but the case length is definitely too large in length for smaller users or persons whose span from the elbow to shoulder joint is 8.5" or less. The vacuum seal did its job of joining both sides of case to each other, but if you don't wear the "clip" side at shoulder height, the odds are very good it will flap and bang against your elbow joint, leaving a nice little (in my case, a quarter-sized bruise) reminder of my inattention to detail after a 60-minute treadmill workout.

Positives about the DryCASE? Well, the latch is not going to open on its own. The air valve is designed only for removal, so even if the cap is bumped loose the seal is going to remain intact. The armband for the DryCASE is very adjustable, padded and very comfortable neoprene. It's probably one of the most comfortable straps I've worked with. For me to even give a positive mention of an arm strap is saying something, because I prefer to wear my techie stuff on a belt around my waist. There is a low-profile waist belt ($19.99), a one-size-fits-(nearly)-everybody version of the armband. The only problem would be, then, that the DryCASE's size and clip layout would be transferred farther "south" on my body. Dry Corp may want to consider an additional sleeve/strap rotated 90-degrees for those users who like their electronic devices parallel to the ground.

Best of all, and probably the most importantly, the DryCASE does what it's intended to do. It keeps electronics (or whatever you want to place within the case) dry. Even during a 60-minute treadmill run, with the case tucked and strapped between a wicking technical shirt and my arm, there was absolutely no evidence of sweat infiltration. None. I've never been able to say that about any bag, carrier or barrier device.

There are some negatives, mainly having to do with the DryCASE size and the challenge of finding what works least painfully for the individual user. And, compared to other carriers, the DryCASE is a little on the bulky and heavy side. But I'm looking at this from a weight perspective, as well as comfort and tech-friendliness. I guess you could get used to the extra weight over time, especially if it was at the waist rather than the upper arm. As a running coach I can tell the runners who train with music players strapped to their arm; they have this "buffalo wing" look to their arm carriage...very stiff and tucked up close, like they're afraid it's going to fly away.

Also, the DryCASE might protect from moisture, dirt or sand, but it's no protection from shock or impact. And, should you decide to remove your gadget from the DryCASE there is no way to reseal without the vacuum bulb.

I could only imagine that if the power/USB jacks were also added to the DryCASE, you probably would never have to take the technology out of the sleeve. If you want a way to keep your technology clean and dry in all environments without worrying about spills, splashes, or loss (with the neoprene strap attached the DryCASE is buoyant), the DryCASE is probably one of the most effective methods to seal it, plug it, and enjoy it no matter where you are...

...and be able to take it home at the end of the day.

More information on DryCASE products, as well as an on-line store and retail information, can be found at, or you can call DryCASE at (888)6000-DRY.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this funny in-depth review.

I was wondering about strength and reliabillity of DryCase. Particulary the part where you put in an armbelt. Won't it tear from long consecutive runs? Or does it look solid enougth to take that. As I have no opportunity to physicaly test one before purchaise (I live in europe) it would be nice to know someone's opinion. I don't want to waste 40 $ for something that will last just few months. Help greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Michael Bowen said...

I consider the investment of $40 USD small when compared to the replacement or repair cost of a cell phone or music player.

From my use of DryCase, I can say the armbelt mount is sturdy enough to withstand an extended period of runs. The vacuum seal of the inside and outside layers - very strong plastic - keeps the weight of the electronic device close to the strap mount. The device is not hanging as much as with carriers which do not have a vacuum seal.

(The only issue I had with the case was a little bit of excess weight and the clip position...which was solved by flipping the case clip side up.)

I'll send your comment/question on to the DryCase folks and see if there are any plans to distribute in the EU.

Ta! MB

Michael Bowen said...

...then I received this in my e-mail from Dorothy with DryCASE:

"...As for the question about the mount on the back it is very stable. I am use mine at least 3 times a week to go on extensive runs on the beach. Using the DryCASE upside down is the most comfortable way for me to wear mine, as I saw someone else stated previously. We do have a few distributors in Europe, such as Gleisner Hygiene Systeme, phone # 01149 9123 97210, in Germany. There are not many but they can be found on our "Dealer Locator" tab on our website. Hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions."