Posted on by Beckworth & Co

The Top 7 Rugged Smartphones For the Avid Outdoorsman

Smartphones. Can’t live without them. We are so used to being wired that we find it so hard to leave our phones even when camping, an opportunity when we should typically be offline. However, most cellphones are fragile and expensive things not well-suited for use in the wild since they can easily break in environments with a lot of heat or moisture. Additionally, these gadgets are quite expensive and also contain important stuff such as irreplaceable pictures and information so it would be an incredible hassle if you're to break yours.

But wouldn't it be such a shame if you can't snap IG-worthy pics and vids of your outdoor trip? Not bringing a smartphone when hiking or camping is no longer an option nowadays, especially since it becomes your only lifeline to civilization. For these occasions, what you need is an outdoor smartphone that's designed for rugged outdoor use.     

If this is your first time shopping for an outdoor smartphone, you're likely to see a lot of brands that you may not even have heard of before. This doesn't mean you should immediately discount these names from your options since some do present tremendous value. You'll find some of these top rated phones below as well as some offerings from household brands.    

Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2 with Sapphire Shield E6910

The name Kyocera should allay any doubts that you may have on this phone. This Japanese company is known more for its copiers but it is a global producer of electronics and ceramics and has actually been making phones since the 2000's. The DuraForce Pro 2's main draw is its 4K, 135º action camera and its 106 db loud speakers.  
Compliments Complaints
  • Very tough, handles water and drops very well
  • USB-C fast charging
  • Great audio recordings even in noisy environments
  • A customer complained of random issues such as the phone clearing itself
  • Constant updates can be annoying
  • Slows down after a couple of years
  • Spotty reception in some areas

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Unihertz Atom

If you like to pack light and are ok with the bare minimum, then the Atom is for you. It will provide you the basics of a smartphone in a tiny, tough-as-nails package. You won't find any bells and whistles here but if you need a reliable, minimalist phone that won't serve as a distraction, this unique handset is the best option.
Compliments Complaints
  • Tough phone built for adventure
  • Really small but with a good screen
  • Has a headphone jack
  • 2000 mAh batter lasts the whole day
  • Dual sim
  • Comes with some bloatware
  • Camera is not so good
  • Screen colors not as accurate
  • One customer said his phone's screen shattered on impact

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Known more for its industrial equipment and vehicles, CAT is a brand often equated for toughness and reliability. The company forayed into the smartphone market around 10 years ago and specialized in toughened and strengthened units for industrial use. Most of its phones like the CAT S61 are not just armored phones but rather designed and built from the ground up for extreme conditions.
Compliments Complaints
  • Very tough, great for industrial use
  • Includes tools such as laser assisted distance measure, indoor air quality monitor
  • FLIR camera works well
  • Screen works with wet fingers and gloves
  • Somewhat pricey, its not for everybody
  • One customer's unit melted at the charging port
  • Some customers experienced battery problems

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Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro

Samsung needs no introduction but the company is not exactly known for making durable phones. However, if you want a rugged phone that can performs as well as a Galaxy, then the XCover Pro is your option.  
Compliments Complaints
  • Fast and carries no bloatware
  • Swappable battery
  • Good camera
  • Some models are dual sim
  • Speakers not as loud
  • Doesn't support wireless charging
  • Screen had issues after a software update

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Ulefone Armor 9

Ulefone belongs to the new crop of Chinese electronics manufacturers that has managed to break into the global smartphone market. Equipped with a tough cover and a handful of cool features like a thermal imaging camera and endoscope support, the Ulefone Armor 9 has been well-received by reviewers and is considered to be one of the best options within the category.  
Compliments Complaints
  • Very tough and heavy duty
  • Good aftersales support
  • Endoscope support is difficult to find in competitor phones
  • Customer in US got a phone that booted into Chinese
  • Some customers say their units rebooted randomly
  • A bit pricey

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The brand name might be enough to put some buyers off but don't knock this phone until you try it. Doogee's S96 has been included in a number of top lists for rugged outdoor phones since it offers at an attractive price point a number of features often found on higher-end phones. 
Compliments Complaints
  • Military grade toughness
  • 5G enabled
  • Fast processor, good overall performance
  • Cool night vision mode
  • Some customers complained of mic and speaker issues out of the box
  • Could not connect to some apps and devices like Alexa
  • Battery life not as good as expected

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Blackview BV9700 Pro

Blackview is a HongKong-based company that has become a leader in the rugged outdoor smartphone space and the BV series, particularly the 9700 has gotten rave reviews from various sources. This flagship phone isn't only packed with features including a barometric altimeter, heart rate monitor and air quality detection, it also looks good.
Compliments Complaints
  • Incredibly tough
  • Fast enough for mainstream games
  • Good customer service
  • Lots of features for the price
  • Battery life not as good as expected
  • Some customers experienced glitchy performance, apps closing automatically
  • Some issues with buttons and fingerprint 
  • Compatibility issues with US networks

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