Gear Shed

Tough Pad: Tablets Get Rugged

New technology lets people go adventuring with a tablet at their side.

Tablets are getting tougher, and venturing farther into the backcountry.     Photo: fatchoi/Getty Images

Apple’s iPad might be beautiful, but it doesn’t mix well with the outdoors. While it can resist a few bumps and scrapes, it’s not exactly prepared to dive off a cliff. That’s where these new tablets come in handy. Designed for outdoor use, they’re rugged enough for any of your adventures.   

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  1. 1

    GETAC F110 ($2,899)

    Best For: Long battery life

    If you want a tablet with a long battery life, check out the GETAC F110, which comes with two replaceable batteries for up to 13 hours of use. The rugged tablet can withstand minor drops, and the 11.6-inch display uses a technology called LumiBond, which the company claims is durable and easy to read even in the sun. The three-pound tablet runs Windows 8, but can be downgraded at the factory to Windows 7. The downside? You can’t submerse it in water.  

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  2. 2

    Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 ($2,099)

    Best For: Portability

    The Toughpad FZ-M1, which fits in your palm, has a seven-inch screen and weighs about a pound. The daylight-readable display uses touch technology that works even when you’re wearing gloves. Drop-, shock-, and water-resistant, the Toughpad FZ-M1 can put up with some serious outdoor abuse, but take note that it’s not fully waterpoof. It will last about eight hours with the standard battery pack.

     

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  3. 3

    Earl ($299)

    Best For: Backcountry survival

    Earl is the most badass tablet on this list. The six-inch tablet comes packed with extra features and uses a grayscale, sunlight-friendly flexible display. It has a weather radio that will send alerts over the SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) network, a two-way radio, and detailed topographic maps. Earl is fully waterproof and lasts about 20 hours on one charge. Plus, there’s a solar panel on the back for charging up in the backcountry. This crowd-funded product should come out this spring. 

     

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  4. 4

    GammaTech Durabook CA10 ($1299)

    Best For: Bluetooth-capability

    This hefty Windows 7 tablet has a 10.1-inch screen that’s bright and easy to use. The tablet can withstand drops, vibrations, and splashes, but it isn’t fully waterproof. The Bluetooth-capable gadget can sync with fitness trackers, and like the GETAC F110, the Gammatech CA10 has two removable batteries good for about eight hours of use. 

     

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  5. 5

    Sony Xperia Z2 ($TBD)

     

    Best For: Outdoor entertainment

    This one-pound Android tablet, announced last month, is fully waterproof and thinner than a pencil. A successor to the original Xperia, the Z2 lasts ten hours with one charge and uses a new screen technology called Live Colour LED to make videos and photos pop even when you’re outside. The Z2 also has new noise-cancelling headphone technology to improve music playback.

     

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