What is IPX waterproofing?

Taking shelter under a map when it's rainingFace it – if you spend any time outdoors you are going to get wet. This is the reason a lot of the outdoor gear we sell, especially electrical items like GPS devices and torches as well as bags have an IPX rating.

Here’s a quick summary of the main IPX ratings and what they mean to outdoor enthusiasts.

IPX Rating Official description What this means
1 Dripping water (vertically falling drops) shall have no harmful effect. Not waterproof at all. Keep it in a dry bag or case or leave it at home!
2 Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure is tilted at an angle up to 15°
3 Water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical shall have no harmful effect. Slightly splashproof, but still be cautious.
4 Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect. Generally labelled ‘splashproof’. Should cope with rain and spray, but don’t drop it in a puddle. Probably the minimum for any electronics you want to use in the rain.
5 Water projected by a nozzle against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects. ‘Water resistant’ to cope with driving rain and bigger splashes. Should be able to cope with anything short of total immersion.
6 Water projected in powerful jets against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.
7 Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion). Properly waterproof – can cope with being dropped in a puddle or stream with no ill effects. Ideal for watersports and found on some electronic devices as well as dry bags and cases.
8 The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer. However, with certain types of equipment, it can mean that water can enter but only in such a manner that it produces no harmful effects.
9 Protected against close-range high pressure, high temperature spray downs. I’ve never seen this on outdoor gear – boiling rain!


Notes on IPX ratings:

  • IP stands for International Protection Marking or Ingress Protection Marking.
  • The actual rating is just ‘IP’ followed by two numbers and one or more optional characters. The first number is actually for dust exclusion – most devices are not tested for this, so use an X instead. However, if a device has a reasonable level of waterproofing, it is likely to be fairly dust proof as well. If your device has a rating of IP56, its the second number that’s important.
  • If there is a letter after the number this indicates additional tested resistances, such as to oil, but this is pretty rare on outdoor gear.

But my phone, tablet or GPS is not IP rated!

You really want to avoid getting it wet then. An internal pocket is a good choice, but I’ve found that you do tend to get some water leaking in under persistent rain, and certainly if you end up in a stream. If it’s something that you want to be able to use while outdoors, check the range of dry bags and cases – many of the phone and tablet cases are designed to allow you to use the device without taking it out of the case, even working with touch screens.

In an emergency, a sealable sandwich bag provides decent protection for phone, wallet and car keys, and is much cheaper than the proper cases – just remember to take the sandwiches out first!

Should the worst happen and your device gets wet it will probably power off as the batteries short out. DO NOT TRY TO TURN IT ON if you suspect water has got inside, and if it is still on turn it off immediately. The faster you can start drying it the better.

  1. Mobile phone outdoorsAs soon as you are in a dry place remove the case, batteries, headphones, usb cables, sim card – anything you can take out easily
  2. If it’s obviously wet dry with a cloth or paper towels. Do NOT use a hair dryer – you risk blowing moisture in to the electronics, even on cold settings, and warm settings can melt plastic! Some people suggest using a vacuum to suck water out, and shaking can help get water out of a flooded device.
  3. Place the device in a bowl with some silica gel packets (you might have got some of these in boxes with shoes or other items). If you don’t have any, dried goods like rice or split peas can work, but are not as effective. A warm dry place will help a lot.
  4. Leave it for a few days for the remaining moisture to evaporate or be absorbed. Three days is good, a week is better.
  5. Try turning it on. The batteries may have shorted and completely flattened, so you might have to charge it first. It you were using standard non-rechargeable batteries, try fresh ones.

Should the worst have happened and it’s dead, it’s generally not cost effective to repair – the water may have corroded and damaged multiple parts of the electronics.  Check to see if you are covered under your household, travel or gadget insurance. Even if the device works, there is the risk that there is hidden damage, and it may stop working at some time in the future, so if you are using it for navigation consider replacing it sooner rather than later.

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4 Responses

  1. Pingback : 10 Best Waterproof Headphones 2015 | PricenFees

    1. You can certainly get some equipment rated to IPX9, especially stuff designed for very hostile environments or industrial use. If a company makes equipment that can cope with these conditions, they may as well certify it as IPX9 rather than IPX8 (and it sounds cooler), but for most people it wont make a difference. However, it does mean it’s hot tea proof, which could be a good thing!

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