I want to bring my iPad to a beach to do some reading while on vacation. I am concerned about sand getting into its ports and causing damage. Obviously water would also be a concern, but I am not planning on taking it in any water. Does sand propose a significant threat and what can be done to limit the chances of a problem occurring?

  • I am not very familiar with the tags that are used on this site and "travel" was not an option, if someone could assist with tagging that would be great. Also - to note, I looked at port covers on Amazon, I'm not sure if they even work, but reviews were quite poor, so if anyone has experience with that I would appreciate it as well.
    – dpollitt
    Mar 8 '12 at 15:25
  • Thanks all for the answers! My beach time with the iPad was a success! I did find that I had to be in shade to read text comfortably, which was fine because my skin was burned after the first day anyways. The zip-loc trick worked great for me when I was near the sand.
    – dpollitt
    Jun 21 '12 at 12:08

Yes you can, but there are some aspects of the environment of the beach life that need to be controlled.

  1. Salt water corrodes electronics fiercely. Waves crashing means that the atmosphere at a beach is saturated with water droplets with a high concentration of salt in many cases.
  2. Direct sun on the front black face of any iOS device can over heat it rapidly. You will probably feel it uncomfortably hot before the point where the device shuts itself off to prevent battery damage. Even if the device is powered down, you can permanently damage any Lithium Polymer battery in a few hours if the temperature is hot enough.
  3. Sand can get in the home button mechanism and may never come out. The 30 pin connector, the headphone jack, a SIM slot are easier to clean and less likely to be functionally impaired than the close tolerances of the glass on glass home button gap.
  4. Bright light makes it harder to see the backlit screen and if you are wearing polarized sunglasses, you will see that the display is highly polarized. It's fun from a science experiment aspect, but bad for reading or color accuracy of the display.

I would probably have a Chef Sleeve or two with me and bring an umbrella or shade to control the light and direct heat. A ziplock bag also works if you don't think the closer fitting sleeve is worth spending money on. Depending on your beach some or all of these concerns may be disregarded, but I tried to cover the common beach scenarios.

Other than that - keep it cool, heat yourself up and enjoy your iPad on the beach.

  • Luckily I have a white iPad! But yes I'm sure it will still get steamy! I think my own body will fry before the iPad since I am so white, but I will for sure keep this in mind. The chef sleeves are a great idea, I did not know that existed. I might have to bring along a pair of non polarized glasses. That always annoys me with my DSLR too. Thank you from the beaches of Belize!
    – dpollitt
    Mar 8 '12 at 16:04
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    @bmike's comments about heat are absolutely correct, but generally speaking, you'll have to seek, or make, shade in order to read with the iPad anyhow. I've always been able to keep it cool enough. Beyond that, I'd add that (in my worldview) I didn't spend all that money on a tool to not use it. However, there is some risk involved and for high-crime beaches (certain surf spots come to mind) I'd consider an $80 kindle to be a good (relatively) disposable option.
    – jaberg
    Mar 8 '12 at 16:49
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    The overheating problem exists even when you're not using the iPad - sunlight on the black LCD area (lessened by having a white border, but still the surface area of the black LCD remains a large area) can damage the iPad permanently. Same if you leave it on the dash in a hot car or forget to flip the shiny side up or have a cover to reduce the amount of black receiving direct sunlight.
    – bmike
    Mar 8 '12 at 16:56
  • Meaning you have to take care to store the iPad appropriately—in a bag that's also in the shade or (assuming it's appropriately protected) in the top tray of your cooler. Definitely needs to be thunk through.
    – jaberg
    Mar 8 '12 at 17:12
  • "thunk" being the sound the iPad makes when you start driving with it still perched on the dash... :D
    – Dan J
    Mar 8 '12 at 17:41

I use an OtterBox Defender case to protect my iPad in harsh environments. If I'm using it as a "chart plotter" on a small boat or kayak, I also put it into a waterproof map bag (along with a desiccant packet) that I got from an outdoor store.

For occasional use, you can also protect the iPad within a 1 gallon Zip-Loc™ bag. (Again, I'd add a desiccant packet if you're using it in a humid environment). I keep a Zip-Loc in my go bag for this purpose.

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  • Those otter box products are just fabulous. The normal line is great for most people, but the armored up ones are perfect work construction job sites or just extra protection from toddler-class handling situations.
    – bmike
    Mar 8 '12 at 16:11
  • I have an Otterbox for my iPhone, it is very nice for drops and such. I really like the idea of the zip-loc though, as that has almost no cost, can be very easily stowed for travel, and for probably the biggest advantage - can be thrown out after use. I would worry about an otterbox defender having sand stuck to it then bringing it inside and eventually into the ports. As a side - how bad is typing and viewing under the zip-loc? I'm guessing it is good enough if you bring one in your bag :)
    – dpollitt
    Mar 8 '12 at 17:29
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    No problems using the touch interface–for that it's "transparent". Reading gets tougher as the bag gets scratched, crazed and cloudy. Plan on more than one bag for week-long trips. (Plus, once you have them. You'll use them for many things.) The airspace that can form between bag and screen can set up some weird reflections—adjust the bag. Also, be very careful about condensation, though this is more of a problem moving from heated room to cold environment. Again, desiccant packets are your friend.
    – jaberg
    Mar 8 '12 at 17:36
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    One more thing. There's room in that bag to toss the iPhone behind the iPad if you don't mind holding it that way–but I usually leave that "naked" in it's own OtterBox.
    – jaberg
    Mar 8 '12 at 17:37

I'm going to expand my comment to @bmike's answer into another answer to this question for future seekers. Consider buying a Kindle for beach use.

Please understand that I applaud the desire to use the iPad for reading on the beach. As I see it, I paid real money for the tool, and if I'm not going use that tool as I want to, I shouldn't have bothered. That being said, there are certain risks and inconveniences that accompany this (and all) decision.

First, @bmike is correct about the danger that heat presents to portable electronics. That being said, my experience has taught me that if you're going to read with the iPad, you'll either seek or make shade. That risk is manageable. You'll also want to take proper care to keep your iPad cool when you're not using it. Options include a bag in the shade or (assuming the iPad is appropriately protected) in the top tray of a large cooler. Please, don't toss it down into the ice.

Perhaps a higher risk comes from flashing an expensive piece of kit on public beaches, both here and abroad. Assuming you're not going to stuff it into a waterproof case whenever the urge to take a dip strikes, or carry it with you as you and a loved one stroll hand-in-hand along the beach, the iPad presents a juicy target of opportunity to those who just weren't raised right (or for whom an iPad sold means eating tonight). It also brands you as a rich tourista and perhaps paints an even bigger target on your own person. (I trust my spanish-speaking friends here will forgive the slight as none is intended, it's just the linqua franca for much of my beach travel).

Add this risk to the inconvenience or as some would say, utter unreadability, of the LCD screen in bright sunlight and I can make a reasonable argument for leaving the iPad back in the room, and tossing a (relatively disposable) Kindle into my beach bag.

  • You were right on. I did end up reading a complete book while at the beach over vacation on the iPad. But, a few weeks later I decided to try the eink Kindle. It is a much much better device for reading books on the beach! I still love my iPad though!
    – dpollitt
    Jun 21 '12 at 12:06

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