Ski holiday survival guide for your smartphone
There’s no doubt, a modern mobile is a useful thing to have on a ski holiday both whilst travelling and out on the mountain. From displaying your boarding pass, piste mapping apps, taking selfies and even saving your life, a mobile is a great tool. So what’s the problem?
A lot of us spend a lot of money on our phones and most of us have felt the sting of seeing our beloved gadget smashed, lost, stolen or otherwise ruined. The problem is that a ski holiday has a great many ways to raise the risk of your phone coming home in tatters or even not at all.
Over the years we’ve had lost phones, stolen phones, cracked screens and even one bent down the middle. Through trial, error and experience we’ve been doing things a little differently each season and hope we’ve learned enough to ensure our phones will survive the trip. In this article we run through our solutions and tips for keeping your phone safe and useful for the duration of your winter sports trip.
Survival tips for your smartphone
Armour your phoneSome cases prevent scratches, some reduce the chance of damage when you drop it. It takes a special sort of protective case to protect it from bending if it’s in your pocket when you take a big tumble on the slopes. A plastic or rubber case that will save the phone when it’s dropped on a hard floor will provide little resistance to your body weight as it comes bearing down. Bending your phone might sound like an unlikely event but we’ve heard about it happening twice before and 3 seasons ago, this author’s new iPhone was bent after a fall in zero visibility when I discovered the edge of the piste by falling off it. The following season I got serious about my phone case. In the pictures we see an armoured case for iPhones 6 – 7 and another for the iPhone XR. The first is made by G-Wack and seems no longer to be available the second is made by Lanheim and at the time of writing is available for £18.99 on Amazon. These are metal framed cases with rubber inserts, you secure the case with little allan key bolts which is both satisfying and fiddly. You are left with a phone that presents a much harder target to disaster. We’ve tested the above 2 and been totally satisfied, a search on Amazon for ‘Armoured case for (insert phone type here)’ will bring up a range of similar cases in addition to some plastic inferior ones.
Tether the phone to your jacket It’s so easy to drop a phone and in the snow it might make almost no sound as it lands or vanish deep into some powder. I’ve seen a few dropped from a ski lift in my time (mostly they slipped during a selfie) and I’ve seen more on the floor below the lift. One of our party once lost their phone because they slipped it into a pocket without a zip. The simple way to solve this is with a tether that attaches to the inside of your jacket and the phone case. You can get lanyards/tethers of all kinds on Amazon and most armoured cases have a place you can fasten one. If it’s attached to your clothing by a decent bit of string, you’re not going to be dropping it and losing it anywhere. Simples. In the above image we’re using a keyring hoop and a lanyard that loops through a headphone wire hole that accesses the inside jacket pocket. So a hole made for headphones is ideal to tether a phone to the very pocket you want to store it in. Not all jackets will have something like this but one way or another you can usually find a way to get it done. Tethering directly to a zip can be done easily with a keyring hoop but beware it can cause yanking and damage to your pocket zips.
Keep it warm Anything that runs on batteries will find it harder to perform in the extreme cold. Being conscious of that fact and keeping your phone shielded from the cold air for extended periods of time is usually enough but on the coldest days you can take some extra steps. Keeping it inside your jacket pocket is a great start but if it’s really cold you can stick a sock in there and push the phone into the sock inside the pocket. Not very hi-tech but it will certainly help. A chunky case will help keep it warm as you get it out in the cold but if you are using it long enough for it to start turning off prematurely, you need an extra solution. We’ve had trouble using phones to take time-lapse videos of ski resorts as the phone is outdoors for up to 45 minutes. Our best one has been to make use of one of the chemical reaction glove warmer packets (you know the ones you squeeze and they get warm for several hours). We snap one of those and tape it to the back of the case just below the centre (where the battery is in most iPhones). It’s a bit crude and we’ve only done it twice but after 10 minutes to warm up in our pocket, the phone worked much longer as a camera in the cold without any battery trouble.
Consider the C-Zip gloves Handling your phone on lifts or out on the snow can be quite awkward because we usually start off with some big winter gloves on. So typically people take at least one glove off to handle the phone. This can be a bit awkward and can lead to the dropping of your gloves as often as the dropping of the phone. You tend to be passing gloves to people or tucking them under your elbow whilst gripping your phone in one hand. It’s a recipe for disaster. So we made our lives a bit easier by choosing C-Zip Ski and Snowboard Gloves. These are good gloves with a zip behind the knuckles that allows you to pop your hands out whilst wearing them. It means it’s easy to handle your phone with your ungloved hands and not have to stash your gloves anywhere. When used in conjunction with the tether, getting your phone out on the ski lifts is a breeze. No more worries about dropping your gloves or fumbling to use your hands out on the snow. Check out our video review article.
Insure it? Nope. It’s entirely up for debate but our decision has been not to get special insurance to protect our equipment. We know that if we’re better than the average person at keeping it safe and sound, we’ll likely pay more for the insurance than we are to claim. After all, if that weren’t true, insurers wouldn’t make money. Our solution is to take good care of our phones and GoPros and spend the money on prevention (in the form of an armoured case and clip on tether) than on insurance in case we mess up or are unlucky. Our view on device insurance by no means changes the facts of winter sports insurance for you and your party. Ski holiday travel insurance suitable for your requirements is pretty much essential and we fully advocate all U.K skiers and boarders get properly insured for their medical and health care. Your phone is not as important as your life.
Turn on the right services Finally, let’s not forget the software. There’s not a lot the software can do to save your phone from a heavy smash but you can do things to limit the risk and damage of loss or theft of your phone. Modern smartphones have a facility to allow you to locate it via your online account if it’s lost or stolen. You are able to lock it remotely provided it has an internet connection. Ensure your service is turned on and you can access it. You can give yourself a higher chance of finding a lost phone or getting a decent member of the public to return it to you if found. You can limit the chance of a thief getting into your phone with the lock facility or even track them if they are foolish enough to leave it on and connected to network. You should also ensure you have a hard to guess 6 digit unlock code on your phone, 2 factor verification on your main accounts and ideally a setting that makes the phone wipe itself when too many failed attempts at the password are made. It simply means that if your phone does fall into the wrong hands, they are less likely to be able to do anything with it or get at your data.