Travel Tech: Smartphones


When you’re on the road you need gear that’s not only going to perform, but can withstand the beating that being dragged all over the planet will administer. It gets thrown into countless airport screener buckets, caught in monsoon rains, dropped, submerged in pools and rivers and cast to the ground in your pack, and so on.

The Samsung Galaxy Active series of smartphones, starting with the S4 back in 2013, are still the best rugged smartphones out there, if for no other reason than their competitors simply don’t make them. The competition just started making water resistant versions of their phones in the last year. So, as far as being able to take a thrashing, Samsung’s Actives, for now, still stand alone. Trust me, I conduct an exhaustive search at least once a year, and if you want top tier performance in a rugged case, it’s the Active Series.

I’m not going to regurgitate the Active Series’ specs for you here, you can find that out online. I’m going to explain why you should add this to your essential gear list. Having gotten the S4 Active back in 2013, I swear by these machines, I’ve been swimming in the ocean with the S4 and it never failed me, and the MILSPEC ratings for each subsequent model keep going up.

I’m not here selling phones for Samsung, I’m here making sure you get the right gear to take on the road with you. At $850 out of the showroom, wait a bit and start looking on craigslist or eBay, they always show up there for half price or less, often new in box or in perfect condition. So, other than its ability to withstand abuse, why the S8 Active?


Worldwide Communications

Get it unlocked and download Skype, and you have a device in your pocket that allows you to connect with any phone on Earth for really cheap. Put $25 in the Skype credit and anywhere there’s WiFi, you can call cell phones, landlines and send text messages most places in the world for 3 or 4 cents a minute. Unlock it so you can use SIMs anywhere in your Active. Just for the communications alone it’s indispensable.



I travel light, so I don’t lug a professional digital SLR with me everywhere. The camera on the Active series phones always take great pictures, even underwater. Try that with your SLR without the huge casing. You can get great shots of your excursions without carrying the extra weight.


The days of the laminated folding maps are long gone. I still have a stack of those things from all over creation. Navigating with Google maps on the Active Series phones has never failed me. I’ve never been anywhere that wasn’t covered. A few years ago, I was walking along a river in the middle of the jungle in southern Burma, tracking my progress in real time on my phone. Yes, I say go get lost when you’re traveling, but if you’re really lost, and you need to get unlost, if you have the right travel tech on you, you were never really lost in the first place. Am I making any sense?

The cost/benefit ratio of the Active Series smartphones to the itinerant globetrotter cannot be quantified, so don’t try.

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