- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Q: I plan to take my MP3 player, digital camera and cell phone to the beach this summer. How can I protect them from damage?

A: If you follow a few common-sense tips, you can hit the sand and surf with most of your portable electronics and still bring them home in one piece.

Waterproof cases from companies such as OtterBox, Pelican and Anvil will protect your devices not only from moisture, but also sand and dust, according to Jennifer Boone of the Consumer Electronics Association. With special “shoot-through” cases that feature thinner plastic, you can still snap pictures or spin the wheel on your IPod, she said.

But keep your electronics out of the sun, because the cases don’t protect from heat damage.

“It’s still important you keep those devices in the shade when you’re not using them,” Ms. Boone said.

If you plan to relax poolside or near the surf, slip a piece of foam inside the case so your device will float if you drop it in the water, she said.

Any gadget with an open port, such as a headphone jack or DVD drive, is vulnerable, so make sure to close port flaps to keep sand out, Ms. Boone said. Take extra care with camcorders, which are particularly susceptible because of their numerous ports and moving parts, she said.

For more serious beachgoers, electronics designed for more rugged conditions are available, such as underwater cameras, said David Carnoy, an executive editor at the technology Web site CNet.com.

Some audio system manufacturers offer speakers made especially for the beach, but it’s still a good idea to keep your equipment out of the sun, he said.

“You might almost buy a little umbrella for your audio gear to protect it in the shade,” Mr. Carnoy advised.

Store all of your devices in one place, like a cooler with no ice, to protect them from the elements — not to mention curious children or oblivious volleyball players, he said.

Wipe your hands clean of sunblock or tanning lotion before handling your electronics, especially those with rubberized skins that can become discolored, Mr. Carnoy said.

After your fun in the sun winds down, allow your devices to reach room temperature before using them again; bringing warm gadgets into an air-conditioned room can create condensation, Ms. Boone said.

Also, use a can of compressed air to clean out any sand particles, she advised.

If your gadgets do get dirty, soaked or fried, don’t count on a refund or replacement — most warranties don’t include damage from heat, sun and sand, Mr. Carnoy said.

“Unless it’s a product that is already geared to provide some kind of protection, the warranty is not going to cover it,” he said.

By following a few precautions, however, you can enjoy a summer full of surfside tunes, photos and gab sessions.

“As long as you take proper steps to protect your devices, take them anywhere,” Ms. Boone said.

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