Winterizing Your Portable Tech

Winterizing Your Portable Tech | 40Tech

I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in the soon to be frozen hell that is central North America. This has led me to consider things that, heretofore, I had no inkling about while hanging out on the often wet but nearly always mild Northwest coast. Things like: how to touch my smartphone or iPad screen in the freezing cold weather, should I even bring the damned things out in the freezing cold weather and, oh, what about my tech and the, you know, freezing cold weather? So I did a bit of looking around, and here are the best tips that I found…

The biggest — and most obvious — suggestion was to just never take the things out when it’s truly cold, and to make sure you never forget them in your car. This sort of silliness can lead to cracked screens (especially for the glass ones, like iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets), and dead batteries. That’s not all, though. Condensation is also a concern. Nothing like little droplets of water forming inside your electronics. That’ll make for a fun and expensive day, yes?

Condensation can form inside your device if you turn it on while it’s still cold. The best advice I’ve found to avoid this is to wait until your toy — or essential life device (ELD) as the toys are fast becoming — reaches room temperature before turning it on. Other management options are to try and keep the things warm in the first place. There are laptop warmers out there, and someone is probably bringing heated iPad cases to market as we speak, but the tried and true option is to keep the device close to your body. This only works if you dress warmly, however — and it really only works for smartphones or little wee-tablets.

If you do see condensation, don’t turn on your device. Wait! You’ll want to check if it’s still working but that is an incredibly bad idea! Instead, stick the thing in some uncooked rice — cover it! — and let that attempt to draw the moisture out. It may or may not work, but it’s your best chance, even if you drop your device in a puddle or something.

The phone doesn’t stop ringing just because it’s cold. You can always purchase (or make) some gloves with removable or conductive finger-tips, but a better option in extreme cold weather is to just keep the thing in your pocket and use a good earbud with inline mic and call answer buttons. Something with music track-changing buttons doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s something I didn’t know: I had no idea that leaving your device in sleep mode can increase the potential for problems and damage in cold weather. I read this on a couple of different sites and, while no one ever said why, they all said that turning off your device completely — at least in regard to laptops and netbooks — is always a good idea before going out into the frozen outside world. Better safe than sorry, I say.

Some sites also advised wrapping your device up in a scarf or something if you have to leave it in your car. If you use it often, this could work, as it will help to keep the device’s generated heat from dissipating. If you leave it out over night — or even for an hour — in really cold weather, however, wrapping it up won’t do a thing. Not unless what you wrap it in has it’s own heat source.

So what do you do to protect your portable electronic devices — smartphones, tablets, laptops, et al — in extreme cold weather?

Bobby Travis

Bobby isn't 40-something, but is a strong supporter of the Grown-up Geek kind. He's a loving husband and father first, but is also a freelance writer, productivity nut, operatically trained singer, and (not-so) closet geek. Check out his random thoughts, wackiness, and Instagram pics on Tumblr, Twitter, or Google+-- or just head over to


  1. The rice trick, by the way, does work. I’ve used this once on a cell phone (kicked off my belt into clean toilet water by a toddler) and once on a watch (got water under the crystal during a rain storm). Be sure to take out the battery first, though. I’ve just put rice in a ZipLoc bag and put the device on top, then sealed the bag.

  2. Good article.

    I think silica gel will work too as it draws moisture as well.

    Also now they do have gloves that have some conducting material so we can use our “i” devices out in the cold (it was featured on local news).

    Another thing to consider is moving to warmer climate :-)

    • Thanks Sean — and sorry for the late reply. Been a crazy month. I’ve seen the gloves. I love doing things on the cheap, though, and I love a DIY project. As for the warmer climate… Would that it were an option. :)

  3. Pingback: Three Low-Cost, DIY Ways to Use Your Smartphone While Wearing Gloves | 40Tech

  4. I’ve been trudging around in freezing Minnesota for the past two weeks using a Galaxy Note II to read and study for a couple hours at a time. The temp’s ranged from about 15°F to -15°F. I’ve had no problems with the phone at all (other than that the camera flash wouldn’t start–the phone gave me a message that it was too cold). (I am worried about condensation when I come back into the warm, so I’ll see if a dry case for the phone will help reduce that.)

    In any case, for people who are more prone to use their phones in cold weather, check out this chart (bottom of the page) from an article on PCWorld for phones that do better in the cold:

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