This column was first published September 4, 2010

I received a press release the other day pitching waterproof cases for personal electronics users who work or play near or on the water. I tried to find more information on the Web about the company but a search on the product’s name failed to produce any hits, at least on items that performed this type of magic.

But the exercise got me thinking that I should pass along a reminder to everybody who uses or might use the water for fun or work that there is no reason not to take along those electronic tools and toys, provided they are well protected in a waterproof case.

While there may be other types, three will meet most of the needs for keeping dry your personal devices: the dry bag, the dry case and the see-through dry case made of flexible, clear PVC-type plastic; many are now PVC-free.

Each has its good points and one may be better suited than another for a given appliance.

Since we, as a society, have become so attached to the cell phone, and our addiction keeps us from missing a call, the most useful waterproofing tool is the clear film bags that come with a waterproof latch. I’ve been using one by AquaPac now for several years, and so far it has traveled on the deck of my kayak doing its job of keeping my cell phone dry. It enables me to take or make a call right through the bag; I put it on speaker to aid in hearing the other party. Despite the fact that the bag gets soaked and splashed on every outing, the phone always has come home dry.

This type of case would be useful for beach-goers and their digital music players because it’s both water- and sand-proof. The devices can be operated right through the bag. You’ll need headphone jack-compatible bags, which will run you a few more dollars.

Such a case, however, is not the best way to protect your device from impact. The flexible cases usually have a padded side, but run a kayak up over your deck while rescuing your capsized partner, and you’re going to run the risk of damage to the phone.

The plastic hard case might be a better choice for impact protection. There are models by Otter Box Dry Boxes and Pelican Dry Boxes, for example, that have a clear cover to allow you to see what’s inside while they remain totally waterproof and will float when immersed. They come in various sizes and will protect your camera, cell phone, iPod or other toy. You won’t be able to hear the phone ring (unless you put your ear on the cover or see the lights blinking), but it will remain dry and safe no matter what the weather. Just be sure that when you take it out of the box your hands are dry and you’re in a place you won’t drop it into the water.

A third choice is the dry bag. The most reasonably priced, dry bags come in sizes from a half-liter to the nearly house-sized Bill Bag by NRS that can swallow most, if not all, of your camping equipment (think canoe). They are usually rugged, have a roll top and clip closure (pick one large enough for three rolls), and come in a variety of colors (think meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner). If you kayak, look for bags that will fit into your hatches. Smaller bags are better because you’ll be stuffing the bags into a rounded hull that tapers at each end – smaller and lighter toward the ends, larger and heavier toward the center.

I’ve used the smallest dry bag for my car keys and wallet when I kayak. Even though I stow most of my gear in waterproof hatches, there’s always going to be some dampness below decks.

There also is an assortment of handle-equipped clear bags you can tote to the beach. They’ll keep your gear sand-free and dry as well. Just make sure you keep it properly sealed.

Here’s a list of some of the dry bag and dry box makers out there: HPRC Dry Boxes; MTM Dry Boxes; Medi Brace Dry Boxes; Nanuk Dry Boxes; Otter Box Dry Boxes; Pelican Dry Boxes; Phoebus Dry Boxes; Plano Moulding Dry Boxes; S3 Dry Boxes; SKB Cases Dry Boxes; Starlight Cases Dry Boxes; Storm Cases Dry Boxes; TZ Case Dry Boxes; Underwater Kinetice Dry Boxes; Vangard Dry Boxes.

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays