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The best rugged phone cases: A buyer's guide

Keep your phone safe and grow your love of adventure.

Published onMarch 6, 2024

Phones are more adventure-ready than ever before, with IP ratings as far as the eye can see. There are even new cameras that are better equipped to capture the world around you. However, many phones are still fragile glass sandwiches. They look incredible, but you’ll need a tough case if you want to keep your device in pristine condition. Luckily for you, there are plenty of great rugged phone cases to help you do just that. We’re here to help guide you along the way.

Looking for more ways to keep your phone safe and get the most out of it? Don’t forget to check out our guide for the best case brands to look at and mobile accessories you can get!

Why buy a rugged phone case?

There’s one main reason to invest in rugged phone cases — you’re worried about the long-term health of your device. Whether you’re clumsy or work in a dangerous environment, these tough cases are ready if an accident happens. They may not be as thin or as comfortable in your pocket, but at least you know your phone should survive a tumble or two.

Protection is the key to good rugged phone cases, but there are plenty of bonus features, too. The thicker construction makes it easier for manufacturers to add things like kickstands so you can stream your favorite shows. You might also be eyeing a durable phone case as a way to ease your paranoia. After all, a new smartphone is an expensive investment, so it’s best to keep it in tip-top shape as long as possible.

What to look for in a rugged case

You could technically hop on Amazon and grab the first rugged phone case you see, but that’s not always the best move. While you shop, you should consider a few things, including the design, extra features, and a MIL-STD certification. Here are our best tips:

  • One-piece vs. two pieces — Some of the best cases on the market rely on two pieces to lock your phone in place instead of one. They may come with an outer shell and a lip for the front or a soft inner shell surrounded by a polycarbonate layer. You’ll want to think about how often you plan to change cases and how much weight you want to tack on.
  • A built-in screen protector — A few rugged cases pack TPU films into the front for some extra screen protection. Unfortunately, this added feature has gone the way of the dodo in recent years, but you can still find them here and there. As OEMs move to curved displays and in-display fingerprint scanners, getting a proper fit from a built-in screen protector has become tougher.
  • Belt clips and holsters — If you’re worried about how much space your new case will take up, maybe the answer is to skip your pocket. Options from Otterbox, Supcase, and more tend to come with some form of belt clip or holster to make life a little easier. If you’re lucky, the clip may double as a kickstand.
  • The MIL-STD certification — This should be a standard feature on rugged cases, but you should double-check. The MIL-STD certification indicates that your case has survived a certain number of durability tests. Some manufacturers go beyond the requirements, which is even better.

The best rugged phone cases and case brands

Now that we’ve lined you up with what to look for, it’s time to get down to business. Keep in mind the various designs and features while you browse our top picks. We’ve tried to stick to five brands and a few cases from each; otherwise, we would be here all day. Let’s get down to our rugged phone case business.


It’s pretty tough to top Otterbox for rugged phone cases because that’s all they do. You won’t really find a light or thin option from Otterbox, and in most cases, its products use a resistant two-piece construction. Otterbox cases used to come primarily in black, but the company has since branched out to a few blue, green, and purple shades as well. If you’re lucky, you can even find a clear case for your phone.

Otterbox is one of the brands that stuck with built-in screen protectors for as long as possible. You might still find them here and there, but only for phones with flat displays. No matter which way you go, you’re pretty much safe knowing that your Otterbox is one rugged beast of a case.

Another key Otterbox feature is dust ports. These stop short of offering full waterproofing, but they do a great job keeping dust and debris out of your charging port. combined with belt loops on top-end models, these are some of the best rugged cases on the market.

Best overall: Otterbox Defender

best rugged cases otterbox defender

The Otterbox Defender uses a synthetic rubber slipcover and a polycarbonate shell to keep the phone safe from accidental bumps and drops. The buttons are covered, and you also get port covers to keep dust, lint, and dirt away. A thick, raised bezel around the front keeps the display safe for maximum drop protection. Depending on the phone, you might get a built-in screen protector as well. The Defender is also one of the options that come with an optional belt clip holster.

It’s thick and bulky, but if all-around protection is what you’re after, this is the Otterbox case to get.

Get the Otterbox Defender for:




Honorable mentions

Otterbox Defender Pro

ai12m otterbox defender pro

The Otterbox Defender Pro somehow manages to be even more protective than the Defender series. The two are quite similar, but the Pro tacks a little more thickness and bulk to help your phone survive even harsher falls. It also comes with a more textured finish on the back that adds to the grip. The anti-microbial layer and a belt clip holster are both available with the Defender Pro, too.

Get the Otterbox Defender Pro for:




Otterbox Symmetry

best rugged cases otterbox symmetry

The Otterbox Defender and Defender Pro are excellent cases, but they are overkill for most people. If you want the safety features that Otterbox is known for without the bulk, Symmetry is the case to consider. The polycarbonate case is one of the thinnest you can get from Otterbox. It’s not a thin case by any means, but it is quite a bit slimmer than the rest of the company’s offerings.

This is also the only Otterbox case you can get that lets you show off the phone’s design. The Symmetry also supports many phones, including the latest flagships from Motorola, OnePlus, and more. We’ve linked the most popular models below.

Get the Otterbox Symmetry for:





If you want a slightly thinner but still tough, rugged case, you may want to look at Urban Armor Gear, or UAG for short. It’s one of the newer case manufacturers, but the team seems to have figured out what works. You’ll often find a thicker bumper at the top and bottom of your UAG case, and every model in the lineup packs a MIL-STD certification.

UAG doesn’t offer quite as much variety as other manufacturers, but it does hit the main points of the latest Samsung Galaxy S23 and Apple iPhone 15 lineups. There’s some support for mid-range devices, too. There aren’t really bright colors to choose from, but the muted tones are good for everyday life. You can also check out some transparent cases, and they don’t sacrifice toughness.

Best overall: UAG Monarch

gs21p uag monarch

The UAG Monarch cranks the protection up to 11. At first glance, the Monarch looks similar to the Plasma mentioned below, but it’s made with five layers of material rather than three. It makes for a slightly denser case, and the transparent back panel is gone in favor of a matte black version. The textured finish should help you to keep a solid grip on your phone. If you have the latest iPhone or Samsung S-series device, UAG also makes a Kevlar version of this case, which looks great but doesn’t add much extra protection. On the other hand, the standard UAG Monarch is one of the most widely available options from the case maker.

Get the UAG Monarch for:

Honorable mentions:

UAG Plasma

best rugged cases uag plasma

The Plasma is one of the few models that seem to be available across the board, and it packs the best UAG has to offer. Thick TPU bumpers on the top and bottom offer superior protection if your phone takes a tumble. UAG also added a transparent three-layer polycarbonate back panel for protection against scrapes and scratches. Thick bezels protect the display and camera housing, and you can see the reinforced honeycomb pattern thanks to the clear finish.

While the Plasma line doesn’t come with a built-in screen protector, it does keep adventure in mind. You probably won’t even need a belt holster, thanks to the small overall footprint. It even supports wireless charging and contactless payment systems on phones that have them.

Get the UAG Plasma for:

UAG Plyo

clear sgn20 uag plyo

Although the Plasma features a transparent back panel, the UAG Plyo is the only way to go if you want to show off your entire device. It’s completely clear from the camera housing to the charging ports. However, it provides the same MIL-STD 810G protection you expect from UAG. Air Soft cushioned corners also offer solid security against drops. If you want more of a textured pattern on the back, the UAG Lucent is also a great option.

It’s also worth noting that some phones, such as the Galaxy S24 Ultra, have a version of this case with MagSafe compatibility. 

Get the UAG Plyo for:


Poetic is all about 360-degree protection on a budget, and it still offers built-in screen protectors on some models. Its two-piece design philosophy can be a pain to apply, but at least you know that your phone won’t fall out. There aren’t many colors to choose from, but some of Poetic’s best rugged phone cases offer a built-in kickstand, which more than makes up for the lack of panache.

As you might have guessed, with a thick two-piece case, Poetic is happy to provide a belt holster with your purchase. If you still want to fit your phone into a pocket, it may be time to find some new pants instead.

Best overall: Poetic Revolution

best rugged cases poetic revolution

The Poetic Revolution case is a highly rugged product for protecting your smartphone. The case has MIL-STD 810G-516.6 certifications for protection against falls and spills. The two-layer case includes one for the front display, with raised lips and corners for additional protection. Some, but not all, Revolution cases come with their own screen protector for the front case, and those that do also include an additional front panel without the screen protector.

On the other side, the rear is made of a combined PC and TPU material for extra shock absorption. Finally, the Revolution has a built-in kickstand for viewing media hands-free. The cases often come in a variety of color choices, however, it was not released for the Galaxy S24 or iPhone 15, which could mean it will soon be discontinued for flagships.

Get the Poetic Revolution for:

Honorable mentions:

Poetic Guardian

lg v60 poetic guardian

The Poetic Guardian is tough like the Revolution, but it skips the matte back panel to favor a see-through option. It’s a little bit lighter as well, making it a great option if you’re worried about pocket space. You can usually choose from a few different bumper colors to add some personality to your case, and the Guardian even comes with a built-in screen protector. The two-piece design is back for more, so be ready to lock your phone up tight.

Get the Poetic Guardian for:

Poetic Spartan

best rugged cases poetic spartan

The Poetic Spartan case is almost identical to the Revolution model. It’s a two-layer case, with the front including raised lips for protecting the display and a polycarbonate back with a built-in kickstand. Some also come with a built-in screen protector. Like most rugged phone cases, the Spartan also has MIL-STD 810G – 516.6 certification for protection.

The main difference is that the Spartan case has a premium leather texture cover on its back, which gives it an eye-catching look. However, be aware the Spartan case is not as available for non-flagship phones.

Get the Poetic Spartan for:


You might notice some similarities between Supcase and Poetic. They’re both heavily invested in all-around protection, and that means more built-in screen protectors. All of Supcase’s options are fairly rugged, and they’re even more fond of the color black than the competition. That said, the UB Pro below is by far the most durable case the company offers. In fact, it offers some of the best drop protection in the business, regularly touting 20-foot drop resistance on its signature cases.

You’ll probably want a belt holster here as well, so you’re in luck. Each case comes with one, and each case is tested beyond military standards, so you can feel pretty comfortable if you drop your phone from a decent height. The two-piece design can take some effort to get on, but it’s not going anywhere once you attach it.

Best overall: Supcase UB Pro

gs21u supcase ub pro

Supcase’s UB Pro is the clear flagship of the bunch, and it’s by far the most available option. It’s a full-body beast. It relies on a multi-piece hybrid design to lock your phone in place. The thick TPU bumper around the edges keeps drops and shocks at bay while the polycarbonate shell brushes scratch away harmlessly. Some models include built-in screen protectors, but only if you have a flatscreen device.

As far as universal features go, each UB Pro case includes a rotating belt holster so that you can keep all of that bulk from filling up your pocket. You can also use the built-in kickstand to stream your favorite shows hands-free from any of three different angles. The UB Pro is the most colorful case in the lineup, and you can pick from up to a dozen colors for some models.

Get the UB Pro for:


How can you make a list of the best cases without showing Spigen some love? Well, you can’t. The company simply offers too many cases across all spheres. However, it doesn’t have too many truly rugged cases to choose from. The one option that it does have only comes in black and gunmetal finishes, too, so you may want to look elsewhere for colorful cases.

It’s also worth noting that Spigen’s rugged cases aren’t quite as resistant as more specialized options from Otterbox, UAG, or others. However, they are more approachable and mainstream, and often are available at a lower price. Additionally, most Spigen cases offer military-grade protection, so if you don’t need maximum protection, just about any Spigen case can get the job done.

Best overall: Spigen Tough Armor

rugged cases spigen tough armor

The Spigen Tough Armor case is the company’s flagship rugged case. Not only is it made of two layers (a flexible TPU interior and a hard PC outer shell), but it also includes extra foam inserts. They are placed inside the TPU interior for an extra degree of shock absorption when the phone falls on the ground.

The result is that the case meets the high MIL-STD 810G-516.6 certification for fall protection. On top of that, the back includes a built-in kickstand so you can set your phone on a flat surface and watch media without having to hold it. For larger phones, the kickstand might be a bit inadequate, so keep that in mind before relying on it too much.

Get the Spigen Tough Armor for:

Frequently asked rugged phone case questions

Some rugged phone cases are waterproof, but others are not. You’ll have to check out the details of your individual case to make sure. However, for the best protection we recommend investing in a waterproof phone pouch.

For the most part, yes, it will. Rugged phone cases are thicker with extra reinforcement in the corners, which should be good news in case of drops. They also tend to have more layers for impact absorption, and the MIL-STD 810G 516.6 rating is just the icing on top.

Yes, in fact, there are plenty of thin options. You might want to look at UAG’s Plasma or the Spigen Tough Armor we mentioned above. Even the Otterbox Symmetry is on the thinner side, though it’s thicker than the other two.

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