March 8, 2010

What Does IPX6 and IPX7 Waterproof Rating Mean?


When you are out on the trail, and your hike just turned into a muddy downpour mess of an afternoon, you'll want to make sure that you are carrying a GPS that is rated to handle the weather.

Most handheld GPS units are rated to the IPX7 waterproofing standard; a pretty good standard that keeps the unit sound in the face of whatever a typical hike bike, run or other outing can throw at it. Some handhelds are rated to the IPX6 standard; which is a lower standard that doesn't offer the immersion capability that the IPX7 does...... Immersion capability? Yes, see below:

IPX6 Waterproof Standard

Heavy splashing and rain - This test sends water at all angles through a 12.5mm nozzle at a rate of 100 liters/min at a pressure of 100kN/m2 for 3 minutes from a distance of 3 meters. Must not fail or show water seepage.

IPX-7 Waterproof Standard

Puddle, stream, beer cooler and splash rated - Protected against water immersion - Immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter.

I have had my GPS units out in the driving rain for hours and have dropped them in muddy puddles without issue on the IPX7 standard. I like it and it works for almost anything you can throw at it on a typical day.... except dropping it overboard on a boat..... and luckily that hasn't happened.

Photo via:Tom Curtis /

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Posted by Scott Martin at March 8, 2010 6:40 AM

Recent Comments

i was out on the bike with my garmin oregon 450t and it was raining heavy.when i got home and i went to plug it into my computer and noticed it was bit wet and i opened the back cover and it was a bit wet as well.

Posted by: jonny at January 29, 2012 8:37 AM

I have a Garmin Forerunner 305 which is IPX7 rated. I have been in the ocean with it for up to 30 minutes (i.e. chasing my kayak in the Hawaiian surf). I've been kayaking surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, and swimming with it. It can handle saltwater, as the rating says down to 1M for up to 30 minutes. However, it can't handle a sudden impact into the water. I got thrown really hard from my kayak while riding a 5-footer and water got under the crystal -- that's all it took. My friend destroyed his during a hard fall windsurfing. I also got fresh water under the display screen on another 305 after diving into water with it on, but was able to salvage that one.

Posted by: Lonnie at September 17, 2011 11:42 AM

I have a Garmin Rino 530HCx combo 2 way radio and GPS and have RAM mounts on both my Honda Rincon 4x4 ATV and my Yamaha WaveRunner FX HO and between them have been caught for HOURS in driving rain, coated in mud, washed off by holding under flowing water in the sink and of course all the spray when it's on the watercraft. My brother has an identical unit and also uses them on his ATV and his watercraft, including once flipping his watercraft upside down which took him about 4 minutes to upright it again during which time the Garmin was suspended totally under maybe 14" of water. Neither of us have ever had any issues with them. We do of course always make sure the rubber plugs are in the USB port hole and headphone/VOX hole securely and after particularly dusty or muddy conditions wipe off under the battery. You should also apply a very light coating of dielectric grease to all of these areas and we also put some down in the MicroSD slot before putting in our SD cards back when they were new four years ago. Even after all this and several slaps by small branches on the ATV's while riding in thick woods they still work great. The IPX standards are guidelines for what units in good condition that have been properly maintained should be able to handle. The IPX7 says most Garmin units should handle water at normal temperatures short term, even temporary shallow submersion. Things like not occasionally cleaning them, not making sure the rubber plugs are secure, and water temps over 110 or (and more likely) below 45 degrees can shorten or limit their resistance so you have to keep that in mind. The reason Garmin wouldn't recommend a product rated IPX7 for short term water submersion or exposure is because they also sell IPX8 rated products made specifically for water environments.

We just wish they would add the Marine radio bands into the Rino 530HCx units, upgrading them to IPX8 specs would be nice as well, though they've served us well as they are.

Posted by: James H at September 30, 2010 3:27 AM

I specifically asked Garmin about this, unfortunately after I bought my Colorado (IPX7), regarding use in a kayak.

They recommended against it.

The ratings are a joke. Why rate it as submersible for 10mins then recommend that it won't survive splashing in a kayak?

I reckon the biggest issue will be water (& salt) ingress into the plugs under the protective cap on top of the unit, which will cause failure of the external antenna socket & the usb cable socket. I can live without the antenna socket but once the usb socket goes it will be useless.


Posted by: Dave at April 19, 2010 9:51 PM

I had a etrex vista, rated IPX7, fail from splashing while in my kayak. No dunking, never near the water, the most was getting splashed by my oar. Thankfully, I bought at REI, so got a new one without issue. Now I always keep it in a waterproof bag.

I think the ratings are bunk

Posted by: cm at March 14, 2010 9:27 PM

Thanks for the post and the clarification. I wasn't aware of the different rating standards so this is good to know.

Posted by: tmwitkemper at March 9, 2010 1:21 PM
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