Best rugged smartphones 2023

The best rugged phones are perfect for outdoor adventures, camping and dangerous jobs, as they're protected against drops, scrapes and water damage.

The Doogee S100 Pro rugged phone being tested in a wood

With the market for them increasing, finding one of best rugged smartphones can get a little bit complicated. Whether you’re into outdoor activities like hiking or camping, or your job requires you to have a durable device, we’re here to help you find the best rugged phone for your needs and budget. Some phones focus on outdoor adventures with features like flashlights and long batteries, others focus solely on durability, and many also offer advanced camera specs and gaming modes.

Pocket Tactics has years of experience with mobile phones, so we know a good one when we see it. All this experience has been put to good use with the best rugged phones you can buy today all listed below, from specialist rugged brand Doogee as well as household names such as Nokia and Samsung. We’ve also spent time with the best gaming iPhone, the best gaming phones in general, and the best portable gaming consoles so you can make a wise investment with your next piece of tech.

Here are the best rugged smartphones in 2023:

One of the best rugged smartphones, the Doogee S96 GT, shown three times from different angles on the right of the picture against a black background. It is black and gold, with extra plating for protection.

1. Doogee S96 GT

The best budget rugged smartphone is the Doogee S96 GT, costing around $329 (£299).

Doogee S96 GT specs:

Display  6.22-inch 1520 X 720 pixels IPS LCD
Cameras 64MP Main, 20MP Night Vision, 8MP Front
Storage 256GB + MicroSDXC slot
Rugged rating  IP68/IP69K
Battery 6350 mAh
OS  Android 12
Size 167 x 81 x 16mm
Weight 310g


  • Great performance for the price
  • Bulkier protection than others at the same price
  • Nice selfie camera


  • Less frequent security updates
  • Slightly less comfy in the hand than others

The Doogee S96 GT is the best budget rugged phone overall, with a surprising amount of power and great camera quality. It has an upgraded MediaTek processor, 4K UHD video, a night vision camera and incredibly rugged build quality. It doesn’t have 5G, though that’s not likely to matter if you’re taking it on an adventure where 5G cell phone coverage is patchy. Running on Android 12, the S96 Gt is unlocked for all cell phone providers.

The phone is slightly cheaper than the Nokia XR20 below, and it has a little more power to help it out. The main downside of this handset is that Doogee is a smaller manufacturer compared to Nokia, and therefore you don’t get quite the same regular security updates. That doesn’t stop it from being amazing value for money, with durable Corning Gorilla Glass, Google Pay, fingerprint recognition, and a stunning 6.22-inch screen.

If you need a phone that can withstand drops (up to 1.8m) and spills, but don’t want to sacrifice media features, the Doogee S96 GT is the best rugged phone for you.

One of the best rugged phones, a black Nokia Xr20 in a mans hand.. It's plain with a camera at the top in the middle. the man has white hands and is wearing a black hoodie by a bicycle.

2. Nokia XR20

The best discrete rugged smartphone is the Nokia XR20. It costs around $439.99 (£299).

Nokia XR20 specs:

Display  6.67-inch IPS LCD
Cameras 48 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 8 MP front
Storage  64GB (exp. with MicroSDXC slot)
Rugged rating  IP68 dust/water resistant
Drop rating Drop-to-concrete resistance up to 1.8m
Sensors Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Size 171.6 x 81.5 x 10.6 mm
Weight 248 g


  • Long-term software support
  • 5G connectivity


  • Slightly underpowered
  • A bit short on features

The Nokia XR20 offers reliability and value for money, and good looks to boot. Although its casing is certified at a MIL-STD-810H military standard, it has the least ‘rugged’ design of all the phones on our list. The balance of a trustworthy brand, good-enough specs, and general peace of mind with your purchase make it a great all-rounder.

Generally, you’re buying a rugged phone to last, and with the XR20 you get a 3-year warranty, monthly security updates for up to four years, and even free screen replacements for a year. You don’t get an IP69K level of protection, however, which is the code for the highest level of protection against dirt, dust, and moisture. In short, it isn’t as rugged as other models in this guide.

Aspects like its fingerprint sensor, 5G connectivity, and three years of Android software updates are a bonus, and at such a good price it’s the best option for most. The downside is that it isn’t a bespoke device for hardcore outdoor use – if you have specific needs, look to Doogee. It’s also just been upgraded to the Nokia XR21 

The Doogee S100 Pro torch being tested in a wood

3. Doogee S100 Pro

The Doogee S100 Pro is the best rugged phone for outdoor adventures.
The RRP is $499.99 (£449.99), but you can expect to pay $399.99

Doogee S100 Pro specs:

Display 6.58″ FHD+ 120hz IPS Waterdrop screen
Cameras AI Triple camera (108MP+20MP+16MP), 20MP Night vision camera, 32MP front camera
Storage  256GB ROM
Rugged ratings IP68 / IP69K / MIL-STD-810H
Battery  22000mAh / 33W charging
Features  130 lumens camping light
Size (HxWxD) 179 x 83 x 27mm
Weight  400g


  • Impressive build and screen quality
  • Bright camping lights
  • Great for gaming and photography


  • Incredibly big and bulky

The Doogee S100 Pro is the latest release from the world’s leading rugged phone manufacturer. With an IP68 / IP69K rating for certified protection and  MIL-STD-810H certified protection, you can be sure it will withstand extreme weather, temperatures and conditions. but the S100 Pro is a solid media device too, with a triple camera system, gaming mode and Helio G99 processor to keep things running smoothly.

The S100 Pro is by no means a small device at 400g (twice the weight of the iPhone 14 Pro) but it’s not designed to be compact. What the phone lacks in portability it makes up for in features, such as a high-capacity 22000mAh battery that powers 130-lumen camping lights on the back of the device for up to 18 hours. With a night vision camera, it’s a fantastic outdoor companion after dark. The 960-hour standby battery makes it a fantastic phone for camping, or for any outdoor adventures where you’re not able to access a power supply.

The Doogee S100 Pro is the best rugged phone if you value having a decent camera and media features, as well as a hardy casing. It’s not the cheapest model on our list but for a limited, Pocket Tactics followers in the UK can get 10% off the S100 Pro on Amazon with code S100PROUK.

Read our Doogee S100 Pro review

One of the best rugged phones, the Ulefone Power Armor 20WT, showing a man holding it to his mouth. He is in abeanie and hiking gear, and the phone has an antenna attached for walkie talkie usage.

4. Ulefone Power Armor 20WT

The Ulefone Power Armor 20WT is the best hardcore rugged phone. It costs around $389.99 (£299).

Ulefone Power Armor 20WT specs:

Display  5.65-inch 1080 x 2160 pixels IPS LCD
Cameras 50 MP wide, 16 MP front camera
Storage  256GB
Dust/water protection IP68/IP69K dust/water resistant
Drop rating Drop-to-concrete resistance up to 1.5m
Battery 10850 mAh
Size 164.8 x 79.2 x 18.1 mm
Weight 382 g


  • Latest MediaTek Helio processor
  • Excellent battery life


  • Bulky
  • Might be overkill for some

My personal favorite rugged phone is the Ulefone Power Armor 20WT. With a great design, additional features ideal for adventurers, good performance, and excellent battery life, it’s the best rugged phone for anyone who is hardcore.

The phone also comes with a walkie-talkie attachment, letting you have instant communication with longer battery life than a standard walkie-talkie. It seems a little like a gimmick (but maybe proper adventurers can find a use), but it sure does look cool.

Downsides? Well, there aren’t any obvious ones – it’s great value for money. However, its bulkier design, smaller screen, software bugs, and lack of updates all make it a harder recommendation for a more general audience. Make sure you can make use of its additional features, however, and then it could be a good one to get in on.

One of the best rugged phones, the Cat S75, a black phone in a persons hand as it points towards a lake, taking a photo by a hilly terrain.

5. Cat S75

The Cat S75 is the best rugged phone with satellite connectivity. Expect to pay around $600 (£549).

Cat S75 Specs:

Display  6.6-inch 1080 x 2408 pixels IPS LCD
Cameras 50MP rear, 8MP superwide, 2MP macro with underwater mode, 8MP front camera
Storage  128GB
Rugged rating  1P68/IP69K
Drop rating  1.8m on steel
Battery  5000 mAh
Size  171 x 80 x 11.9 mm
Weight  268g


  • Latest Mediatek Dimensity processor
  • Two-way satellite texting


  • Limited storage
  • Not the best selfie snapper

If you’re familiar with Cat, you know that the company is best known for its construction equipment. That should give you some confidence in the ruggedness of its smartphones. And the Cat S75 is the best on offer for now, with sand, dust, and dirt resistance. It has 5G, 4G, and 3G connectivity, but the headline feature is its satellite messaging system. You can do this on an iPhone, but that doesn’t mean you can do it at -20°C.

There’s also great water resistance (up to 5m for 35 minutes), camera modes designed for when it’s submerged, and that sought-after build quality from Bullitt Group. It’s also lighter in weight than other phones in this guide.

It’s not all rosy, however. It’s for sure the most expensive phone on this list, which makes sense given its feature set. But still, if you’re planning to take a phone to dangerous wildernesses, you may not want to spend so much money.

One of the best rugged phones, the Samsung Xcover6 Pro, diagonally floating in the air with a blue and red sandy background and the time on its screen. It is black.

6. Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro

The best rugged phone for Samsung fans is the Galaxy Xcover6 Pro, which costs around $599 (£589).

Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro specs:

Display 6.6-inch 1080 x 2408 PLS LCD
Cameras 50 MP wide, 8 MP ultrawide, 13 MP selfie
Storage 128GB
Dust/water protection IP68 dust/water resistant
Drop rating Drop-to-concrete resistance up to 1.5m
Sensors Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Size  169 x 80 x 10 mm
Weight 235 g


  • Trusted manufacturer
  • Excellent build quality


  • Small battery
  • More for business than adventure

If you feel comfortable with one of the biggest phone brands globally, then the Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro is the rugged phone for you. With the company’s years of expertise in making mobile phones, you can have peace of mind picking this one up.

Given its higher price, it also comes with some premium features. You get a high-refresh-rate 120Hz screen, 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and consistent security and software updates promised. You can even remove the battery, making it a great environmental choice if you want to keep it going for years.

Performance-wise, it pretty much outclasses all other rugged phones. But then it should be at that price, right? Yep, that price is one downside, plus the fact that it’s not quite as rugged as some of the more hardcore models in this list.

How do I choose the best rugged smartphone?

Choosing the best rugged phone for you is simple: work out what you need it for. Some people want a rugged phone for simple peace of mind. If you’re used to dropping your phone and tired of spending money on fixes, focus on the sleek and simple rugged phones in the list above, like the Nokia XR20.

If you need one of the best rugged smartphones for outdoor activity, go for something that has a greater waterproofing rating and shockproofing against drops. Alternatively, if there are specific features you need, such as gaming modes or advanced cameras, check out the features in more detail.

These are the best rugged phones on the market today, but we’ll update this list as we get to review more devices, so be sure to check back regularly. For more advice on your next big tech investment, check out our guide to Android controllers.