Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5s and 5c Cases

Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5S and 5C Cases, Available Now.

A reliable protective case comes in handy not only to ward off scratches and scrapes, a good, heavy-duty protective case can make the difference between a catastrophic, life-ending event for your iDevice and a mere bump in the road. Whether you are a bathtub iBook reader or an outdoor adventurer who always has their iPhone in tow, a ruggedly protective case that offers a high measure of insulation from outside elements can be a very worthwhile investment. Read on to find out which are the best iPhone 5s and 5c heavy-duty cases available right now.

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Something to keep in mind with regard to rugged iPhone 5s or 5c cases: While I am focusing on cases that are specific for the 5s and 5c, cases that were made for the iPhone 5 also work for the iPhone 5s. This means there is a whole slew of rugged protection cases (including Otterbox’s Preserver or Griffin + Survivor’s Catalyst) that will fit the 5s, but won't allow for use of the TouchID feature. For those of you for whom that's not important, you will have a much wider selection of iPhone 5s rugged case options. For more information on the best rugged cases designed for the 5 that fit the 5s, you may also click HERE, HERE, and HERE.



  • The cases featured here must protect the iDevice with a minimum  MIL-STD-810, meaning they provide a required level of protection from drops, shock, liquid, dirt, and other debris. For a rugged iDevice case to come with a MIL-STD-810 rating is fairly standard, so it isn't particulalry excessive to expect a rugged case to meet this ratings standard. Additionally, while being waterproof is not a pre-requisite, it goes a long way in helping a case recieve my highest rankings.
  • Each case must be a full-time use iPhone 5s/5c case, no glorified ziplock bags or cases with no charging ports or headphone access, ones that can't be used all the time. If the case is for the 5s, it must alow for access to the TouchID feature.
  • The less bulky a case is, while still offering the maximum protection and convenience, also plays into my ratings.


1. Lifeproof (nüüd and frē models)


Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5S and 5C Cases, Available Now.

Lifeproof frē for iPhone 5s ($79.99)



Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5S and 5C Cases, Available Now.

Lifeproof nüüd for iPhone 5s ($89.99)


Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5S and 5C Cases, Available Now.

Lifeproof frē for iPhone 5c ($79.99)

Lifeproof is synonymous with both quality and attention to detail. First to market with a waterproof case for the new iPhones, Lifeproof has not only designed the most protective case on the market, their new frē and nüüd models for the 5s and 5c are also the sleekest and least obtrusive of the ruggedly designed, heavy-duty use cases.

The Lifeproof frē is a waterproof case with a built-in, plastic screen protector and the nüüd is a waterproof case with an O-ring sealed discreetly around the touchscreen face while the bare glass of the iPhone 5s touchscreen remains exposed.

Other than that, the only notable difference is that the frē has an empty lanyard attachment point where you can attach a wrist strap, while the nuud has a built-in "lanyard" attached to the removable headphone port screw. The frē is available for both the 5s as well as the 5c, while the nüüd is currently only available for the 5s.

Don't forget, Lifeproof has extended a special offer exclusively to our iPhone Life readers. You will get 10 percent off of any Lifeproof order between now and Christmas. all you have to do is place your order and when prompted for a coupon code enter:



2. The Joy Factory aXtion Go
I've written favorably about the deceptively rugged and undeniably fashionable waterproof case before. In its latest iteration, this uniquely stylized case incorporates TouchID support into its protective design. With a one of a kind, diamond-bubble backside that both provides an exceptional level of super shock absorbency as well as a delicious tactile sensation, the aXtion Go is an outstanding choice for anyone looking for an extremely durable waterproof, rugged case that is also a very stylish accessory. It doesn't hurt that the aXtion Go also offers the best value (especially for a waterproof case!), being priced under $50.00. Additionally, The Joy Factory make a number of usefull accessories for this case, including a belt clip ($14.95), an armband holster ($19.95) and a bike mount ($19.95)

3. Otterbox Defender Series


Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5S and 5C Cases, Available Now.

Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5s ($59.90)


Best Rugged and Extreme-Duty iPhone 5S and 5C Cases, Available Now.

Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5c ($59.90)

The Otterbox Defender is available now for both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c in a wide range of color choices. There’s definitely something for everyone, as Otterbox allows you to custom pick the colors of your case’s shatter-resistant inner shell, its outer rubber skin and its belt clip. You can end up with some unique color combinations, that's for sure!

Along with being perhaps the most fashionable and uniquely customizable of the rugged cases currently available, the Defender for the new iPhones offers the same high level of rugged and reliable protection as its famous predecessors. The Defender covers your main ports and buttons with rubber flaps and has a built-in screen protector which covers the iPhone's touchscreen while leaving your home screen button exposed (even on the 5c). With the Defender on your iPhone it has a great chance of surviving most maladies. And even though the Defender can't claim to be waterproof, I can personally attest to three experiences I've had where my Defender encased iDevice fall completely into the water, albeit briefly, and survive intact. I'm just sayin', but I wouldn't recommend it.



Wait! Say what?! You'd think there'd be more choices huh? While I know there will be lots of options soon, at this time, these are the only two companies that I've found that have cases that are ready for the iPhones 5s/5c that meet my above-mentioned criteria. One thing's for sure, in six month's time the market will be flooded with cases that meet my rugged case criteria for the 5s and 5c. In fact, I suspect I'll be seeing many of them at CES 2014 in January. Until then, if you are looking for a quality and dependable rugged case for your iPhone 5s or 5cC, these are your best options. And fortunately, excellent options they are indeed.

Enjoy your new iPhones everyone, and if you want the most reliable in protective cases to secure your prized possession this roundup should help you find something that fits your specific needs.

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Author Details

Dig Om's picture

Author Details

Dig Om

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech