The day may come when you want something a little more resilient than a silicone skin protecting your iPod. Perhaps you’ll be biking an outdoor trail, doing some rock climbing, or engaging in some other rugged activity. For that kind of protection, you might need something more like H20 Audio’s Outdoor Case for the first- (1G) and second-generation (2G) iPod nano.
H20 Audio also makes a line of cases for swimming, but it’s worth noting that this particular case is not waterproof. Still, you’d be excused for thinking so upon first glance at the case’s element-resistant design. The case is hinged at the top, with two sliding latches on the sides acting as fasteners. To insert the nano, you slide the latches up and open the case. Inside is a small riser that you’re supposed to remove to fit the 1G nano, though in my tests, the 1G nano fit fine with the riser in place. With the iPod in the case, you close the cover and slide the latches closed. At the bottom of the case, removable rubber stoppers can protect to the headphone jack and dock-connector port when not in use; these stoppers are attached to the case’s main housing so you don’t lose them — a nice touch. There’s also a belt clip that can be removed and reversed by unscrewing two screws, as well as an included armband.
The most notable feature of the Outdoor Case is the “Commander Scroll Wheel” on the front. This contraption replicates all the functionality of the iPod’s Click Wheel interface without exposing the controls to the elements. When you depress one of the buttons, it clicks the corresponding button on the iPod; scrolling the wheel rotates a small piece of metal over the touch-sensitive portion of the Click Wheel. It’s a clever idea and it works pretty well, though scrolling was a sight more sluggish than using the Click Wheel directly. This does give you the ability to scroll without taking your gloves off — an advantage over OtterBox’s more-protective cases — which cold weather sports enthusiasts will no doubt appreciate. The armband is pretty comfortable and the belt clip is sturdy.
The case’s protective capabilities are very good. The case is made of thick, resilient plastic material that ably shields the iPod from accidents as well as the elements. On accessibility, the case rates slightly lower, despite the nifty Commander Scroll Wheel. There’s no access to the hold switch while the nano is in the case and, though the opening for the dock-connector port is big enough for Apple’s dock-connector cable, it’s too small for some third-party dock-connector accessories. I also had a little trouble, on first usage, getting the rubber “debris wall” properly situated; the trick seems to be to attach it to the lid rather than the base part of the case.
Overall, the Outdoor Case will appeal to those who want to get more-rugged usage out of their iPods, and the gloves-on ability to use the iPod’s Click Wheel may appeal to everyday users in colder climes, although the case is somewhat pricey for that feature alone.