Rugged, Trail-ready Tablets

Back when the first tablets began to hit the market, I remember thinking, “Users NEED real buttons—these things will never replace a computer.” Clearly, I’m not the best forecaster of technological trends. I now own multiple touch screen devices. Their compact form and intuitive gestures have replaced the need for a computer in all but the most demanding of digital tasks. And whereas the first tablets were often delicate items that many people wouldn’t dare take into the backcountry, there are now quite a few rugged and durable offerings on the market.


Versatile and Compact

Tablets are fantastic tools that can run an amazingly broad selection of software. And in many instances, their performance and size are preferable to a cell phone or computer. Tablets can be mounted in your rig for easy-to-read navigation on road trips and backcountry adventures. They can also help you identify nearby landmarks like prominent peaks using augmented reality. I’ve even seen apps that will identify constellations when you point the camera up toward the sky.


Without further ado, here are four rugged tablets that can accompany you on your next overland adventure and live to tell the tale.


Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet

You might mistake the Dell Latitude for a PC if you glanced at its spec sheet, but make no mistake, this is a portable touchscreen tablet. It’s marketed toward first responders and industry professionals who work in the field, but it will certainly hold up to overland expeditions. The Latitude is drop tested to four feet and has an operating temperature range from -20°F to 145°F. It’s also IP-65 rated, which means it can be used in dusty, dirty, wet environments with confidence. 

Other notable features include two hot-swappable batteries, a stylus, a detachable QWERTY keyboard, and optional 4G LTE connectivity. And for those of you who need lots of storage and performance, you can upgrade to an Intel i7 4-core processor, 16 gigs of RAM, and a 1Tb solid-state hard drive.


The Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet starts at $1,899.


Apple iPad Pro 12.9 Inch w/Defender Series Otterbox Case

Whether you are an Apple diehard or not, there is no denying the performance they pack into those slick-looking silver shells. Apple’s iPad Pro promises PC-beating performance in a compact package with one of the best displays available. You can configure your iPad pro 12.9 with up to 1Tb of solid-state storage and WiFi + 4G connectivity. Apple also offers a stylus and QWERTY keyboards as additional accessories. GPS connectivity allows backcountry navigation with the cellular model. 

When you pair your iPad with the Defender series case from Otterbox, you can be sure that it’ll be safe to take into the field. The polyester, polycarbonate, and rubber shell will protect your tablet from drops, and the port covers will keep out the dirt and debris. A screen protector keeps your display safe from being scratched. A seven-year warranty covers the Otterbox Defender series case should it fail to hold up to your adventures.


The iPad Pro 12.9 Inch tablet starts at $999 and the Otterbox Defender Series Case is $130.



Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro

The Galaxy line of products from Samsung is popular and for good reason. They blend performance with affordability, offering a tablet that can handle the trail without breaking the bank. The Tab Active Pro and its accompanying stylus, the S Pen, are both IP68 rated for use in dirty, sandy, wet environments. The Tab Active Pro runs on the Android operating system which offers a huge selection of compatible apps for any use that you could imagine.

The base configuration includes 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, a 1.7GHz eight-core processor, behind a 10.1-inch screen. As with all of the other tablets we’ve mentioned in this article, the Galaxy Tab Active Pro also has LTE connectivity built-in, so you can make the most of its capabilities wherever your journey takes you.


The Galaxy Tab Active Pro starts at $680.


Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 Rugged Tablet

Panasonic describes the Toughbook CF-33 as a “rugged 2 in 1,” referring to its ability to perform as a tablet or a computer. The CF-33 certainly looks like a laptop, with its keyboard dock, but detach it, and all of a sudden you’re holding a 12-inch tablet that’s IP65 certified. With hot-swappable batteries that provide up to 20 hours of unplugged power, this tablet could certainly handle a day of off-grid use.

The Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 runs Windows 10 and is powered by an Intel  i5 2.6GHz processor. It comes standard with 8 gigs of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and an integrated webcam. 4G LTE connectivity is optional on a variety of provider networks. There are a slew of other optional features, but I’ll have to get the IT department to explain them to you.


The Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 Rugged Tablet starts at $3,000.


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When he's not publishing campervan content or gear reviews on ExPo, Matt Swartz is honing his paragliding skills, hiking a 14er, or exploring the backroads of Colorado. His love of travel has seen him bike across the United States, as well as explore more exotic destinations like the Amazon basin and Patagonia. Matt spent three years living in a 1964 RV with his partner, Amanda. He's worked as an Interpretive Ranger and Wildland Firefighter and his photography and writing has been published in Rova Magazine, the Leatherman blog, 'Hit The Road' by Gestalten Publishing, and Forbes.