IP waterproof ratings are a great guide for buying outdoor gadgets, gear or protection but what do they really mean. We’ve all be there, searching the packaging and seeing the IPX rating, when all we want to know is ‘is it waterproof?’.

Let’s break it down. The ‘IP’ stands for Ingress Protection or International Protection, which is simply whether the item you’re referring to has been tested for Ingress (Access/Entrance). The numbers after it, then refer to which degree of testing the item stood up to, and therefore how protected it really is.

The first number or symbol (i.e the ‘X’ in IPX) is what the item can withstand in relation to solid objects, with the range going from IP0 – objects roughly the size of your hand, to IP6 – completely dust tight.

Many manufacturers (especially those in the outdoor industry) don’t test for solid/dust protection due to an assumptionthat if water can’t get in, solids won’t be able to either and even if they do, they won’t affect the functioning of the item. This is why a standard ‘X’ is used instead. This is why you may have a IP rating or an IPX rating – they’re exactly the same thing (so long as you have a single digit after the ‘IP’), it’s when you get to the numbers that it gets more interesting.

The general rule: the lower the number – the less waterproof it is, the higher the number the more invincible! Here’s a rough idea of what each rating equates to, with a couple of examples:

IPX0   Not water resistant at all
IPX1   Protection from some (vertically falling) water drops
IPX2   Protection from water drops of 15°
IPX3   Light spraying of water from of 60°
IPX4   Splashing water, from any angle or direction – the Ortlieb PS490 Dry Bag is IP64
IPX5   Protection from ‘jets’ of water from any direction
IPX6   Protection from more powerful jets of water – e.g the Goalzero Lighthouse Micro mini lantern

Everything from now onwards, is fully waterproof (but only for a certain depth or time!)

IPX7   Full submersion in up to 1 metre – the Petzl e+Lite Head Torch is IP67
IPX8   Full submersion over at ‘any depth’ (up to 50m) –  for example, our range of Aquapac Waterproof Phone and Gadget Cases

It is also worth noting that even if an item is branded as IPX8 (and by definition should be submersible and still functional) there are some loopholes that manufacturers have found. For example they might limit the depth “IPX8 to 3m”. Or you could find that although branded IPX8, your gadget has to be switched off for the entirety and dried out before switching on again.

So, go forth and have confidence in your knowledge of waterproof ratings, which will allow you to choose the per
fect kit for whatever you may be up to.