Following a long day out in the wilderness, even the most grizzled adventurer enjoys the little creature comforts. Whether it’s food, warmth or some light entertainment, those hard-earned minutes before bed are critical for morale.

In years gone by, this concept of entertainment would be mostly restricted to reading, perhaps a song or two, as well as the requisite ghost story. However, in an age of compact digital devices, solar panels and powerful rechargeable batteries, there is more scope than ever for outdoor recreationists to get their dose of digital media.

In the case of issue 152’s Tried and Tested, that means rugged speakers that can play music over any digital, Bluetooth-capable device. For a certain type of wilderness explorer, this is the pinnacle of sacrilege. But for a growing segment of the market, the ability to play a tune or two in the hut of an evening (or even while canoeing down a wild river) can take an experience from ‘fun’ to ‘unforgettable’.

We secured a range of speakers for review, including the leading brands in this space, but we would like to remind readers that there are more models and brands available than we have space for and that this product category is frequently updated.

While we tested these devices as well as could be expected for the time period allowed, it was not our object to stress test them to the point of failure, but instead to trial them for their intended usage. Further features are listed in the original table as provided in issue 152.

Finally, Wild would ask any potential users of these speakers to keep in mind wildlife and other outdoor users when considering playing music in parks and reserves. Always choose an appropriate volume for your surroundings.

Altec Lansing

The full Altec Lansing range of rugged portable speakers. See the review for the Mini Life Jacket 2 (on right) below. Click to enlarge.


On ruggedness – The majority of devices in this category are given IP Codes that are designed to give some indication of the conditions they might be subjected to. For example, IPX7 indicates the device should be able to withstand immersion in shallow water (albeit briefly) and splashing, whereas IP67 indicates that device has also been tested to resist solid particles as well. In each individual case, the manufacturer provides greater details on how the device should be used, as this will also have a bearing on the included warranty.

On batteries – The initial charge of a lithium ion battery such as those used in these speakers is generally the longest charge, and that is the time we have listed in our table. You may find that after this initial charge the device reaches capacity much faster. However, battery performance can be impacted by temperature, use and age, therefore both play times and time to charge should only be considered as rough estimates.

On test conditions ­– We tested our speakers in partnership with an iPhone 6, which was protected by an AquaJam Waterproof Armband ($29). This allowed us to play music through each speaker while splashing through creeks. All speakers include the ability to play via 3.5mm audio cable, however this compromises their waterproof seal. Therefore our testing revolved around Bluetooth connectivity only. Speakers rated IP67 or explicitly stated as floating/submersible were also tested during a paddling day trip (NB: this is how we discovered immersion in water prevents Bluetooth connectivity – there is no way of getting these speakers to operate under water). Sound quality is rated based on volume and subjective measures such as the depth of sound, feedback detected and ‘tinniness’. <i>Wild</i> recommends discerning consumers request to hear the quality of a speaker in store prior to purchasing.


Ruggedness: 5 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IP67

Sound quality: 4.5 stars

Play time: 10 hours

Weight: 362 grams

RRP: $129.95

This US-based company is an audio electronics specialist that has been in operation since 1941. Perhaps best known for their range of computer speakers, Altec Lansing also has a range of audio products designed to partner with mobile devices.

We had high expectations for this test, as Altec Lansing not only have a reputation for high quality audio, but we’ve also seen a promotional video showing this range of products to be almost indestructible. As it turns out, we weren’t to be disappointed.

Upon unboxing these devices we discovered the included wall adapter for charging was US-specific. However, as the standard USB charging cable is also included (as is the case for all the other devices tested), we were able to charge these devices via computers and iPod/iPhone adapters.

Just as it says on the packet, this is the smaller sibling of the Life Jacket 2, and is therefore more attractive to a wider portion of the outdoor market.  The sound produced is bright and natural, achieving a surprisingly loud volume for the size of the unit. Rubber casing around the device improves shockproofing – you’ll feel entirely comfortable throwing this speaker about, even over rocky terrain. As a final point it includes a mount set in the box, so you’re immediately able to rig it up to your bicycle.

With a smaller speaker set and smaller battery, the volume and play time of this speaker is a little reduced by comparison to its the standard Life Jacket 2. Luckily, the same can’t be said to the quality of the sound itself, being very much in line with the expectations set by the Altec Lansing brand. The device also offers the same kind of shockproofing offered in the larger device, and it displayed no issues after taking several knocks and drops.

For those looking for a more compact device with great sound quality, we encourage you to look up our review of Altec Lansing’s Mini H20 in issue 152 of Wild.

Best for: Paddling, cycling and weekend bushwalking journeys.

Aquajam Mini

With surprising sound for its tiny size, the Aquajam Mini comes with its only miniature floaty ring.


Ruggedness: 3 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IPX7

Sound quality: 3 stars

Play time: 3 hours

Weight: 54 grams

RRP: $29

Launched in 2015, Aquajam is a dedicated line of waterproof speakers and related accessories. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get our hands on their higher-end products, instead settling for the use of the Waterproof Armband sleeve as previously stated, as well as the nifty Aquajam Mini. By contrast, the AJ 1 product, is much larger and heavy duty – we’ll just have to wait until we can get our hands on one to give it a proper testing.

It continues to be astounding that we’re now able to create devices that are so small, yet offer a big sound regardless. This device sits comfortably in the palm of the hand and is light enough so as to be practically negligible. However, it doesn’t have the same protection rating as those devices at the high end and its battery life leaves it somewhat wanting when compared with next nearest thing. Similarly, the Aquajam Mini doesn’t float naturally in the water, and instead relies upon the addition of a tiny inflatable ring (picture a toy barrel sitting in a toy inner tube).

If we’re being brutally honest, the sound produced by the Aquajam Mini really doesn’t compare with any of the other devices due to its minuscule speaker size. However it’s for that very reason we’ve given it the three-star audio rating. It packs a punch for something so tiny.

Best for: Ultralight adventures of all kinds.


Ruggedness: 4.5 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IPx7

Sound quality: 4.5 stars

Play time: 30 hours

Weight: 653 grams

RRP: $249.95

Another relatively young brand, Braven has been about since 2011 and specialises in Bluetooth audio devices. Since 2013, the company has been offering a range of rugged, waterproof devices designed with outdoor users in mind. As a result, the products we had the benefit of testing present themselves as serious tech that offers a sound quality comparable to many portable speakers you’d find in the home.

An impressive speaker system, the BRV-PRO stands up alongside Altec Lansing’s high-end offering in ruggedness and sound quality, if not its waterproofing. Unlike the competitor, this speaker is encased in a metal housing that can be taken apart and modified with not-included accessories. This is both a positive and negative feature, as you can buy a mount, solar panel and even a GoPro mount to accompany the device, but there is no mount available out of the box. There is, however, a very solid-looking tie-down strap that could be used to attach it to a rope or pack. As for the audio, the Braven offers a more full bass sound but this may be at the expense of some of the clarity you can find elsewhere. In volume, it easily matched Altec Lansing’s Mini Life Jacket 2, but wasn’t able to out compete the full-sized Life Jacket 2.

Ultimately, this device blows all competitors out of the water when it comes to battery life (up to 30 hours) and its battery can be used to charge other devices – certainly a big plus on longer journeys.

Best for: Mountain biking, boating and festivals.


Ruggedness: 4 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IPX4

Sound quality: 3 stars

Play time: 8 hours

Weight: 530 grams

RRP: $169.95

The Eton brand got started in 1986 with the release of shortwave radio, before going on to produce hand-cranked emergency radio devices after the turn of the millennium. As a result, the company is experienced in producing well-designed, compact audio products for the outdoor market.

The low-profile Rugged Rukus speaker has been crafted to maximise the surface area available for a solar panel, while maintaining a small speaker set. This means the device is effective at charging even in overcast conditions, but sacrifices a little in terms of sound volume and quality.

In comparing it against others in the range, it is most directly comparable with Goal Zero’s product, which is described further on.

Best for: Bushwalking, climbing.


The three jacket styles offered by Fugoo, with the removable speaker set on top.


Ruggedness: 5 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IP67

Sound quality: 4 stars

Play time: 40 hours

Weight: 643 grams

RRP: $329.95

A US brand specialising in portable Bluetooth speakers, Fugoo’s product aims to be the ‘go anywhere speaker’. With three different styles in two sizes, we trialled the most rugged option in the smaller size, the Fugoo Tough, but there are also Style and Sport models available. The real point of difference is that all the speakers themselves are the same, whereas the Style, Sport and Tough ‘jackets’ are interchangeable. That being said, going straight for the most rugged option is going to be the choice for most readers, we suspect.

Out of the box, the Fugoo Tough was as simple as possible to get set up and charging. For the longevity of the battery, it seemed to charge comparatively quickly. The device’s ruggedness was also immediately apparent, with its hard case constructed of fibre-reinforced resin and solid aluminium. As it’s been drop tested for heights up to six feet, we were confident in throwing the device about, and it withstood this abuse with aplomb.

Waterproofing is as good as any, and Fugoo also offer a range of attachments, including a strap mount, bike mount or multi-mount that will allow you to affix the speaker to just about anything. These kind of features make a speaker more suitable for a wider array of activities, however they do come at an additional cost due to not being included out of the box. There is also no solar option available from the brand, but that can be easily solved by purchasing a third party panel.

Sound quality was great, but perhaps not the best we’ve heard from this round of trials, as device fell just short on volume and the ‘fullness’ of its range. As an added benefit, the Fugoo appears to have better integration with both Google and Apple mobile devices than many of the other devices we tested, although this may be of less interest to remote wilderness adventurers.

Best for: Paddling, cycling and weekend bushwalking journeys.

Goal Zero Rock Out 2 Solar

The Goal Zero Rock Out 2 Solar zips open to reveal space for your mobile and all the connections required should you wish to charge from USB or use an audio line in.


Ruggedness: 3.5 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: Splash-proof only

Sound quality: 3 stars

Play time: 10 hours

Weight: 454 grams

RRP: $169.95

Specialising in solar panels and related accessories, Goal Zero is another young company based out of the US. Unlike the others, however, Goal Zero is primarily an outdoors brand and that should speak towards its products’ ability to take a beating. While the Rock Out 2 Solar isn’t the only speaker in its range, it is the only current model with an integrated PV panel, and that’s why we were so keen to test it.

The in-built PV panel is a no-brainer for this device, which differs in form when compared with every other speaker tested. On one side you’ll see the speakers, on the other lies the PV. These two faces zip apart a little like a purse, revealing an integrated charging cord and audio cable. There’s even room to store your music-playing device within it. It couldn’t be easier to use either, and we were impressed with the way the Rock Out 2 Solar immediately started charging in direct sunlight, as well as with its fast charge time from the wall. Unfortunately, there’s not true way to mount the device and instead the user will rely on the integrated cordage to tie or strap it down. It’s flexibility may also count against its ruggedness, however this couldn’t be verified over the short window of time we had for testing.

Goal Zero also advertises the ability to ‘chain’ multiple Rock Out speakers together in order to extend the range of sound (set the speakers up in various directions for larger groups of people).

The most obvious difference between this and the Eton optiopn is the form factor, with the Rugged Rukus providing the solidity and tough feel you would expect from a rugged speaker, while Goal Zero offers a more flexible, soft option, which is unique among all other options in the category.

Best for: Bushwalking, climbing trips.


Ruggedness: 4.5 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IPX7

Sound quality: 4.5 stars

Play time: 8 hours

Weight: 590 grams

RRP: $149.95

The House of Marley is a brand built to help support 1Love – the Marley family’s non-profit organisation. As such, it offers audio products that are built with sustainable materials while also delivering in sound quality, among other items. With only one product designed for the outdoor user available, we were excited to see how this brand would compare with the rest.

A stubby cylinder with rounded edges, the Chant BT Sport model is designed so it can sit within a bicycle bottle holder, or to hang easily from a backpack via the carabiner provided. The casing looks somewhat organic, but this is because it is manufactured from blended bio-plastics, silicone and recyclable aluminium. Rated at IPX7, it is designed to float, but not to be immersed in water for more than a few seconds. Most importantly, the dual speaker drivers and passive radiators create a full sound, although we weren’t able to recreate quite the same apparent volume as achieved in the Braven or Altec Lansing models.

Best for: Camping, cycling and picnics.


Ruggedness: 4 stars

Waterproof/dustproof rating: IPX7

Sound quality: 5 stars

Play time: 15 hours

Weight: 548 grams

RRP: $249.95

This brand is best described as a fashion-forward audio electronics manufacturer, which pitches its products more at festival-going millennials than true outdoor users. Nevertheless, its current range may be considered suitable for our needs, and we were therefore very excited to get to play around with one of the models currently available.

This device is currently Ultimate Ears’ mid-range outdoor portable speaker and possibly the most generalist in its nature. Like its other products, the Boom 2 is designed so that sound is projected in all directions (as evidenced by its cylindrical shape, much like House of Marley’s Chant). It’s a simple design and it’s available in a wide range of colours, which is why it may be of particular interest to younger readers. But the true credit lies in the quality of sound produced. Again, we know it’s a little subjective but we found the Boom 2 has the best sound quality of any we tested, offering a pleasing balance in the range of sound and the volume that could be achieved. On the other hand, that’s where the interest ends, as it offers no ability to mount it or any other accessories for that matter (there is a small metal loop that could be used to hang or tie it on, but no stable mount solution).

Like some of the other speakers tested, this one can be ‘chained’ with another Boom 2 to generate a portable stereo speaker system.

Best for: Camping trips, festivals and picnics.