Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch review - Good luck finding a tougher case and strap - The Gadgeteer

REVIEW – My Apple Watch is one of my favorite gadgets of all time, but compared to other watches I’d owned, it’s a bit smallish and fragile.  I’d been searching for a product that would both protect my Apple Watch and make it look a bit tougher.  The Rugged Case for Apple Watch from Nomad Goods looked like a promising fit for these needs.  Let’s check it out.

The Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch is a hard-coated stainless steel case with an integrated rubber strap for 44mm and 45mm Apple Watches sizes. Heavy Duty Cable Ties

Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch review - Good luck finding a tougher case and strap - The Gadgeteer

The Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch arrived in a cardboard box with a sleeve and slider tray design.  The box has some photos that give a good idea of the product inside, and because the packaging components are cardboard, it’s all recyclable.

When I first laid eyes on the actual Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch, with its all-black color scheme and tough, no-nonsense style, I had a pretty solid hunch it would be a high-quality product.  It had a look about it that says in an understated, yet confident way, “Yeah.  I am this tough.  Try me.”

Inside the box were the contents shown above, which are also listed below.  Once I’d removed the Rugged Case from its packaging, my initial suspicions were confirmed: this case and strap not only look solid, they feel solid.

Here are the Rugged Case’s specs per the Nomad Goods site:

The Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch consists of the Rugged Case itself along with the Rugged Band.

Built from fully waterproof FKM “fluoroelastomer,” The Rugged Band has a simple design and minimalist looks. The buckle side of the strap has two thick, durable strap keepers.  The keeper nearest the buckle is semi-anchored in place by a couple of small nubs on the strap.  I like that Nomad Goods included two strap keepers, because this helps to keep the non-buckle side of the strap more secure and prevents it from flapping about, and the small nubs that retain the buckle-side keeper in place is a subtle but genius add.

The top of the strap has a series of tiny ridges which give it a bit of understated style, and also provide a bit of grip for the buckle when latching it.  The underside of the strap has a series of channels that allow air to flow more freely, which helps if you have been sweating or swimming.  You can also see a tiny “NOMAD” logo at the tip of the underside of the strap.  A classy, understated branding touch.

In the above pic, you can see a side view of the strap.  This is not a thin, weak strap that’s going to tear or fall apart any time soon.  It’s about 4mm thick and both looks and feels like it might last forever just to spite you.  This thing is tough, yet is also remarkably soft and flexible, making it quite comfortable to wear.

In the pic above, you can just make out two of the four tiny nubs that retain the buckle-side keeper in place.  You can also see a tiny “NOMAD” logo embossed into the heavy-duty buckle.  The buckle components are stainless steel with a black coating that has yet to scratch after a month of use.  Additionally, the buckle’s center prong has been designed with an angled bend to help the strap sit more flat on your wrist.  Again, Nomad Goods bring the attention to detail with clever, aesthetically pleasing design features.

The Rugged Watch’s band is permanently attached to the case body and cannot be removed. This brings me to one of my few areas of constructive feedback for Nomad Goods: give the Rugged Case the ability to change bands.  There are loads of good third-party bands on the market—in fact, Nomad Goods has a handful of great ones. I can picture the Rugged Case paired with a thick brown Horween leather strap looking ruggedly sharp.  Providing the ability to swap bands would be a great addition. 

Next, let’s look at the Rugged Case’s body.  Made from hardened 316 stainless steel, this is the Apple Watch case body I’d been wanting someone to make.  Its 1000 HV DLC coating has a satin-like look and feel, and after a month of heavy wear, it didn’t show a single scratch.  In this pic and the ones below, you can see that the body has a large round cutout for the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown.  It also has a small, oval-shaped button that covers the Apple Watch’s side button.  Made from stainless steel with an orange anodized coating, this Ultra Button can be swapped for an included black button (more on this below).  Between these two features is a tiny hole for the Apple Watch’s microphone.

The above pic is a view of the digital crown cutout, microphone hole, and side button cover as viewed from inside the Rugged Case’s body. The stainless steel body is coated on the inside with a soft TPU lining that helps hold the Apple Watch in place and also protects it from scratches.

On the opposite side of the Rugged Case’s body is a series of small holes that allow access to the Apple Watch’s speaker.

In the pic above, you can see two trapezoidal-shaped cutouts through the body’s interior TPU lining that provide access to the Apple Watch’s speaker.

Above is a view of the back of the Rugged Case’s body.

Let’s look at how to swap the Rugged Case’s Ultra Orange button for the included black button.  The instructions on how to do this were a bit sparse (read: non-existent), so I had to figure it out on my own.  I used a small flathead screwdriver to carefully peel back the flexible TPU material that lines the inside of the body.  This allowed me to expose and remove the Ultra Orange button from the small pocket that it rests in.

Like the Rugged Cases’s body, these buttons are made from stainless steel, but instead of the body’s 1000 HV DLC coating, these buttons have a hard anodized finish in their respective colors.

The back of the buttons have the same TPU material as the inside of the body, to protect the Apple Watch’s side button from scratches.

These buttons (which are rather more like button covers) provide a bit of customization to the Rugged Case. The Ultra Orange button gives the Rugged Case a look that is a nod to the orange button on the side of the Apple Watch Ultra—it can actually make you 44/45mm standard Apple Watch look a bit like a stealthy Apple Watch Ultra.   Alternatively, installing the black button gives the Rugged Case a ninja/Sith Lord/night ops vibe.  While I do like the small but noticeable pop of color against the Rugged Case’s otherwise all-black color scheme, I wanted to go blackout monochrome and installed the black button.  Pro Tip: Removing the Ultra Orange button without damaging the body’s interior TPU material was a bit challenging, but installing the black one in its place was even more difficult.  Take your time and do it carefully.

With the black button stalled, the next step was to insert my Apple Watch Series 6 44mm into the Rugged Case.

Installation of my Apple Watch was actually easier and quicker than swapping out the side button.  First, insert the watch into the back of the case body, Digital Crown side first.  Next, gently press the opposite side of the watch into the case body.  Boom.  That’s it.  The case body’s inner coating of TPU material not only makes the process of snapping the watch into the body easier, it also makes the watch feel very snug once it has been snapped in place.

The front of the Rugged Case provides a lip that protrudes a few millimeters above the faces of the Apple Watch.  While this lip isn’t going to prevent your Apple Watch’s screen from every scratch, it does seem to help a bit.  This is my only other bit of constructive feedback to Nomad Goods—consider adding an integrated screen protector to the Rugged Case.  This would add the next level of protection to an Apple Watch, guarding what is arguably its most delicate and easily damaged feature.

The pic above shows a profile view of the Rugged Case.  It’s thick, in the best way.  Lots of protection for your Apple Watch.  And the black anodized side button against the 1000 HV DLC coated case body looks quite slick.

One functional shortcoming I encountered with the Rugged Case was that, due to the thickness of the case, the Digital Crown is inset fairly deep into the case.  While this provides significant protection for the Digital Crow, it results in making it quite difficult to rotate.

So how does the Rugged Case look? Amazing, in my opinion.  Even better than I’d hoped.  It looks wicked tough and gives the Apple Watch a bit of a resemblance to a Casio G-Shock watch but with simpler, cleaner lines and a more minimalist style. For me, this was a home run and exactly what I had been seeking in terms of the look of the case on my Apple Watch.  This is not simply a “case,” but more of a protection system, with every component optimized and designed to work together to protect its precious cargo.

The Rugged Case is thick, so it sits up from your wrist a bit.  If you like the relatively subtle thinness of your Apple Watch, the Rugged Case may be a bit much for you.  But I like it.  A lot.  I wanted a case for my Apple Watch that would not only provide protection, but also “beef up” both the look and feel of the Apple Watch.  The Rugged Case delivers.  It enhances the overall appearance of the Apple Watch, making it appear larger overall without making it appear ridiculously large.  Its stainless steel body and heavy-duty strap also give the overall feel of the Apple Watch more “heft” without it feeling bulky on my wrist.

Did the Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch meet my needs?  Yes.  The Rugged Case’s 316 stainless steel body with satin black 1000 HV DLC coating and TPU interior is a ridiculously tough combination of features.  Its FKM fluoroelastomer band is crazy durable yet amazingly comfortable.  The whole thing is a protection package for your Apple Watch that possesses tough yet understated style and bar-setting durability.  My perceived shortcomings of the Rugged Case’s aren’t dealbreakers for me; in fact, they are outweighed what the Rugged Case gets right.  It has a hefty price tag at $120, but if you really want top notch protection and a tough look for your Apple Watch, check out the Rugged Case by Nomad Goods.

Price: $120 Where to buy: Nomad Goods Source: The sample of this product was provided by Nomad Goods.

The digital crown access issue prevents me from buying an otherwise slick looking case. I’ve had a similar frustrating experience in the past with a case that cost much less than $120.

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Nomad Goods Rugged Case for Apple Watch review - Good luck finding a tougher case and strap - The Gadgeteer

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