Other than my bowhunting gear, one item I almost never head afield without is my iPhone. If you read my columns regularly, you know I am a bit of a high-tech redneck, and it's not unusual for me to be checking e-mails, sending texts, posting blog entries or recording video with my iPhone while I am sitting in my treestand or blind. I know some of my fellow hunters would consider such activities an outrage, but that's how this editor rolls.
A couple weeks ago, I heard about a new line of limited-edition, camouflage iPhone cases from Element Case. Element has been making some very high-end cases for a while now, so I was eager to get my hands on one of these. The Vapor COMP Tactical Line is available in four camo patterns -- woods (pictured here), desert, urban and arctic -- with fewer than 50 units of each pattern made for the first edition. The camo finish is applied to the CNC machined aluminum frame using a proprietary, five-step graphic process that involves bead blasting, primer coat, base color, graphic coat and protective UV matte finish coat. The case also comes with a durable, protective screen cover and interchangeable ultrasuede back plates in black (shown below) and brown.
Impressions: The Vapor COMP screams quality right out of the box. The CNC machined frame holds the iPhone very securely. You simply slide your phone into the three-sided main frame and then secure the left sideplate using the four included hex screws and speed wrench. Once inside the case, the phone doesn't move around at all. Machined cutouts in the case allow for easy charging/docking, headphone use and access to the vibrate slider. Overmolded buttons set directly into the case frame offer easy access to the volume control buttons on the left and sleep button on the top. Molded orange rubber grippers on the right side and an anodized orange sleep button on top provide a nice contrast with the camo and give the case a cool look. The included screen protector does a great job of shielding the touch screen from scratches, and the ultrasuede, adhesive back plates provide a soft and quiet surface for placing the phone down onto hard surfaces.
Pros: Well made and sturdy. Holds phone very securely. Attractive. Provides easy access to all phone features. Slim design is not bulky, is comfortable in the hand and slides easily into and out of my pocket. Frame allows you to stand phone up horizontally on a flat surface for watching video. Comes with a zippered soft case for storage and/or travel.
Cons: After only three weeks of use, the camo finish on the case frame shows slight wear in several high-friction areas. Suede back plate picks up dust and other debris.
The Bottom Line: The Vapor COMP is a very good iPhone case, and I like it very much. However, at $129.99 it's a pretty pricey option that doesn't offer a lot of obvious advantages over other high-end Element cases. Although the woods camo is a cool fashion statement in hunting camp, if price is a major consideration I would suggest checking out other options, such as Element's ION4 (pictured below), which features a molded TPU polymer chassis and carbon fiber backplate at a price of $49.95.