Sunday, March 18, 2012

IP Ratings Explained


It doesn’t take a genius to know that technology, water and dust are not good bedfellows. But a lot of times, handheld GPS devices are designed to be ‘rugged’ so that you can take it with you on a hike or trail and not worry about it. Many cycling GPS units are also waterproof or water resistant so that a surprise rainfall doesn’t turn your navigational device into an expensive paperweight.

Chances are, some of your handhelds are rated for rugged conditions which involve dust and rain. This rating is known as an IP or IPX rating and you’ve probably seen it listed in the specs on some devices, but unless you look into it, it probably didn’t mean much. As it turns out, IP ratings are basically a universal classification system that allows users and manufacturers know exactly how much water or dust the unit can take without worry.

IP stands for either International Protection Rating or Ingress Protecting Rating, depending on who you ask. The IP codes themselves consist of the letters “IP” and two numbers:

  • The first digit represents the rating against solid objects and dust.
  • The second represents ratings against water.
  • If a unit has not been rated for something (usually dust) an X is listed. It’s important to note that an X is not the same as a 0 rating.

Ratings for dust go from 0 – 6 while water ratings go from 0 – 8. In this scale, 0 is unprotected and the top number means it is completely or mostly completely protected. Here are a couple a sample IP rating:

IP68 = 6 (dust proof) 8 (waterproof)

IPX7 = X (not rated for dust) 7 (waterproof up to 1 m)

Below you can find the official guidelines for what each number means.

Dust/Solid Ratings

IP Rating Solids

Water Ratings

IP Rating Water


It’s pretty common to see IP ratings on motorcycle GPS units as well as cycling units (for obvious reasons) but there are also some handhelds that offer water or dust protection as well, including the Garmin Montana line. So the next time you’re looking for a GPS and see an IP rating, now you’ll know what to look for!

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