Sometimes, your regular camera just isn't going to cut it. For the adventurous Cousteau-types, there's a camera to suit you.
Surf or snow?
Are you a water baby or a ski bunny? Most cameras on this list cover all the bases, from waterproofing through to freeze-proofing, but you should double-check before you buy. Also make sure to clarify the maximum depth that you can reach with the camera underwater before heading out to scuba or snorkel.
Another thing to keep in mind is how big the camera controls are. When wearing ski gloves you'll need a camera with sturdy and responsive buttons. There is also a "button-free" feature called action control (on the Nikon Coolpix AW100) or tap control (on some Olympus cameras) that lets you change shooting options without needing to remove your fingers from ski gloves. For slippery situations, a wrist strap is a must.
Read the manual
This is probably the most important advice that we can give you — read the manual! Often, if your camera runs into a spot of bother and you try to get it serviced, if you haven't followed the stringent guidelines to maintaining and cleaning your camera, you'll be out of luck. These models need to be treated with a lot more TLC (rather ironic, we know) than your average compact. After coming into contact with salt water, you need to wash the camera clean, removing all foreign objects like sand and dirt. Often, the manual will say that to maintain the camera's waterproof credentials, seals need to be replaced once a year. Some cameras may also only be rated at their maximum waterproof depth for a certain period of time, such as one hour.
Rugged cameras, by their nature, are slow beasts, so don't expect SLR-like speeds from them. You will need a bit of patience, particularly if you need to take lots of shots in quick succession using continuous shooting modes. The quickest at taking successive images on this list is the Sony Cyber-shot TX20.
If the prospect of forking out extra cash for yet another camera strikes fear into your heart, consider investing in a housing for your particular camera model. Manufacturers like Canon and Panasonic make plastic housings for some of the popular models, and there are plenty of after-market alternatives.
On this list, we have also included a couple of rugged camcorders that will suit action adventurers. If you need a little bit of inspiration to get you shooting with your new camera, why not take a look at our list of the best uses for extreme cameras.