Over the last several years, subscription boxes seemed to have popped up for all kinds of things. Each of these subscriptions provides you with a box of items for you to enjoy, with boxes generally arriving once a month. There are subscriptions for just about anything, including food, clothes, makeup, and much more. Here is our review of the Cairn box, which is a subscription box for outdoor gear.
We started our Cairn subscription in September 2018. We’ve now had it for more than 18 months and have received some pretty fabulous gear! As you might imagine, some items are more useful for us than others, but it’s always fun to see what you get each month. Seriously, it’s almost like getting a birthday present each month (just ignore the fact that you paid for it).
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Cairn Subscription Options
The basic Cairn subscription costs about $30/month (as of June 2020). You can choose to pay monthly, every 6 months or annually. As you might expect, you can save a little bit off the monthly cost by paying for 6 or 12 months at a time. For us, the savings is not enough to warrant the up-front cost, so we just pay monthly.
In each monthly Cairn box, you get 3-4 items worth up to $50 in retail value. All items are full-size items, not travel or sample size. While some items are not always things we will use, I would say that each Cairn box does contain at least $30 worth of gear and often a higher value.
Cairn also offers an Obsidian Collection, which is a premium box of new products and brands. This is not actually a subscription, but a once-a-quarter limited offering that costs about $250 and offers more than $300 in value. We have not yet paid for an Obsidian box, but it is tempting.
Your Cairn Preferences
When you sign up for a Cairn subscription, you need to complete your profile to indicate what clothing sizes you wear and various outdoor preferences. This helps Cairn make sure you get items that you are actually interested in, will use and, for clothing, will fit.
While you do not get to choose specific items to include in your box, completing your profile allows Cairn to get you products best suited for you. Many months do have multiple versions of the box so that you have a better chance of getting gear for your specific outdoor hobbies.
Of course, when you receive one Cairn box for a couple, like we do, that means one person tends to get all the clothing items. In our case, that’s me! You can adjust your preferences anytime, though, if you want to change that up.
What to Expect in Each Cairn Box
So, what can you expect each month in your Cairn box? There will usually be 3-4 items. Often, you’ll get items that are related to each other, but not always. The thoughtfulness of how items pair together, though, is great. For example, one month we got sunglasses and croakies (a “string” to hold glasses around your neck). Most recently, we received tent stakes and a tent pole splint.
Additionally, you’ll almost always get some sort of food or drink item. We’ve gotten to try several different types of protein bars, energy bars and various breakfast items, including coffee and tea.
Finally, each box contains a “newsletter” that tells you more about the items in your Cairn box. It also includes information on other gear or outdoor adventures.
Our Favorite Cairn Box Items
Here are just a few of the items that stand out as some of our most-loved and most useful items we’ve received in our Cairn box.
While I don’t need a belt often, it’s always nice to have a good belt. This Croakies belt is perfect for outdoor use. It’s easy to trim to the size you need and then even easier to adjust as needed when wearing it. And, it has a hidden feature – the buckle can be used as a bottle opener.
The one we received was best sized for me, but Grant liked it so much he ordered two for himself! You can get these on Amazon in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Hat & Gloves
We actually received these in two different boxes, but they work well together! The hat is a COAL Headwear POW Beanie. POW stands for Protect Our Winters; their mission is to halt climate change. This particular beanie was made with Polylana, a low impact alternative to acrylic. Most COAL beanies sell for $20-30 on their website.
The gloves are Smartwool liner gloves, and they immediately made their way into my list of favorite winter items! They are lightweight, form-fitting and keep my fingers warm. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve tried them in extremely cold temperatures yet, but they are good everyday gloves. Best of all, they have a screen-friendly thumb and forefinger.
Blackstrap Daily Tube Sun Mask
This multifunctional sun covering by Blackstrap can be used as a facemark, head covering, neck protection or even as a covering for a camera or phone. It’s lightweight, provides 50+ UV protection and is quick-drying.
This is a great item to keep in your backpack for hiking – you can use it to shield the sun, dunk it is a river or lake to help you cool off or use it to cover your face from dirt.
Serac Classic Hammock
One of our most exciting Cairn box items is a hammock! While we, unfortunately, don’t get to use it often, it is something that we absolutely love having. The box included both the hammock and webbed straps.
Whether you are at home, on the road or on the trail, it’s always a good idea to have a flashlight (or some kind of illumination) with you. Getting caught in the dark is never fun and can be dangerous if you’re out on the trail or wandering unknown streets.
We generally carry a flashlight and/or headlamp in our packs for this very reason. So, when we received this small, USB-rechargeable flashlight it immediately went into my travel bag. Most of all, I love that I don’t need to worry about batteries!
Let me just say that we have been a fan of headlamps for years! We almost always have one in the truck, in our daypacks and in our luggage. You just never know when you will need one. Yes, flashlights are great. But, if you have your hands full, a headlamp is even better!
We received this rechargeable headlamp from UCO Gear in our first box and it immediately went into Grant’s travel backpack. Again, the fact that it is USB-rechargeable means that you’ll never be stuck hunting for batteries, which is always a plus when traveling.
Whether you are camping, working outside at night or dealing with a power outage at home, lanterns can be another great source of light. With a lantern, you can generally illuminate a bigger area than you can with a flashlight or headlamp. This makes is a great option for anywhere you have several people or are moving around a bit.
This UCO Sprout Mini Lantern is small and lightweight, making it great for camping or backpacking. It even has a blue Moonlight Mode, in addition to the traditional white light. Unfortunately, it’s not rechargeable but takes only 3 AAA batteries. Amazon sells both the standard AAA version and one with a rechargeable Li-ion battery.
What I like about this lantern is the magnetic lanyard that allows you to hang it from a hook, a branch or a backpack.
One of our ten essential items for hiking is a small knife or, better yet, a multi-tool. When we received this Gerber Suspension NXT, it immediately went into Grant’s daypack. In this one piece, you have 15 tools, including needlenose pliers, scissors and screwdrivers.
Grant’s favorite thing about this multi-tool is that every tool locks and you don’t need to open it up to access the various tools.
We’ve recently done some canoeing and kayaking where we had to make the tough decision on whether or not to take our phones. For that reason, I’ve been thinking about getting a drybag to add to our travel gear. Thankfully, before I could act on that, we received one in a recent Cairn box!
This particular bag by Deuter is a reusable, waterproof rolltop bag designed for use in the backcountry. The design makes it great for pack it in, pack it out backpacking trips. It’s also good for keeping items dry. We haven’t had a chance to truly test it out yet, but we plan to on our next water adventure later this summer.
When traveling, we generally always carry a lightweight, quick-drying towel. Yes, you generally will be provided with towels in a hotel, but if you’re looking to hit the beach, are out on kayaks or canoes or are grabbing a public shower at a train station, you’ll often need your own towel.
This ultralight towel by Nomadix is perfect to keep in your backpack, car or RV. It weighs only 8 ounces, is super absorbent and quick drying. Best of all… it’s made from recycled plastic bottles and has a fabulous Smokey Mountains design on it! You can also find this towel at REI.
EcoVessel Water Bottle
I almost always travel with a reusable water bottle. With this, you can stay hydrated and protect the environment by not buying single-use plastic water bottles. When I received this EcoVessel insulated bottle in a Cairn box, it immediately started getting used. Not only is it insulated, it also has a strainer so you can have fruit-infused water on the go!
The only downside of this bottle is that it is a little big (24 oz) and is sometimes a tight fit in a cupholder or side pocket on a backpack. Still, it’s a great bottle for everyday use inside or outside.
EcoVessel Reusable Straws
This set of 4 stainless steel reusable straws by EcoVessel is one of the most-used items we’ve received in a Cairn box. While I can’t say that I never use plastic straws anymore, having these reusable straws certainly does reduce my use of plastic straws. These straws have colorful silicone tips, which is a must for me – I hate sipping directly on steel!
Best of all, they came with a carrying pouch and a cleaning brush.
Final Thoughts on Cairn Subscription Box
These are just a few of the really amazing this we’ve gotten in our Cairn subscription box. Yes, we have received items that we don’t really need or want. Some of those we’ve kept just in case; others we have given to friends.
Overall, though, we’ve been happy with the items we’ve received and their value. We’ve considered cancelling our subscription a couple of times, but always talk ourselves out of it because of the great things we get.
One neat thing about Cairn is that you can earn points by reviewing the items you receive. You can use these points for Cairn gear, a free month of the regular Cairn box or even a free Obsidian collection.
If you are looking for amazing outdoor gear, a Cairn subscription box is a fun way to explore all that is out there. You can even give a subscription to someone else, making it the perfect gift when you just don’t know what to give that certain someone who loves outdoor adventure.