Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, with seemingly endless options for those looking at an easy fix of monthly offerings. Good thing outdoorists have one availability to them as well, in the shape of Cairn. The hard part is figuring out if its worth the price of entry, or if one should look elsewhere.
I’ll first say that outdoor equipment can be pricey. Big ticket items are a normalcy and trying to fit them into a low monthly price means you’ve already squeezed out a lot of the main stuff that hikers, bikers, backpacking, etc, use on an every day basis. The leftovers are trinkety items that may or may not offer any value, it can be a total luck of the draw.
The Cairn Subscription box does make a great promise: For $25 a month, you get roughly $35-45 of stuff to take with you into the great outdoors and beyond. With a rough overall formula of one big thing, a smaller side thing, and tiny items I’ll call ‘samples’, the boxes become somewhat predictable.
Another interesting point is many of the products seem to be supplied by smaller companies trying to break into the market.
I decided to try Cairn out for three months, if I wasn’t happy at the end, I would cancel and write about it either way. My takeaway is as mixed as the contents therein…
I was pretty disappointed. With a slew of items I thought I would rarely use, I felt like my 25 bucks immediately went down the drain, save for the included bandanna. Wash.
- Double Barrel Insulated Coffee / Beer Mug ($20) – Awkwardly shaped, vacuum insulated mug that tastes like metal. Cheesy.
- Trail Smart Microfiber Bandana ($13) – Quick drying bandana made of soft microfiber, with emergency info printed on a yellow cloth. Not bad!
- AllGood Original Lip Balm ($3.50) – Herbaceous and greasy, with SPF 15, feels like I’m putting on lip gloss.
- NiteIze LED Slap Wrap ($8) – As described, a slap bracelet that offer a warm, red, LED glow, for visibility in running at night. Works alright, my unit was slightly broken and flashes intermittently.
Total Value = $45
Prospects improved with this box, and I found more unexpected use out of several of the items.
- EasyKlips Tarp Clip ($9) – Meant for attaching tarp via a friction grip to cordage. Haven’t used but seems sturdy and convenient.
- Power Practical Lantern/phone charger ($30) – These are always handy in our cell phone era. Has a handy lantern setting, though charges with all LEDs on dim. Odd.
- Jimmy snack bar ($2.50) – Advertised as gluten free and natural. Haven’t eaten yet, but sometimes calories are calories.
- aLokSak ($9) – A “ziplock”, waterproof bag up to 200 feet, also allows your touchscreen phone to be used underwater. Personally wouldn’t spend the money, but found them convenient for travel.
This one was as awkward as the first. Largely disappointing, this one felt too much like giveaways at a convention.
- Hydaway Collapsible Bottle ($20) – The most questionably shaped collapsible bottle ever. Weird bulging middle makes this it not fun to hold.
- Skratch Labs Exercise Mix and Energy Chews ($5) – Collection of small electrolyte powder mix and chews. Haven’t tried yet.
- NiteIze Squeeze Light ($5) – “Developed for the military”? Probably not. Cheap red LED squeeze light, perfect for… inside a purse or backpack?
- Aloe Up Sports Sunscreen ($10) – Sunscreen. Four ounces of it.
As you can see, one truly gets their value’s worth, as long as you aren’t picky and like chocky-type items. Each month hovered around $45-50. The crux is figuring out whether 25 dollars is worth something you might never use, along with other widgets along the same lines. Veterans may find they have all the gear that Cairn is throwing in, and beginners are likely seeking more specific things, though the occasional jackpot is useful.
I still can’t decide whether I threw $75 down the drain, or will get some mileage out of it. Some may have noticed that I received three liquid containers, two NiteIze products and basically a slew of snacks… I suspect anyone else’s experience may be much the same.
What would I rather see? I think a lower price and an outdoor food-related sample kit would be a better fit. Something closer to a ten dollar Birch Box but with refueling for hiking/biking/backpacking/climbing.