I see a lot of people on social media asking if the Cairn outdoor gear subscription box is worth it. I’ve also seen a lot of people take to social media to complain about their box.
I’ve been receiving the box for years and love it. However, I think whether you like the box or not depends on your expectations so I am going to lay out my thoughts for you.
Note: Cairn offers an Obsidian box that arrives quarterly and is substantially more expensive, and contains much more expensive products, than their standard monthly subscription. This writeup is on their standard monthly subscription.
What is the Cairn Subscription Box
In non-formal terms, it’s a $30 box that arrives once a month and contains active-outdoor related gear, products, and food.
According to their website, “Cairn monthly subscription boxes inspire & equip outdoor enthusiasts with high quality products carefully curated to those who enjoy a outdoor lifestyle.”
Every month, I receive a box of 3-6 products that are related to camping or hiking. I feel like the average is 4-6 items.
The products are usually from companies I’ve never heard of, or haven’t heard much of, because Carin tries to support small, made in the USA businesses and introduce you to new brands. Sometimes though I do receive products from big name brands.
My boxes have included gear, apparel, nutrition/energy, skincare, and other random goodies.
Cairn’s website states that the items in each box have a value of up to $50. I’ve often looked up prices for the products I received so I feel like that’s pretty accurate.
Also, these items are full-size.
How a Cairn Subscription Works
Note: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means when you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a few pennies at no extra cost to you.
Like any subscription box, you sign up to receive a monthly box on the Cairn website. You can choose to pay monthly, or purchase a 6 or 12 month subscription all at once for a discount.
Subscriptions start at $29.95 a month.
There is no shipping fee for boxes shipped inside the US. If you live in Canada, shipping will cost you $5. You’ll pay $10 for shipping if you live anywhere else in the world.
Once you’ve purchased a subscription, you fill out a profile that helps them tailor the box to you.
For the most part, the boxes are the same each month. However, it appears the box you receive does depend on when you sign up. I’ve heard of people receiving a box I received several months ago as their first one.
Also, the items may vary slightly due to your preferences. For example, I said I didn’t want to receive products related to alcohol in my box when I filled out the sign-up survey.
One month, some people received a stainless steel shot glass set from Stanley. I received something else instead that month (I can’t remember exactly what).
After you get the box, they give you a bit of time to check it out but then they send you a survey asking what you thought about each of the products. Doing this earns you points you can redeem in the Cairn Shop for apparel, free boxes, and gifts for friends.
If you really like something, you can usually buy more through Cairn at a discount.
While they don’t have an exchange program with their boxes, they do want you to be happy. If all items in a box are in original condition, the box may be returned to them for a refund (minus shipping).
I’ve heard if you are very unhappy with the box or products, you can shoot them an email and they may try to remedy it in some way by sending a replacement product or adding points to y our account.
Most Cairn box reviews you find online will only tell you what’s in a single box. Since I’ve been receiving it for years (so, at least 35 boxes), I want to highlight some of the things that have stood out to me:
- Serac Camping Hammock with Straps
- Loominoodle LED Light Rope
- Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Packable Daypack
- Klymit X Inflatable Camp Pillow
- Ultimate Survival Technologies Strikeforce Emergency Fire Starter
- Mazama Top Fill, Tasteless & BPA Free Hydration Bladder
- Fozzils Solo Fold-flat Camp Dishes
- Gobi Gear SegSac Multi Compartment Stuff Sack
- Ruffwear Quencher Foldable Dog Bowl
- TOAKS Titongs All-in-one Fork/Spoon/Tongs Set
- HydroFlask Insulated Stainless Steel True Pint Glass
- Gear Aid Tenacious Tape for Outdoor Gear/Fabric Repair (various styles)
- Natrapel Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent Wipes
- PURINIZE Natural Water Purifying Solution
- Klymit V Sheet Sleeping Pad Cover
- Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow
And these are just the highlights that I can think of off the top of my head. There have been many more things I liked.
You can read my review on some of my first Cairn boxes from 2015 to see that they were cool from the beginning.
Should I Subscribe to the Cairn Box?
Really, no one can decide that but you.
I don’t think $30 a month is a very high risk so I say, if in doubt, subscribe for a few months and decide for yourself. Honestly though, whether you are happy with it or not depends on your expectations.
I get the box primarily for the surprise and discovery. Most of the things I receive I’ve never heard of before.
Do I like all of them? Definitely not. Some months, I don’t use anything. But then there are others when I love everything in the box or one discovery in the box makes it totally worth it (and usually that one thing is worth over $30 I paid for the box).
I can easily spend $30 at Starbucks for breakfast for myself and my hubby so the price seems reasonable to me.
In the end, I admit may possibly pay more for the subscription than I get back in stuff I love and use but it’s not a huge disparity, if any. The difference is made up with the “entertainment factor” to me. To each their own.
However, if you are someone that expects that you will always love everthing in the box, or always receive at least $30 of product you will use and like EVERY MONTH, then I suspect you will be unhappy with the box.
So, to the question, “should I subscribe?” I ask why do you want to subscribe in the first place?
If you think more like me then you will probably be happy. If you feel like you are paying $30 a month so Cairn can read your mind and send you only products you will love and that are worth more than $30 EVERY MONTH then you will probably be dissatisfied.
Disclosure: In the interest of being transparent, I must tell you that I haven’t always paid for the Cairn subscription box myself. I signed up when they first came out and paid for the box for well over a year. Along the way, Cairn discovered my enthusiasm for the box, and willingness to tell my friends about it, so they started sending me some boxes at no cost. I would have continued to pay for them myself regardless and that in no way effects what I am saying about them.