Isle Box November 2016: Products That Give Back

My second Isle Box subscription arrived without ceremony a few days after Thanksgiving Day 2016. It looked pretty much the same as the first one—a well-designed branded box, topographically themed wrapping paper, and generous handful of fake green moss. It was even packed by Vanessa L., the same person credited with packing my first one.

It made me wonder … is Vanessa L. the only Isle Box packer to use fake green moss? Do other packers use different materials? Or does every Isle Box subscriber get the same fake green moss? And then I started wondering if I’d always have Vanessa L. packing my boxes or if some other packer would be lucky enough to put some goodies into a box for me.

As with my first Isle Box shipment, this second shipment was built around a theme, and this month’s theme was “Products That Give Back.” A subscription box doesn’t need a theme, of course, but it can be a nice touch that makes a company stand out in a crowded field.

Four items (two of them food-related) were listed on the information card, and all of them had a “giving back component.” So let’s get to them.

MiiR Vacuum Insulated Bottle

The centerpiece of the November 2016 Isle Box is this 23-ounce, double-walled (and hence vacuum insulated) bright orange bottle from MiiR. And it’s a pretty good bottle. The narrow mouth makes for an easy opening, and the silicone gasket ensures what’s inside the bottle will stay there until you want it to come out. Plus the lid, made of a solid plastic, is carabiner-friendly to facilitate easy clipping. Retail price: $30.

Giving back component: 5% of MiiR’s profits go to trackable giving projects—in this case, the bottle promises “one person in need will get clean water for one year.” The bottle even comes with a little code so I can track where my bottle is having its humanitarian effect. I entered the code (had to register an account first) and learned my bottle is helping people get clean water in Nepal.

  • Usefulness: 8/10. Bottles are exceptionally useful for carrying water. But, as I’ve soind countless time, I prefer a lightweight upcycled Gatorade bottle. However, this MiiR number is a pretty good bet, if a little heavy.
  • Purchasability: 8/10. Recently I’ve been leaning toward buying another Hydroflask, but I would definitely consider picking one of these up.
  • Usability: 10/10. I’ve taken to using this as my go-to walking around bottle. It’s a little heavy for hiking, but pretty great for getting around the urban landscape.

LuminAid PackLite 16.

Funny thing here, the information card told me a PackLite Spectra was inside my shipment. But I couldn’t figure out how to enable the listed “rainbow mode,” so I checked out the LuminAid site and learned the item included in the shipment was obviously the PackLite 16. Anyway, the LuminAid PackLite 16 is a weird device. Initially, it looks like a small rectangle of plastic, clearly a solar-powered item of some sort. Turns out, it’s a foldable blow-up lantern that, when unfolded and inflated, looks a lot like a big pillow that gives off light. Retail price: $20.

Giving back component: LuminAid operates a “Give Light, Get Light” program, so presumably there is someone in need somewhere in the world who is enjoying a PackLite 16 of their very own.

  • Usefulness: 5/10. I’m not opposed to inflatable solar lanterns, but this one just seems a little too odd and a little too challenging to use.
  • Purchasability: 3/10. I probably wouldn’t buy this unit, but I would consider some of LuminAid’s other products.
  • Usability: 3/10. I don’t think I’ll be bringing this with me on future adventures. But maybe I would if I have some extra room and want to show off some weird gear.

GoMacro MacroBar

Energy and nutrition bars are a staple item in subscription boxes, so I wasn’t surprised to see the GoMacro Protein Pleasure Peanut Butter Chcolate Chip MacroBar inside. Of course I tried it. I found it to be a little chewy but aside from that, rather pleasant. Retail price: $4.00 (listed on the information card). But GoMacro sells a box of 12 for $34.68. That works out to $2.89 each, which is what some online retailers are selling them for, so let’s call it $3.00.

Giving back component: GoMacro sources the ingredients for their bars from places that offer both safe and fair practices for both workers and the environment. It’s the most nebulous of these giving back claims.

  • Usefulness: 7/10. Energy bars are a useful means to get calories into your body when you’re on the move, and this one was palatable and digested easily.
  • Purchasability: 7/10. Although it wasn’t my favorite, I don’t like to eat the same thing all the time when hiking, so I would definitely pick up a few of these for snacking.
  • Usability: 7/10. If I find this in my food bag, I’d eat it. But I might pick something else first.

Kuju Pocket Pourover

My favored method of brewing coffee is the pourover. I usually have to let this go when I’m hiking, so the Kuju Pocket Pourover is a bit of a game changer for me. Retail price: $5.00 (Kuju sells them for $2.50 each).

Giving back component: 1% of the company’s sales go to National Parks.

  • Usefulness: 8/10. I do enjoy a cup of in-camp coffee in the mornings, and this is a pretty nice solution to that. I take a few points off for the hassle of dealing with the trash.
  • Purchasability: 6/10. I’d probably buy a few of these for short camping trips, unless I had an abundance of Starbucks Via (which are easier to use and have less waste to pack out).
  • Usability: 10/10. Definitely.

Combined Goods Total

Adding all the prices of the items in this box up (I used real world prices provided from the manufacturer when there was a discrepancy), the goods in this box total $58. That number falls a little short of Isle Box’s claim that each box will contain at least $60 of items.

Unboxed Gear Score

This Isle Box shipment earned 82 points of a possible 120, giving it an Unboxed Gear Score of 68. If you’re wondering, here’s how I figure the Unboxed Gear Score.

Cancelling Isle Box

This was my second Isle Box, so it was time to stop and move on to other boxes. I found stopping my Isle Box subscription is as easy as logging in to my account and pressing a button. I can also restart it at any time in the future, should I choose (and I just might).

Final Thoughts

In both Isle Box shipments there had been a discrepancy between a product listed on the information card and what was actually in the box. In each shipment there was also a discrepancy between the price listed on the card and the actual value of the item as indicated by the manufacturer.

So while I’ve liked Isle Box and thought the goods included have been, for the most part, some carefully chosen, quality products, there is a small concern about how they’re represented by Isle Box.

And I’m still wondering if everyone gets the green moss …


Unboxed is the continuing report of my personal foray into the world of subscription boxes aimed at the outdoor enthusiast.

 

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Written by Tom Fassbender

An amateur hobbyist, expert generalist, and outdoor enthusiast who recently traveled around the world with his family.

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