Unboxed: A Hard Look at Adventure-Themed Subscription Boxes

A hard look at Subscription Boxes designed for the outdoor enthusiast.

It seems you can’t visit the internet these days without seeing an ad for some sort of subscription box. Or maybe it’s just me. But there is at least one (if not 10) subscription box for every hobby or activity that humans — and even dogs — enjoy. And that includes outdoor adventure.

Cairn Corporate Image

A typical subscription box from Cairn as displayed on the Cairn website.

Most any venture into the great outdoors calls for at least a few pieces of gear, and like most gear-heads, I obsess over the stuff I own. I make my choices carefully and try to buy the gear that will suit my needs. But, inevitably (usually right before the next season), something just a little better than I already own comes along, and I feel a very strong urge to check it out.

So the subscription box for adventure gear scratches a particular itch of mine, and there are quite a few of these outdoor-themed subscription boxes on the market. Some of these have been reviewed or profiled in various outdoor magazines in the past, usually with high praise. But the cynical side of me always wonders how truthful such reviews are. Did the reviewer get the box for free? Was it the same box a subscriber would receive or was it packed with the best cherry-picked stuff to ensure a great review?

So I decided to find out. I signed up for a few of these services using my own hard-earned cash, and in this feature here on fordsbasement, I’m going to take a solid and unbiased look at some of these subscription boxes to see it they’re worthwhile or just a waste of your time and money.

Scoring Subscription Boxes

Of course it’s no fun to review something like this without rating it, so I came up with a quick method for scoring each box I call the Unboxed Gear Score. Here’s how it works.

Each item gets a rated from 0 to 10 in three categories:

  • Usefulness: Is this an item that would be useful to an outdoors enthusiast?
  • Purchasablity: Is this something I would buy from a store?
  • Usability: Is this something that I will use during an adventure?

Item scores are then totaled and divided by the maximum score the shipment could be awarded to earn the Unboxed Gear Score.


Unboxed History

Unboxed #1: Cairn April 2016 (Unboxed Gear Score: 45)

Cairn Unboxed

Unboxed #2: Cairn May 2016 (Unboxed Gear Score: 63)

Cairn Unboxed

Unboxed #3: S.E.R.E.Box Mini August 2016 (Unboxed Gear Score: 48)

Unboxed: S.E.R.E.Box Mini No. 1

Unboxed #4: Isle Box October 2016 (Unboxed Gear Score: 48)


Unboxed #5: Nomadik October 2016 (Unboxed Gear Score: 54)

Unboxed Nomadik, Box One

Unboxed #6: Isle Box November 2016 (Unboxed Gear Score: 68)