Unboxed: Cairn Subscription Box

Unboxed: Cairn Subscription Box 2 (May 2016)

Cairn Unboxed

My initial intention with Unboxed was to try one box from each supplier. However, I mistakenly thought I’d be billed on May 19 for the next Cairn Subscription Box number two, but they billed me on May 7 before I took the time to cancel. My guess is that when I ordered my first box in the middle of the month I fell outside the standard monthly shipping cycle, but once that first month was over I was inserted into their regular, recurring billing cycle. Good information to have.

I was annoyed at first, but then it occurred to me that getting just one box from each supplier might not be objectively fair. Instead, two shipments might give me a better idea of how these services stack up to each other. Anyone can have a bad month, after all.

First Impression of Cairn Number Two

And so it was that my second Cairn box arrived on May 16, which was still pretty fast — only nine days after my subscription had renewed. The box itself was nearly identical to my first box in both appearance and size. I was expecting that to be the case, so there was no real disappoint this time. It was so expected, in fact, I neglected to photograph it.

Nectar Wayfarer Sunglasses

Nectar Wayfarer: Cairn

The stand-out item in this shipment was a pair of tortoise shell sunglasses with orange mirror lenses, and these Nectar Wayfarers (the style I received was the Bombay variant) are pretty slick. In a strange cosmic coincidence, I’d lost my previous knockaround sunglasses, so these arrived at the perfect time. And, while it’s not the style I would have purchased, they’re still a great pair of glasses. Plus Nectar has a whole save the bees thing going, which is pretty cool. Retail price: $35.

  • Usefulness: 10/10. I live in Southern California, so I live in sunglasses.
  • Purchasability: 9/10. I buy sunglasses quite a bit, usually cheaper ones so they break (or I lose them, which is why I buy them on the cheap). This brand sells at a nice price point, so its highly likely I would have bought a pair — and I probably will again.
  • Usability: 10/10: I use this very pair of sunglasses nearly every day.

Flowfold Minimalist Wallet

Flowfold Wallet: Cairn

I do love a nice, minimal wallet, and this little slim number from Flowfold, made of racing sailcloth and ballistic nylon, certainly falls into that category. Retail price: $10.

  • Usefulness: 7/10. I can’t deny that minimalist wallets are useful, but I’m not sure I’d hike with one.
  • Purchasability: 6/10. I have a wallet I really like (the Yasutomo 2020 Cuben Fiber Wallet), so I’m not sure I would buy this one. However, if I suddenly needed a new wallet, I would consider the Flowfold.
  • Usability: 4/10: Maybe a bit too minimalist for my everyday needs, it’s still nice as a backup or when you need to carry a card or two and some bills.

onXmaps Roam Membership

onXmaps ROAM: Cairn

A membership to onXmaps ROAM, a service that turns your mobile device into a handheld GPS with access to “extensive outdoor map data.” Retail price: $10 (for one year).

  • Usefulness: 3/10. Maps are useful, but paper maps do the trick for me. Relying on a battery-powered device notorious for running out of power at critical moments for naivgation doesn’t fit into my survival plan. It might be good for a backup solution though.
  • Purchasability: 0/10. Because of the above reason, and the availability of free USGS quad maps, I doubt I would ever throw down for a membership.
  • Usability: 1/10: Doubtful I would use the service except on occasion or to confirm what a paper map has already shown me.

Honey Stinger Nuts Seeds & Roasted Serrano Bar

Honey Stinger - Serrano: Cairn

Just like my last Cairn shipment, the final item in the box was an energy bar. This one was made by Honey Stinger and had serrano pepper baked inside. It was delicious. Retail price: $2.

  • Usefulness: 7/10. Easily consumable food is always good on the trail, and this bar has serrano in it. Bonus!
  • Purchasability: 8/10. I like the Honey Stinger brand, so if I saw this on a store shelf and wanted a bar, it would be a high contender.
  • Usability: 10/10: Shortly after the bar was photographed, it mysteriously disappeared.

Combined Goods Total

The retail value of this shipment was $57 ($4 higher than my previous Cairn shipment), still exceeding Cairn’s claim that each shipment will be worth upwards of $50. Again, I paid $25 for the box, so value-wise, it’s solid.

Unboxed Gear Score

This Cairn shipment earned 75 points out of a possible 120, giving it an Unboxed Gear Score of 63. If you’re wondering, here’s how I figure the Unboxed Gear Score.


Now that I’d received two shipments from Cairn, it was time to move on to try other subscription box services. And that meant canceling my service. I have a certain amount of trepidation anytime I’m stuck in a recurring billing situation, but stopping my Cairn subscription was as easy as logging onto the site and pushing a button.

Final Thoughts

I liked this box much better than my first Cairn box, mainly due to the Nectar sunglasses. I think the onXmaps membership was a bit of a dud for me, but I can see how some people might find it worthwhile. And I do like the Flowfold Wallet, even if I’m not currently using it. Overall, I’m glad I gave Cairn a second shot. This selection of gear was much closer to what I expected from a subscription gear service than I got the first time around.

Is Cairn Worth It?

Cairn isn’t for everyone, but, based on two shipments, I think they do a good job of introducing gear and brands that are of interest to their target subscribers. If this sounds like it’s something you’d like, you might want to give Cairn a try.


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


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