Unboxed: Isle Box (October 2016)

Opening Isle Box

Isle Box: Everything you need when Adventure calls your name.

Isle Box, like the previously reviewed (and seemingly defunct) S.E.R.E.Box, is a Cratejoy company. I wanted to find something that wasn’t powered by Cratejoy, but they seem to host many of the outdoor-themed subscription boxes I could find. And isle Box had the benefit of still being in business. So I decided I’d give them a try.

Isle Box Pricing

Isle Box charges $45 per shipment and promises at least $60 in value of goods. They also offer a seasonal subscription box for $125, a National Parks box for $120, and a one-time starter box for $300 that promises “everything you need in one purchase.” I just opted for the basic mont-to-month recurring subscription.

Ordering Isle Box

I signed up for Isle Box on September 29 and got an immediate confirmation email. Because my experience with Cairn was pretty quick on the first-time fulfillment, I was sort of expecting a box right away. But I hadn’t received anything or heard from them by October 7.

After my experience with S.E.R.E.Box disappearing off the map, I started to get just a little concerned, so I fired off an email query. They quickly replied telling me to expect my first box to ship between October 21 and 23.

Sure enough, on October 22 I received an email informing me my box was on the way, complete with a USPS tracking number which gave me an expected delivery date of Thursday, October 27. It was right on time.

First Impression

This is a great-looking box — a decent size and clearly branded.

Isle Box First Impression

Once I cracked the seal, the first thing I noticed was that my box was packed with care by Vanessa L. Vanessa, if you’re reading this, you did a great job. Thank you.

Isle Box: Packed by Vanessa L

After I peeled back the cool decorative wrapping (I’m always vulnerable to topographic-inspired design), I discovered four hiking-themed items inside. These were accompanied by a small handful of fake moss, supposedly to dress the shipment up and give it that outdoorsy vibe.

Opening Isle Box

Like other subscription boxes, this one also came with a card explaining the items inside. The card told me that the theme of this box was “Day Hike Upgrade” and that the items included here will help me take my day hike to the next level. We shall see …

CoalaTree Loafer Hammock

Isle Box: Coala Tree Loafer Hammock

The big ticket item in this shipment was the CoalaTree Loafer Hammock. I admit to not being much of a hammock guy, but the kids do love them. I wouldn’t haul this thing with me on a day hike, but it has been relegated to our car camping box. I was surprised that the hammock was only 17.7 ounces (504 grams) when packed up. It looked like it would have been heavier. So if you’re a hammock person, taking this on a backpacking trip wouldn’t be out of the question. Retail price: $40.

  • Usefulness: 7/10. Again, I’m not much for hammocks, but I know some people (like my kids) enjoy them. So for car camping, it’s a great tool, and maybe for a multi-day hike if hammocks are your thing. But I question its feasibility as a day-hike upgrade.
  • Purchasability: 5/10. I don’t think I would ever buy a hammock.
  • Usability: 5/10. Rationale. I wouldn’t carry this with me on a hike, but I would bring it on a car-camping trip.

HydraPak SoftFlask 750ml

Isle Box: SoftFlask 750

The informational card informed me that this was a HydraPak Stash. But what was included in the package is clearly a Hydrapak SoftFlask. A fine distinction, but an important one.

I’m sure there are some people out there who love the Hydrapak SoftFlask, but I’m not one of them. Its main feature (collapsability) makes it incredibly difficult to use for its intended purpose (drinking from) once the volume of water gets down to about 250ml. During my John Muir Trail hike, my collapsible Platypus bottle annoyed the heck out of me, and trying to drink from the SoftFlask was even worse. It is pretty light, though, with an empty weight of only 2.3 ounces (68 grams), so that’s a small point in its favor. Retail price: $21.

  • Usefulness: 6/10. Water bottles are almost universally essential to the outdoor enthusiast, but I’m taking a few points off this one for being annoying to use.
  • Purchasability: 1/10. I’m a big fan of reusing water and/or Gatorade bottles. They’re a lot cheaper, easier to find, and weigh about the same.
  • Usability: 1/10. Once the bottle is belwo 1/4 full, it’s very hard to drink from it — which sort of defeats the purpose.

Aloe Up Sunblock

Isle Box: Aloe Up Sunblock

A small (one ounce/30 ml) tube of Aloe Up Pro Ultra Sport SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion. Sunscreen is something everyone should carry on their outdoor adventures. And this one has a few marks in its favor — non-greasy, quick absorbing, and unscented (you know, for bears). Retail price: Well, there’s a discrepancy here. The card lists the retail price of this small tube as $10, but on the Aloe Up site the same tube is $5.49.

  • Usefulness: 10/10. Sunblock is pretty essential for anyone venturing into the out of doors.
  • Purchasability: 6/10. So many choices out there, but this one does the trick and even at $12 for a 4 ounce tube I’d consider picking up a supply next time I need stock up.
  • Usability: 7/10. I will use this small tube eventually, but there I do have a sunblock backlog to get through.

Nakee Butter

Isle Box: Nakee Butter

Sure, it sounds like something amorous hikers would use, but this tube of Nakee Butter is this shipment’s obligatory food item. The marketing copy on the packet calls it a meal replacement and hits all the highlights: brain food, superfood, no GMO’s (the apostrophe is theirs, not mine), dairy free, and gluten free. It only weighs weighs 2.12 ounces (60 grams) and is a decent source of energy with 290 calories (190 from fat).

It’s a lot like a packet of Justin’s Peanut Butter (one of the staple foods in my food bag on any hike), so I’m going to do a little comparison. A 1.15 ounce (32 grams) Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter packet has 190 calories (140 from fat). So two Justin’s packets have about equal weight to the Nakee Butter but with more caloric power at 380 calories (280 from fat).

And I can tell you from experience, the Justin’s goes down better than the Nakee Butter — even after kneading the packet for a long time, this stuff was pretty hard to choke down (choke being the operative word). I don’t recommend eating this stuff without water close at hand. Retail price: $5 (but you can buy it on sale from the Nakee website for $4.)

  • Usefulness: 6/10. Food is good for hiking, and high-caloric high-fat foods are great for hiking. But they should also be easy to consume.
  • Purchasability: 2/10. I can’t imaging a scenario where I’d buy this again, but if if were the on;ly item in a distant hiking supply store, I’d reluctantly consider it.
  • Usability: 5/10. I already ate it, but I don’t want to go through that again.

Combined Goods Total

The combined value of the goods inside this Isle Box subscription is $71.50, easily topping the promised vale of $60, even with the pricing chicanery around the Aloe Up sunblock.

Unboxed Gear Score

This Isle Box shipment earned 61 points of a possible 120, giving it an Unboxed Gear Score of 48. If you’re wondering, here’s how I figure the Unboxed Gear Score.

Final Thoughts

This first Isle Box left me with mixed feelings. The presentation of the box itself — from first impressions right down to the packing job — was totally top-notch. But I don’t think they delivered on the concept of the day hike upgrade. And while the goods inside weren’t anything I personally found to be awe inspiring, they were at least interesting and, with the exception of the SoftFlask, relatively useful. All things considered, while this box let me down a little bit, I did like it and look forward to my second Isle Box.


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


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