Cairn Box Review (Take Two)- January 2020

Those of you who are not new to the life of Heather, know that this isn’t my first soiree with the Cairn monthly subscription box. This time it’s different, as I come to you as a paying customer, rather than an influencer who is sent free product. (Though I will assure you, I’m always blatantly honest with my reviews, paid or not. It’s gotten me on the naughty list with brands in the past, but I digress.) But before we get to the January 2020 Cairn Box Review, I’ve got to preface this post with some background information. Plus, I just really like to tell stories, let’s not beat around the bush.

Cairn Box Review (Take Two)- January 2020.  A look inside our first Cairn monthly subscription box after taking a 3 year break! Plus, a discount code for you to save $10 off of your first box.

(If you want to skip ahead to the actual January 2020 contents review rather than listen to me ramble about subscription boxes, scroll on down.)

The “Stuff” Dilema

I often feel like I live a double life. Alright, perhaps that’s an extreme statement, but hear me out. There is a huge part of me that is against commercialism and materialism. I believe in the concept of experiences over things. I don’t buy into the “keeping up with the Joneses” concept,nor the “American Dream” of a mortgage, car payments, and climbing the corporate ladder. Hell, my husband and I happily share one car, and we sleep on the floor in our tiny apartment.

I’m not kidding. We haven’t owned a bed since May of 2015.

Yet, by nature of what I do for a living, I’m often surrounded by, and asked to promote, “stuff”. You see, one of the perks of this job as a blogger/influencer is the fact that new products and gear are always making their way to our mailbox and front porch. Some of it is decent. Truth be told, some of it is crap, wasteful, and unnecessary. This is where my internal moral compass has slowly been learning to turn down opportunities, even if it means turning down “free stuff” and more difficult, turning down a paycheck.

But occasionally, some of these items end up being incredible, so much so that multiple years later, they are still in heavy rotational use at our house. And those are the things I try to shout from the rooftops.

Cairn Monthly Subscription Box

A few years ago I was introduced to the Cairn subscription box when I had the opportunity to review a box on my other blog. It’s one of those fun, monthly subscription boxes full of gear, food, and/or clothing items for the outdoor enthusiast. I was asked to become an ambassador, and for a solid year, was fortunate enough to enjoy this monthly box. 12 months later that project ended, the boxes stopped coming to my mailbox, and life went on, as it does.

Cairn Monthly Subscription box featuring cotopaxi

Fast forward three to four years. I don’t remember how it came up, but Geoff and I had suddenly made the realization that so much of the gear we use both at home, and while camping, came from those Cairn boxes. If I had to wager, I’d say at least 85% of the items (non food of course, those have long since been eaten) are still in use. The items I received in the Cairn boxes back then were clearly practical, and four years later, I can safely say not quickly disposable.

So, we decided to give it another try.

What’s the Appeal of a Subscription Box?

Many (many) years ago, I learned the value of having someone else help you shop, when my older sister picked out a dress for me. (I know, me in a dress? Stick with me, this story has a point.) It was not a style, nor a color, that I would have EVER pulled off of the rack for myself. But once I tried it on – I fell in love.

For me, subscription boxes are a similar concept. Having someone else pick stuff out for you opens your mind to products you may have never otherwise discovered. Things you may not have known you needed. I realize that seemingly goes against my “more experiences, less stuff” philosophy mentioned above. However, when someone can put something in your hands that has been tested and curated exactly for your needs, it takes away the mindless shopping and roulette game of wondering if the product you are purchasing is up to the standards you need.

Or at least, that’s the hope. I’ve definitely had other subscription boxes show up to my door that definitely left me wanting and wondering how much effort was truly put into sourcing it’s contents. Cairn had probably a 90% success rate in our house in the past.

A few examples of past items in the Cairn box that we still use all of the time:

Geoff reading in his Serac hammock

Honestly, I’m sure there’s more – I’d have to go digging through our outdoor box and see what else is lurking in there. So, does Cairn hold up to the reputation they set in my mind all those years ago? Let’s find out.

January 2020 Cairn Box Review:

In the words of my husband Geoff, “That’s not a box, that’s a bag…hey, isn’t that a Pearl Jam song?” Um. No. But yes, I mean this isn’t a box, it’s a bag, and I’m pretty sure that’s not a Pearl Jam song, but a creative interpretation of some lyrics.


January 2020 Carin Subscription Box contents

Typically the boxes ship out towards the middle of the month. However, since I subscribed at the end of the month, my January box was shipped just a few days after confirming my subscription (hence, a January review in February).

What’s Inside:

Nite Ize Financial Tool

Retail: $5.99

Perhaps it’s because I’m perpetually exhausted as of late (lack of running? Seasonal effective disorder? Disgustingly high caffeine tolerance?) but I read “financial tool” and thought to myself “Is this thing going to help me with my taxes? Because that would be swell.”

Nite Ize Financial Tool Multi Tool Card

No. The Nite Ize Financial Tool isn’t going to give you any 401K advice, but rather, is a multi tool card designed to fit in your wallet. It features 9 tools, including:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Standard wrenches
  • Scraper
  • Rulers (standard & metric)
  • Protractor
  • Compass
  • Phillips screwsdrive (that doubles as a tape cutter)
  • and the almighty bottle opener

Here’s the important part: APPARENTLY this tool is travel & airport friendly. After already having a very similar tool confiscated by a very accusatory TSA agent in the security check line, I’m not taking my chances. But if you do, let me know how that works out.

Nite Ize Financial Tool

Regardless, I’ll slip this guy into my wallet. It certainly doesn’t take up much space, and can potentially come in very handy.

Upmatic Energy Return Insoles

Retail: $29.50

First thought: insoles? Mehhh…

Upmatic Energy Return Insoles

In 37 years I’ve only met one pair of OTC insoles I actually liked, and they weren’t designed for cushion, but rather to realign my foot with it’s crazy case of a collapsed arch. More so, I suppose in my crazy world, I think of insoles as a running thing…and this is an outdoor gear box.

BUT – Cairn does have you fill out a profile, and right there at the top of my “favorite things to do when it isn’t winter” list is trail running.

Upmatic Energy Return Insoles

Reluctantly, I put them in my non-running shoes (the gym going/grocery shopping/ kid chauffeuring/rabbit wrangling/life shoes). They feel like teeny tiny egg crate mattress toppers under my feet. I can feel all of the bumps in the foam, and it’s not without it’s charm. These will hopefully grow on me.

Twin Springs Natural Soap

Retail: $6.95

One of my favorite things about subscription boxes is receiving products from small businesses. As a small business owner myself, I know that most small businesses do not have the advertising money to go up against bigger, corporate names. As such, the general public often doesn’t hear or see of these products or services, unless they are recommended by someone else. In this case, Cairn is that “someone else”.

Twin Springs Cucumber Mint Natural Soap

Twin Springs all natural soap is essentially a bar of soap IN a deodorant container. It makes carrying bar soap around significantly easier, and avoids the sometimes messy spills of traveling with liquid soap. Personally, we’re a bunch of trail loving gross dirt-bags who absolutely could benefit from travel soap thrown in the glove box. I have not used this product yet…but I like it.

IQ Bar

Retail: $2.08

Remember in my Wild Woman box review where I mentioned how excited I was for once that I wasn’t sent endurance/sport nutrition that was peanut butter flavored?

Yeah, well, my luck ran dry.

IQ Bar

Fortunately, my loving husband loves peanut butter.

Overall Rating:

The total cost of the items in this month’s Cairn box came out to $44.52, plus whatever shipping costs would be incurred if ordered separately. For the month to month subscription, Cairn costs $29.95 (includes shipping). That comes to a savings of $14.57.

The majority of that $44.52 seems to consist of the insoles that I’m still “meh” about, leaving me feeling less than 5 stars about this months box.

I plan to give Cairn a 3 month try to see if the box, and the items in the box, still live up to the quality and practicality of the subscription I experienced three (to four) years ago.

If you want to try Cairn as well, use my code rgqhxs when you checkout, and you’ll save $10.00 on your first box. (I too will earn $10 off of my next box, so thanks in advance for that!) Stay tuned to see what next month brings!

Cairn Box Review (Take Two)- January 2020.  A look inside our first Cairn monthly subscription box after taking a 3 year break!

About Heather

Hi. I'm Heather. Exercise physiologist by day, adventure seeker...also by day, and sometimes night. I like: mountains, running long distances, rabbits, sleeping in tents, poking at campfires with a stick, and Gordon Lightfoot. I dislike: peanut butter, bent tent poles, sitting still for too long, and writing "about me" sections.