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Discovering New Gear with Cairn

by , January 9, 2019

When the Cairn Obsidian Box arrived at my doorstep I was unsure of what to expect from a subscription service, a box, and their promise to Get Cairn, Get Outside. I received Cairn’s Obsidian level box, a pack of 5-10 products ($300+ in retail I’m told) that comes every three months with a price tag of $250 per quarter. This quarter’s box was themed Adventure Travel, curated by photographer Andy Best for a 2,000-mile road trip into British Columbia.

While I had no such road trip in mind, I was interested in finding out how well a subscription box would work for a weekend warrior like myself. Was this box simply outdoor marketing fluff that a gearhead like myself would eat up? Or was there some soul in this box and some gear that would actually come in useful outside?

Cairn Adventure Box

So when Saturday arrived I opened the Obsidian Box, determined to make the most of whatever lay inside this impressively packaged box. Shaking the box like an adolescent kid on Christmas, the first item to pop out was a Lonely Planet book, Epic Hikes of the World (hardcover to boot). This seemed like an apt place to start the weekend’s adventure.


“Cairn is working closely with brands and targeted consumers to deliver new products instead of simply clearing out old products.”


Flipping through the pages and consulting my calendar I quickly realized that I simply could not hike the Pacific Crest Trail this weekend. However my mood was immediately lifted when I saw that Boston’s Freedom Trail was a listed hike. As I am based in Boston, this 2.5-mile trail was a perfect fit with ample pubs along the way to duck into if the gear Cairn had waiting for me didn’t work out.

Cairn Adventure Box

After tearing into the rest of the box I realized that I would be very well off with what Cairn had curated. An array of Clif Bars to fuel my trek (one every mile by my count), a Matador toiletry bottle as those Boston trails can be grungy, a Black Diamond FineLine rain jacket (a necessary piece of clothing in November in New England), and the pièce de résistance, an Osprey BigKit 75L Duffel. Perhaps overkill for a 2.5-mile hike but I’m not complaining. With a heavy November rain falling outside I decked myself out in Cairn’s Obsidian Box and headed out to Boston’s Freedom Trail.


“Cairn is providing a different way to engage with brands while trying out some products that maybe otherwise wouldn’t end up in your carry quiver.”


As I write this piece from a warm pub in Boston’s North End on the tail end of the Freedom Trail, I really like what Cairn is doing. In an Amazon-fueled world of outdoor gear, I appreciate the value of curation more and more as it becomes increasingly difficult to sift through the noise. And, unlike other subscription services, Cairn is working closely with brands and targeted consumers to deliver new products instead of simply clearing out old products.

Cairn Adventure Box

Will Cairn fundamentally shift how we buy outdoor gear? Unlikely, but I don’t believe that’s the point. Instead, Cairn is providing a different way to engage with brands while trying out some products that maybe otherwise wouldn’t end up in your carry quiver. It’s fun, it makes a great gift, and Cairn will even take your old gear, repair it, and resell it with proceeds going to the Conservation Alliance. They’re not reinventing the wheel, but making it turn a little differently and I think that’s exciting. I’ll save the adventure of my 2.5-mile hike for another time.

Cairn Adventure Box


Liked the above article? Why not try these too:

The Best Travel Shoes for Every Type of Traveler Right Now

Packing for the Appalachian Trail

The Best Backpacks for a 1 to 3 Day Hike

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