Gear Review: Cairn Box

Recently we decided to try out Cairn, the monthly delivery that is described as “Outdoor inspiration delivered monthly”. We love trying new gear and are always looking for ways to elevate our hiking and backpacking experience, so this seemed like it might be a good fit. It costs $25 per month, and you receive a variety of outdoor related items. You fill out a questionnaire that helps them customize your box to your lifestyle.

Cairn Box review

Prior to subscribing, we talked to friends who use it, scoured their website, and watched some YouTube videos of box reveals. The contents generally seemed to revolve around a formula…one “big” item, and one or more food items, then some sample sizes of other items. Our friend’s latest box had included a portable battery pack with lantern, an “eat your coffee” brand bar, some Green Goo dry skin treatment, disposable hand warmers, and a Cairn patch. We both already have portable battery packs, so we figured that we would start the next month and get something we hopefully don’t already have.

We subscribed at the end of December for the January box. The box arrived January 13, just as advertised. Unfortunately, we got the same EXACT items that our friends received in their December box. I’m guessing Cairn had extras leftover and decided to use them for new subscribers. The problem was that we specifically subscribed for the following month to avoid getting those items which were basically useless for us. I logged in and canceled our subscription because I am notorious for forgetting to cancel things and did not want to be charged again for another box that we might not be able to use.

I contacted customer service and was told “Your subscription was started on December 28th, resulting in December being the first box in your subscription. You still would have received the January box, it would have gone out in the 2nd wave of bulk deliveries but I see that you canceled your subscription on January 13th.

If you would like to reactivate in the future I’d be happy to help with that.”
So they were going to send us (and charge us for) 2 boxes in one month? I really felt like their response was cold and not helpful at all. I offered to return the box we received in order to actually receive a January box but they did not accept that.  To rub salt in the wound, the January box was full of items we would have actually loved and gotten use from and therefore probably continued our subscription.

So while we love the idea of an outdoor focused monthly subscription box, I don’t think we will return to Cairn in the future. There are too many companies out there who do customer service really well, and maybe we are spoiled from dealing with them (REI, Amazon, Osprey, etc.), but that type of service has become our expectation. It would have been really easy for Cairn to make us happy and correct the glitch that caused our dissatisfaction that it was kind of mind boggling that they didn’t even try.

Have you tried Cairn boxes or any other outdoor type subscription boxes? What has your experience been like? Let us know in the comments!


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