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Cairn + Outside Collaboration Box “Hit the Water” Review – August 2019

Christen Russo
ByChristen RussoAug 29, 2019 | 13 comments

4 overall rating
11 Ratings | 7 Reviews

Cairn is a monthly subscription box that sends members outdoors, adventure, and fitness gear. Outside Magazine is the outdoor recreationist’s print go-to for soaking thy brain in amazing stories, info, and art having to do with getting outdoors. Cairn’s goal is to enrich your outdoor adventures by connecting you with best-in-class products, and this month they’ve teamed up with Outside to bring us three options of epic specialty boxes. Here, I unbox the Hit the Water one!

FYI: As of publication, these collab boxes are still available for 25% off!

This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out our review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)

About this Cairn Collaboration Box

The Box: Cairn + Outside 

The Cost: $149.95+ for the Get Fit box, $279.95 for the Explore More box, $379.95 for the Hit the Water box. Cairn’s classic monthly subscription is $29.95 per month with discounts for 6- and 12-month subscriptions.

DEALAs of the publishing of this post, all three boxes are 25% off on Cairn’s website.

The Products: Outdoor gear, including apparel, nutrition/energy products, skincare, and other essentials to keep you prepared and comfortable on your adventures.

Ships to: The US for free, Canada for $5, and internationally for $10

Cairn + Outside Collaboration Box “Hit the Water” Review

I love all the subscription boxes I review, but none prepare and equip me for real-life scenarios like Cairn does. I am over-the-moon for this collab offering with Outside Magazine, and you’ll soon read why. Cairn‘s monthly subscription box includes a simple, newspaper-like newsletter called the Cairn Scout. In lieu of that literature, this month’s specialty box has the contents printed on the inside flap of the box.


Hydro Flask 22L Soft Cooler Pack – Retail Value $200 

I’m not even sure where to begin in expressing my ultimate thrill over this soft-sided cooler, but I have to start somewhere, so I’ll go broad: I love Hydro Flask in general. So, so very much. I have two of their water bottles and never fail to be impressed with how cold my water stays in there. And, while the amazing insulation technology of their water bottles can be a bit heavy to lug around, this cooler—which also promises to keep your food cold for up to 48 hours—is quite the opposite. It’s super-light, one of my favorite colors of all time, and has some great features like a waterproof zipper to prevent leakage, a dry pocket on top, some meshy side pockets for storage of phones and things, a loop for a carabiner (hi, I’m a professional key-loser, nice to meet you), and comfy padded straps. I haven’t taken this cooler for a spin yet, but I already know I’m going to be impressed with it because I trust the Hydro Flask brand.


In terms of how it relates to swimming, well, that’s an easy one. I can see myself bringing this to the pool with my family to have lunch ready for when the hunger hits. I can also see my husband and I packing this thing up for evenings when we head off to open water swim (OWS), which is about an hour from our house. Of course it can be used for anything that a cooler is needed for, but having the seed planted to bring it for swimming endeavors is useful, as we have definitely just let our dinner sit in our trunk for a couple of hours and driven home from OWS with a car smelling like food.


SealLine Blocker PurgeAir 20L Dry Sack – Retail Value $31.95

A dry bag! This is now the largest one I own and I’m all about its ’80s-inspired print. As we prepared for our first backpacking trip a few years ago, it was recommended by an REI employee that we buy some dry bags, but I couldn’t understand why it was useful at the time because I was content with just bringing a few extra garbage bags to protect my gear if it rained. *Err.* Wrong. Protecting your gear from the inside, and with a product that’s actually designed to do it, is a must. Don’t use a garbage bag, it’s a gross experience.

Again, I’m thinking about this bag for OWS and loving the image. Last week I put my things in the grass near the edge of the water and had the pleasure of wrapping myself in a wet towel—not because the grass was wet, but because the humans exiting the water before me were wet. I’m now beginning to understand how older folks come to be so wise—and humble, haha.


Sunski Sunglasses, Makani, Black Aqua – Retail Value $58 (other colors available here)

Okay, freaking out. Am I the last person on Earth to own a pair of polarized sunglasses? Is it pure magic, or what? They make for the hands-down best experience of existing in the sun that I can conceive of. The clouds look so cool! My phone looks so trippy! I was even able to look back at my baby through a series of mirrors in the car and actually see her! My eyes are very sensitive to light, yet I don’t tend to spend much money on sunglasses, but now I’ve tasted the Kool-Aid and might have to start. That is, unless I can manage to never lose these beauts.

I love that Sunski sunglasses are made from recycled plastic water bottles—score for the planet. I also like that this style’s black frames transition to a sort-of tortoiseshell situation on the bottom so they don’t have such a “heavy” appearance. Finally, they’re totally unisex and now my husband & I are negotiating, like, “you wear them to walk the dog and I’ll wear them out on errands, then you can wear them again after.”


Nomadix Travel Lite Towel, Blue Southwest – Retail Value $29.95

This is the second Nomadix towel I’ve received in a Cairn box. I ended up gifting the last one I got to a friend before I got the chance to use it, so I was glad to have a second chance to try it. I was actually heading straight to swim laps after hitting the studio to shoot images of this box, so I gave it a try immediately. Normally I would have washed it first, but…I didn’t this time.

It may be light, but it’s not small! It’s 54″x30″—I’m not sure what the average beach towel measures but it felt close in size. As for the experience of drying off with it after getting out of the pool? I admit, it will take some getting used to. It’s pretty thin, which makes for a great experience carrying it around but a less cozy post-swim situation. It definitely dried me, which is the point, really. I’ll be curious to see if it absorbs even a little better after washing it. One of its recommended uses is as a yoga towel and I can see it being excellent for that!


All Good SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen, 3 fl oz – Retail Value $19.99

You all have seen my fair, freckly skin—you know I’m not stepping out without sunscreen. I’ve come to accept the bluish glow that zinc sunscreen leaves all over my body, but that was before I knew tinted sunscreen existed! It’s not tinted for makeup-y purposes; more to ease the pure-white intensity that zinc is known for. I applied some onto the top of my feet right away and it was totally neutral when rubbed in. All Good is another brand I know and love, and will always stand by their product. This organic sunscreen is water-resistant, which is great for both swimming and sweating.

Verdict: What an absolute treasure this Cairn + Outside collab box is! At a season of life when swimming is one of my top ways of enjoying the outdoors and getting some exercise, the Hit the Water edition has provided me with an extremely useful selection of items to heighten my water-centric endeavors. All five products in this box are high quality, practical, and stylish. Wins all around.

This one-time box costs $379.95 (currently on sale here for $315.95), which includes free shipping. Cairn promises a $422.84 value from this box, which I imagine was calculated including shipping costs if one was to purchase each product individually. Using the values I found online and listed under each product, everything adds up to $339.89. I’m used to seeing better deals from Cairn‘s monthly subscription box, but I honestly still think all these high-quality products are worth the cost.

To Wrap Up: 

Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes, this one-time purchase box is still available on Cairn‘s site!

Value Breakdown: This one-time box costs $379.95 (currently on sale here for $315.95) + free US shipping, and I calculated that it contained $339.89 worth of product. That breaks down to approximately $67.98 per item.

Check out all of our Cairn reviews, and learn more about our readers’ favorite fitness boxes.

Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!

What do you think of the Cairn + Outside collab? Have you purchased one? Which did you choose?

"Every month, you’ll receive a box of products that cater to an outdoor lifestyle. Cairn works hard to curate products that recreational enthusiasts will love. Sample categories that may be included in box: Gear, Apparel, Food/Energy, Skincare, Emergency/Medical"
Christen Russo
Christen Russo
Christen is a smile collector, outdoors enthusiast, and appreciator of soggy French fries. Her favorite subscriptions involve eco-friendly products and clothes, nature supplies, stationery, and coffee. She can be easily won over with a good sheet of stickers.

Christen Russo
Christen Russo
Christen is a smile collector, outdoors enthusiast, and appreciator of soggy French fries. Her favorite subscriptions involve eco-friendly products and clothes, nature supplies, stationery, and coffee. She can be easily won over with a good sheet of stickers.
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I would like to ask the reviewer if she had actually paid almost 400.00 of her own money and received this box would she still be jumping up and down excited?


What everyone forgets in these reviews is the women get these subscription boxes FOR FREE! If they had to actually pay for them, I don’t think 99% of the reviews would include the word “Love” 45x on average in the reviews. I really wish we could get honest reviews. Not every single item is a hit. Come on! 😏🤨🤯


I agree. This review is really laughable. You’re paying more than the items are worth but what a great box. Really?


I agree with most everyone else. I’m shocked that the word “value” has any place here. Is this a great selection of items? A thoughtful and practical curation? Absolutely. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that you’d spend the other $40 or so on shipping costs, even if you ordered each item separately because at least one or two items, if not more, would likely ship for free. I enjoy most everyone’s reviews, especially the ones that are very personal, like having a nice conversation with us where we get to know you. And of course personal opinions and preferences are naturally going to enter into the reviews. It’s understandable to express excitement and total personal satisfaction with a particular subscription box, but I just don’t feel like it’s even a little objective to downplay the inflated cost so much. To me this is far less like a subscription box, which should always cost significantly or at the very least somewhat less than purchasing the contents separately, and more like a bespoke gift basket you’d order for someone with the understanding you’re paying more for the items because you’re getting the service of someone combining all the items together for you. Just my opinion. Like I said, it was still an enjoyable review.


Well said! I enjoyed the review also- with cairn being such a huge brand, and entering into the sub box space…I’m always expecting something similar to Avenue A (Adidas)….I still long for….


I’m sorry but these boxes are not worth it! For the price point, they should at least be pre-Sale items not available to the public yet.
I went to the last outdoor retailer show, and the free swag was better than this!!


Wow, great value if it was free… or else $99 tops. To ask for close to $400 is ridiculous. That cooler color makes it a bargain bin / clearance item.


I don’t see how you can possibly call this a fair value when it doesn’t even meet the cost, let alone the promised value.


Oh my word I would love this box but whoa that price tag…..ouch never gonna happen!


Great review. I LOVE this box but don’t think I can justify it even at the sale price. I am a little surprised they are selling the box (originally) for MORE than it would cost to purchase them yourself!


Totally agree, the cost is eye popping. If you got all these from REI where most people are members you would even get another 10% back in rewards. The fact that the cost of the box is over the value is horrible, and if you dont like even one item the value goes even lower.


BG Agreed! Cool contents but that’s a terrible value. If you order the items yourself, and can likely get multiple at one store, then you can pick your own colors and styles! Odd choice to not include a few more items.

Oh and Christen, I am very prone to losing and breaking sunglasses… but had eye surgery several years ago so polarized is a MUST! Check Bass Pro, REI, Dicks, and other outdoor stores. They usually have much cheaper polarized options ($50 and under – if they aren’t with the other sunglasses, check the fishing section!) that then go on sale for $25 or less. I got a great polarized pair in early July from REI for $25. I wore them boating multiple times, to a 7 day beach trip (in the ocean, on the sand), fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, camping, and dozens of other times since then. They’re great and the best part is I am not paranoid about them getting scratched up or broken… I can protect my eyes during these outdoor activities AND when they inevitably do get lost or broken or beat up, I can throw them out and buy new.

Christen Russo

Good lookin’ out on where to find polarized sunglasses, Chelsea! I should look for some at REI garage sales, too—sometimes they sell items that folks have returned just because they decided they don’t like them, not because there’s been a malfunction. Which is insane.

One thing I forgot to note in the review, though, is that the Cairn + Outside box does provide the option to select your own colors for the cooler, towel, and sunglasses. There aren’t as many options as if you were to buy them yourself, but there are 2-3 choices for each item I just mentioned!

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Our reviewers research, test, and recommend the best subscriptions and products independently; click to learn more about our editorial guidelines. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.