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Cairn “Ultimate Outsider” Subscription Box Review + Coupon – March 2021

Cairn is a monthly subscription box that sends members outdoor, adventure, and fitness gear. Cairn’s goal is to enrich your outdoor adventures by connecting you with best-in-class products. It was chosen as one of our favorite subscription boxes for men but is suited to adventurers of all genders.

In addition to the monthly subscription, Cairn also offers a premium quarterly box, Cairn Obsidian; UnStacked by Cairn, a unique gear auction site in which prices drop over time; and Kitted, a curated gear “styling” service. 

Cairn also has a give-back program called Gear Up, Give Back, where outdoor enthusiasts can send in their retired gear and Gear Fix will repair it and sell it in their shop. The net proceeds are then matched by Cairn and Gear Fix and donated to Outdoors For All, an organization working to enrich the quality of life of children and adults with disabilities through the outdoors.

This is a review of the $29.95 monthly subscription.

FYI – COVID-19 Update, from Cairn: 

Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on distribution centers, Monthly Cairn Subscribers, as well as Monthly Cairn Gift recipients that are beyond their first month of the gift term, may experience delays of up to two weeks on their Monthly Cairn delivery. Cairn products that are not experiencing shipping delays:

  • Initial Cairn Gift deliveries (the first month of the gift term)
  • Cairn Apparel
  • UnStacked orders
  • Obsidian Subscriptions

If you have questions about your order, please email [email protected]

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 Cairn

The Subscription Box: Cairn

The Cost: $29.95 per month with discounts for 6- and 12-month subscriptions.

COUPON: Limited Time Only! Use code MSA20 to save 20% off your first box when you sign up for a 6 or 12-month subscription! .

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

Ships to: The U.S. for free, Canada for $5.00, and internationally for $10.00.

Cairn March 2021 “Ultimate Outsider” Review

It’s finally starting to feel like spring here in Maine, and I’ve been anxious to receive my March Cairn box to see what kind of outdoor activities it might inspire with the arrival of more tolerable temperatures. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of road running and going on beach walks while I wait anxiously for mud season to subside and friendlier hiking and trail running weather to make its appearance.

This month’s box was the first I received that would be specifically geared towards the activity preferences I set in my profile after taking over the box from Christen last month. So I was doubly excited to receive it to discover what they chose for me. Ready to dive in? Let’s see what arrived this month…


As always, the first thing out of the box is our Cairn Scout. This newspaper-style info sheet arrives with (almost) every box and provides details about what came in your box that month, shares info about upgrades, showcases a community member, and more. The theme for March is “Ultimate Outsider” and includes items that support building your gear kit.


Point6 37.5 Hiking Essential Light Crew Sock – Retail value $24.95

A good pair of hiking socks is always welcome here. I wear them for their intended function but also, as a fan of their support and cushion, I love wearing hiking socks with my Dr. Martens and other boots year-round. They’re just more comfortable, and I love a basic black pair. This pair from Point6 is made in the U.S. in Steamboat Springs, CO, and crafted from a blend of wool, nylon, and spandex. They’re cushy and supportive, with instep support and cushion on the toes and heels and a well-fitting leg, while also being lightweight and friendly for warmer springtime hikes. That said, these aren’t the softest socks I’ve ever worn – they’re actually a little scratchy. I can see myself wearing these more with my Docs and expect I’d reach for a pair of softer socks for hiking and other outdoor activities.


Aquamira Water Treatment – Retail Value $14.99

This water treatment uses chlorine dioxide to kill bacteria and improve the taste of stored potable water. Unlike some other water treatments (like iodine), Aquamira won’t discolor your water and can actually improve the taste. According to Aquamira’s website, “Our EPA registered chlorine dioxide formula has consistently proven to be effective in clear, muddy, warm and cold water.” This kit contains everything you need to treat up to 30 gallons of water and boasts a 4-year shelf life from the date of manufacturing.

This was an interesting item to receive and I’ll admit, it made me question whether Cairn truly curates boxes based on the activity preferences you set when you sign up. This feels like an item that would be more suited to backcountry adventures, backpacking, and camping – none of which are activities I participate in often (I love hiking, etc. but have never had issues with my water supply getting low). At first, I was brainstorming who I could gift this to in my family and friend group, but then I realized that this water treatment would also be well-suited to travel, so I think I’ll keep it around for a while to see if an opportunity presents itself.


Picky Bars Balanced Energy Bar in Mint Condition – Retail value $2.75 (find buying options here)

The Cairn Scout newspaper we received this month shares that Picky Bars are created in the same city as Cairn – Bend, OR – so it’s cool to see Cairn supporting other local businesses. These bars are vegan, gluten-free, and balanced to support high-intensity athletic activity. Ingredients include dates, almonds, tapioca syrup, chocolate chips, rice protein, and peppermint oil (among others – the ingredients list is delightfully short and easy to read). Taste-wise, these pack a punch of peppermint – they’re strong! The chocolaty-peppermint flavor is pleasant, and I like the texture – it’s soft but not sticky (imagine an RX bar that doesn’t stick in your teeth) – but this is a small bar for the number of calories you’re consuming (200 calories in a 1.6 oz. bar). It’s meant for higher-intensity activity when your body needs a fast hit of calories and sugar to maintain energy levels, and I personally rarely find myself in a situation where I can’t just eat a banana and a handful of almonds to achieve the same effect (I actually keep this combo in my car to eat after long trail runs). Personal banana preferences aside, I will say the small size of this bar could be convenient for keeping in a running vest or hip pouch as an emergency snack if you get hangry on the trail.


Verdict: I’ll be honest, this month’s Cairn delivery fell a little flat for me and left me wondering whether Cairn truly curates their boxes based on the activity preferences you set when you sign up (my preferences emphasized day-hiking, running, surfing, and SUP). I’ll never turn down a great pair of socks, and the pair by Point6 this month will be handy for springtime hikes and pairing with the boots I wear almost daily, but they’re also not the softest and wouldn’t be my first choice out of the sock pile. The water treatment product would be a fantastic addition to a backpacker’s or backcountry junkie’s gear kit – but I am neither of those things. I’ll be keeping it on hand for travel, though. The Picky Bar was tasty, and it would be great for anyone who is either participating in high-intensity activities that require regular, easy-to-digest fuel, or someone who doesn’t want to bother with toting around fruit, nuts, etc. to keep their energy levels up. I could see myself stashing a small bar like this in my trail running vest or keeping one in my hiking backpack as a “just in case” snack, though.

While I appreciate the practicality and tight curation of Cairn’s boxes, I do also hope to receive items that are, I don’t know… a little more thrilling than what this particular box delivered. When I think of the “Ultimate Outsider,” these items wouldn’t be the first that came to mind. What do you think? Did you receive the same box or was yours different? Any plans on where you’ll use the water treatment? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

To Wrap Up: 

Can you still get this box if you sign up today? March boxes are still shipping at the time of writing, however, based on their subscription model, your items may vary based on your survey responses and boxes you have received in the past. 

COUPON: Limited Time Only! Use code MSA20 to save 20% off your first box when you sign up for a 6 or 12-month subscription! .

Value Breakdown: This box costs $29.95 + free U.S. shipping, and I calculated that it contained about $42.69 worth of goods. That comes down to a value of approximately $14.23 per item, which is about on-par with this box month-to-month.

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 Cairn this month? Did you receive any of the same items as me?

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Written by Julie O’Boyle-Sharp

Julie O’Boyle-Sharp

As a copywriter and editor, Julie crafts reviews and articles for MSA. Her favorite subscription boxes are any that introduce her to new products in the clean beauty, sustainable style, and outdoor adventure realms. A self-described “outdoor cat”, Julie enjoys taking advantage of everything her home state of Maine has to offer and spends her free time hiking, surfing, snowboarding, trail running, and doing volunteer trail maintenance. When she’s not penning reviews or spending time outdoors, Julie can be found snuggling with her two cats and working on her blog, By Julie Sharp, which celebrates secondhand style, sustainability, and adventure.

Posted in Subscription Box Reviews| Tags: cairn | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. A miss for me as well. I think I at least four water treatments from Cairn, and this is the second pair of the scratchy socks…😢

    • Glad I’m not alone, Flo. I love how useful the socks are – but I’d love to see something more unique.

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