I’ve never hunted anything in my life (other than the occasional rare IPA) and I can’t grow anything except wild onions, and those only pop up outside of my garden beds in my grass. And yet, I really love the concept of hunting and gathering. Like, at the grocery store, or when I’m shopping for the right backpack. I savor the opportunity to scour online reviews, hit several different retail stores and really search for the right pack to hold my laptop/sneakers/NERF guns/beer. Same goes for running shoes or climbing pants or whatever. The hunter/gatherer process of buying gear is satisfying in the same way I imagine hunting for bison back in the day was satisfying. So, I’m philosophically opposed to the recent boom of subscription boxes, where curated boxes of food, clothing, booze or gear show up on your doorstep every month. No shopping, no research, it’s just there on your doorstep. No hunting or gathering. Just using.
CAIRN dominates the subscription box space in the outdoor world, sending boxes of curated gear out to subscribers on the reg. When I first heard about CAIRN a few years ago, I thought, “that’s stupid. I’ll just continue my hunter/gatherer ways just like my forefathers and their forefathers before them.”
What I didn’t factor into my original assessment though, is that getting fresh gear delivered to your doorstep is freaking awesome. It’s the same kind of awesome that you felt as a kid on Christmas opening a package and seeing the latest Transformer in its shiny plastic casing beneath the red tissue paper. That’s what CAIRN is like. It’s like Christmas, every month.
Here’s how it works: You create a user profile, telling CAIRN what your favorite activities are, the clothes you like, your sizes, what you like to eat and drink…and CAIRN customizes a box of goods, using gear from their partners (Arc’teryx, Biolite, Black Diamond, Gerber, among others), that they send to your doorstep. You usually get a handful of items, a mix of apparel, gear, food and emergency supplies every month. The regular monthly service costs about $30 and the gear in the box usually retails for about $50. Good deal.
Then you’ve got CAIRN Obsidian, which is like the platinum level of the subscription box. So, imagine it’s Christmas morning and your rich uncle shows up out of the blue with some really good loot. Obsidian comes quarterly, and is more expensive ($250 a quarter as opposed to $30 a month) but the gear inside is chosen by a different professional athlete and is legit, high-end stuff that’s well worth the subscription price. You get four boxes a year, each with gear designed for the months ahead.
The Fall Obsidian box, which released today, was curated by adventure photographer Andy Best, and consists of a mix of gear that he used on a recent shooting trip to Canada. I got a preview of the box, and it’s pretty stellar. You get a handful of new Clif Bar flavors (that my kids devoured in 4.2 minutes), a cool flexible, travel pouch from Matador, and the new Fineline rain jacket from Black Diamond that’s totally waterproof but also stretchy and breathable as hell. You also get a sweet hardback book of epic hikes from The Lonely Planet, and the Big Kit duffel from Osprey, which is 75 Liters of awesomeness. The massive travel bag has divided sections for clothing and different gear, a dedicated spot for your helmet, an expandable pouch for a massive water bottle, and a ton of different handles and straps so you can carry it as a duffel or pack. It’s totally versatile and it makes me want to plan a trip just so I have an excuse to use the damn thing.
And therein lies the true beauty of CAIRN; you spend less time hunting and gathering your gear, that you have more time to actually use that gear. Consider me hooked.