We humans may be creatures of habit, but we also love surprises, and new gear. Which is why Cairn, the outdoor gear subscription company founded in 2014 by Rob Little and Jared Peterson, is so brilliant. “The box supports adventure,” says Peterson. “The items inside and the experiences they lend themselves to inspire our subscribers to head out for a day on the water, snow, trail, or even just a day with the dog.” But experiences and cool new gear alone don’t explain why the Bend, Oregon–based service has been resonating with everyone from car-camping families to serious gearheads. Here are seven ways how becoming a Cairn subscriber will make you a more engaged, curious, and informed adventurer.
#1: You get the latest stuff.
Many box brands are in the liquidation business, meaning the items in the box were discontinued or on closeout. Cairn boxes, however, include only new-to-market gear, frequently before it's available anywhere else.
#2: And a lot of bang for your buck.
Cairn’s gear curators realize that not every item will resonate with you—perhaps you already own a dozen titanium sporks—so they make sure to pack in the value. A $29 box typically holds $50 worth of gear. “It’s not just a business transaction,” says Peterson. “It’s a present.”
#3: You get to help test new products.
Early on, the Cairn crew recognized that consumers want to interact with companies they feel good about supporting. So Cairn works with select partners like LuminAID, makers of lightweight, waterproof solar-powered lights, sending subscribers monthly surveys on the new releases to encourage them to record their feedback and suggestions from their field testing. Cairn distills that information for the manufacturers, who in turn improve and tailor their offerings, closing the loop between product development and user testing. When LuminAID released their third version of their portable solar lantern, they even said “Cairn subscribers built this product.” The new product was then featured in a Cairn Collection so that subscribers could enjoy the impact of their feedback.
#4: It encourages you to try new things.
A new navigation tool might lead to planning your first off-trail backpacking trip, or a running sock might get you training for your first trail race. With gear and supporting information from Cairn, says Little, “you’ve helped remove the barrier to entry. People who might not otherwise can now get out and do the adventure. It helps you get over that intimidation.”
#5: You can give back as you gear up.
This past March, Cairn launched a gear-recycling program and began sending empty bags to subscribers. To do it, the company teamed up with The Gear Fix—also based in Bend—which repairs blown zippers, resoles boots, and stitches torn ripstop before selling items on consignment. Not only does the program keep your damaged gear out of landfills, but a portion of the proceeds from each item sold gets matched by The Gear Fix and Cairn and is then donated to The Conservation Alliance. It’s called the Gear Up, Give Back™ program, and anyone, subscriber or otherwise, can request a bag from Cairn. All you have to do is bag up your gently used gear and drop it off at the nearest UPS location.
#6: You can tailor your experience.
Say you’re a family of mountain bikers and trail runners who like to car camp. Fill out your profile accordingly and a few times a year you’ll see an uptick in the mountain-biking, trail-running, and car-camping items sent to you. The boxes—though full of surprises—reflect who you are and what you do.
#7: You can go bigger.
The original subscription box is comprised of apparel, gear, snacks, skincare products, and emergency items like first-aid kits and navigation tools. Some are essential for survival, some are whimsical, but all are sure to get you excited for the next adventure. If you want bigger-ticket items, the Obsidian box runs $249.95 (packing in $300-plus in value), and arrives every three months with curated products like parkas, packs, cookware, and complete meals.
Cairn is a Bend, Oregon, based startup working to inspire and equip outdoor enthusiasts with curated, innovative products related to the outdoor activities they love. Additionally, Cairn provides demographic and product review data to content suppliers, helping them understand the marketplace.