Gear Review: Cairn Subscription Box

Product: Cairn Subscription Boxes
Normal Cost: $21.67 to $25.00 per box monthly, depending on subscription
Where we got it: Ordered at with code, received through US Post
Our Cost: $0.00 per box, one for each of us
Conclusion: Was fun to try, but ultimately not for us

One of the benefits of being a part of Epic Social Adventures and Hell Hike & Raft was getting to test out all kinds of new gear. One of the first items we received was a Cairn subscription box.

I am a big fan of subscription boxes in general. I have sampled several beauty boxes, like Ipsy, and Thom and I are ardent fans of Plated, that delivers pre-portioned ingredients and recipes for dinner. Subscription boxes are an amazing way to discover new things and sample the best of whats out there.

Cairn is no different. Our boxes contained several goodies that included new snacks (ooh Bricks Grass Fed Beef & Bacon Bar) and gadgets (Bruton Pulse looks like it will be incredibly helpful on our short weekly hikes) that I am sure we will put to good use. It is a wonderful way to treat yourself for $25 or less.

I don’t think its a good fit for us, however. I was a beauty box subscriber for 3 years, but largely because I was clueless about makeup. I learned all kinds of stuff from my boxes and have gone on to use products that I discovered as samples. We love Plated because we’re empty nesters, and enjoy restaurant quality recipes without any of the hassle. We aren’t, however, out of touch with the hiking scene. We have a lot of our essential gear, and are *very* picky about what we buy.

Now that our kids have moved out of the house, we’re purging all kinds of stuff we no longer need. I am uninclined to accumulate small odds and ends that we don’t have a purpose for. If there were an outdoor box made up purely of hiking snack items, I would be more likely to consider an ongoing subscription. We’re always on the lookout for quality snacks and it is such a diverse market that it’s hard to know what is available. We certainly aren’t getting the full range of options at our local grocery store.

Links: Company: Cairn Outdoors LLC
How we got it: We applied for the Epic Social Adventures (ESA) trip called Hell Hike and Raft 2015 and became part of the crew. ESA leaders, Scott and Adam, found sponsors, including Cairn, to provide products for the crew to try and review. We each received one box.

Hell Hike & Raft Weekly Challenge 4

I chose this week’s challenge and let the Hell Hike and Raft team know what to do:

Pick any kind of squats or lunges to do at least 3 days this week; do at least two sets of those each chosen day. Report what days, the exercise you chose and any details.

I have been experiencing some joint pain recently, so wanted to find exercises that would help prepare for the trip without taking me out of the running. I found two great pages full of moving GIFs that show nearly every option for squats and lunges out there:
Encyclopedia Of Squats
30 Variations Of Lunges

Specifically, I’ve had some “lateral knee pain” which occurs in tendons on the outer-edges of the back side of his knee joints; so, I researched the best exercises for that:

1) Side-lunges (above) are easier on the knee. This page has a good explanation of proper form for side lunges.

2) When doing regular squats (above), this guy’s video demonstrated how to reduce knee load while still getting a deep squat by keeping knees from going forward and pushing your butt back instead.

This page suggested half squats to ease-up on knee pressure from squats, but also said lunges (below) are better for knees.

3) This video also showed how using back lunges can be better on your knees as well.

– Arbor –

Pick out a piece of gear to test or use out in “field conditions” … i.e. try using your waterproof phone case in the rain or start breaking in a new pair of shoes or boots on a walk.

I was lucky enough to return the shoes that had torn on the River to River trail to REI, and then turned around and replaced them with the same shoes, but in the newer model. This year’s Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes are even purple! You might not be able to tell from my photos, but my hair is dyed purple and ever since, my wardrobe and accessories have evolved to match. This felt like kismet.

I was thrilled to get to try them out for our frog monitoring excursion. It reemphasized that they really are the perfect shoes for me. They fit like a glove and there were no hot spots to be found – which is usually what happens to me before I break a shoe in. I just love them!


Check out our sponsor, Rocky S2V! They create quality Outdoor, Work, Western, Duty and Military footwear as well as Outdoor and Work apparel and accessories. Scott got to test out a pair of their shoes and brought them to our Shawnee trip. They were seriously cool with an integrated waterproof gaiter that I knew would be great on our wet trails and I was ultra jealous. They make some really neat and innovative stuff and I can hardly wait to see what we get to test on this trip.

Hell Hike & Raft Wants You

Believe it or not, there is still time to apply to Hell Hike & Raft 2015! I would *love* for you to join us on this amazing trip of a lifetime. Getting the chance to challenge ourselves in beautiful surroundings and share camaraderie is a real blessing. Our group is already having fun and getting to know one another and I just know it’s we’re going to have a blast out there. The only thing that would make it even better is YOU.

Sign up today! They are taking applicants on a rolling basis now, so don’t wait too long to decide.

Application link –>

Hell Hike & Raft Weekly Challenge 3

Rene was our hostess (with the mostest) this week! She challenged us to:

Start getting an idea of what we want our packs to weigh and start weighing stuff!
The timing couldn’t have been better as we were going on a short backpacking trip with the Corn Desert folk. We’ve never really backpacked during shoulder season before, so our awesome packing plan from last summer was thrown off-kilter. I bought a new five degree topquilt for the occasion, the high sierra sniveller with overstuff. While it’s wonderful and lightweight, it sure does take up a ton of volume even when its compressed. And while we didn’t have a weeks worth of food and we dumped a lot of the first aid stuff we brought last time, we did have heavier clothing and jackets.

Anyway, the result of the exercise was that with food and water Arbor’s pack weighed 40ish pounds and mine weighed 35. Both are still way too heavy, and it’s going to be the ultimate challenge to bring that number down a lot further before we’re really comfortable on the trail. (ugh)

Start parking at the back of all parking lots, and walk to destinations, except where safety would be compromised!

This was a lot of fun to do, especially while making hyperlapse videos! In this video, we walked from Arbor’s work parking lot under our local performing arts center, up the stairs, through the center, across the street and into his office building. (which is also where we climb stairs) Pretty cool.

Let me take the time to introduce a couple of our fellow crew members for this trip. Meet Rozzanne Cassados. She’s a big city girl who loves the outdoors, a mom of amazing kids and hails from Arizona. Shes into hiking, backpacking, camping, boating, fitness, travel and photography. Her blog Mountain Matron is pretty great, and you should check it out.

Rene Evans is an energetic woman, a mom and a terrific dog lover. She’s into hiking, bicycling, fitness and dog training – and will bring her dogs along whenever she can. Head on over to her blog, Biking and Hiking with Hendrix to see all the great stuff she has to share.

Hell Hike & Raft Weekly Challenge 2

This week we got to host the weekly challenge for our group!

Climb at least 5 flights of stairs
Living in central Illinois as we do, training for mountains presents a number of challenges, given the flat landscape found all around us. So one of the most accessible ways to build important muscles is to climb stairs. I also love that it’s free. We’ve been tackling stairs twice a week for a couple of months now and this week boasted 24 flights up and down.

We love the staircase at Arbor’s office building. It has nice views of the outside, stays cool in the winter (but not too cold), and its super convenient. I’ve begun taking the stairs two at a time, which does a great job of using different muscle groups. I’ve been managing about half of the stairs that way and think I’m getting a great workout.

Do something to organize gear. Inventory what you have, do some spring cleaning, set up a better storage system, etc.
We’ve been really bad about our gear organization lately. We have a series of storage buckets that we toss everything into, and this past year we’ve just rummaged and dumped stuff in and out of them. What a mess. So we began the frightful process of inventorying all of our equipment and discovered that we were missing a few key pieces. Who knows where they ended up, but it means we got the chance to order them in time for our first backpacking trip of the season.

When I found out that Probar was one of our sponsors, I nearly peed my pants. I love Probars!! We tried so many different types of bars before leaving on our River to River Trail trip, and selected a few that we liked. All of that changed for me once we were actually hiking. My appetite really diminished out there, and making myself eat was important. The only thing I could count on was our homemade dehydrated food, beef jerky and Probars.

I just never got sick of those meal bars. They weren’t overpowering in flavor, had real food in them (like nuts, seeds and dried fruit) and they were wonderfully filling. I never felt like I was eating someones chemistry experiment – I felt like I was eating wholesome stuff and my body never rejected the prospect. I did reject cookies, peanut m&ms, and so much more. Probar to the rescue! So to tell you that I’m incredibly excited to see all the greatness they offer in their other lines is an understatement. Bring it on!

Hell Hike & Raft Weekly Challenge

Our small band of Hell Hike & Raft participants have been getting to know one another. We’ve got a seriously terrific group of hikers and I am growing eager to meet them all in person. Pablo suggested we set up weekly challenges to help us get ready for the adventure ahead and already it has been terrific fun. This past week’s challenges included:

Hike a local trail of at least 3 miles total
We hiked 3.5 miles on Wednesday with our Hopeful Hikers at Homer Lake, and then another 11 miles on the challenging Forest Glen backpacking loop. Good times all around!

Go to your local outdoor store of preference (REI for me) and ask/look for hiking shoes/boots
Champaign Surplus is a local favorite, so we stopped by to look at shoes. I got a replacement for my torn trail runners from REI, so I will be wearing those in Idaho. Arbor isn’t sure what he wants to do yet and asked the fabulous Patrick all about their hiking selection. Unfortunately, so many hiking shoes these days involve Gortex. While it’s a terrific component for day hiking, its a bad idea for multi-day outings. Once treated shoes get wet, they just don’t dry out – so having footwear with great ventilation is really important. Ultimately, we didn’t get any shoes, but I did manage to score an excellent shirt. (on sale!)

I also want to take a moment to introduce one of our sponsors, who is becoming an important part of the Hell Hike & Raft family. Teton Sports is an outdoor gear company dedicated to making durable products that won’t kill the pocketbook. They sell backpacks, sleeping bags, cots, tents and more. Scott, our intrepid leader, owns a Teton tent and brings it along to meetups, so I’ve had the chance to see it up close. Knowing firsthand how cool the tent is, I am really excited to see what we will be testing on this trip.

In addition to making awesome equipment, Teton Sports also hosts the weekly Twitter #Hikerchat! For an hour every Friday at 11:00 Central, a fast flying conversation begins while using the #hikerchat hashtag. There is typically a theme and a schedule of questions that the hosts toss out for everyone to answer. If you have a Twitter account I encourage you to join in. It’s a lot of fun, a terrific way to meet other enthusiasts, and a chance to share your own outdoor stories and goals.

Hell Hike & Raft still has spots available! Apply today and join us on this amazing adventure.

ESA’s Intrepid Leadership is Scott’s blog. is Adam’s blog.

We wanted to give you all a chance to know both Adam and Scott a little bit better, as they’ll be mentioned frequently throughout the coming months … being the masterminds behind Epic Social Adventures and all. They will not, however, be joining us on this trip – as they went on last year’s Hell Hike & Raft expedition, which was the first ever ESA outing. We hope to adventure somewhere with Adam in the coming years. We have camped and hiked with Scott many times before and expect lots of opportunities to do so in the future.

Check out their profiles on the 2014 Hell Hike & Raft participants page (click on their photos), and be sure to look over their blogs; they are pretty cool.