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.

Aquaclip Gear Review

We researched long and hard to find the perfect solution for carrying a water bottle on the trail. While we have water bladder systems, we wanted to be able to carry electrolyte drinks as well. There are many pouches and straps available, but all were rather expensive and seemed limited by size and accessibility. Arbor discovered the Aquaclip and we ordered a few to try.

They ended up being a perfect solution. They are inexpensive at $3 each and the simplicity of the design allowed us to hang them in a variety of places on our packs. This ended up being especially important as we decided to carry multiple water bottles. They are also super light at .38 ounces, which is important for anyone trying to keep pack weight low. (something we need to get better at!) Getting to the bottle on the move is a breeze and just as easy to reattach without breaking ones stride.

The only downside is how easy they are to leave behind. Because they don’t attach permanently to a pack, like a velcro pouch would, its not hard to set a bottle down and forget to bring it along when you get up and leave. Arbor lost three bottles with Aquaclips on the River to River Trail this way. 😉

All in all, I highly recommend the Aquaclip to backpackers and day hikers alike.

We are Hammock Campers

Several years ago I injured my shoulder and arthritis moved in and made itself comfortable there. Afterward, sleeping on the ground became a debilitating prospect. I began looking into alternatives for camping and was fortunate enough to stumble upon the Hammock Forums where I learned all about the wonders of hammock camping.

I started with the Hennessy Explorer Ultralite Asym Zip and we’ve since added a Warbonnet Blackbird single 1.7 and a Warbonnet XLC. They are all wonderfully comfortable, and since they have an asymmetrical design, you can sleep on your side with a flat lay. The integrated bugnets help keep mosquitoes and other critters out of your sleep space, and are great for beginners who worry about falling out of the hammock at night.

We’ve made some adjustments to the standard setup since we started. Ubadion and I are now using Dutchware Whoopie Hook Suspension Kits to hang the hammocks, while Arbor sticks with buckles. These make setup fast and simple, and allow for length adjustments to be a breeze.

To keep the rain out, we use tarps designed for hammocks. Hennessy’s system includes a tarp, but it’s really very small and doesn’t provide enough coverage IMO. We switched to a MacCat Deluxe Tarp and got a Zpacks Cuben Fiber Standard Hammock Tarp for the XLC. Both tarps were found on the very wonderful Gear Trade site that sells used and discontinued equipment. Hammock accessories can become extremely expensive, so being able to find good deals is a blessing.

One of the distinct disadvantages of a hammock is the challenge of staying warm. You can’t just take a sleeping bag in with you. Primarily because any loft in a bag quickly gets compressed under your weight and is rendered ineffective, but also being cocooned in a bag while in a hammock is very confining! The solution is underquilts, which act like the underside of a sleeping bag but is attached to the outside of your hammock. I am a very very cold sleeper, so I will be taking a Jacks R Better Mt Washington 3 20 degree underquilt, even though temps will only get into the 60s at night. I also have the amazing Sierra Sniveller topquilt which has a velcro hole in the middle so I can use it like a sarape if the mornings are chilly! Ubadion will be sporting an Enlightened Equipment Revolt 800 40 degree underquilt and a fleece blanket, while Arbor will keep warm with my DIY JC Penny puffer jacket monstrosity underquilt and Enlightened Equipment Enigma 800 50 degree topquilt.

Whew! That’s a lot of technical jargon, which gives you a clue about the rabbit hole hammock camping can become. It’s a community that has taken on a life of its own and become a vibrant subculture full of innovation and camaraderie. I’m so glad I found them! Without their help this trip, and all of our outdoor adventures to come, would have been nothing more than wishful thinking.

Trail Running Shoes

We have been swayed by current conventional trail wisdom and ditched hiking boots for lighter and breathable trail running shoes. Avoiding the heavy material and any gortex means that wet shoes will dry out faster, and less weight on ones feet means less weight to haul overall. These are both great things. I’ve also learned that the idea that one gets extra ankle support from boots is really a myth, which was a concern of mine since I tend to pronate my feet a considerable amount.

Still, to give our beefed up sneakers some added stability, we’re adding Superfeet insoles to help support all the extra weight of our packs. I’ve been using them during all of our training hikes and found them far more comfortable than I expected. Even going packless on long hikes without them fatigues my feet in a surprising way, and I’m considering looking at something for daily use in the long term.

We’re also using the ever fabulous Dirty Girl Gaiters to help keep debris out of our shoes. Arbor thought this design was particularly amusing. Quick tip – if you think of picking up some gaiters of your own, make sure to measure the circumference of your ankle before ordering. Her default sizes must be for the skinniest of people, because all three of us required the custom sizing! So glad we checked because they fit comfortably and we all love our crazy gaiter designs.

Hammock Hanging

Hammock setup without the tarp

We are at the very beginnings of building up our backpacking gear. There is just so much you need to really get out there for any length of time. Fortunately, we do have some foundational pieces, like my Explorer Ultralite Asym Zip Hennessy Hammock. We want to get a Warbonnet Blackbird 1.7 as well so we both can hang.

I have been using sleeping pads for bottom insulation, but its pretty miserable in the middle of the night as it shifts and leaves cold spots. I bought a bunch of the JC Penny Down Puffer Jackets on clearance for $14 each, with the intention of DIYing a couple of underquilts.

They’ve been sitting untouched for months, but now I’m going to have to kick it into gear because we intend to join a group kayaking trip and camp the night before.