What's in the Box? January Highlight Reel

Are you an endurance athlete? A camper looking to hone your survival skills? An organizing fiend hoping to find better ways to hang your gear? A lover of Paleo, organic, raw, food-friendly snacks? In this month’s Cairn box, you’ll find everything you need to stay organized, satisfy your snacking needs, learn how to deal with adverse conditions outdoors and more.

Mountaineers Books: Don’t Freeze Out There Deck

A deck of cards is an invaluable addition to just about any gear collection for just about any trip. It’s lightweight, doesn’t take up much space and the possibilities are endless when it comes to the games you can play. But what if your deck of cards also helped you learn valuable, potentially life-saving skills, for your outdoor adventures?

Mountaineers Books created a handful (pun intended) of decks of cards designed to help you have fun when you’re stuck in the tent all while learning how to stay safer outdoors. (The company publishes Freedom of the Hills, the mountaineering bible, so you know the tips on the cards are legitimate.) The Don’t Freeze Out There! version came to me in this month’s Cairn box, and as soon as I saw it, my first thought was, “I should’ve gotten this before our winter camping trip in Vermont.”

Each card covers essential tips and skills for outdoor survival in cold weather and each suit has a different theme. All cards in the suit of hearts cover staying warm with shelters and gear or apparel while clubs will teach you how to deal with and prevent cold-related injuries and illnesses. Spades cover avalanche safety and survival, and to complete the set, diamonds have tips for snow travel and different types of hazards. If winter survival skills aren’t something you’ll need, Mountaineers Books also makes Don’t Die Out There!, Don’t Drown Out There!, and Freedom of the Hills Decks.

Simple Squares Organic Snack Bars

The folks at Simplified Foods believe that great-tasting snacks don’t have to be complicated. The company creates healthy snacks that are simple, but still taste great. Simple Squares come in eight different flavors, including more savory options like sage and rosemary as well as sweeter options like coconut and cinna-clove. Each square contains five organic ingredients, none of which are harmful syrups, fillers or preservatives.

I gave the coconut Simple Square a try this month and it reminded me of a coconut macaroon, but better. The five-bite Paleo, raw food friendly bar was soft, chewy, sweet and, in general, delicious. I’m more a fan of savory, salty snacks and definitely plan on trying the sage or rosemary squares. But if you have a sweet tooth and enjoy coconut, you’ll love the coconut Simple Square.

VFuel Endurance Gel

To the folks at VFuel, creating an endurance gel that maximizes taste, quality and performance is paramount. The company was founded by ultra-runners, and since 2011, the team has been fine-tuning a formula to help endurance athletes stay fueled during races like the Leadville 100. They didn’t believe any existing energy gel truly tasted as great, was as well made, or worked as well as endurance gels could.

VFuel contains ingredients like MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil), taurine (an amino acid), and others that help remove waste products like ammonia from the body. Instead of fructose or syrup, VFuel’s sweetness comes from dextrose, which the company notes is easier to digest. Each ingredient has a clear purpose - the gel isn’t just sugar, salt, caffeine and fillers. It has the texture of runny jam, as most gels I’ve tried do, but with respect to taste, the Mountain Berry flavor is pretty yummy. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and doesn’t have much of an after taste. If you’re an endurance athlete and regularly use gels as fuel, you’re going to like VFuel.

The Qlipter

“Man, I really wish I’d come up with this!” Ever have moments like that? When I saw the Qlipter, I did. At first glance, it looks like a carabiner, which it is, but it’s also a hanger for just about anything you can think of. Weighing in at only 2.5 ounces, an individual Qlipter can hold up to 50 pounds of inert weight. You can hang it from the back of a chair, the back of a bathroom stall door, a shower curtain rod, even a tree branch. It can be extended and used with the rubber cap or folded up and used without. The rubber end cap rotates 360 degrees and a magnet holds the hook closed.

I immediately took the Qlipter to my gear closet and hung up several of my backpacks; their most common resting place in between adventures is on the floor. I also hung my climbing shoes off of the outside of my backpack, hung my giant laptop bag on the back of a chair and hung my ski boots up in my closet. The only problem I’ve had so far is that now I want at least a dozen more of them.

Joshua Tree Lip Balm

I’m picky when it comes to choosing lip balm. The balm needs to keep my lips moisturized, but also needs to smell great and keep my lips protected from the elements. I’ve loved Joshua Tree Skin Care since I started rock climbing; the climbing salve did wonders for my hands. The company’s lip balm has also been a favorite of mine for a while now and with good reason.

I sampled the Mountain Mint lip balm as part of this month’s Cairn box. It protected my lips from the wind while skiing and hiking and, because it’s SPF 18+, it gave my lips protection from the sun. The slim tube makes it easy to carry around, and the balm itself is made from organic ingredients. Not surprisingly, I’m a big fan.

Think you’d give any of these products a try if you’re not a subscriber? If you are, what’s your favorite item in this month’s box? Sound off in the comments!