Published Jun 23, 2022 10:34 AM
Outdoor subscription boxes are great ways to discover new gear at a discounted price. Similar to other subscription box services, outdoor boxes focus on gear tailored for hiking, camping, and just about any other outdoor adventure. These boxes are curated by experts in their respective fields and feature hand-selected gear designed to enhance your weekend adventures. Depending on the box, subscribers can ship them monthly or quarterly with different types of boxes specializing in certain fields. The best part is subscription boxes are designed to give you more value than you pay for—a $50 box will typically exceed $75 in value. If you’re looking to try the new gear on your next trip then one of the best outdoor subscription boxes is the way to go.
Things to Consider Before Buying
Any subscription box service can be quite a financial commitment especially if you are unsure what you are getting. So, when it comes time to choose a box, consider what activity you want the box for, how often you want to receive one, and the value of the gear you are getting.
The most important part of choosing an outdoor subscription box is making sure it fits you. There are a bunch of different boxes available that specialize in a specific pursuit. If you prefer camping, some boxes include tents, sleeping bags, or other camp accessories. For those that prefer to backpack, some boxes specialize in lightweight accessories specifically for backpacking expeditions. Look for subscription boxes that are tailored to your activity or offer a questionnaire to fine-tune what goes in your box.
Subscription boxes are designed so that you get a higher value than what you pay for. A $30 box could have as much as $50 worth of gear. With that being said, not all boxes are created equal in terms of retail value. Look for boxes that offer good overall value and you’ll be happier in the long run.
Depending on the subscription box service there are two options for box terms, monthly or quarterly. Monthly boxes are the industry standard and offer a box each month at a reasonable price, most boxes won’t exceed $30. These boxes will give you several pieces of gear and accessories. Quarterly boxes will typically run you more, but because they ship once a quarter, will have bigger or more expensive pieces of gear. Rather than breaking up your money across smaller monthly boxes, they can ship a larger quarterly box with more quality gear.
Why it Made the Cut
A good all-around box that changes with the seasons for hikers, campers, and climbers.
- Cost: $34.99 a month or $149.99 a quarter
- Retail Value: $60+ for monthly and $200+ for quarterly
- Frequency: Monthly or Quarterly
- Changes with the seasons for relevant gear
- Decent Value
- Includes a variety of gear
- Would be nice to see bigger pieces of gear in monthly boxes
Most outdoor enthusiasts have invested time and money into finding the gear they feel best about in the woods. As a result, most subscription boxes might not seem that appealing to the die-hard adventurer. Nomadik approaches outdoor subscription boxes with a refreshing take offering seasonal gear that will add to your experience rather than try and replace the gear you have. Their monthly boxes change with the season and generally offer smaller pieces of the carefully selected gear.
A recent winter box came with electronic hand warmers, wool socks, and a beanie while a summer box came with a waterproof phone case and other water-themed accessories. These smaller pieces of gear are the perfect accessories for trips and aren’t designed to replace the gear you have but instead make your trip more enjoyable. A good example of this is several boxes have come with snacks such as trail mix or other energy bars to help you get through a long day on the trail. For those wanting more, the quarterly boxes are broken up by season and include bigger ticket items like a jet boil stove, a waterproof backpack, or a foldable camp chair.
Why it Made the Cut
The Outside Discovery Box offers high-end boxes specific to particular activities and pursuits.
- Cost: $275
- Retail Value: $305+
- Frequency: One-time purchase
- Three different boxes to choose from
- Lots of gear in each box
- You know what gear you are getting in each box
- More expensive than other boxes
Very rarely are subscription boxes upfront with exactly what gear you are getting in a box. For some, this may be part of the excitement, but if you’re not someone that likes surprises then the Outside Discovery Box is a great option. They currently offer three different boxes—running, camping, and tailgating—and add more based on the time of year. These boxes are designed to be bought as needed so there are no monthly payments and you can choose boxes that interest you. While expensive, they include 10-12 pieces of quality gear for a specific activity. The current kitchen box includes a camp table, camp sink, and a packable grill to just name a few pieces of gear. If you’re not dead set on a subscription service but want quality gear at a discounted price, Outside Discovery Box is a good place to start.
Best for Survival
Why it Made the Cut
The Battle Box is an ideal box for survival enthusiasts. Filled with emergency gear, outdoor manuals, and survival tools—there is something for every situation.
- Cost: $34.99
- Retail Value: $60
- Frequency: Monthly
- Boxes are available at every price point
- Practical pieces of gear
- Manuals are a useful addition
- Best boxes are a bit pricey for monthly subscriptions
The thing about survival is that you never really know what you’re going to need until you need it. That’s where the Battle Box comes in handy with new survival gear each month, you’ll accumulate a variety of equipment. Boxes include a variety of gear including, fire starters, survival manuals, knives, flashlights, and pretty much any other piece of survival gear you could think of.
Battle Box has a variety of boxes at all price points so there is something for any budget. The basic box comes with purposeful gear such as first aid kits and other survival essentials. For customers wanting more, the Pro or Pro Plus boxes come with bigger ticket items such as sleeping bags, premium knives, or a camp stove. It’s also easy to switch between boxes month to month if you think a different box would be best for you.
Best for Backpacking: Isle Box
Why it Made the Cut
A box dedicated to hikers and backpackers with seasonal options or the choice of a one-time purchase to get you started in the sport.
- Cost: $125
- Retail Value: $145
- Frequency: Quarterly
- Boxes change with seasons
- Starter boxes for newcomers
- Quality gear
For backpacking enthusiasts finding new pieces of gear can be tricky. Most backpackers prefer lightweight and packable gear for their adventures. Luckily the team at Isle Box designed a box with that in mind and offers seasonal gear specific to backpacking. Isle Box was founded by two outdoor enthusiasts in 2014 who have taken the time to put together a team of experts to carefully select purposeful gear. Gear can range from hiking packs to essentials like water filtration. For those just starting, Isle Box offers two one-time boxes to help get you started. The Starter Box includes all the equipment you would need in a pack like a sleeping pad, headlamp, and first aid kit. The other box is the National Box in partnership with National Geographic, designed specifically to get people geared up to visit the national parks. It even comes with a guide to the parks for everything you need to know about any park you plan to visit.
Why it Made the Cut
Just as its name implies, it’s the best box for knife and gun enthusiasts.
- Cost: $49.99
- Retail Value: $75+
- Frequency: Monthly
- Gear from reputable brands
- Two different level boxes
- Knife of the Month Box Option
- Few one-time purchase options
For the uninitiated, it can be impossible to shop for guns and knives. Something that may seem like the perfect gift in your eyes can be less than impressive to them. Barrel and Blade offer the perfect solution with their subscription service featuring top brands like 5.11, Kershaw, Spyderco, and more. Each month they select gear and accessories based on a certain theme and offer them in level 1 or level 2 boxes, with level 2 including more gear. Some previous styles have been the tomahawk box, the land navigation box, and the battle belt box. For the most part, every box will include some sort of knife to go along with the theme of the box and some sort of gun-related product like magazine pouches. The themed box design is unique and results in the gear you otherwise might not think to pick out for yourself. If you are a true knife enthusiast, they also offer the Knife of the Month Club, a subscription box that offers a premium knife each month varying from EDC knives to large fixed blades and even machetes.
How I Made My Picks
As a hunter and fly angler, I have spent the majority of my free time in the outdoors and have learned a lot about the gear needed to get through a long day. Whether it be backpacking, climbing, hunting, or fishing—gear must be carefully selected for a purpose while minimizing space. I stumbled across subscription boxes several years ago, and being particular about my gear, I wasn’t sure what they could offer me. After trying several different boxes, I realized the right box can give you the useful gear you’d otherwise never know about. There are plenty of startups and small companies that make great equipment that can fall through the cracks. Thankfully, many subscription boxes highlight these companies and can change the way you think about how you pack your bag. The boxes can also help save you some money as the value of a box exceeds the price you pay upfront. To narrow down the boxes offering the best gear I evaluated boxes for a variety of species based on the following criteria:
- Cost: How much does the box cost each time?
- Retail Value: How much do you save on retail gear through the subscription?
- Time Frame: Is the box monthly or quarterly?
- Contents: Is the gear reputable and name brand?
- Extra Swag: Do you get extra gear like buffs, stickers, or other things?
- Gear Guides: Does the box come with a how-to guide to explain how to use the gear?
Q: How much does an outdoor subscription box cost?
Outdoor subscription boxes can vary widely in price mainly due to some shipping monthly while others ship quarterly. These monthly boxes are more affordable usually ranging between $30 and $50 depending on the company and level of the box you go with. Quarterly boxes will run you anywhere from $150 to $250 for a seasonal box. While the initial price is higher you get more gear in each box and bigger products that won’t make it into monthly boxes.
Q: How does a subscription box work?
Subscription boxes are offered in two main formats monthly and quarterly. Most monthly boxes will have a month-to-month option that bills you each month at a fixed price. If you sign up for multiple months at a time there will typically be a discount if you pay for all of them upfront. The same is true for quarterly boxes. At the beginning of each season or month, the box will ship out to you.
Q: What if I receive items in my box that I cannot use?
Not everyone will be able to use all products in a box and companies are prepared for that. Most companies have a customer support option that allows you to contact a representative and switch out certain products if you can’t use them. Another way companies avoid this is with personalized customer profiles to help understand which products would best suit you.
Q: Does everyone get the same box each month?
Depending on the subscription service all customers may receive the same box each month. This is especially true for larger companies that don’t have the time to curate boxes for each customer. Some smaller companies will offer personalized questionaries that will help them pick gear specific to you. If this is important to you make sure to seek out these smaller companies that can take the time to personalize a box.
The right outdoor subscription box can be a fun way to test new gear you may otherwise not be familiar with. The best outdoor subscription boxes offer name-brand gear at affordable monthly or quarterly prices. If you’re interested in a box service then find a company that offers boxes specific to your hobbies to get the most of the gear. Hopefully, these subscription services get you started in the right direction and help complete your list of essential gear.