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One of the greatest pleasures of warmer weather is the opportunity for al fresco dining—and not just in your own backyard. For a change of pace, leave the grill behind and head to your favorite park, beach, or outdoor locale for a picnic. The world is your oyster—pack bagels and lox for a sunrise breakfast, deli sandwiches for lunch, or wine, cheese, and charcuterie for happy hour. No matter which meal you opt to enjoy in the great outdoors, you need just one thing (besides the food, of course): a quality picnic basket. There are plenty of options—wicker, canvas, small, large—and there’s really no right or wrong answer. Rather, it’s about your lifestyle and what works best for you.
Below, a comprehensive look at the best picnic baskets to choose from.
Best Overall: Label Imprints Collapsible Insulated Leakproof Picnic Basket Cooler
No shoulder strap
Doesn't include accessories
There’s one simple reason this picnic basket is at the top of the list: It’s got the best of both worlds. Though it's made of a durable canvas-like material that’s much more insulated than your standard picnic basket, it’s designed like those more traditional options. The oblong carrier has two snapped flaps, one on either side, that lift up to reveal the interior contents of the picnic basket.
Though it collapses flat for storage, it’s plenty spacious. The vessel can hold up to 24 soda or beer cans, as well as other picnic materials—food, silverware, and even wine glasses. It also has an external pocket that comes in handy for storing napkins, a corkscrew, or other picnic accessories.
Let’s not forget to mention the aesthetic. This is one sharp-looking picnic basket. And for an extra-special touch, you can have the black- and ivory-colored carrier monogrammed in one of sixteen different fonts for a slight upcharge.
Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 17 inches
Best Traditional: Providence Woven Picnic Basket
Comprehensive serving set
If you simply can’t part with the traditional aesthetic of a wicker picnic basket, this durable, lightweight option is a great choice. The wicker exterior is high quality and, with proper care, isn’t prone to splitting or cracking. Plus, the navy and white striped canvas interior has a cool European vibe.
Its roomy interior can fit plenty of picnic fare, too, plus holds four sets of dishware so you don’t have to worry about packing your own (and inevitably forgetting something important). And, though it’s bulkier than some other options, it has a suitcase-like design with a reinforced faux-leather handle that’s easy to grasp.
Dimensions: 21 x 13.5 x 8.25 inches
Best Budget: California Picnic Natural Woven Picnic Basket
Not limited by a cover
Doesn't keep things cold
No accessories or compartments
For the occasional picnicker, there’s no need to spend a fortune on a more comprehensive set with all of the bells and whistles of the pricier models—a relatively unassuming basket will do just the trick. Sure, you could opt for a standard cooler, but there’s no denying this handled basket, complete with a red-and-white gingham fabric insert is much more Instagrammable.
The basket is plenty functional, too. It has a roomy interior that isn’t limited by a lid. Simply pile all of your goodies in and hit the road. When you get to your destination, the two handles collapse, giving you easy access to everything you packed. Unlike some other wicker or wood baskets, this one is water-resistant so you don’t have to worry about placing it in the dewy grass.
Dimensions: 12.8 x 7.8 x 6.5 inches | Weight: 9.6 ounces
Best Backpack: Apollo Walker Picnic Backpack
Easy to carry
Includes service for two
Accessories are a bit flimsy
In terms of convenience, a backpack simply can’t be beaten, since it completely frees your hands for pushing a stroller, walking a dog, or carrying portable chairs. Many argue there’s a comfort factor here, too, since backpacks more evenly distribute the weight. This is particularly important if you're toting a big lunch, complete with heavier items like potato salad, sandwiches, and even soda cans or a wine bottle.
This backpack is a great choice because it has padded wide straps that add to the comfort factor and an insulated interior that’s roomy enough for a full lunch or dinner for two. In fact, it comes with everything you need to dine: two stainless steel knives, forks, spoons, dinner plates, cotton napkins, wine glasses, one cheese/butter knife, a bottle opener, salt and pepper shakers, and a plastic chopping board. It even comes with a waterproof-backed fleece picnic blanket that straps to the outside of the backpack. The icing on the cake is an insulated wine bottle sleeve on the other side of the pack.
Dimensions: 15.71 x 12.83 x 6.65 inches | Weight: 4.47 pounds | Material: Polyester
“I’m all about elevated sandwiches for a picnic. Take your PB&J up a notch by making peach jam or spend some time in advance pickling your favorite fruits and veggies at home and throw them on a baguette or French bread with smoked or cured deli meat. I pickle anything I can get my hands on and it really puts some oomph into a regular sandwich.” — Isaac Toups, owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans and author of Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking
Best Foldable: ALLCAMP Outdoor Gear Picnic Basket
High weight capacity
Zipper occasionally gets stuck
Only one handle
For maximum versatility, consider a bag that’s just as much of a cooler as it is a picnic basket. We love this navy-and-white striped bag because the zippered interior pocket is insulated to keep food and/or beverages cold even in the heat. Conversely, it keeps hot food warm, too, so you can also use this to tote potluck food at any time of the year.
It’s also nice and roomy. With a 65-pound capacity, the sky's the limit as far as your menu goes. Still, it folds flat for more convenient storage. You don’t need a big closet—stash it on a shelf, in a cabinet, or even in a large drawer.
Dimensions: 15 x 9.5 x 9.8 inches | Weight: 2.07 pounds | Material: Nylon and aluminum foil
Best Small: Mark & Graham Round Wicker Picnic Basket
Doesn't come with any accessories
If you don’t foresee full meals in your future, we love the idea of this smaller picnic basket, which is perfect for light bites—think wine with nibbles (cheese, charcuterie, or even a few tea sandwiches).
The aesthetic is just what you envision when you think of a fancy little sunset picnic, thanks to a beautiful woven rattan material that’s topped with a teak cover. For even more impact, opt to have the board, which doubles as a cheese plate, monogrammed.
Dimensions: 13 x 13 x 11 inches | Material: Rattan and teak
Best Insulated: Business & Pleasure Co. Premium Cooler Bag
Smaller than other options
Though not technically a picnic basket, we’d be remiss not to add a quality cooler to the list—especially one chic enough to stand in as a picnic basket. Some would argue this is better than your average picnic basket, too. After all, it has a much wider range of use. Pack snacks and drinks for your child’s sports games, tote lunch for a beach day, or, yes, assemble and tote the perfect picnic.
The cooler isn’t like your average hard-sided option. The pretty—and very summery—canvas the bags are made of actually comes from leftover material used to make beach umbrellas, making this a functional and attractive bag with an eco-friendly bonus.
Dimensions: 12.5 x 8.5 x 8 inches | Material: Recycled cotton, polyester, PVC lining
Best with Table: Inno Stage 40L Cooler Bag
Doesn't include accessories beyond the table
Love the idea of a picnic, but don’t want to eat off of the ground? Whether you have back problems or just prefer something that feels a little more refined, this picnic basket will solve your problem, since it comes with a fold-up table, complete with spots to secure four wine glasses and an entire bottle.
The cooler bag itself (aka, your picnic basket) is also super functional, thanks to a 40-liter interior that’s big enough for a full meal for at least four to six people. It also has a magnetic snap on the outside that the table attaches to. What’s more? A removable, adjustable shoulder belt makes the tote easier to carry to and from your destination.
Dimensions: 19.7 x 9.4 x 13 inches | Weight: 4.59 pounds | Material: Polyester
The best picnic basket is the Collapsible Insulated Leakproof Picnic Basket Cooler (view at Etsy). Though it looks and functions like a traditional picnic basket, it’s much more functional. It’s insulated to keep food colder, it’s made of a canvas-like material that’s easy to clean, and it folds completely flat for storage. For a budget option, opt for the California Picnic Natural Woven Picnic Basket (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Picnic Basket
While wicker baskets are undeniably charming, they’re not the most practical because they’re more difficult to care for. They also tend to be bulkier and, thus, more difficult to store. Today, there are plenty of cloth and canvas options that are more convenient, plus have the added bonus of being easier to clean. Some even collapse flat for storage.
Traditional picnic baskets have small handles that can only be toted by hand or over the wrist, but today there are plenty of options with shoulder straps, crossbody sling straps, and even backpack-style straps. Many find these options more convenient—especially if you have to do any significant walking to get to your destination—since they free up your hands and more evenly distribute weight.
Picnic baskets and totes come in a wide range of sizes. Consider your lifestyle. Are you likely to picnic with a big group or are you more likely to picnic solo or with one other person? If the latter, skip the big, bulky baskets, and opt for a smaller, more streamlined choice.
Some picnic baskets have designated compartments for all of the essentials, from plates and glasses to corkscrews and even placemats. If you like to have everything organized, consider one of these options. But, if you like the flexibility of packing your basket however you want or don’t foresee yourself putting everything away properly, you can forgo these organizational extras.
Similarly, some picnic baskets come pre-packed with all the accessories you could ever need—plates, glasses, corkscrew, linens, and more. These baskets typically come at a premium, one that may not be worth it if you won’t use the full breadth of included items on a regular basis.
How do you clean a picnic basket?
Exactly how you clean a picnic basket depends on its construction. Wicker baskets need to be cleaned much more carefully than their insulated cooler-like counterparts. Always defer to care instructions provided with the picnic basket you purchased. But in general, insulated cooler-like picnic baskets can be spot-cleaned with mild soap and warm water. For stubborn spots, you can use a clean toothbrush to scrub out the stain.
Wicker baskets are much more delicate and are prone to drying out and breaking if they get too wet, so you should refrain from submerging them in water. Instead, wipe the wicker down with a dry microfiber cloth. If need be, you can dampen the microfiber cloth with warm, soapy water (use mild dish soap) and wipe down. Let air dry before using or storing. If the wicker is drying out or brittle, you can use a wood conditioner or cutting board oil to restore some moisture.
How do you keep food cold in a picnic basket?
The easiest way to keep food cold is to add ice packs to your picnic basket. Make sure the basket isn’t packed to the brim, too—you want the air to be able to circulate around the food. If you don’t have access to ice packs, you can pack your food in ice. Put the ice in zippered or sealed plastic bags to keep things clean and dry.
How do you line a wicker picnic basket?
If you have the sewing skills to tackle a more thorough DIY project, you can fashion a picnic basket liner made to suit the specific dimensions of your picnic basket. Otherwise, a large tea towel or small tablecloth will do just fine. Simply drape the fabric over the basket, or place it under your food, take the corners up to meet one another, and secure it with a knot or a clip before placing the parcel in your picnic basket.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This article was written by Brigitt Earley, a freelance writer who has spent the last 10-plus years researching the best kitchen home products for various digital publications, including The Spruce and Good Housekeeping. From wine glasses and dinnerware to coolers and camping stoves, she’s covered it all. Brigitt also has a culinary degree from The French Culinary Institute and frequently uses insulated picnic bags to tote snacks and small meals for her kids to and from the park.