The 7 Best Picnic Baskets for Dining Alfresco

Totes, baskets, backpacks, and coolers for all your picnicking needs

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Picnic Basket Composite

The Spruce Eats / Photo Illustration by Chloe Jeong / Retailers below

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

label-imprints-collapsible-picnic-cooler

Courtesy of Etsy

What We Like
  • Attractive

  • Insulated

  • Monogrammable

  • Collapses flat

What We Don't Like
  • 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 | Capacity: 24 cans

Best Traditional: Providence Woven Picnic Basket

providence-picnic-basket

Courtesy of Pottery Barn 

What We Like
  • Comprehensive serving set

  • Roomy interior

What We Don't Like
  • Bulky

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 maritime vibe.  

Its roomy interior can fit plenty of picnic fare too, plus holds up to four sets of dishware so you don’t have to worry about packing your own (and inevitably forgetting something important). A stainless steel corkscrew, wine glasses, and a small cooler compartment can also be found inside the basket. 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 | Material: Wicker, canvas, leatherette

Best Budget: California Picnic Natural Woven Picnic Basket

California Picnic Natural Woven Picnic Basket

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Roomy interior

  • Not limited by a cover

  • Traditional aesthetic

  • Water-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • 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 | Material: Woodchip

Best Backpack: Sunflora Picnic Backpack for 4 Person Set

Sunflora Picnic Backpack for 4 Person Set

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Insulated

  • Detachable waterproof pouch for food and drink

  • High-quality accessories

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Bulky

If you’ll have your hands full with other objects, such as a stroller or dog leash, a picnic backpack comes in handy. This one is large and houses a wine holder and picnic blanket on either side, making it a bit bulky, but it has everything you need for a successful picnic.

"This backpack is the ultimate picnicker's delight," says Alanna O’Neil, entertaining expert and the author of "The Art of Picnics." "It comes fully equipped with all of the trimmings you could need for any outdoor adventure. It’s practical and also looks stylish with the coordinating blanket that attaches on the side for easy transportation."

You might splurge a little on this picnic backpack, but the quality of the accessories is superior to comparable models. The wine glasses are durable and BPA-free, and the dishwasher-safe plates are made of 100% melamine. Food and drink can be stored in a separate waterproof pouch for easy cleaning.

Dimensions: 16.3 x 12.5 x 7.3 inches | Weight: 7.1 pounds | Materials: Polyester, fleece

Best Foldable: LANOUOGGK Picnic Basket

What We Like
  • Compact

  • Folds flat

  • Sturdy aluminum frame

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Frame doesn’t stay assembled, according to some user reviews

  • No compartments or accessories

Between all your kitchen and home accessories, there simply isn’t enough storage for everything. A foldable picnic basket is a space-saving solution, and this one folds nearly flat for easy storage. When assembled, it’s a large picnic basket that is insulated and made of cotton and aluminum.

"This is a sturdy and practical option when space is tight," O’Neil says. "It completely collapses for easy packing and storing. It's lightweight, affordable, and holds enough goodies for up to eight people. This basket can be stored in the back of the car when the opportunity and weather calls."

Since it folds flat, this picnic basket is travel friendly. It tucks neatly into travel bags and suitcases since it measures 17.9x 11.2 x 2.9 when folded. Though it’s advertised as waterproof and sturdy, some reviewers have had issues with leaks and flimsiness. Still, this is a budget-friendly option that’s simple and gets the job done for your occasional picnic.

Dimensions: 19 x 11.2 x 10.2 inches | Weight: 1.3 pounds | Material: Oxford cloth, aluminum

Best Small: G Good Gain Woodchip Picnic Basket with Single Swing Handle

G-Good-Gain-Woodchip-Picnic-Basket

Amazon

What We Like
  • Removable lining

  • Attractive design

  • Looks great in photos

What We Don't Like
  • No lid

  • Not suitable to carry heavy items

When you think of a picnic basket, you might think of a woven or wooden basket with a gingham or striped lining. If that’s what comes to mind, this small picnic basket is for you.

It’s small but functional, which is exactly what some people are looking for. While this likely isn’t an option for large groups, it’s perfect for a romantic date night for two — just don’t plan on bringing any heavy items like a bottle of wine or bulky items like dinner plates.

The wood chip construction is premium, and the lining is removable for easy cleaning. While it’s not as functional as other models, it’s a great prop for photos, costumes, and special occasions. It's even compact enough to use as the holder for a homemade gift basket.

Dimensions: 12.5 x 8 x 6.5 inches | Material: Woodchip

What Our Experts Say

“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 Insulated: Business & Pleasure Co. Premium Cooler Bag

Cooler Bag

Courtesy of Urban Outfitters

What We Like
  • Attractive

  • Versatile

  • Eco-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • 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 | Capacity: 3.7 gallons | Material: Recycled cotton, polyester, PVC lining

Final Verdict

The best picnic basket is the functional Collapsible Insulated Leakproof Picnic Basket Cooler. 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.

What to Look for in a Picnic Basket

Material

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.

Carry Option

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. 

Size

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.

Compartments

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. 

Accessories

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.

FAQs

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—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. 

Lacey Muinos is a food and wellness writer with a special place in her heart for romantic picnics. Her picnic food of choice? A vegan sandwich with snacks and sparkling cider.

Additional reporting by
Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos has written about health, wellness, food, and skincare for five years. Her work has appeared on LIVESTRONG, Insider, and Eat This Not That. 
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