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 travel to your favorite park, beach, or outdoor locale with your picnic basket. In fact, picnic season can be any time of year, depending on your weather—and if you have the right gear.
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.
The best picnic baskets are made of strong, durable materials—after all, they need to be sturdy enough to hold all the delicious food you've taken the time to prepare. Extra features like insulation, designated compartments, and waterproofing may come in handy, as well. There are plenty of options—wicker, canvas, small, large—and there’s really no right or wrong answer. Rather, it's all about your lifestyle and what works best for you.
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.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 17 inches | Capacity: 24 cans
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.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 12.8 x 7.8 x 6.5 inches | Weight: 9.6 ounces | Material: Woodchip
Best Luxury Set
Picnic Time Windsor Picnic Basket Set
Elegant, classic look
Full service for four
Additional accessories included
Picnic Time has been creating timeless, nostalgic picnic baskets since 1982, and the Windsor is a setup fit for royalty. Inspired by a traditional English hamper, this sturdy picnic basket set has metal rivet accents with leather straps and is lined with corduroy. It features full service for four people, including porcelain plates, hand-blown wine glasses, utensils, stainless-steel mugs, cotton napkins, and a fleece picnic blanket. It also comes with a stainless steel cheese knife with a wooden handle, a hardwood cutting board, a wine key, a wine bottle stopper, salt and pepper shakers, an insulated wine duffel, a coordinated zipper-top cooler, a flask for hot beverages, and two storage containers.
Picnic Time's products have a lifetime guarantee and are strong, reliable, and offer everything you'd expect and want from a deluxe, vintage picnic basket experience. Though costly, the quality of the item (and everything that comes with it) is worth the price. It makes a thoughtful anniversary or wedding gift and urges the user to gather a few friends for an outdoor meal in style.
Price at time of publish: $440
Dimensions: 23.25 x 15.75 x 11 inches | Weight: 18.2 pounds | Material: Willow, corduroy
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 insulated 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.
Price at time of publish: $79
Dimensions: 12.5 x 8.5 x 8 inches | Capacity: 3.68 gallons | Material: Recycled cotton, polyester, PVC lining
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 maritime vibe.
Its roomy interior can fit plenty of picnic fare too, plus it 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.
Price at time of publish: $89-$129
Dimensions: 21 x 13.5 x 8.25 inches | Material: Wicker, canvas, leatherette
Mark & Graham Round Wicker Picnic Basket
Lid doubles as a cheese board
No extra compartments
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 like 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 lid (which doubles as a small table or cheese board). A long carry handle makes for easy transport and the compact size means it won't take up too much space in your picnic setup. For even more impact or to turn this picnic basket into the perfect gift, opt to have the lid monogrammed.
Price at time of publish: $119
Dimensions: 13 x 13 x 11 inches | Material: Rattan and teak
“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
Sunflora Picnic Backpack for 4 Person Set
Detachable waterproof pouch for food and drink
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.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 16.3 x 12.5 x 7.3 inches | Weight: 7.1 pounds | Materials: Polyester, fleece
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. It comes with a fold-up table, complete with spots to secure an entire bottle of wine and four wine glasses.
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. A removable, adjustable shoulder belt makes the tote easier to carry to and from your destination.
Price at time of publish: $52
Dimensions: 19.7 x 9.4 x 13 inches | Weight: 4.59 pounds | Material: Polyester
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 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 also keeps hot food warm, 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.
Price at time of publish: $24
Dimensions: 15 x 9.5 x 9.8 inches | Weight: 2.12 pounds | Material: Nylon and aluminum foil
The best picnic basket is the functional Collapsible Insulated Leakproof Picnic Basket Cooler. It’s insulated to keep food colder, made of a canvas-like material that’s easy to clean, and 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
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 distribute weight more evenly.
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—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.
What should you put in a picnic basket?
Foods that need to be refrigerated or easily spoil aren't typically the best to pack in a picnic basket—that is, unless you've opted for an insulated basket or added ice packs. Even so, be sure to maintain all of your dishes at the appropriate temperatures. Foods that are already packaged are a good choice. It's best to come prepared and plan ahead with reusable utensils, plates, cups, and anything else you think you may need (though keep in mind that the lighter you pack, the less you have to carry).
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.