Best Picnic Baskets of 2018
A well-organized picnic basket helps make afternoon picnics with friends and family a hassle-free, enjoyable experience. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best picnic basket for your next beach or park excursion.
For a Sunny Day: Your Guide to the Best Picnic Baskets
A clear and sunny day, a lovely stretch of grass or sand, a blanket to spread out for sitting, a significant other to share the experience, and a handy picnic basket to carry the delicious food and drink—who doesn't love a picnic? Whether you're dining on caviar or snacking on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, an easy-to-carry, well-organized picnic basket is key.
We'll leave the menu planning up to you, but at BestReviews, we're ready to help you choose the best picnic basket for your leisure needs. After all, there are several different styles of picnic baskets available with various features and benefits, and it can be difficult to choose.
At BestReviews, we don't accept free products or advertising dollars to compile our reviews. Instead, we do extensive research, test products in our labs and the field, and check in with both experts and customers to hear what they have to say. Our shopping guides are helpful, accurate, and most importantly, unbiased, so you can make the most educated shopping decisions.
If you're ready to purchase a picnic basket and get out in the sunshine, scroll up for BestReviews' top picks. For everything you need to know about picnic baskets, including the various types, how to best pack a picnic basket, and what foods work well for feasting outdoors, you've come to the right place.
Are Wicker Picnic Baskets Best?
Picture a picnic basket, and you'll likely imagine a classic wicker basket, the type that Yogi Bear famously loved to steal. While wicker is still popular, today there are several styles of picnic baskets from which to choose. Let's look at the pros and cons of each type of picnic basket.
Wicker Picnic Baskets
Wicker picnic baskets are woven baskets commonly made from willow or rattan. Classic wicker picnic baskets are rectangular with slightly rounded corners, two flaps at the top for closing the basket, and two handles for carrying. The simplest wicker picnic baskets are unlined, but many have fabric linings, both for style and to keep the rough edges of the wicker from catching on the contents. High-end wicker picnic baskets often have inner organizers and straps to hold napkins, plates, and utensils.
- Classic vintage style
- Plenty of room for food and drinks
- Difficult to clean
- Don't fold down for storage
- Don't keep food cool
Rigid Insulated Picnic Baskets
With an insulated picnic basket, there's no need for gel cold packs to keep food safely chilled. Typically, insulated picnic baskets are made of polyester canvas. Rigid insulated picnic baskets usually have a water-resistant or waterproof outer fabric and an inner lining of thermal foil. They are rigid-sided, which means these picnic baskets don't fold down for storage. Many rigid insulated picnic baskets are shaped like wicker baskets. Inside, you'll generally find straps to hold plates and utensils.
- Easy to wipe clean
- Keep food chilled
- Don't fold down for storage
Collapsible Insulated Picnic Baskets
Collapsible insulated picnic baskets don't have a rigid frame. As the name suggests, these picnic baskets fold down for storage when not in use. Collapsible insulated picnic baskets don't have the classic picnic basket look, but they also don't take up much closet space during the off-season. Collapsible insulated picnic baskets have inner insulation to keep food cool, convenient carrying handles, straps to keep utensils and plates secured, and often an outer pocket or two for smaller items.
- Easy to wipe clean
- Keep food chilled
- Fold down for easy storage
- Very lightweight
- No classic picnic basket appearance
Picnic backpacks are an increasingly popular option for outdoor dining. Inside a picnic backpack, you'll find a system of pockets and straps to neatly organize and secure your food, utensils, plates, and napkins. Many picnic backpacks include outer pockets for drinks as well. Picnic backpacks usually have insulation to keep your lunch cool, and most picnic backpacks are water-resistant or waterproof.
- Easy to carry, even if you have to hike to reach your picnic site
- Generally easy to wipe clean
- Lots of straps and pockets to secure food and utensils
- No classic picnic basket appearance or style
- More crevices for crumbs, spills, or smears
Upgrade Your Picnic Basket with These Worth-It Extra Features
Padded or Ergonomic Handles
A fully loaded picnic basket is heavy. To avoid strain, look for a picnic basket with padded or ergonomic handles to make carrying the basket easier.
While yesterday's picnic baskets merely had one large compartment for all your food, today you'll find picnic baskets with a wide range of specialty compartments. The best picnic baskets include organizers and pockets to separate chilled food from room-temperature food, sandwich or chip compartments, pockets designed to hold wine bottles, and interior loops to secure drinking glasses.
Included Place Settings
Many picnic baskets include place settings: dishes, utensils, plastic glasses, and cloth napkins. These reusable place settings are not only convenient, they are much more environmentally friendly than their disposable counterparts.
How Much Do Good Picnic Baskets Cost?
- Inexpensive: For less than $30, you'll get a simple wicker picnic basket without much in the way of inner compartments, insulation, or place settings.
- Mid-Range: In the $30 to $60 range, you'll find the biggest variety of picnic baskets. Most insulated picnic baskets are in this range, along with better-quality wicker picnic baskets. Expect to find place settings, extra compartments, and comfortable handles for this price.
- Expensive: Above $60, you'll find the best-made picnic baskets with higher-quality place settings, compartments for wine, and other specialty features.
Step-By-Step Tips for Packing a Picnic Basket
Nobody wants to get to an idyllic site only to discover a picnic basket full of smashed chips, squashed sandwiches, melted popsicles, or spilled salad. Packing your picnic basket properly helps ward off these potential issues.
- If your picnic basket doesn't have insulation, you'll need a few gel cold packs to keep your food safely chilled. Lay one gel pack on the bottom of the picnic basket and set the other gel pack on top of the food once your picnic basket is full.
- Stand water bottles or other drink containers along the sides of your picnic basket. The other items in the picnic basket will hold them in place.
- Soft or spillable foods go in plastic containers. Place these containers at the bottom of your picnic basket.
- Hard cheeses or other foods that don't mind a little bit of squeezing are the next layer.
- After that comes sturdy fruit that won't cut or bruise, such as apples and oranges.
- Finally, set chips, cookies, delicate fruit, or other smashable items on top.
Q. Do picnic baskets come in different sizes?
A. Yes, picnic baskets are sized for how many people they serve. Two-person and four-person picnic baskets are most common, but you can also find smaller picnic baskets suitable for one person and larger picnic baskets for bigger families.
Q. What should I avoid packing in a picnic basket?
A. While you can pack just about anything in a picnic basket, try to avoid easily smashed or broken foods, anything especially messy, foods that are difficult to eat without a lot of utensils, or foods that quickly spoil or develop unpleasant textures at room temperature.
Q. What should I pack for a picnic besides food?
A. Once you have your food and drinks packed in your picnic basket, don't forget to bring a blanket to sit on, sunscreen, games or entertainment if it's a family outing, jackets in case the weather suddenly takes a turn, and an umbrella to ward off the sun if you'll be picnicking in a location without shade.