A picnic is a great way to have an outing and make memories, be it taking the whole family for an excursion or enjoying a meal for two. Whether spending an afternoon at the park, a day on the boat, or attending an outdoor concert, you need a way to carry your food, drink, and dishes to your destination; that’s where a picnic basket comes in. Sure, you could pack your food in a cooler or tote bag, but a real picnic basket makes the meal feel more special.
The best picnic baskets are easy to pack and carry, and they keep food and drinks at the right temperature until you’re ready to eat. Here’s a list of some of the best picnic baskets in six categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Picnic at Ascot Insulated Folding Picnic Basket
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ALLCAMP Insulated Collapsible Portable Picnic Basket
- BEST TRADITIONAL: Picnic Time Country Picnic Basket with Liner
- BEST FOR FOUR: Nature Gear Upgraded 4 Person XL Picnic Basket
- BEST FOR FAMILY: Picnic at Ascot 64 Can Semi Rigid Collapsible Cooler
- BEST FOR DATE NIGHT: Picnic Time Piccadilly Picnic Basket for Two People
What to Consider When Buying the Best Picnic Basket
Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing a picnic basket.
Traditional vs. Insulated
There are two basic types of picnic baskets: traditional and insulated.
- Traditional picnic baskets are made of wicker or wood. These iconic baskets have one compartment that holds supplies. Charming, traditional wicker baskets usually lack insulation, making them best suited for food that doesn’t need to be kept to temperature or that will be consumed right away.
- Insulated picnic baskets maintain food temperature with insulation built into their walls. Insulated baskets are suited for outings where you will be traveling for hours and will not be eating right away, as they prevent perishables from going bad. Some resemble soft coolers.
The best picnic baskets should have enough room for food, beverage, and utensils. Choose a picnic basket based on how many people you want to serve. Many baskets are labeled as being large enough to hold food for two, four, six, or eight people.
Wicker, rattan, and wooden picnic baskets carry a classic charm, but can be pricey. Contemporary picnic baskets made of polyester fabric, plastic, and canvas aren’t quite as iconic, but they’re insulated, washable, and some of them are collapsible, making them easier to store.
Traditional wicker, rattan, or willow baskets have a romantic, rustic appeal, thanks to their quintessential design and natural materials. Their design is simple: they have a single compartment lined with fabric and flip-up lid that latches. These baskets are about style, not ease of use.
Modern baskets may lack archetypal appeal, but they’re durable and practical. They’re made of man-made materails like fabric or plastic and can be more tote or backpack than basket. These baskets are easier to clean, insulated, and have multiple compartments and side pockets with zippers to close them. They’re about convenience and features more than style.
Some picnic baskets come with plates, cutlery, glasses, and washable napkins. More elaborate baskets offer salt and pepper shakers, cheese knives, wine stoppers, corkscrews, cutting boards, picnic blankets, and more.
A picnic basket is only as good as its ability to travel, and its weight and handles affect portability.
- Basket weight. The lighter the basket, the easier it is to carry. Cloth baskets tend to be lighter than wicker or rattan ones.
- Basket handles. Traditional picnic baskets have one stationary handle that is fine for toting short distances, but not appropriate for a hike. Modern baskets have padded or fabric handles that are more comfortable to grasp, and some even have a shoulder strap for toting longer distances.
Our Top Picks
Guided by the shopping considerations above, we’ve selected some of the best picnic baskets on the market.
This Picnic at Ascot Insulated Picnic Basket combines the features of classic and contemporary baskets: it’s shaped like a classic wicker basket but made of insulated canvas fabric on an aluminum frame. It keeps food to temperature, thanks to its heat-sealed, leak-proof lining. This basket can carry up to 65 pounds of food, so there’s room to pack a picnic for a crowd. After the picnic ends, the basket folds down flat for compact storage. It comes in 10 colors and patterns ranging from black to floral to trellis green.
ALLCAMP’s picnic basket is a soft-sided, cooler-style container made of polyester canvas on an aluminum frame. It keeps food to temperature for hours, and its leak-proof liner is easy to clean. It’s got enough room to pack food for two or three people. It boasts an aluminum handle with a padded grip, making it comfy to carry. When empty, it collapses flat for easy storage. The basket comes in black or gray as well as in a large size with enough room for food for four or five people.
Picnic Time’s picnic basket has a timeless look, with handwoven willow construction, a classic wood split-lid, and red and white checkered fabric liner. The basket can hold enough food and supplies for two or three people. The removable cotton-poly blend liner is machine washable and adds to the classic aesthetic. The basket has a stationary handle for toting it around. Although it’s not insulated and does not come with utensils and dishes, it makes up for it in charm. The basket is so attractive, it can also make for stylish decor or storage when not being used.
Nature Gear’s picnic basket pairs the traditional look of a wicker basket with a modern insulated lining that controls food temperature. This picnic basket is picturesque as well as practical. The basket comes with dinnerware, ceramic plates, cloth napkins, a bottle opener, and plastic wine glasses for four. It has an insulated main compartment, straps under the lid to secure the plates and utensils, and a double latch to keep it closed during transit.
The 36-quart Picnic at Ascot Collapsible Cooler can carry enough food and drink for a crowd. Its walls have high-density foam insulation that can keep food and drinks cold for up to 18 hours. This soft cooler is made of sturdy polycanvas and has a steel frame for support. It has one main compartment for food and a zippered front pocket for small items, like keys. It has two carrying straps and a removable shoulder strap for easy transport. When empty, it folds flat for convenient storage.
This traditional-looking picnic basket is made from sturdy willow and lined with red and white plaid fabric. It has a double lid and a lovely, iconic look. The basket comes with melamine plates, cutlery, and acrylic wine glasses for two people, along with a wine corkscrew. The basket has leatherette straps under the lid to hold accessories and a compartment that can be filled with food for a romantic outdoor dinner. Note, it’s not insulated, so it won’t keep food cold or hot for very long.
FAQs About Your New Picnic Basket
Still have questions about choosing the best picnic basket? Here is more information to help you decide.
Q. What should I bring for a picnic?
Bring easy-to-serve food or drink. Only pack perishable items if they’ll be eaten right away or stored in an insulated picnic basket. Remember to bring the accessories needed to enjoy the meal, such plates, utensils, drinkware, and salt and pepper.
Q. What is the best picnic basket?
The best picnic basket depends on individual needs and tastes. If you’re packing food that doesn’t need temperature control and you like classics, go with a wicker picnic basket. If your picnic destination is hours away and you’re packing tuna sandwiches, go with an insulated picnic basket with a shoulder strap.
Q. Is a picnic basket a good gift?
Yes. Not only is a picnic basket a handy item to own, but it also encourages people to get out and make memories together. For a little something extra, get a picnic blanket to go with the basket.