Picnic Like a Pro with the Perfect Picnic Basket

How to choose the best picnic basket for the type of picnic you’re planning.

Picnic basket spread on checkered tablecloth
Picnic in style with one of these three picnic basket options.Lucie Capkova/Unsplash

Having a nice meal outside, in a nice place on a nice day, is something that’s innately enjoyable. Fresh air naturally whets the appetite, making food taste better. You can have the exact same meal indoors and it just won’t taste as good.

The basket you use to transport your meal is key to having a good experience. It’s no picnic if the warm food you packed is cold, the cold drinks you packed are warm, or if you’re sweaty and tired from lugging your picnic to your spot. Here’s how to make sure the basket you choose is appropriate for the trip:

You want a picnic for two people in a spot easy to access, and don't want to carry a heavy load.

Picnic Basket Natural Woven Woodchip with Double Folding Handles
The California Picnic Natural Woven Woodchip Basket is strong, lightweight, and perfectly sized to hold food and drink for two people (bring your own Toto).California Picnic

It's no fun to plan a picnic, but then have to use both hands to carry the load to your picnic spot. This is when you want to channel your inner Dorothy and get a classic wood-woven, double-handle picnic basket. These baskets are surprisingly efficient: They're strong but extremely lightweight for their size, so you won't have to expend a lot of energy carrying your meal. They can hold more than enough food and drink for two people. And they're inexpensive. Bonus: you'll look good simply carrying the basket.

You will picnic on warm days or in warm places, and need to insulate your food and drink from ambient temperatures.

Allcamp Outdoor Gear Picnic Basket
Keep cold food cold, and warm food warm, with the Allcamp Outdoor Gear Picnic Basket.Allcamp Outdoor Gear

No one wants to say "How about a lukewarm Coke?" on a picnic. And it's certainly not safe to eat a tuna fish sandwich that is now the same temperature as you. But that will happen if your uninsulated picnic basket will be outside on a warm day for several hours. A hard-sided cooler can suffice here, but they are heavy and very clumsy to lug around. This when you want to go with a soft-sided picnic basket, which is easy to carry and protects the contents from the outside environment. If you're planning a picnic on a hot summer day, or will have the basket outside for several hours before you have the meal, this is the picnic basket for you. Bonus: It will also keep warm food warm in cold temperatures—an advantage if you want to have a toasty meal on a cool day.

You are an extreme picnicker, and want to take food and drink to faraway or remote areas.

YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler
The Yeti Hopper Two Portable Cooler is designed to tote food and drink anywhere and keep it cold for days.Yeti

A town park with white geese floating around a pond just won't do it for you. You need a remote, windswept beach, with big waves crashing down on the shoreline in front of the dunes, or a steep mountainside high above a big valley, miles from the nearest road. Or, you'll be canoeing a river or driving a dirt road deep into the wilds. This is when you want a picnic basket that will keep your food and drink cold not just for a couple of hours, but for the whole day. And, you'll want a basket big enough to hold enough food and drink to sustain you for most of the day—which means something that's easy to carry long distances. This is when you want a large cooler bag with super-strong insulative properties—thick walls, secure closures—that you can throw over a shoulder before you head off. Bonus: You can use such a bag at home to keep drinks cold during backyard parties.