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7 best picnic bags for all your alfresco needs

Transport your food and drink in a fully-equipped holdall with these tried-and-tested carriers

Joanne Gould
Monday 19 May 2014 18:00
<p>We considered the bag’s capacity, its ease of transportability, and its thermal rating </p>

We considered the bag’s capacity, its ease of transportability, and its thermal rating

Picnic season is almost upon us, and this year looks set to see more of us heading to parks and beaches to enjoy some alfresco eating, drinking and fun than ever.

Make sure you’re prepared by picking up a picnic-ready bag, to help transport your refreshments and kit conveniently and stylishly.

From heavy-duty high-performance coolers that will keep your beers refreshingly cold for hours, to fully-equipped backpacks: all you’ll need is a comfy blanket and a packet of scotch eggs.

When choosing your picnic bag, consider what you need in terms of kit: do you require plastic plates, glasses, cutlery and the whole shebang, or is your priority keeping food and drink hygienically chilled?

Are your alfresco outings usually to the local park or are you after more adventure in your life after a long old lockdown? You should consider the bag’s capacity, its ease of transportability, and its thermal rating accordingly.

Read more:

Here then, is our pick of the picnic bags to help make your spring/summer 21 one to remember.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

VonShef ash picnic holdall for 6

This is just the ticket when you’ve got an alfresco feast or a day trip on the horizon. A great lighter alternative to a traditional picnic hamper or cool box, this large deluxe holdall from VonShef serves six, with a 41 piece dining set and generous internal cooler compartment lined with aluminium. The kit includes sets of six melamine plates, stainless steel cutlery, plastic wine glasses, chopping board, cruets, washable cotton napkins, cheese knife and corkscrew all well-secured within the bag.

The bag itself is made from hard wearing dark grey polyester with faux leather and chrome detailing, and features a waterproof layer to stop leaks or moisture getting in and out of the bag. A handy bag to take to the beach, park or festival with a group of friends.

Silver Editions insulated two bottle carrier

Transport your park wines the civilised way this spring, while also keeping them deliciously cool with this attractive carrier from Joules. With space for two bottles of wine or fizz, this insulated canvas bottle bag with zip-up top is a welcome guest at a picnic to ensure your rosé is always refreshing. We like the nautical stripe design, and the contrasting hessian base ensures it stays upright even on uneven ground. The handles are comfy to hold too.

VonShef 4 person roll top picnic backpack

A smart looking backpack here from VonShef, this dark grey picnic bag is universally appealing with its modern styling and roll top fastening. It is compact – much more so than the Madagascar set (£50, – but still contains all the basics for lunch in the sun for four people.

Comprising a cutlery carry case which holds four stainless steel well-serrated knives, forks and spoons, plus four melamine picnic plates, there is also a zipped cooler area with aluminium lining to keep food freshly chilled and plenty of room for sandwiches and sausage rolls. The lining is also removable, so you can use the backpack as a regular bag if you wish.

Being on the smaller side of picnic bags (36cm x 13cm x 60cm) this backpack is comfortable and light to wear, with padded adjustable straps and a robust carry handle.

Hydro Flask insulated tote cool bag

If you’ve got all your picnicware sorted and are just looking for a decent bag to carry your goodies, this 20l capacity cooler from food storage experts Hydro Flask is a useful option. They have many varieties available, but this large tote bag is a serviceable shape and size to suit many a picnic. With lightweight, high performance insulation, contents are kept temperate for four hours.

When not in use, the soft, collapsible materials and handles make it storage and travel friendly. The fully sealed interior is BPA-free, with the fabric covered in a water resistant coating making it easy to clean and carry about whatever the weather. Welded storage pockets mean you can keep valuables safe and dry too, which is ideal for the beach.

Packit fresh stripe freezable grocery bag

This is just the thing for a spontaneous picnic in the sun; this genius bag is entirely freezable. Available in a range of styles and colours, this is a grocery style tote with an 18l capacity when in use, or a teeny 11cm x 19cm x 16cm when folded. That makes it ideal for storing in the freezer until you’re ready to grab and go. Plus, the clever built-in freezable gel will keep your goodies nicely chilled for 10 hours.

They say this particular style suits four people for a picnic and we concur: it will easily accommodate a six pack of beers and several pieces of Tupperware with room to spare. It’s also great for carrying your supermarket shopping, making it a great multipurpose option.

Fortnum’s 2 person canvas picnic carry all

They say good things come in small packages, and we can’t think of a much nicer picnic set than this little one. A smart, neutral coloured, fully-lined canvas carry-all with leather detailing, this mini bag measures just 30cm x 32cm x 8cm. But it’s still fully equipped with everything you need for a romantic Fortnums-worthy picnic: two plates in Fortnum & Mason signature duck egg blue, real cutlery, cruets, corkscrew and crisp white linen napkins. We think it’s ideal for stashing in your bag and picking up something delicious from the deli.

You can complete the look with the rest of Fortnum & Mason’s stylish picnic range, we’re currently coveting the coordinating Polo Picnic Rug.

Dunelm Madagascar zebra 15l picnic backpack

This tropically inspired backpack is part of a range of picnic products from Dunelm this spring. We like this backpack as it’s such an all-rounder; it’s insulated to keep your picnic cool for up to six hours (more if you add ice packs), it’s roomy, and has all the essentials without being heavy.

The cool compartment holds 15l, and an insulated bottle holder on the side is an additional bonus. The kit contains plastic wine glasses and plates, cutlery, bottle opener, cheese board and knife, salt and pepper shakers and napkins for two, all securely fitted within the bold zebra print designed pack. Plus, the padded and adjustable shoulder straps mean this picnic bag is comfortable to carry even when full. It’s a very popular model so check back regularly to see when it’s back in stock.

Red Original insulated cooler backpack

We’ve been super impressed with the next-level cool bags from Red Original in the past, so it stands to reason that their brand new insulated cool bag would be seriously good too. Boasting all of the usual Red Original cool bag functionality – keeping food and drink ice cold for days – this new bag comes in a backpack format, which will suit adventurous types.

Completely waterproof and leakproof with no water going in or out (thanks to the airtight zip), the bag is part made from recycled plastic bottles making it incredibly durable and light, meaning you can load it up and set off on your travels for the day. The shoulder straps are padded, adjustable and broad, and there’s a padded back panel for added comfort. Plus, there’s a removable chest strap to help distribute heavy loads.

There are two external bottle storage pockets for wine or water, a waterproof valuables pocket and many attachment points so you can load up your kit and go. The bag has a 15l capacity, plenty of space for a family picnic (medium-large Tupperware fit horizontally) or just lots of extremely cold beers. It’s available to pre-order now with delivery from 30 June.

The verdict: Picnic bags

We really rate the VonShef holdall which is both large and light, and has all the gear you’d need for an epic picnic. Adventurous types keen to hit the road should invest in the excellent new Red Original stat, which cannot be beaten for its clever design and ultimate performance.

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For the latest discounts on summer gear and other outdoor offers, try the links below:

Read our guide to make sure you have everything you need for a picnic in the park, from blankets to drinks

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