This page was updated in March 2021.
You can’t beat a traditional picnic, especially if you find the perfect picnic basket. Whether you need a simple basket for transporting your own picnic paraphernalia and food, or something to hold the full works, including glasses, plates, cutlery, a bottle opener, cool bags and more, a good-quality picnic hamper should make eating al fresco a breeze.
2020 saw us taking a new approach to eating outdoors and with socially distanced picnics now on the agenda for many again in 2021, going the whole hog with blankets, hampers and appropriate picnic food in outdoor spaces can be made easier with the right picnic hamper.
Which picnic hamper should I buy?
Before buying, you should think carefully about how you’ll be using your picnic hamper to ensure you choose the right one. Where are you most likely to go for your picnic? Will you drive to the picnic spot or will there be a hike involved? What type of food and drink will you be taking on your picnic? Chilled items will warrant a cool bag.
We looked for a wide range of picnic baskets at a variety of price points, that could hold enough to serve from two to six people. So which are the best picnic baskets? Here is our line-up of best buys.
The best picnic baskets and hampers to buy for summer
Fortnum & Mason Camellia two-person picnic hamper
Pros: subtly wire-reinforced for added strength
Cons: expensive, hand-wash-only components, no rug
Best luxury picnic hamper for two
Star rating: 5/5
If there’s any brand that knows how to help you channel quintessential British luxury into your picnics, it’s Fortnum & Mason.
The brand is synonymous with luxurious al fresco dining, and this chestnut-coloured wicker has the iconic F&M branding across its side. You pay a premium for the name – this is the Le Creuset of picnic hampers – but quality underpins the key characteristics here.
Aesthetically, it’s pristine. The fastenings are made of real leather with sturdy metal buckles, and on lifting the lid you reveal an extra monogrammed leather tag. It comes assembled, so there’s no faffing around with, for example, removing every piece of cutlery from its own plastic sleeve. Two ceramic plates and sets of cutlery are nicely presented and secured with the same gold popper design as the rivets on the outside.
As you’d hope for the price, every individual component is quality, and could be used in your kitchen. The two mugs and plates are made from bone china, the bottle opener features a crested thumb rest and the miniature salt and pepper grinders actually twist to grind.
There’s also a freezable gel bottle holder with a carry strap to easily keep drinks cool, plus a separate small cool bag that’s wipe-clean and also has a handle – it’s just large enough to contain a traybake. The hamper also contains a 750ml flask – this had a new-product smell on unscrewing, and isn’t recommended for transporting ice cubes but for simple hot drinks. It keeps liquids hot for a full eight hours.
The small wicker holder for the wine glasses and mugs are a nice extra touch, as is the wipe-clean drawstring bag for transporting your dirties post-picnic.
The only thing missing is a waterproof picnic mat. It’s unlikely that you’d use everything in this hamper all in one go, but whether you’re off for a bottle of bubbly with some snacks or a hot coffee with cake, there should be space to add your own additions.
Available from Fortnum & Mason (£275) (new stock on the way)
The Colourful Garden Company personalised four-person picnic basket
Best picnic hamper for four people
Pros: high-quality components, can be monogrammed with initials to make for a personal gift
Cons: no accompanying picnic rug, needed to trim wicker to fit all glasses
Star rating: 4.5/5
If you’re not straying too far from the boot of your car, this willow hamper for four people is a luxurious ode to the traditional picnic and provides all the trappings. It has classic woven styling, but unlike traditional hampers, its double-lidded design means it can sit and store things upright, an arguably more practical shape.
Three aspects set this picnic basket apart from the rest. Firstly is the quality of each component. They’re the kind you’d buy to furnish your new kitchen and wouldn’t look out of place on a dining table. Four sets of cutlery and a steel bottle opener are slotted into leather loops inside one of the lids, while four miniature plates and the salt and pepper shakers are secured in the other. Linen napkins that match the light interior are also provided.
The central section has been purposed well for holding food for four people. Three-quarters of the space is an integrated cool bag with a wipe-clean interior. The remaining space has been split into four individual holders for the small wine glasses (made of glass rather than plastic).
We had to trim the wicker inside one of these holders to fit the final glass. The last thing you want is to break anything by firmly closing the lid.
Once loaded up with food and bottles, the hamper is weighty and has a sturdy handle, thanks to the tightly weaved willow. A nice touch is that this hamper can be personalised with initials across one side – something that would make it a great gift for weddings or purely just because you love picnics. It also comes nicely gift-wrapped, although if the brand were to swap the cellophane for a more sustainable way of presentation, this would be a five-star hamper.
The Colourful Garden Company (£149)
Silver Editions two-person nautical hamper
Best contemporary picnic hamper
Pros: practical canvas carry straps
Cons: impractical light-coloured fabric outer
Star rating: 4/5
With a woven willow lid and a fabric-covered wooden body, this nautical-inspired addition to our best list is a contemporary take on the traditional picnic basket.
It’s noticeably lightweight thanks to components like plastic wine glasses and the white-handled sets of cutlery. There’s something to be said for the practicality and safety credentials of plastic glasses. Both are robustly made and secured in with two Velcro straps. Each cutlery item slots into its own elasticated pouch, which is also a great feature.
The interior is Breton-inspired in keeping with the hamper’s nautical theme. The hamper includes a navy picnic rug which has space for four and is secured with its own Velcro fastener and carry strap. This can be laid on top of the removable cool bag if the hamper is full, thanks to the hamper’s height. Two large Tupperware boxes can be fitted inside the cool bag.
The hamper’s canvas carry straps are robust and mean it can be carried upright, but also tucked away so the hamper can be stacked for easy storage, something not possible with rigid wicker handles.
However, the hamper does have some practicality flaws. If you happen to knock it with jam on your knife, the outer covering can’t be washed. It also wouldn’t fair well on damp ground, so luckily there’s a waterproof picnic mat inside.
Overall, although you forfeit a couple of elements like a quality bottle opener, this hamper offers everything else you need for a great picnic out.
Lifestyle rectangular four-person picnic hamper
Best basic picnic basket for extra capacity
Pros: well-thought-out handles, extra wicker glasses holder
Cons: individually plastic-wrapped cutlery, no accompanying picnic rug or cool bag
Star rating: 3.5/5
On first glance, this looks like a picnic hamper for six or even eight due to its large size. It warrants three handles – one in the traditional briefcase style plus one on either end, both padded and faux leather. These are immensely practical if you take advantage of its cavernous room and fully load it with food. The size of it means that when not in use, you could easily use it for storage around the house.
The fastenings are twist-to-open, practical and faff-free. On opening, each component is individually wrapped so you build up the hamper. One particular irk of this is that every item of cutlery had its own plastic wrapping which feels unnecessary and particularly unsustainable. The cutlery itself is stainless steel and lightweight, and is accompanied by an ergonomic wood and metal bottle opener, a set of salt and pepper shakers and four soft napkins. The four ceramic plates are dishwasher-safe.
A real stand-out feature of this hamper is the separate willow wine glass holder, which offers practical protection for the glasses and matches the hamper weave, but would benefit from a more robust lid-closure.
For the price, this hamper is just lacking its own picnic blanket and a removable cool bag.
Available from Garden Street (£86.99)
Greenfield Super Deluxe Picnic Rucksack for 4 people
Best picnic rucksack
Pros: packed with everything you need to make picnics stress-free, Thermos and tumblers included
Cons: not contemporary in design, picnic rug sold separately
Star rating: 4/5
Picnic rucksacks are immensely practical. While wicker hampers can limit you on how far you can go, just load this up, throw it on your back and you’re ready for an adventure. What this picnic bag lacks in contemporary design, it more than makes up for in sheer practicality.
All the essential bits of picnic kit and some added extras have a place. The bag is made up of two main compartments.
The front section contains four sets of cutlery (dishwasher safe, but recommended hand-wash only to keep their original ‘lustre’), four plastic wine glasses, a corkscrew and bottle opener, tablecloth and napkins (both machine washable) and four medium-sized melamine plates that would survive knocks and drops.
Some useful additions for making picnics easier also make this bag stand out. The rucksack includes a bottle stopper for saving the rest of your bubbly for later, plus a sharp serrated knife and small bamboo chopping board for slicing up sandwiches.
At the end of a picnic, there’s always the question of what to do with the dirty things – how are you going to transport them without getting it all over the inside of your picnic hamper? An additional reusable bag proved invaluable for holding all the dirties.
The bag’s back compartment is larger and insulated – great for helping keep your food cool. Two lidded stacker boxes come with the bag but you could easily stack five in there and still have additional room. Four stainless steel insulated tumblers fit in the back section and pair with the flask, which has its own insulated pocket at the side.
The rucksack we tested did not come with a blanket, but they are available to purchase separately. The materials used though-out have been used to achieve a relatively lightweight picnic rucksack and for what you get, this is a reasonably priced picnic companion.
Joules two bottle beach hamper
Best for no-frills drinks and nibbles
Pros: nice compact and upright design, comfortable to carry, strong in construction
Cons: no provisions for carrying a picnic rug
Although a little unconventional to have your picnic equipment poppered onto the outside of the wicker basket, the design of the Joules beach hamper for two people is a compact alternative to rectangular styles. It’s perfect for drinks and snacks on the beach or a no-frills picnic.
Made from antique washed willow, the hamper offers one insulated compartment for storing food safely on hot days, plus space for standing two bottles (although one of these could hold your rolled-up picnic rug).
We stacked three standard sandwich boxes inside this compartment and had room left over for stuffing in napkins, a bottle opener and snacks. On the other side is the picnic kit, secured with elastic straps inside a grey pouch that’s connected to the willow. This includes two acrylic wine glasses, small melamine plates, two pairs of white handled cutlery and salt and pepper pots. The zips extend all the way down, so it’s easy to access if you’re busy reclining in a leisurely fashion on your picnic rug.
Measuring L34 x W27 x H24cm (inc handle), this is a compact picnic hamper that’s best suited to light picnics or drinks with nibbles – think sunsets on the beach or lazy afternoons in the countryside. Its capacity also limits how heavy it gets.
Although the basket’s natural curve isn’t particularly conducive to stacking rectangular boxes, you do have flexibility to play around with what to carry in its compartments. We also couldn’t fault its construction.
Available from Joules (£53.10)
Totally compostable plastic-free picnic box, The Wholeleaf Co
Best eco-friendly picnic basket
Pros: disposable and compostable, great if you don’t want to have to bring anything home with you
Cons: box has a limited life and won’t survive long if it rains
This is an eco-friendly, fully compostable, disposable picnic option for those times you don’t want to be carrying anything home.
The pack comes with a cardboard box big enough to carry food and drink for four people, along with 25 dessert bowls and plates each (made from seasonal naturally shed palm leaves), plus FSC-certified wooden knives, forks and spoons and fully compostable cups. If the box is reused, this should give a family of four enough kit for six picnics.
Although not as sturdy as wicker or an insulated hamper, the box will be reusable (as long as it doesn’t get wet) and can hold a decent amount of food. The plates and bowls are sturdy and can take hot liquids, too.
Those who love the convenience of disposables can get their fix without harming the environment, and without any plastics, as all products are fully compostable.
How we tested picnic baskets
Our reviewer filled the hampers with picnic recipes and tested the picnic hampers in local parks, as well as their garden. The food varied between mid-morning brunches with cheese and crusty bread and coffee, to grab-and-go feasts of tomato and potato salads, hummus dips with crudites, watermelon slices, homemade cakes and spreads using our foolproof picnic recipes.
While testing, we looked carefully at handle comfort, capacity, the practicality of the design and quality of build, the quality and quantity of accessories, the ease of using the fastening mechanisms and how secure they were. We questioned whether the basket made our picnic stress-free and more pleasurable or proved more a hindrance than a help.
What we looked for in a picnic hamper
Large baskets without a durable handle or shoulder strap to take the weight may result in handles pulling free from their rivets after a few heavy picnics. It’s important to consider how long they will last under duress.
Accessories are fun and add to the occasion, but if you have kids, will those glasses really be the best thing to drink from? If you plan to walk to your favourite picnic spot, make sure you consider how bulky and easy to carry your basket will be.
Insulated compartments or separate cool bags will mean your food stays cold and safe to eat on a hot day. All those straps and buckles can be tiresome to undo and redo, and while the elastic straps don’t look so attractive, they are definitely a swift solution to securing accessories.
Value for money
Picnic hampers can get expensive, so you’ll want to ensure you’re getting the best value for money in terms of quality of the basket and accessories. Materials vary from cheaper plastic to glass and fine bone china, so make sure you consider how you’ll be using the basket before deciding how much to invest.
The appetite of your party or the occasions you’ll most often use your basket for will have an impact on which one you choose. It’s all very well having lots of accessories lining your basket, but if it means you have to sacrifice a sandwich or two, then it might not be the basket for you.
Quality of materials
If you want your picnic basket to last and look good, you will want a well-made basket with quality wicker and sturdy handles and straps. The quality of any insulation will determine how long it will keep your food cold and safe. Better-quality materials can also make for a more cumbersome basket, so you need to prioritise and weigh up the ease of carrying against more expensive, quality materials.
Whether you prefer a traditional, classic picnic hamper or something a little more fun and playful, you’ll want your picnic hamper to look good while you’re out and about.
What to put in a picnic basket
This review was last updated in March 2021 If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a favourite picnic basket? We’d love to hear your product suggestions…