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The advent of summer usually marks the move to outdoor dining - this year, as lockdown rules relax and we’re allowed to congregate outdoors with friends and family, picnics are more in fashion than ever.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard, you can cultivate the perfect spot, with outdoor umbrellas, garden furniture, patio chairs and heaters. The rest of us? Time to pack the perfect picnic and head to the park, or the beach.
If you’ve had bad experiences picnicking in the past (I’m looking at you, sweaty egg sandwiches and warm lager) - rest assured, an al fresco meal can be rapturous, providing you have the right tools.
We’ve rounded up our top rated picnic baskets, blankets, backpacks and cooler bags, so you can head out to a park, beach, or even a mountain top and enjoy the unique pleasures of a fête champêtre.
The essential picnic products, for the perfect outdoor party
Traditional picnic baskets are picturesque, but not necessarily the most practical means of transporting food and drinks. If you’re travelling by car, the Three Rivers 4 Person Picnic Basket is an old-fashioned, handsome piece of kit that contains an 8 litre insulated cool bag, to keep your food cool.
With four glasses, dinner plates, and cutlery sets, you can enjoy a refined meal outdoors. Just make sure you’re not having to carry it too far - it’s rather awkward to transport unless you have two people to carry it between the two of you.
Altogether easier to carry is VonShef’s delightfully practical picnic backpack.
Again, this has an internal cooler - great for ensuring food stays fresh on sunny days, or keeping your drinks cool. If you want to amp up the chill-factor, a frozen pack will keep a bottle of champagne cool for hours.
The bag comes complete with a selection of stainless steel cutlery, lightweight plates and glasses, a chopping board and cheese knife. A small cruet set, bottle opener and matching napkins complete the set - ideal for a lavish spread, and an air of refinement as you dine.
It comes with a tartan soft fleece blanket, to be stowed in a special holder on the side of the backpack, ready to roll out when you reach your picnic spot. It has a waterproof under - no need to worry about damp grass.
No one does kitchenware as chic and well-made as Alessi, the Italian houseware brand renowned for their design. Their luxury picnic set is no exception, a beautiful wicker and leather basket that has everything you need for an Insta-friendly picnic for four: 4 flat plates, 4 soup plates, 4 spoons, 4 forks, 4 knives, 4 melamine tea spoons and 4 thermoplastic-resin glasses, all dishwasher safe.
It looks fabulous, and the round design of the basket means you won’t be bumped by sharp corners as you lug it around.
In a similar vein, but perfect for two people, is this barrel-shaped hamper from Joules. The tweed lining is classically rustic, while an internal cool bag will keep your food fresh.
The basket includes china plates, wine glasses, stainless steel cutlery. Sweet, bucolic, romantic.
A hair less swooningly romantic, but still apt if you want to create the perfect outdoor meal for two, is the Fortnum’s 2 Person Canvas Picnic Carry All.
It’s a smart-looking piece of equipment and very easy to carry, containing two plates, two knife, fork and spoon sets, two linen napkins , a salt and pepper grinder and a corkscrew, all neatly packed in fully lined canvas carry all. Built to last.
Spun from recycled wool, this beautiful picnic blanket is modelled on antique styles, and feels cosy and comforting to sit on.
A waterproof polyester under ensures no dampness underneath will bleed through. With buckle-fastening straps to tidy away and carry easily, a carry handle and a fringed trim, this machine-washable blanket will serve your family for generations (just make sure to keep it in a moth-free location).
Ever been to a picnic and found your bottom perched uncomfortably on the edge of a blanket that can’t accommodate more than four people? We have. This delightful blanket from Von Shef is the perfect solution: it can easily house six adults (more if you are very fond of each other).
It’s a polyester blanket - so, no, not as comfy as the option listed above, but a third of the price. It buckle-fastens, has a handle, and a waterproof PEVA backing to keep everyone comfy and dry.
This cute blanket will be a hit with young’uns. The top is cotton, so soft and durable, and again, hardy polyester keeps everyone dry. Can seat 6 with relative comfort.
This brilliant tote can keep your food and drink cool and fresh for 48 hours, thanks to a smart insulation system that nevertheless manages to remain feather-light (it’s no hardship hefting this up a mountain for a picnic with a view).
With a rust-proof, watertight zip, you don’t need to worry about spillages. Handsome, sleek, and with a 18L capacity, it’s our number one choice for a cooler that will serve your every outdoor eating requirement. We love the multiple pockets and spaces for keeping different foodstuffs separate, too.
It’s ever so easy to carry, too.
Von Shef, you may have gathered, know their onions when it comes to picnics (so to speak). Their cooler bag is, naturally, a canny, well priced entry into the genre. Sturdily constructed from polyester and aluminium, it’s tough enough to keep glass bottles secure.
With a 22l capacity, you’ve plenty of space for food and drink for four: two bottles of wine, say, or a enough beer for an afternoon, and still your picnic meal. Cooling wise, it will keep things cool for several hours - so it’s a day-trip cooler. Handy and reliable.
Cool and practical, this easy-to-carry cooler bag is ideal for slouchy about on the beach in an insouciant manner.
It’s made from the leftover premium canvas used to make beach umbrellas, so it’s eco-sound, as well as robustly made. With a wipe-clean PVC lining, it’s ideal to house drinks and nibbles for four.