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What are the Different Types of Picnic Baskets?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Historically, a picnic basket was literally a basket used to transport food and other supplies to have a meal, usually lunch, out in nature. These days most picnic baskets are more like backpacks, but their fundamental purpose — to transport food, plates, drink, and cutlery — remains the same.

Classic-style picnic baskets are still available from a number of producers. These baskets are usually made of wicker or a similar material. They consist of a single large storage space, usually with a handle and flaps that open at both ends on the top. These baskets are suitable for transporting food and liquid relatively short distances, but temperature control is not possible and often the food will undergo some trauma. More advanced wicker picnic baskets, such as English style hampers, have clips on the inside to hold plates, utensils, and a large picnic cloth.

Picnic totes are the other basic type of picnic basket available on the market. These serve essentially the same function as a traditional picnic basket, but more closely resemble a backpack. They come equipped with a wide array of clips and sleeves for all manner of flatware, napkins, cloths, and plates. They also usually have holsters on the side or front to hold bottles of wine or juice. The obvious advantage of a tote over a traditional basket is the greatly reduced difficulty in carrying it for long distances, as the weight is much better distributed. Additionally, totes are usually well padded to help protect the food from damage during transport.

More expensive totes include systems to help regulate the temperature of food and liquid being transported. This may involve heavy insulation on the entire tote, or different areas for hot and cold food. Many totes, even those which don't regulate the temperature of the food, have insulation on their wine sleeves to ensure that the wine remains at its appropriate temperature.

Picnic baskets and picnic totes come in all manner of shapes, sizes and colors. Varieties are available for specific functions, such as plastic beach totes. Prices vary drastically, from US$20 for a simple traditional basket to over US$300 for a well-insulated, durable picnic tote.

A wide range of picnic accessories are also usually available wherever picnic baskets are sold. Accessories may include disposable utensils, unbreakable plates, cushioned cloths for place settings, and a variety of thermoses — including those designed especially for serving wine.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Jan 17, 2015

@fBoyle-- Yes, I have one that collapses and stores easily. But it's not a typical woven design. It's made of plastic and polyester fabric. As long as you don't mind this, you can find several different collapsible picnic baskets on the market.

By fBoyle — On Jan 17, 2015

Has anyone heard of a picnic basket that folds?

I'm shopping for a picnic basket. To be honest, I don't care too much about insulation, clips and sleeves. I just want a picnic basket that's easy to store when I'm not using it. I don't want it sitting out constantly. I want something I can collapse and store out of the way when I don't need it. But is there a type of picnic basket that can be stored this way?

By donasmrs — On Jan 16, 2015

I think that insulation in a picnic basket is unnecessary. It will increase the price of the basket or tote dramatically, but it's not required.

When I need to keep food or drinks cold, I just include several ice packs in the basket near those items and it works just fine. I don't really understand the concept of keeping food warm because picnic food doesn't usually require this at all. I doubt that anyone is going to take a meal that requires heating up to a picnic. Picnics are about easy to store foods like sandwiches, cut vegetables, fruit and chips, etc.

By Spotiche5 — On Jan 15, 2015

@ocelot60- Even though it is an old-fashioned basked style, many companies still make baskets that have the traditional design you are looking for. There are numerous basket companies out there, so you should be able to find the right picnic basket by looking at the different styles available.

While some basket companies have retail shops and outlet stores, others sell their baskets through catalogs and websites. Check out your local listings to see if there is a basket seller in your area. If not, you should be able to shop online by doing a search for picnic baskets, or request a catalog from various basket retailers.

By Ocelot60 — On Jan 14, 2015

I'm looking for a birthday gift for a friend who loves baskets. When we were kids, we use to go on picnics together, so I would love to find a traditional looking picnic basket for her. I don't know a lot about baskets or where to buy them, so I'm trying to get some advice for finding this type of basket for her birthday gift.

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