picnic blanket with food and drinks

11 Eco-Friendly Essentials You Need for Your Next Picnic

A pro shares the must-haves she thinks everyone needs for a great outdoor meal.         
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

What's more fun than a moveable feast? Picnics are the edible adventure that offer us an escape, whether we are still at home (camped on the floor of the apartment on a rainy day), in a local park, or on a bona fide vacation at the beach or lake. The best picnics are about a change of scene and a change of perspective; they're also about enjoying good food and relaxation. Picnics should be easy to carry, easy on the eye, and easy on the planet. Banish the plastic, embrace the basket, pack your delicious repast in sustainable containers. Read on for our list of essential picnic items (tested by this writer, who picnics professionally, and who has packed hundreds of them, from the Alps to the rooftops of Brooklyn, to urban parks, to the wild, wild woods).

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Herschel Eco Retreat Backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Herschel

Best Picnic Backpack

For ease of carrying, nothing beats a backpack. The Herschel Eco backpack, which is made from recycled plastic bottles, is strong, durable, and deceptively voluminous, allowing you to layer lidded containers easily, alongside a bottle of something chilled, and stacked glasses.

Shop Now: Herschel Eco Retreat Backpack, $99.99, herschel.com.

Woven Sweetgrass Basket
Credit: Courtesy of Al Maktou Goods

Best Picnic Basket

These colorful and sturdy sweetgrass baskets woven in West Africa allow for wide-bodied items like plates, cakes, and collections of containers, side by side. The open top makes oversize items easier to carry, and allows a baguette or bottle of wine to peep out. If you happen to find some edible wild mushrooms after your picnic, this is the perfect basket for them, too!

Shop Now: Woven Sweetgrass Basket (Large), $90.00, almaktoumgoods.com.

mungo throw Juno Throw blanket
Credit: Courtesy of Mungo

The Best Picnic Blanket

We love to spread these thick picnic blankets out on lawns and beaches. These textiles, created and woven in South Africa by Mungo, are luxuriously soft and versatile; they're actually bed throws but are perfect for picnicking. They come in mustard, charcoal, or tomato red.

Shop Now: Juno Throw, $180, mungo.us.com.

Tiffin, 4-Tier container
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Stacked Containers for Cold Food

There's nothing new about the iconic tiffin container, traditionally used to deliver home-cooked food warm from kitchen to office by courier. But with our current and urgent emphasis on sustainability, the shiny tower that is the stacked tiffin is more desirable than ever, offering a course per container, or an entire meal. Fill your tiffins with pâtés and pickles, crudités and dips, crackers and cheese, fruit salads and chocolate truffles.

Shop Now: Tiffin Four-Tier Containers, $21.99, amazon.com.

U-Konserve Stainless Steel Containers
Credit: Courtesy of U-Konserve

Best Lidded Containers for Cold Food

In a wide range of sizes, U-Konserve's lightweight stainless steel containers are attractive enough to be used as serving dishes in their own right. Their silicon lids are flexible, leakproof, and transparent, allowing you to see what you have packed, where, at a glance. The containers are dishwasher safe and nest easily when not in use. They are not limited to picnicking, but double as food storage, and (with tare weight printed on their undersides) you can use them to buy dry goods in bulk, skipping those devilish plastic bags.

Shop Now: U-Konserve Stainless Steel Containers, From $9.95, ukonserve.com.

Thermos Food Jars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Container for Hot Food

There's a reason Thermos™ has become a catch-all noun. Inside their insulated, robust flasks, hot foods stay hot (winter picnics are a thing) and cold foods stay cold—even ice cream travels well. Sizes range from 16 ounces (just right for a hot chocolate sauce for dipping marshmallows or madeleines, or soup-for-two), to a whopping 47 ounces (that would be right for steaming goulash on a snowy day).

Shop Now: Thermos Food Jars, from $15.34 , amazon.com.

bambu veneerware plates
Credit: Courtesy of Bambu Home

Best Disposable, Compostable Plates

In the world of bamboo veneerware Bambu has become a classic. Their smart, satin-smooth plates are pretty and functional, and can in fact (ahem) be used more than once if washed and dried carefully. But, most importantly, they are compostable.

Shop Now: Bambu Veneerware Round Plates, $9 for eight, bambuhome.com.

Duke of Gloucester Decorative Tin Plate
Credit: Courtesy of Monticello

Best Reusable Tin Plates

Featherlight tin plates with vintage appeal add a whimsical touch to every picnic. All they ask is that you hand wash them to keep them in good condition (mine have lasted many years). We are partial to the luscious Duke of Gloucester design, but there are several to choose from.

Shop Now: Duke of Gloucester Decorative Tin Plate, $12, monticelloshop.org.

Picardie Tumblers by Duralex
Credit: Courtesy of Duralex

Best Drinkware: Picardie Tumblers by Duralex

The elegant, tough, tempered—and possibly indestructible—French glasses made by Duralex are the quintessential picnic (and bistro) tumblers. They stack neatly, so you can wrap a tower of them in a cloth napkin for easy transport. We like the 4.6oz tumblers—small enough to pack easily but large enough for a proper drink, be it a hot toddy, chilled prosecco, or iced tea.

Shop Now: Picardie Tumblers by Duralex, $20 for six, duralexusa.com.

Fit and Fresh Reusable Ice Packs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Ice Packs

Some foods need to be kept cool. Slim and square, these reusable ice packs work best for picnics that will be consumed within four hours. Pro tip: Use a large cotton napkin to wrap the frozen icepack snugly atop the container that needs to stay cold.

Shop Now: Fit and Fresh Reusable Ice Packs, $12.84 for four, amazon.com.

Le Creuset Wine Cooler Sleeve
Credit: Courtesy of Le Creuset

Best Chilled Wine Sleeve

Whether it's wine or sparkling water that you want kept cold en route to your picnic site, one of Le Creuset's eye popping color collection of sleeves fits the bill. Just remember to freeze it the night before you need it!

Shop Now: Le Creuset Wine Cooler Sleeve, $25, lecreuset.com.