Whether you’re spending quality time with family or catching up with friends, al fresco dining is an easy way to stay sociable.
A picnic rucksack is a great fuss-free option if you’re looking for something to hold all the goods and sling over your shoulder. Or, perhaps you’re an outdoorsy type looking to get a few miles of hiking in before you stop for food. Whatever your needs, a picnic rucksack is a hands-free, travel-friendly alternative to picnic hampers.
The rucksacks we tested include, as standard, cutlery and plates. But many also offer useful extras such as cups, bottle openers, napkins, cheese boards and knives, and even salt and pepper shakers! Some also come with picnic blankets, too. If you’re looking for something larger than a backpack or something more traditional, take a look at our best picnic baskets and hampers for 2021.
For inspiration on what to include in your picnic rucksack take a look at our collection of picnic recipes, including vegetarian picnic recipes and vegan picnic recipes. You’ll also need something sturdy and leak-proof to store food in, so check out our roundup of the best food storage containers and best lunch boxes.
How to choose the best picnic rucksack
What is a picnic rucksack?
Picnic rucksacks look just like normal rucksacks, but they come with extra features such as compartments for cutlery, melamine plates and napkins, as well as larger cool-bag style compartments. Some even come with additional cooler pockets for bottles of wine or other drinks.
What can a picnic rucksack be used for?
A picnic rucksack is easy to carry and often small and compact, making it a great alternative to a classic picnic hamper. The rucksack design means it’s comfortable to carry for longer periods of time, so you can easily work up an appetite over a long walk before you stop to eat. They’re suited to any weather, terrain and type of picnic, whether it’s lunch on the beach or a mid-hike refuel.
What to look out for in a picnic rucksack?
- Size: All of the picnic rucksacks we’ve tested are designed for two to four people. Consider how many people will be joining you before you buy.
- Storage options: Some picnic backpacks come with one single pocket for storage, others come with lots of pockets as well as extra features like wine coolers. Work out how much space you’re likely to need.
- Cool bag: Think about how big you need the cool bag pocket to be. Do you need extra space for warm or ambient foods?
- Blanket: Usefully, some picnic bags come with a picnic blanket. Think about whether this is something you need.
Best picnic rucksacks at a glance
- Best picnic rucksack – VonShef 2-person picnic backpack with blanket, £54.99
- Best budget picnic rucksack – John Lewis backpack & picnic rug, £35
- Best picnic rucksack for four – Summerhouse 4-person picnic backpack, £56.99
- Best picnic rucksack for cool bag – VonShef 4-person roll-top picnic backpack, £49.99
- Best picnic rucksack for feasts – VonShef 4-person picnic backpack, £79.99
- Best picnic rucksack for summery design – Summerhouse 2-person insulated backpack, £50 (back in stock soon)
Best picnic rucksacks to buy in 2021
VonShef 2-person picnic backpack with blanket
Best picnic rucksack
Pros: blanket with waterproof lining, insulated pocket for wine/drink, lots of pockets
Cons: cutlery wrapped in plastic
Star rating: 5/5
Not showy or garish, this rucksack has been designed purely with functionality in mind.
Different tones of grey and brown faux leather accents make up the design. Padding on the handles make this backpack comfortable to wear, even on longer walks. The most impressive part of the design is the many pockets – ranging from the large insulated cool bag at the back to smaller zipped ones, ideal for valuables and keys.
It’s designed for two people and comes with the requisite cutlery and tableware, though we were disappointed to find that every piece of cutlery had a plastic covering, which seemed wasteful. We loved the extras like salt and pepper shakers, a cheese board and cheese knife, napkins and a bottle opener – this is a backpack designed for people who take their picnicking seriously.
The cool bag isn’t the biggest, but we were still able to comfortably fit one large Tupperware box and two smaller boxes inside. Plus all those other secret pockets offer plenty of space for extra snacks. On the front of the bag sits a pouch for a bottle of wine or reusable water bottle – while this isn’t insulated, it does have a drawstring feature at the top to keep it secure.
A soft, striped picnic blanket is also provided and there are straps to secure it to the side of the bag. Usefully, the blanket also has a waterproof backing and it’s large enough for two to sit on it comfortably, or even lie down post-picnic.
Spills are easy to clean up as the outer bag has a waterproof coating so nothing seeps through. The lining of the cool bag is equally easy to clean. Cutlery and tableware should be hand washed.
Price, pockets and practicality make this a winning picnic rucksack.
John Lewis backpack & picnic rug
Best budget picnic rucksack
- Available from John Lewis & Partners (£35)
Pros: attractive design, comes with picnic blanket, comfortable to wear
Cons: carry handle is a little stiff and scratchy
Star rating: 5/5
Whether you’re after something to sling over your shoulder or a backpack for a hike, this John Lewis rucksack is a great choice. It’s equipped with padded shoulder straps for added comfort and the design has a subtle nautical theme.
Despite being made up of just two compartments, this rucksack is roomy. The insulated cool bag has a nine-litre capacity and we were able to comfortably fit one large Tupperware box and three smaller boxes inside, which is more than enough for two people. Joy of joys, the cool bag is also wipe clean, should any spills occur.
Picnicware is stored in the large front pocket. Included with this backpack are plates, tumblers and cutlery for two, as well as a small cutting board/cheese board, cheese knife and bottle opener. All of the picnicware is hand wash only and feels good quality. We thought this pocket was pretty roomy too, so it could easily be used as overflow for extra picnicware or snacks.
A super-soft fleece picnic blanket with a wipe clean underside is also included. The blanket is comfortable and certainly big enough for two. It can be secured using the velcro panel on the outside so it doesn’t unfurl when not in use and two straps are provided on the side of the backpack, making it easy to carry.
The exterior of the backpack is wipe clean, so upkeep is simple. This is a great-looking, highly functional picnic rucksack, ideal for two people.
Summerhouse 4-person picnic backpack
Best picnic rucksack for four
- Available from Wayfair (£56.99)
Pros: insulated wine cooler included, small pockets for valuables, attractive design
Cons: no picnic blanket
Star rating: 5/5
Like the John Lewis rucksack above, this Summerhouse backpack also features a nautical-style striped design. It too had two main pockets: one cool bag and one for picnicware, but it also has a small front pocket for valuables and an insulated wine (or other beverage) cooler attached to the side of the bag.
Equipped with enough picnicware for four people, this rucksack includes plates, cutlery and cups, as well as a small chopping board/cheeseboard and a bottle opener. Whilst the cutlery isn’t the highest quality, the handles are comfortable to use when eating and they’ll certainly suffice for picnics. The plates, cups and cutlery are all dishwasher safe.
We thought the detachable insulated wine cooler was rather useful as it means your chilled wine is transportable, or, if someone else is on drinks duty, you can leave the cooler at home.
The back of the backpack features a large cool bag. During testing it offered enough space for one large Tupperware box and five smaller boxes. The inside of the cool bag is wipeable for easy clean up.
The zips and fittings are sturdy and kept all of our food, valuables and picnicware secure. The shoulder straps are padded and easy to adjust, too.
There’s no picnic blanket, nor is there anywhere to secure one, which is a shame. But every component of this picnic bag is well thought out and securely contained. A great option for four people.
VonShef 4-person roll-top picnic backpack
Best picnic rucksack for cool bag
Pros: large cool bag, cool bag layer can be removed, very secure
Cons: no picnic blanket, some excessive packaging
Our score: 4.5/5
Roll-top backpacks are rather fashionable at the moment, so this offering from VonShef really caught our eye. With its simple grey design and faux leather accents, this rucksack is a chic option for picnickers.
The first thing we noticed about this rucksack was just how large it is. Made up of one big insulated cool bag, this backpack is ideal for those looking to travel for a while before they reach their picnic destination. There are also two additional side pockets on the outside of the bag for any slim extras. They can’t be secured but they are quite deep.
Inside the cool bag we found a cutlery carry case and four cups. We were a little frustrated to find each cup had been individually wrapped in plastic bubble wrap; a more eco-friendly alternative would have been preferable. The carry case has its own mesh holder, so it’s easy to find when the bag is filled with food and Tupperware. Plates and cutlery for four people are also included – we loved the light blue ombre design on the plates and thought they were a welcome alternative to white. Like some of the other backpacks we’ve tested, the cutlery included isn’t the highest quality, but it’ll certainly do for a picnic.
One of the neatest features of this backpack is that the cool bag is removable. This is useful not only for cleaning, but for carrying food that doesn’t need to be kept cool. Versatility is always a big plus in our eyes!
A picnic blanket isn’t provided unfortunately and while one could easily fit inside the cool bag, this would mean compromising on space. We’d have liked to have seen at least one extra secured pocket for valuables as this is a big bag, so we wouldn’t want to bring anything extra for things like keys, a phone or wallet.
The cool bag space is second to none, so this is the rucksack for you if your picnic menu usually includes lots of cold dishes.
VonShef 4-person picnic backpack
Best picnic rucksack for feasts
Pros: two bottle holders, picnic blanket included, lots of pockets
Cons: individually wrapped cutlery, blanket is small
Our score: 4.5/5
This VonShef backpack is the four person equivalent of our top-scoring picnic rucksack. Like our first-place VonShef, this backpack also comes with a wealth of pockets for extra snacks and valuables.
Made up of tones of grey with brown faux leather accents, this backpack is simply designed. It comes with not one, but two insulated bottle holders that sit either side of the backpack. These can be removed for easy serving once picnicking.
The main body of the rucksack is made up of a cool bag. We fitted one large Tupperware box and two smaller boxes inside, and there was still a little bit of space for malleable extras. Like all of the other cool bags on this list, this one is also wipe clean.
On the front of the backpack is a pocket for picnicware. There are four sets of cutlery (knives, forks, spoons) as well as melamine plates, tumblers, and napkins. Ideal for big meals, salt and pepper shakers, a chopping board and cheese knife are also included. We also found there was a little bit of extra space for another Tupperware box here.
A picnic blanket is provided too – the same one that’s included with the first-place VonHaus backpack. While the waterproof layer is useful and the blanket itself is cosy, it was too small for four adults to sit on it comfortably. With knees touching, there was no space for the food, so we’d recommend bringing a second blanket.
When the backpack was full to the brim it does give a pretty large silhouette, but this is understandable considering how much food and drink we were able to carry. Thankfully, the backpack straps are padded, making for a comfortable journey.
Summerhouse 2-person insulated backpack
Best picnic rucksack for summery design
- Available from Dunelm (£50)*
Pros: Comfortable handles, large capacity cool bag, dishwasher-safe picnicware
Cons: Picnicware individually wrapped in plastic, no picnic blanket
Our rating: 4.5/5
With a cheerful floral design, this picnic rucksack is ideal for spring and summer. The cool bag has a 1- litre capacity, plenty of space for a variety of Tupperwares and other picnic foods.
This backpack doesn’t have as many pockets as some of the rucksacks on this list, with just an insulated one at the back and another for picnicware at the front. The cool bag is quite square if you open it up wide, so we were able to fit one large Tupperware box and three smaller boxes in the bag. We also managed to slide a bottle of wine in too, which was a pleasant surprise!
Designed for two people, this backpack comes with the requisite cutlery, plates, and cups. It also comes with washable cotton napkins, a bottle opener and a cheeseboard and knife. Cheese is a picnic staple, so we were very grateful for this addition. We were disappointed to find that each component was wrapped in plastic though; paper would have sufficed. The picnicware pocket is pretty spacious so we popped a few extra items in there for storage.
The backpack has comfortable padded straps, meaning it’s easy to carry, even for long periods. Alternatively, this rucksack has soft and supple extra straps so it can be carried like a normal bag.
There’s no picnic blanket provided, so you’ll need to bring your own along. This is an attractive picnic bag sure to bring some extra cheer to spring and summer picnics.
*Back in stock soon
How we tested picnic rucksacks
We took our filled picnic rucksacks on a walk to a local park to test how comfortable the shoulder straps were when wearing the rucksack and how heavy it was when full to the brim.
Our picnic food consisted of classic dishes, including cheese and bread, pasta salads, hummus and crudités, fruit and cakes all inspired by BBC Good Food’s picnic recipes.
We tested the quality of the picnicware when eating and the quality and quantity of accessories. The capacity of the cool bag/storage space was tested by using a variety of different-sized filled Tupperware – we’ve noted what we could fit in each bag above. We questioned whether there were enough pockets provided and what measures were in place to secure them. For example, was there space for valuables, or will you need to bring another bag with you?
If a picnic blanket was provided, we noted the quality and if it was the right size for the number of people the backpack had been designed for.
What to put in a picnic basket
This review was last updated in April 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.