Whether you’re spending quality time with family or catching up with friends, al fresco dining is an easy way to stay sociable.

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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.

Picnic rucksacks are a sustainable choice as there's no need to buy single-use cutlery or plates, ideal if you're looking to cut down or cut out your plastic use.

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.

Best picnic rucksacks at a glance

  • Best mid-priced rucksack: ProCook insulated picnic backpack, £49
  • Best blow-the-budget picnic rucksack: Fortnum’s 2-person canvas picnic backpack, £195
  • Best for big groups: VonShef 6-person navy tartan holdall, £52.99
  • Best compact rucksack: Regatta Stamford 4-person picnic coolbag, £41.95
  • Best for space: Mountain Warehouse 4-person picnic set, £34.99
  • Best for a romantic picnic for two: Sunnylife Luxe picnic backpack, £150
  • Best for a family picnic: Summerhouse Guatemala picnic backpack, £55.99
  • Best picnic rucksack: VonShef Ash 2-person picnic backpack with blanket, £44.99
  • 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, £54.99

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 to buy in 2022

ProCook insulated picnic backpack

Best mid-priced backpack

open backpack with cutlery and plates

Pros: Compact, easy to carry.
Cons: Might not be big enough for some

Star rating: 3.5/5

This is a well-designed, no-nonsense backpack that has all the essentials for four people. Even the colour – navy blue – is practical, though the contrasting navy and white cover flap adds some extra style.

The padded shoulder straps are adjustable and we liked the fact that the base of the crockery section lies flat when you open it, to make getting the crockery out simpler. The plates, cutlery and glasses can go in the dishwasher – a definite bonus if you don’t want to have to hand-wash wash everything at the end of a day out.

The backpack has two sections – an insulated 15 litre compartment for food and a separate, smaller one for crockery.

The main compartment, which is wipe clean, wasn’t wide enough for our biggest containers but we comfortably fit five medium ones, or four with a couple of bottles. The front flap has adjustable buckles which really add to the look. The clasps they fit on to are attached to the body of bag magnetically and we found they fell off a couple of times when we were filling the bag.

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Inside the other section is the crockery with everything you need. Inside, packaging is minimal with just some paper sheets between the plates. You get four plastic plates, which are described as dinner plates though in reality you won’t get much more than a sandwich on them. These are kept in place with a Velcro strap. There are also wine goblets, stainless steel cutlery (though the spoons are small), a cheese/ chopping board and a waiter’s friend bottle opener/ corkscrew. These are also kept securely in place with elasticated straps. The knife is sharp enough to chop an apple.

We found this light and comfortable to wear and it kept food cold.

Available from:
Procook (£49)

Fortnum’s 2-person canvas picnic backpack, Eau de Nil

Best blow-the-budget picnic rucksack

fortnum teal picnic backpack with pouch

Pros: Stylish, compact, well designed, good quality contents.
Cons: Spoons are small, no external bottle holders.

Star rating: 4/5

As you would expect from a Fortnum and Mason picnic item, this oozes style. Designed for two people, you’ll find good quality items inside.

There are two enamel plates in an inside pocket which is secured with a Velcro strap. Cutlery, green-handled to match the bag, comes wrapped in two white cotton napkins which in turn go into their own detachable drawstring bag, secured inside with a leather-trimmed strap. You’ll also find wine goblets, two salt and pepper grinders and a corkscrew/ bottle opener which has its own holding hook at the top.

There’s also a useful separate bag which you can use for empties or additional storage.

The rucksack itself is on the compact side – though you can get some small containers in, it’s best for items like wrapped sandwiches and crisps. There’s a useful extra internal pocket and two elasticated loops to keep drinks securely inside, but this does take up space.

You can choose how you want to carry it - there’s a leather hand strap or two comfy well-padded main straps to carry on your back. This one fitted particularly snugly.

The rucksack also scored well for sustainability. The bag is made from recycled materials and there’s a pleasing lack of plastic covers inside. Even the labels are printed on recycled paper.

Overall, the bag feels high quality and very secure – there are two zips on each compartment and inside everything is kept neatly and firmly in place. One downside is both plates and napkins are hand-wash only. The picnicware is slightly heavier than some of the others but as the rucksack is only designed for two people, it isn’t a problem to carry it even when it’s full and the weight is well distributed.

VonShef 6-person navy tartan holdall

Best picnic rucksack for big families or groups

blue holdoll with lots of cultery and plates in pockets

Pros: Great size, easy to access the food compartment
Cons: Quite bulky

Star rating 5/5

If you’re picnicking with a crowd, this spacious holdall has everything you need. The main compartment, which is insulated, holds plenty – we fit in seven containers including two large (3 litre), or five and a couple of water bottles. You access it from the top and the wide opening means you can pull out your boxes and food easily.

This is a different shape to most we tested – it’s wide rather than tall. There’s a shoulder strap so you can sling it over your shoulder, but you can also carry it by hand if you prefer. It isn’t too heavy (which is impressive considering how many it caters for) and everything inside is well-secured, as are the compartments themselves, which close with twin zips. The top of the front pouch has Velcro.

Crockery is stored in three different compartments (two at the side and one at the front) all of which open flat. The sides each have three glasses, one set of cutlery (we were pleased to see full-sized spoons), with a waiter’s friend on one side and salt and pepper shakers on the other. This is an advantage if you have more than one meal, or don’t want to wash up everything when you get home, as you can separate dirty from clean crockery. A minor inconvenience is that you have to guess which side the salt and pepper is in.

In the front pouch is the rest of the cutlery, plates, a dinky cheeseboard and a cheese knife. There are also cotton napkins which match the trim on the side of the bag.

The materials feel good quality. Although it’s big, you can squash the sides in for easier storage. We were disappointed that the cruet and goblets came in bubble wrap – we would have preferred more sustainable packaging. The holdall comes with a list of what can go into the dishwasher (cutlery and cutting board, though hand-washing is advised).

Regatta Stamford 4-person picnic coolbag

Best for compact design

blue backpack with four plates and cups

Pros: Attractive and neat
Cons: The shoulder strap could have done with some padding

Star rating: 4/5

At first glance, this doesn’t look big enough for four people, but it has been cleverly designed and is deceptively spacious. We fitted five medium sized containers inside. Neat and compact, it covers all the basics and has added touches like a bottle holder on the side – giving you more space for food items. There’s a broad adjustable shoulder strap and a handle if you prefer to carry it.

The main, insulated compartment is big enough to hold five containers of different sizes. There’s another side compartment holding four tumblers which come individually wrapped in plastic (as are the knives and forks). This side compartment is insulated too so you could always put a drink in instead and, if you’ve room, move the cups to the main compartment.

The front pouch – secured by easy Velcro rather than a zip – comes with standard picnic items of four plates, cutlery (including full-sized spoons) and a bottle opener/corkscrew. These are held in individual straps so are easy to pull in and out. Cutlery is a deep blue colour which makes a change from the usual white and the knife easily passed the apple-cutting test.

This rucksack gained brownie points for being made from recycled polyester. There’s a reinforced base and a wipe-clean interior.

We felt this was just about big enough for four, especially if you wrap sandwiches rather than take lots of salads in boxes. It’s light and easy to carry with a double shoulder strap, though this would have benefited from extra padding for comfort.

Available from:
Regatta (£41.95)

Mountain Warehouse 4-person picnic set

Best for space

mountain warehouse backpack

Pros: Very roomy, light and easy to carry
Cons: Too much plastic packaging, no bottle opener

Star rating: 4.5/5

If you’re looking for a picnic rucksack that makes you stand out from the crowd, this could well fit the bill. It’s a very cheerful and brightly coloured bag – and it’s very spacious too. If it’s a bit too garish for your tastes, it also comes in a more conventional blue with colourful stripes.

You get a particularly deep main insulated section with this rucksack – we fitted two big and four smaller boxes into it. It is plenty roomy enough for four people and perhaps a couple of others too, depending on how hungry you are. You’ll be able to prepare tubs of salad, fruit and other picnic goodies before you go without the fear of having to leave anything at home at the last minute.

The zip-up crockery compartment has plates, clear beakers, cutlery (including full-sized spoons) and plates for four. There are also salt and pepper shakers, a chopping board and a serrated knife, but no bottle opener.

We liked the detachable insulated bottle holder at the side – this leaves extra room for the all-important food in the main section.

Everything zips up securely and feels good, rugged quality. The backpack is easy to carry with broad, padded straps. The only problem we had was that the glasses were a bit fiddly to put back and kept slipping out of their holders.

We tested this out on the hottest day of the year (using ice packs). When we opened the bag after three hours, our sarnies and salad were nice and cold.

There was also quite a lot of plastic packaging over the cutlery and cruet but overall this is a great bag for a family with hearty appetites.

Available from:
Mountain Warehouse (£34.99)
Amazon (£29.99)

Sunnylife Luxe picnic backpack

Best for a romantic picnic for two

orange backpack with oranges and limes

Pros: Stylish, great freezable divider, comes with picnic blanket
Cons: Pricey

Star rating: 4.5/5

Designed for two people, this is a very stylish and well-designed canvas rucksack from Australian brand Sunnylife.

The main compartment has a removable divider in the middle so you can keep anything you need to separate, be it hot and cold food or main course and pudding. The divider doubles up as a removable gel pack which you can freeze and then replace in the bag to keep the contents cool. Another plus of this is that it’s lighter than a standard freezer block. Because the gel pack is vertical, it kept the top of our bottles cooler than some other bags.

The rucksack is plenty big enough for a picnic à deux. We fitted in two large and three smaller boxes, though we had to remove the divider.

Unusually, there are pockets on either side so you can both carry a different drink, or a flask and a bottle, though these aren’t insulated. Another unusual feature is the closure of this main compartment, which is with a drawstring rather than the traditional zip. The front flap also has a clasp for extra security.

The second compartment – which does have a zip all the way around – is well equipped. Inside you get a full set of stainless-steel cutlery, two tumblers held in place with elasticated straps and a bottle opener (but no salt and pepper or cheese board). The plates (effectively shallow bowls) are secured with a cross of Velcro-fastened material. The contents arrived with plastic bags covering the tumblers and knives.

At the bottom of the rucksack is the real bonus – a good sized matching picnic blanket secured to the main part of the bag with buckles. It’s light so doesn’t add much to the overall weight. At the same time however, this does make the bag quite long so it isn’t ideal if you are particularly short. Overall, the bag is easy to carry with comfortable padded adjustable straps.

Summerhouse Guatemala picnic backpack

Best for a family picnic

pink backpack with navy details, cutlery and plates

Pros: Well designed, roomy
Cons: No separate bottle pocket

Star rating 5/5

One of the best things about this backpack is that it is designed so you can stand it up on a flat base while emptying it, enabling you to use both hands. The main, insulated compartment is a good size – we managed to put in three large food containers as well as two smaller ones, then repacked it with six medium boxes and two bottles. It’s perfect for a family of four or group of friends.

The front compartment holds your picnic crockery – four sets of white-handled knives, spoons and forks as well as plates, wine glasses, salt and pepper, a bottle opener and a small board. Everything is well secured inside. Both sections zip up neatly and smoothly so nothing can fall out. There are zips on either side of both sections, making it even easier to do up. There’s an extra (empty) small pocket at the front which would be useful for anything from a map to empty crisp packets or to slip your sunglasses into.

If you are after an unusual design, this could well be for you. There’s a pretty bird design at the front of each compartment.

Carrying this is a breeze – there’s a hand strap if you prefer to carry it that way as well as two broad padded straps if you’d rather take the weight on your back. These are easily adjustable. We filled it with bottles of water as part of the test and didn’t struggle with the weight at all.

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 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.

Available from:
VonHaus (£44.99)

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 ombré 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.

Available from:
VonHaus (£49.99)

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.

Available from:
VonHaus (£54.99)

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.

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This review was last updated in June 2022 If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

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