Best cool bags for the summer picnic season

It’s the year of the staycation, where we’ll be discovering our green and pleasant land up and down the country, whether on day trips, long weekends or holidays.

If you’re heading for a picnic in the park, a day at the beach or a camping trip, the best cool bags will ensure your food and drink stays fresh and cool for the duration.

Look out for handy wipeable lining, extra pockets, easy carry straps, foldable design for simple storage, and pretty prints for extra style points.

From cool bags on wheels to chic country patterns, we’ve rounded up the best cool bags below so you can eat fresh food al fresco anywhere, any time.

What is the best insulated cooler bag?

The best insulated cooler bags use foam. It is the most common insulation as it is the most effective at maintaining lower temperatures due to foam being filled with bubbles of gas.

Foam is usually placed between the inner and outer parts of the cool bag as an insulation barrier.

Some cool bags use a vacuum which is created between the outer layer and the inner layer to prevent temperature dissipation. The foil inner layer helps to reflect any radiated thermal energy from the food or drink contents inside, instead of letting the cooler temperature escape. This means colder or hotter items retain their temperature and flavour for longer.

When thinking about purchasing a cool bag it is important to consider these things first:

  • Durability – check the size and design can support the amount of contents you need to transport. Also worth noting the design features such as handles, straps or wheels that will offer extra flexibility.

  • Weight: a cool bag for everyday use will likely be made of lightweight material making it easier to transport around. Larger cool boxes may be made from more durable, heavier materials so it is important to consider how much heavier it will be when full.
  • Material: ideally your cool bag or box should be made of material that can be wiped-clean and is totally rinsible. You may also want to invest in one made with a leakproof lining to avoid accidental spills going everywhere.

Do cool bags work?

In a word, yes they do. But the style and design of the cool bag will influence its effectiveness.

Lightweight cool bags that do not use foam as insulation, will instead feature a multi-layered insulation that reflects energy rather than letting it escape, which means food retains its temperature for longer.

Foam based insulation is far more effective but are often found in larger cool bags or cool boxes.

Is a cool box better than a cool bag?

Both have their pros and cons depending on your needs.

Cool bags are a great option for those who want something lightweight and flexible to use everyday. Perfect for anyone who carries lunch into school or work, these bags are even great for picking up items when doing your weekly or monthly grocery shop.

Cool boxes are both practical and very effective for storing and keeping food and drink colder for longer, making them ideal for camping, barbecues or picnics.

Best cool bags for 2021

1. Polar Gear Cool Bag 5L

Polar Gear Cool Bag
Polar Gear Cool Bag

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good-quality cool bag, and this one even comes with a separate water bottle.

It comes with a handy extra-long shoulder strap, wipeable inner lining, and a zip pocket on the lid.

One happy camper said: “This cooler is perfect for smaller items. It is light and easy to carry and can be loaded with ice packs. It is good for carrying a few sandwiches and pies together with cans of soft drinks, pre mixed spirits or small cans of beer. If you don’t need to carry bottles of wine or larger items it is ideal.”

2. Greenfield Collection Sky Blue 30 Litre Foldable Family Cool Bag

Greenfield Collection Sky Blue 30 Litre Foldable Family Cool Bag
Greenfield Collection Sky Blue 30 Litre Foldable Family Cool Bag

Brighten up the family picnic or beach day with this beautiful sky-blue cool bag that fits up to 30 litres of snacks – enough for the whole clan.

We love the colourful addition of the stylish stripes, and it’s as practical as it is pretty.

There’s four layers of premium insulation to keep products warm or cool for up to seven hours, and the durable material is also ultra-lightweight.

It also folds flat when it’s not in use so you can easily pop it in the cupboard.

3. Argos Home Wheeled Blue Picnic Cooler Bag

Argos Home Wheeled Blue Picnic Cooler Bag
Argos Home Wheeled Blue Picnic Cooler Bag

Got a big brood? This cool bag holds up to 22 litres so you can pack in lots of food and drink to cater for everyone.

You also don’t need to worry about the weight of it because this nifty little number comes on wheels, and boasts an extendable trolley handle, making it really easy to use.

The insulated lining keeps your sarnies cool, and it even folds flat for easy storage when not in use.

4. Lifewit Large Cooler Bag

Lifewit Large Cooler Bag
Lifewit Large Cooler Bag

Keep it sleek and chic with this black cool bag with a roomy 24L capacity, perfect for family picnics.

Then water-resistant, dirt-proof, wipeable material is practical and lightweight, and you can fold it flat for storage when it’s not being used.

There’s two side mesh pockets perfect for popping for drinks and bottles in, and the large front pocket is ideal for sweets, pockets, keys, phones, and other bits and pieces.

5. Buringer-Newox Reusable Cool Bag

Buringer-Newox Reusable Insulated Lunch Bag
Buringer-Newox Reusable Insulated Lunch Bag

Firstly, who wouldn’t love the gorgeous aqua hue of this stylish cool bag? But it’s not just a looker, it’s functional as well as funky.

The eco-friendly material is wipe-clean and lightweight, it has padded handles, a double zip opening for easy access, and it’s waterproof and stain-resistant.

The 10L capacity makes it ideal for a romantic picnic or smaller al fresco get-together.

6. Beau & Elliot Vibe Convertible Lunch Cooler Tote Bag

Beau & Elliot Vibe Convertible Lunch Cooler Tote Bag
Beau & Elliot Vibe Convertible Lunch Cooler Tote Bag

How about a pretty tote that doubles up as a cool bag? This compact bag is ideal if you’re going to meet friends or family for a picnic and you want to keep your lunch cool and fresh before you get there.

The bag can be turned into a larger shopper bag by unclipping the studs on the side, and the insulation keeps food cool for up to four hours.

The lining is also wipe-clean to keep your stylish bag fresh and fabulous.

7. Navigate Gardenia Floral Picnic Cooler Bag, 20L, Pink/Multi

Navigate Gardenia Floral Picnic Cooler Bag
Navigate Gardenia Floral Picnic Cooler Bag

Pretty as a picture, this stylish cool bag boasts a bold, colourful gardenia print that’s very English country garden, making it perfect for picnics.

At 20L, the cool bag is perfect for couples of small families, and keeps food and drink chilled for up to six hours.

The exterior and interior are both wipe-clean, meaning it will look lovely for longer, too.

8. John Lewis & Partners Lemon Print Filled Picnic Cooler Backpack

John Lewis & Partners Lemon Wheeling Picnic Cooler Bag
John Lewis & Partners Lemon Wheeling Picnic Cooler Bag

If you want to enjoy a picnic as part of a walk, a backpack cool bag is a great option.

This one comes ready-packed with cutlery for four, including wine glasses, forks, spoons, knives, and four plastic plates.

There’s also a corkscrew and butter knife and board included to make your country, park or beach picnic as easy as pie.

We love the pretty, summery lemon print bringing all the Mediterranean vibes too. The print is also available in a cool bag on wheels if that’s your preferred option.


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