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6 Different Types of Picnic Baskets

Picnic baskets with fruits and liquor.

As a child, I thought and imagined the strangest things.

I still remember the first time I heard the words “picnic” and “picnic basket”.  It beats me now, but for some weird, but one could say, obvious reason best known to my over-imaginative- and I guess, ignorant overactive imagination self, I thought a picnic was when you went out to pick and knick (i.e. British slang for stealing) stuff that would then be put in a pick-knick basket. To me, a pick knick basket was the kind of basket in which you kept picked and knicked things!! J.

Now that I am older, not only am I amazed at how wrong I was then, but also, just how much more there is to picnic baskets than I ever knew. Like those who in their wildest dreams would have thought that there are different types of picnic baskets, let alone history and types of picnic baskets!

Well, if you are like three-and-half-old me, and don’t know what a picnic basket is, nor a brief history of them, let alone their different types, then read on…

So, kkkkk, just what is a picnic basket?

A picnic basket with fruits and bread.

Defined, a picnic basket is “a hamper used to carry food and utensils to a picnic. The perfect picnic basket is as such, for all your picnic food. It is intended to hold food and tableware for a picnic meal.

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Picnic baskets are considered standard equipment at many picnics. Pack in them your best and delicious picnic snacks, treats, and family favorites like potato salad, cookies, grapes, and more. The picnic basket has everything you need to have a great time outdoors.

Although the idea of a picnic basket is quite simple, some picnic baskets are sold by gourmet stores these days are large and quite elaborate. Some come with insulated compartments to contain hot and cold foods, dishware, wine glasses, and might even include porcelain plates which come secured in pockets along with items of cutlery, condiments, corkscrew, etc.

Many modern picnic baskets also have a special storage section to hold a bottle of wine, the traditional beverage brought along to intimate picnics. Some modern picnic baskets come with detachable quilt blankets as well.

These days, it’s also not surprising to find some modern picnic baskets that come with detachable blankets (to sit on) as well. Some come with a large insulated and waterproof picnic blanket. Ideal not only for picnicking but also for camping and romantic park or beach outings on Valentine’s Day, for instance.

In some such cases, the main compartment of these picnic baskets have a high-quality, waterproof lining for wet items, in addition to a side compartment for storage.  It has everything you need to make your day enjoyable.

A picnic basket is a great choice for picnics in the park, BBQs, family get-togethers, the beach, or anywhere else you can imagine!

And what’s his-story? Picnic basket’s you mean?… Well,

A family enjoying a picnic on sunny days.

The word “hamper” comes from the French word “hanapier”, which apparently means a case for goblets. The thought of a picnic basket came from France to England during the 17th century, by way of King William the Conqueror.

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At the time, because long journeys usually meant overnight stays in coaching inns where food was often unreliable, picnic baskets or hampers and portable wicker wine carriers became adopted as travelers’ refreshment baskets, so travelers could carry better food with them.

Although the origins of the picnic basket are French, the picnic basket has since spread right across the world. For instance, an Australian newspaper article from as far back as 1917 lists the items to pack in a picnic hamper for 12 people as, “Ham and mustard sandwiches, tomato and cucumber sandwiches, lettuce and salmon sandwiches, roast fowl, one sponge cake, one currant cake, two dozen scones, one dozen Queen cakes, two dozen lemon cheese tartlets, two dampers, 18 blocks lamington cake, one dozen cream puffs, one dozen custard puffs, 1lb biscuits, 1lb butter, one bottle home-made lemon syrup, one bottle milk, 2lb sugar, 1/4lb tea, four dozen mixed fruit, sweets, one small kettle, six plates, one dozen cups, one jug, one drying cloth, one Billycan, one box matches, four knives, four spoons.

In 1953, an innovative picnic hamper advertised for American families shows a picnic basket designed to clamp over the seat at the back of the family car. When opened, the  hamper revealed a “built-in midget-size icebox” and slide-out trays “for everyone who wants to eat away from the ants“.

As far as continental Europe is concerned, one of the earliest mentions of a picnic dates back to 1967. A black and white photograph shows a picnic hamper with straps to secure cutlery and crockery in Holland or The Netherlands. This is, of course, not to say that is the year picnic baskets arrived on the Continent.

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That shared, there have been numerous Types of Picnic Baskets over the years. These are the…..

1. Whimsical, weak at the knees Wicker Classic Picnic Baskets

Also known as traditional or classic-style picnic baskets, as their name suggests, wicker picnic baskets are often made of wicker or a similar material. They come with a single large storage space, a handle, and flaps that open at both ends on the top. More advanced wicker picnic baskets, for example, English-style hampers, have clips on the inside to hold plates, utensils, and a large picnic cloth.

Willow Picnic Basket Set for 2 Persons with Large Insulated Cooler Bag and Waterproof Picnic Blanket,Wicker Picnic Hamper for Camping,Outdoor,Valentine Day,Thanks Giving,Birthday.

If you will be picnicking quite close to home, then this basket is for you. Made especially to transport food and liquid over relatively short distances, these baskets are suitable for just that.

Beware, however, that controlling the temperature in Wicker picnic baskets is not possible. Be careful that your food does not experience some distress. In addition, while wicker baskets are undeniably charming, they’re not the most practical because they’re more difficult to care for. They also tend to be bulkier and, thus, more difficult to store. This has given rise to other types of picnic baskets.

2. So why not a Woven Picnic Basket?

Woven basket on a white background.

Source: lifestyle @ BALI TRADING

Coming in round and at times oval shapes, woven picnic baskets it can be handwoven or machine woven.  The material used to weave varies from natural fiber to plastic. At times, they are hand-woven but finished with vegan leather accents. Overall, their quality is derived from being made of durable, high-quality material.

Red Co. Decorative Picnic Basket, Hand Woven Willow with Collapsible Handles, Blue

The result is a basket that is so thick you need X-ray vision to guess the snacks inside. Coming with a lid,  this picnic basket’s handles are double foldable handles woven into the basket for security and to enable it to be transported securely with easy handling and compact storage.

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Today, there are plenty of cloth and more convenient canvas options, plus they have the bonus of being collapsible, and easier to clean.  

3. Or do you want to save on room? Then go for  Collapsible Cooler Picnic Baskets

Collapsible picnic basket with wine.

Source: etsy

More modern than the classical, Collapsible picnic baskets demonstrate the innovation taking place in the development of picnic baskets. Measuring 15 x 9.5 x 9.8 inches, it is spacious enough for 24 soda or beer cans and other picnic materials you might want to put in and conceal with the dual snap button closure. Collapsible picnic baskets are the future. A handy external pocket comes with it for storing food towels, napkins, and other picnic accessories.

ALLCAMP Insulated Cooler Bag Portable Collapsible Picnic Basket Cooler with Sewn in Frame (Medium Gray)

Constructed with rugged polyester canvas with a sewn-in aluminum frame with padded handles, collapsible cooler picnic baskets are capable of carrying up to 65 lbs. The main compartment features unique to this picnic basket’s design are dual snap closures. External accessories pockets. 6″ handle drop height. Insulated PEVA lining.

With an insulated leakproof PEVA lining, this high-quality fully insulated market basket with heat-sealed leak-proof lining for easy cleaning can safely contain your favorite drink and bottle without you being afraid it spills or soil the basket.

This basket’s innovative design enables it to fold flat in seconds by incorporating sewn-in side support strips that remove the problem of basket sag-a problem with this type of basket. As such, the basket conveniently folds flat when emptied for seamless packing and travel – saving room for storage.

Collapsible picnic baskets are ideal for picnics – outdoor concerts – sporting events – trips to the market.

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4. However, do not confuse Collapsible with Foldable Picnic Baskets

Handmade from cherry wood or hardened plastic, these wonderfully rural yet durable baskets are a must-have on your next picnic. Suited for 2 or 4,They come with a lid and tray table set- this too is a collapsible tube with a handle, sink, basin, and bucket.

Foldable picnic baskets are best for camping, hiking, and family outings.

Woodchip Baskets with 2 Folding Handles,Handmade Woven Easter Eggs Baskets for Gifts, Candy Basket with Removable Lining, Bread Baskets for Kitchen, Bath & Toy Small Storage Basket,Blue

The cleverly designed basket converts from an open-top table box into a mini picnic table.

5. Or would you rather go old school with Woodchip Picnic Baskets

Made of premium woodchip and a USA rural style removable grey and white-patterned liner, Woodchip picnic baskets are easy to clean. Add to this foldable swing handles, and they are easy to carry, use and also save storage.

At a length of 12.5″; width of 8″; and a height of 6.5″, woodchip baskets come multi-purpose and just right as a sewing basket; bathroom storage basket; Easter gift basket; Christmas gift basket; fruit basket, etc. As such, these gorgeous woodchip baskets make a great present no matter the occasion. Good size for camping, hiking, picnics, and boating:

6. Better remain exclusive with Wine and Cheese Picnic Baskets

An alfresco wine and charcuterie session is perfect on a summer afternoon. However, for you to have one away from the comforts of home, you need to have the requirements with you.

Picnic at Ascot Wine and Cheese Picnic Basket/Cooler with hardwood cutting Board, Cheese Knife and Corkscrew - Charcoal

Enter elegant barrel-shaped Wine and Cheese picnic basket. Measuring 11″ wide x 7.5″ deep x 13.25″ high,  this insulated soft side picnic basket cooler keeps food and drinks cool for hours. This makes the baskets great for picnics – concerts – beach – sporting events. A divided cooler section keeps bottles separate from food and can be flipped back to create a larger cooler area if not needed.

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Ideally, it comes with a hardwood cheese cutting board, cheese knife, corkscrew, glasses, coal, and the perfect amount of space to securely carry a wine bottle and slice your cheese.

Picnic Baskets Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What do I consider when buying a Picnic Basket?

A woman picking woven basket on the store.

A: Material: Today, there are plenty of cloth and canvas options that are more convenient, plus have the bonus of being easier to clean. Some even collapse flat for storage.

Carry options: Traditional picnic baskets have small handles that can only be toted by hand or over the wrist, but today there are plenty of options with shoulder straps, crossbody sling straps, and even backpack-style straps. Many find these options more convenient—especially if you have to do any significant walking to get to your destination—since they free up your hands and more evenly distribute weight. 

Size: Picnic baskets and totes come in a wide range of sizes. Consider your lifestyle. Are you likely to picnic with a big group or are you more likely to picnic solo or with one other person?

Compartments: Some picnic baskets have designated compartments for all of the essentials, from plates and glasses to corkscrews and even placemats. If you like to have everything organized, consider one of these options.

Accessories: Some picnic baskets come pre-packed with all the accessories you could ever need—plates, glasses, corkscrew, linens, and more. However, such baskets typically come at a premium.

Q: How do you clean a picnic basket?

A: Exactly how you clean a picnic basket depends on its construction. Wicker baskets need to be cleaned much more carefully than their insulated cooler-like counterparts. Always defer caring instructions provided with the picnic basket you purchased. But in general, insulated cooler-like picnic baskets can be spot-cleaned with mild soap and warm water. For stubborn spots, you can use a clean toothbrush to scrub out the stain.

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Wicker baskets are much more delicate and are prone to drying out and breaking if they get too wet, so you should refrain from submerging them in water. Instead, wipe the wicker down with a dry microfiber cloth. If need be, you can dampen the microfiber cloth with warm, soapy water (use mild dish soap) and wipe it down. Let air dry before using or storing. If the wicker is drying out or brittle, you can use a wood conditioner or cutting board oil to restore some moisture.

Q: How do you line a wicker picnic basket?

A couple enjoying a picnic on sunny day.

A: If you have the sewing skills to tackle a more thorough DIY project, you can fashion a picnic basket liner made to suit the specific dimensions of your picnic basket. Otherwise, a large tea towel or small tablecloth will do just fine. Simply drape the fabric over the basket, or place it under your food, take the corners up to meet one another, and secure it with a knot or a clip before placing the parcel in your picnic basket. 

Q: How do you keep food cold in a picnic basket?

A: The easiest way to keep food cold is to add ice packs to your picnic basket. Make sure the basket isn’t packed to the brim—you want the air to be able to circulate the food. If you don’t have access to ice packs, you can pack your food in ice. Put the ice in zippered or sealed plastic bags to keep things clean and dry.