We test the latest backpacks for your al fresco meals

​Ever since the car was invented, we’ve used them to escape the city in search of fresh air and scenic views, and when we get to the destination, the natural thing to do is have a picnic. You could simply throw some plates and cutlery into a bag along with the food, but the chances are that none of it is going to survive unscathed by the end of the car journey. Instead, you can buy a dedicated picnic set, which will package up all that you need for a civilised al fresco meal. A bag will protect your food, while special storage compartments will stop your crockery from rattling on the journey. They will also make it far easier to carry everything from your car to the picnic and are also perfect for eating at car shows, festivals and when camping. Which set should have a place on your rug, and which will hamper your efforts to have a relaxing picnic? 

How we tested them

There are bespoke picnic hampers from high-end car makers that cost thousands of pounds, but we concentrated on the sets which cost £50 or less and make sense for those of us who only eat away from home a few times a year.

We judged the usefulness of the contents, how easily it all packed away, portability and the space provided for food and drink. We also considered the value for money using prices we found online or in stores.

Verdict

The Greenfield hamper might not be the cheapest, but it offers the highest quality here and usable features which will make a picnic much posher. We also liked the different options on the website to allow you to tailor a set to your needs, so you’re not wasting money on items you might already have.  If that’s too pricey for you, then the Woodluv was a real bargain find, costing less than £20 despite having similar contents to others here costing twice the price. The Mountain Warehouse XL offers decent value for a four-person set too and takes third place. 

  1. Greenfield Super Deluxe Backpack Hamper 
  2. Woodluv Luxury 4 Person Picnic Backpack
  3. Mountain Warehouse 4 Person Picnic Set XL

Reviews

Greenfield Super Deluxe Backpack Hamper

  • Price: £44.99
  • Place settings: 2
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Contact: greenfieldcollection.co.uk

It might look a bit pricey compared with some of the hampers here, but we still think the Greenfield offers great value for money because it packs plenty of high-quality kit into the useful backpack. 

The list of contents includes stainless steel mugs, a waiter’s friend bottle opener, table cloth and even a folding fabric rubbish bag. The cutlery and plastic glasses feel much more substantial than the cheaper rivals here too, and a wooden chopping board adds a touch of class. The bag itself has a large, insulated storage area and two bottle-holders.  We tried the two-place-settings version, while doubling up costs another £10.

Woodluv Luxury 4 Person Picnic Backpack

  • Price: £19.99
  • Place settings: 4
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Contact: ebay.co.uk

This was the pleasant surprise of the test, offering an awful lot of useful features and content for less than 20 quid. Firstly, the rucksack itself is tasteful enough and is perfectly comfortable to carry about.  

Unzip the front compartment and you’ll find four place settings, including wine glasses and a waiter’s friend-style bottle opener and corkscrew. 

The rear section is foil-lined and insulated, and has just enough room for your chilled picnic essentials. You could even squeeze a bottle of wine in (for the non-drivers, obviously). It’s simply brilliant value for money.

Mountain Warehouse 4 Person Picnic Set XL

  • Price: £39.99
  • Place settings: 4
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Contact: mountainwarehouse.com

We really liked this set in our last test and were interested to see what changes have been made for this year. The main element is the look, because it now has a new pattern used for the bag itself.  

The contents are the same and include a plastic chopping board and cutting knife, condiment shakers and a removable, insulated bottle-holder. The insulated food storage area is big, so there’s plenty of space for your sandwiches and an ice block, too.  

However, the overall quality isn’t up to the standard of the Greenfield and it’s had a price rise since our last test, but it’s still good enough for a recommendation.

John Lewis Lemon Print Filled Picnic Cooler

  • Price: £50
  • Place settings: 4
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Contact: johnlewis.com

This bag’s cooler section is the most useful here because it’s both large and well insulated. The top of the bag also opens up completely, making it far easier when putting food inside.  

The other compartment houses a selection of reasonable-quality cutlery, a chopping board with a cheese knife, and four tumblers, which are more practical and less likely to spill on rough ground than stemmed wine glasses.  While there is nothing wrong with this John Lewis set, there are other backpacks here which offer more content for less money.

Summerhouse Coast 4 Person Picnic Backpack

  • Price: £52.99
  • Place settings: 4
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Contact: halfords.com

On the plus side, the Summerhouse pack looks bright and modern, and has generous, well insulated space for your picnic food. A bottle-holder clips on to the side of the bag, and it’s insulated too, although using it does make the pack uncomfortably unbalanced to carry for any distance. 

Unzip the front section and there’s a reasonable amount of useful kit, including a plastic chopping board and corkscrew, but there are none of the other nice extras we’d expect at this price level. In fact, the crockery and cutlery are no better than others here that offer more for much less money.

Mountain Warehouse 2 Person Picnic Set

  • Price: £8.99
  • Place settings: 2
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Contact: mountainwarehouse.com

This is the cheapest set on test, and it’s easy to see why – there’s simply not much to it. The zip-up bag is upholstered in a pattern that looks something like nineties’ hotel curtains, but it contains two plastic plates and a proper metal knife, fork and spoon for you and a friend. 

These are the very basics, of course, but if you already have a cool box or insulated bag and are just looking for some neat picnic crockery and cutlery, this set is not much more expensive than buying disposable plates. 

Apollowalker Picnic Backpack

  • Price: £19.99
  • Place settings: 2
  • Rating: 2 stars
  • Contact: amazon.co.uk

The Apollowalker offers a lesson in why you should always pay attention to the dimensions of products before ordering them online. The backpack looks like something a five-year-old child might take to school, and the gaudy colouring just adds to the toy-like appearance. 

Inside, the pair of plates are only a little larger than a CD, and the spoons are tea rather than table-sized. It does have some insulation, but there’s little space for food inside. Unless you’re below the age of seven, there are better choices, even at this price.

Want to keep your picnic extra cool while on the move? Check out our list of the best 12v cool boxes

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