There’s nothing less chic than showing up to a picnic with melted (and fragrant) fromage and a drippy bottle of once-chilled wine. But you know what’s even worse? An obscene amount of clunky gear, Clark Griswold-style, that necessitates an entire crew to pack-in-pack-out. Hardly worth it for a few hours outdoors. For a solution that is both effortless and also effective, look to the insulated cooler tote bag. It looks (mostly) like a normal bag, keeps contents cool, and doesn’t need its own storage space at home. (I keep mine in the coat closet.) Here are our favorites.
Above: The Snow Peak Cooler Tote Bag is made with canvas and an insulated cooler interior; $99.95 at Snow Peak. Above: Popular for their hard shell coolers, Yeti also makes the newer Hooper Two 30 Cooler with a “DryHide” exterior (high-density waterproof, mildew-proof, and puncture-proof fabric) and “ColdCell” insulation (closed-cell rubber foam with more cold-holding potential than other soft coolers) in the interior. It’s available in two color combinations of Fog Gray/Tahoe Blue (shown) and Field Tan/Blaze Orange for $299.99 at Yeti. It’s also available for $300 at REI. Above: The Primus Insulated Cooler Bags are each designed to be filled with ice (like a portable drinks cooler) or with cold packs. From left to right are the Cooler Bag ($59), Utility Sack ($24), and the Cooler Backpack ($99) at Food52. Above: The REI Co-op Pack-Away 6 Soft Cooler is designed for keeping drinks (6 cans to be exact) cool for 24 hours but can be used for other goods as well. Made with polyester, a PEVA insulating liner, and an abrasion-resistant nylon base; $24.95 at REI. Above: The Snow Peak Soft Cooler 18 is made with an inner aluminum coating to reflect heat away and keep the cold in. It holds 4.75 gallons and is $96.95 at Snow Peak. Above: The RigTig Modern Cooler Tote Bag has adjustable straps and a roll-down top for packing everything from as small as a personal-sized lunch to a full picnic spread; $45 at Food52. Above: A forever classic refashioned as a cooler bag, the L.L. Bean Large Insulated Tote in Blue, Green, or Red is $69.95 at L.L. Bean. Above; The Hyrdo Flask Unbound Series 24 L Soft Cooler Tote has a leak-proof zipper and a BPA-free plastic liner. It keeps 24 liters of contents cold for up to 48 hours; $274 at Hydro Flask. Above: The Alpine Mountain Gear 24 Heavy-Duty Tarpaulin Cooler is a soft shell PCV cooler bag with a waterproof lining and space for 24 12-ounces cans; $39.99 at Sierra. Above: LeSportsac’s Janis Insulated Cooler Tote in Nude is made of recycled nylon and is $75 at J.Crew. Above: The Barebones Small Cooler Black has an adjustable shoulder strap and a removable liner (for use as a non-cooler bag) and comes in grey or black. For size reference, the bag holds up to 16 12-ounce cans; $60 at Barebones.
Looking for other picnic components? See our posts: