10 best cool boxes and bags for camping, picnics and days out

Get set for your family adventure with these coolers perfect for picnics, days out and camping

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Best cool bags and boxes

The summer is made for spending time outdoors and family time doesn’t get much better than picnics in the park and weekends away camping.

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When you’re out and about on a hot day, it can be a tough job preventing your water bottles from heating up and keeping the sandwiches from curling up at the corners. A picnic cool bag or a camping cool box can be a great way to make sure all your goodies stay fresh while you’re down on the beach or camping in the countryside.

If you’re planning your next camping trip, we’ve also written your family camping checklist for you and found some of the best family tents and camping games for kids to help you get sorted for your next adventure.

Below, we outline some of the different types of cool boxes and bags and then highlight some of the best ones which might work for you.

Types of cool boxes and bags

There are a range of cool boxes and bags to choose from depending on your needs. Generally, cool bags tend to be made of soft material and can squash down to near enough flat for easy storage.

Cool boxes will tend to be more solid, likely made from durable plastic. These tend to be best for bigger families or longer days out when you’ll need higher capacity. They also tend to be heavier, however some have wheels and a handle similar to a suitcase to make them more easily transportable.

Some cool bags and boxes are lighter and are designed to be carried, either by a handle or in the style of a backpack. These are ideal if you’re walking somewhere nearby such as the beach or the park, whereas as larger, heavier models work better for packing into the car.

You can also get cool boxes and bags with special features, for instance ones which plug into for electrical power, those which double up as an extra stool and even cool boxes designed to be affixed to boats and paddleboards. Extra features can be useful, but may mean a higher cost, so it’s worth thinking about what your family will really need.

Best cool boxes and bags to buy

1. Coleman Cool Box Xtreme, £91.33

Best for big days out

Capacity: 47L | Weight: 5.9 kg | Size: H58 x W44 x L46 cm

This large capacity cool box from Coleman can hold an impressive 47 litres worth of food and drinks, making it ideal for large families or big days out. The hard box has an insulated lid and walls to help keep everything cold. The sturdy wheels and extendable steel handle make it easy to wheel around when you’ve got so much else to carry. Kids don’t travel lightly!

The lid also has moulded cup holders in it, so it doubles as a handy table. This was something that went down well with reviewers and the cool box scored an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 1400 ratings.

Reviewers were also impressed with the how the box maintained a cool temperature. “Tried it out this week on a 5 day camping trip. It was totally worth the money. It kept our food cold the whole time,” said one buyer.

Another agreed, adding that they, “took [it] away for 3 days camping (middle of our summer heatwave, upwards of 30 every day and in a tent which was like a sauna) and still had half the ice left in 3 the bags I put in.”

Available from: Amazon

2. Skandi Grey Marl Cooler Backpack, £14

Best for portability

Size: H40 x W15 x L29cm

This smart backpack is made from soft marl so it should be comfortable to wear, especially with the adjustable straps and fasteners which allow it to sit at the best position on your back. This smaller picnic cool bag is ideal for shorter trips as it is so portable and being on your back keeps your hands free to help you hang onto wriggly little ones.

There’s a one year warranty on this and it also boasts a wipe-able interior so it can easily be cleaned in case of any spills or leaks. This was something reviewers were impressed with, as well as the comfort of the cool bag.

“Can hold quite a bit and good quality straps so comfortable to wear!” said one reviewer while another described the backpack as, “well made, comfortable to carry and keeps food at the right temperate.” The same reviewer also said that they, “had a spillage the other day, (spicy yogurt dip) but it just wiped clean no issues.”

Available from: Argos

3. Coral Cheetah Print Family Upright Cooler, £22.50

Best for style points

Capacity: 15L | Size: H 35cm x W 29cm x D 25cm

Oliver Bonas is known for stylish designs and prints and this cool bag is no exception. Designed for family picnics, there is a fair capacity of 15 litres so it should be able to handle enough snacks for a day out with the kids at the park or beach.

The bag is designed to be tall enough to allow bottles to be stood upright, meaning less chance of a sandwich-spoiling spillage. The shoulder straps are also adjustable, making it more comfortable to transport with you on shorter journeys.

Available from: Oliver Bonas

4. Thermos Radiance Cooler, £23.40

Lightweight with a large capacity

Capacity: 30L | Weight: 0.5kg | Size: H27 x W33 x L34 cm

This cool bag is made by top brand Thermos, known for its insulated drinks holders. This cool bag weighs just 500g but has an impressive capacity of 30 litres which should mean plenty of space for a big family or camping trip. It also promises to be leak-proof, so there should be minimum mess in the case of any mishaps.

This model is the number 1 bestseller on Amazon, scoring an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 2,400 reviews. Buyers were impressed with how things were kept cold in the bag and how practical it was to use.

“Did the trick keeping things cool, in fact the bottle of water was still half frozen after 8 hours on the beach and around the pool,” said one reviewer. Another added that the bag had a, “good shoulder strap to carry it around. It can be conveniently packed flat when not used.”

However, a couple of reviews did mention that the pull tabs on the zips frayed and weren’t as hard-wearing as the rest of the bag which is worth keeping in mind.

Available from: Amazon

5. Fusion Wheeling Picnic Cooler Bag, £45

Best for a coordinating range

Capacity: 30L | Weight: 2.1kg | Size: H30 x W36 x D37cm

This patterned cool bag by John Lewis is a best seller for the brand and is part of a co-ordinating range including smaller, carry cool bags of different sizes. If you’ve got a big trip planned where you’ll be needing a variety of bags and boxes, this could be a range to consider.

The handle and wheels make this an easily transportable choice, as with 30 litres to fill with treats it could get on the heavy side when you’re bringing from the car. There’s also a toggle to secure any additional items to the top, like your little ones’ favourite picnic blanket.

Available from: John Lewis

6. Lifewit Dual Compartment Insulated Bag with Ice Pack, £12.99

Best for individual lunches

Capacity: 7L | Weight: 0.3kg | Size: H24.5 x W15.5 x L24

This insulated picnic cool bag is made from water-resistant fabric to protect it from the outdoors conditions. There are two separate sections which means you can store both hot and cold food individually.

With a smaller capacity, this bag would be ideal for carrying small lunches or for a holding a few snacks on shorter trips out. It could also be used for carrying baby milk bottles which could be kept separate in their own compartment from anything else you’re bringing along.

The strap is also adjustable and detachable, so you can determine the length to carry it by hand, over your shoulder or across your body. This model is available in either black or grey.

The cool bag scores extremely highly on Amazon, with 4.8 out of 5 stars overall from over 2,000 Amazon reviews. Previous buyers were impressed with the quality of the bag as well as how practical it was and easy to clean.

“The insulated material inside seems to be fitted well and easy to wipe/clean,” said one reviewer and another agreed, adding, “It’s very easy to clean and the handles etc are sewn in so very durable…keeps my food and drinks lovely and cool.”

Available from: Amazon

7. Halfords Electric Coolbox, £95

Best for long car journeys

Capacity: 40L | Size: H43.5cm x W37 x L55

This huge capacity cool box can be powered by mains electrics (240V), in the car (12V) or from a vehicle cigarette plug (24V). Although on the pricey side, this makes it ideal for long car journeys where you’ll have access to electricity and will want to keep food cooler for longer, for instance on family camping trips.

The camping cool box was rated 4.6 out of 5 stars with nearly 700 reviews with buyers commenting on how well it functioned and how good value it was.

One customer said, ““It has a large capacity, ideal as we took most of our food for a week away trying to limit time in supermarkets while on holiday. It kept everything cool and in great condition.”

Available from: Halfords

8. Summerhouse Coast Insulated Seat Cooler, £26.99

Best for doubled-up usage

Capacity: 15L | Weight capacity as seat: 100kg

This handy cool bag is ideal for family picnics and camping when you never seem to have quite enough fold out chairs for the whole family. This picnic cool bag doubles up as a seat and can take up to a 100kg in weight on top of it.

It also folds flat when not in use so it can be easily packed away and the 15 litre internal capacity should be enough to carry your lunches along in too. There’s an adjustable shoulder strap included for easy carrying and the lid is also padded for a little extra comfort.

Available from: Halfords

9. Red Original Waterproof Cooler Bag, £159.95

Best for premium performance and water activities

Capacity: 18 | Size: H37 x W30 x L30 cm

This cool box is for serious campers and water sports fans. The premium cool bag is expensive, but it makes big promises, including that it can keep ice for up to 72 hours. It also has a special patented design which allows it to be secured to a paddleboard or boat, meaning you can take your lunch along with you on family adventures.

It’s also completely waterproof with welded seams and watertight zips to keep everything dry, even out on the water.

Previous buyers were impressed with the performance of the bag, as well as its practicality. “I’ve just taken it on a picnic, and it kept the food cool brilliantly.  It’s a really well-made bag, light-weight, and it doubles up to keep food and liquids cool,” said one reviewer.

Another water sports fan agreed, describing it as a, “great cooler bag, perfect size for us and fits on to the board really easily.”

Available from: Red Original

10. Personalised Kids’ Thermal Cooler Bag, £13.99

Great for kids

Size: H21 x W20 x D9 cm

If kids are going to be helping pack their own picnic and want to take it along themselves, then having their very own picnic cool bag could be a good idea. This one can be personalised to feature their own name and it can also be used during the school year too, if your child usually takes in a packed lunch.

If features handy compartments like an an inside mesh pocket and side mesh pocket for a drink – a must have when it comes to lunch boxes. And the lining is wipeable so you don’t have to worry about it getting messy.

Available from: Etsy

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