What To Take on a Picnic [Ultimate Packing List]
There are picnics and picnics. This particular picnic packing guide pertains to the latter.
We’re talking proper picnics; the ones with picnic baskets, outdoor tableware and edible delights that go far beyond a basic sandwich and a thermos. Naturally, the reality of eating outdoors presents certain challenges to be overcome, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you decide what to take on a picnic and avoid having your al fresco meal derailed by any unforeseen difficulties.
We’ll talk you through all the essential basics, many of which will come in especially handy if you’re picnicking with children in tow, and then we’ll move on to the additional ‘nice things to have’, for if you fancy taking your picnic to the next level.
What to Take on a Picnic: The Basic Packing List
1. A BIG blanket
Unless you’re heading somewhere with ample picnic tables and seating, you can usually count on needing to sit on the floor when picnicking. And, in our humble opinion, this is how picnics should be done anyway. To this end, you will need a sizeable blanket to ensure there is enough space to lay out your delicious food spread as well as enough space for everyone to sit down and stretch out post-meal.
The general rule of thumb is to allow 9 square feet of blanket space per person, which gives ample room for eating and relaxing. Depending on how many people are joining the picnic, you may need to take more than one blanket. A water-resistant picnic rug is especially handy if you’re not sure the ground will have quite dried out enough since the last rain shower.
2. Sun lotion
We appreciate this seems like wishful thinking on our part, but for those rare occasions when the sun does make an appearance in the UK it’s essential to have some sun lotion on hand. Even when it’s cloudy or if you’re in the shade of a tree or parasol your skin can still burn, so make sure you pack and apply a good amount of sun lotion – especially if you got young children with you.
3. Insect repellant spray
This isn’t quite as essential as the sun lotion, but still a very handy thing to have with you. Picnicking near water such as streams, rivers and lakes means a higher risk of mosquitoes and midges ruining your lovely picnic, so take a bottle of insect repellant with you to prevent you yourselves from becoming a picnic for the bugs.
4. Bottle openers and corkscrews
We take the convenience of the kitchen drawer so much for granted that it’s incredibly easy to forget these two essential items when heading out for a picnic. There is truly nothing worse than looking forward to cracking open your favourite cold beverages on a picnic only to realise you can’t open them once you get there, so make sure you double check your bottle opener and corkscrew are safely packed and ready to go if you’re taking alcoholic drinks.
5. Glass bottled drinks
While a big beautiful jug full of some refreshing iced beverage may be one of the most appealing and quintessential picnic images, it’s far from practical if you’re picnicking on uneven ground without a table. Taking bottled drinks is far more practical in many ways, but we’re not about to recommend you take bagfuls of plastic out to any beauty spots.
Glass bottles with secure flip top lids make the perfect eco-friendly alternative and allow you to take your delicious cold drinks on your picnic without the worry of spillages. What’s more, your ice cold drinks will act as additional cooling blocks to keep your fresh food cool during transit.
6. Flannels & Hand Gel
Picnics are sticky. We all know this, so always have a few flannels or handcloths with you and a spare bottle of water to wipe sticky fingers and faces. Alcohol hand gel is also a handy thing to have along to keep your hands hygienic and clean, as eating outdoors does inevitably involve accidentally touching dirty surfaces.
7. Cutlery & Plates
It might sound like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at just how often picnickers find themselves without any (or enough) cutlery or plates. While most picnic food is designed to be eaten with the fingers, there’s always something that needs spreading, mixing or extracting from containers. With this in mind, make sure you pack plenty of knives, spoons, forks, plates, bowls and serving utensils to make easy work of serving and eating salads, coleslaw and butter. Regular metal cutlery and reusable melamine dishes are the best options here as they’re the most sturdy and are kinder to the environment.
8. Mini Condiments
Taking a gigantic bottle of ketchup, jar of mustard or tub of salt is neither practical nor appealing when you’re looking to economise on space and carry weight. Then again, you can’t have a proper picnic without condiments, salad dressings and seasonings. To solve this problem, try doling out mini portions into small sealable pots and containers – small plastic salad dressing pots with screw lids are ideal for this job and can be washed and reused again and again.
9. Tea Towels
Fabric tea towels are the ultimate multi-use item to take on a picnic. Better than using reams and reams of disposable kitchen paper, tea towels are more absorbent and kinder to the environment. You can also use them to cover up food to keep the flies away and can be easily folded, packed away and washed for future use.
10. Rubbish Bag
Enjoying the beauty of nature and the great outdoors with food and drink is one of life’s simplest pleasures, but leaving rubbish behind after a picnic is a big no-no. Make sure you take a bin bag or other rubbish receptacle with you just in case there are no bins nearby, otherwise you could find yourself in a bit of a mess once you’re finished with all your food.
11. Ice Packs
Perishable foods need to be kept as cool as possible during transit between the fridge and your picnic spot. With this in mind, make sure you prepare a few ice packs and insert them into your picnic bag, box or basket next to your fresh foods to keep them nice and cool, particularly if you’re taking a long, hot car ride or walk to your picnic spot.
12. First Aid Supplies
Another essential take-along if you’re picnicking with children, a first aid kit is easy to forget but comes in highly useful should an accident happen. Plasters, bandages, antiseptic spray, antihistamines, hydrocortisone creams and pain killers are all handy items to take along, especially if your day out includes a woodland walk or physical activities.
That’s all the essentials taken care of. But there a few extra things you can take on a picnic to elevate the experience still further. See if you have room for any of these bonus items:
What to Take on a Picnic: The ‘Nice Things to Have’
1. A posh picnic basket
You can take picnics in practically any large bag or box, but if you want a picture-perfect picnic then it’s time to invest in something a little more upmarket. A fully-equipped wicker picnic basket will come with all the essential items such as plates, cutlery and drinking glasses. What’s more, these beautiful, traditional baskets reflect the ultimate romanticised picnicking ideal that we all secretly aspire to.
Depending on where you are and how many other people are around, a spot of music makes the perfect finishing touch to any picnic experience. So long as you keep it to a respectable volume and you won’t be bothering anybody around you, you can easily supply yourselves with a gentle music playlist with the help of a mini Bluetooth speaker and a well-charged smartphone.
3. Picnic chairs
After a few hours, sitting on the ground can naturally get a little uncomfortable. If you’re driving to your picnic spot and have room in the car, packing a few foldable picnic chairs means you will have a more comfortable seat to retreat to once the food has been eaten and there’s nothing left to do but sit back and sip a drink. Proper picnic chairs usually come in their own handy bags with carrying straps, so they’re easy to pack away and carry back to the car.
4. Ice bucket
Now we’re getting really posh. An ice bucket on a picnic, however, is a real game changer. All you need is a suitably bottle-sized bucket (or a large rubber container for bigger picnics), a few bags of ice and a large bottle of water and you’ve got the perfect drinks cooling apparatus that will last for hours even in the sunshine. This will, of course, depend on whether you’ve got enough car space to carry everything.
Useful especially if you have children or large families in tow, a few games and activities can keep the fun of a picnic alive long after the food has been devoured and the plates packed away. If you have the room, why not take a few lawn games like giant Jenga or skittles? Skipping ropes, bats and balls and colouring books for the kids are also excellent options for keeping everybody entertained. Or, if it’s just the two of you, a good book is the perfect take-along for a nice, relaxing afternoon in the great outdoors.
With this ultimate picnic packing checklist you’ll be sure to have everything you could ever need to take on a picnic. Check out our full designer homeware & picnicware collection for lots of stunning items to help enhance your al fresco dining experience here at CHO Fashion & Lifestyle. Can you think of anything we’ve missed off our picnic packing list? Let us know!