Picnic Checklist: Must-Have Items to Make Your Next Outdoor Feast a Success

Who wants to go on a picnic? Use this comprehensive checklist to make sure you’ve got all the essentials you need.

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After a winter packed with cozy, home-cooked meals, it’s time to venture out of the house and soak up some sun courtesy of an outdoor picnic. Whether you head to a park or a beach for this low-cost summer activity, the things needed for a picnic are roughly the same.

You’ll of course need a cooler or picnic basket, blanket, plates, and utensils, but there are also other, less obvious items you shouldn’t leave home without. Keep reading for our extensive picnic checklist, which includes some food suggestions, tableware essentials, and clean-up necessities.

Food and Drinks

Picnic fare is all about food that will taste great whether you eat it now or two hours from now. It should be easy to eat and clean up. And the less utensils needed, the better.


Wraps, roll-ups, stuffed pita pockets, and good, old-fashioned sandwiches are the go-to picnic foods since they're a snap to serve and eat. Avoid foods with mayonnaise. (But this delicious, no-mayo potato salad would work out fine.) Pack everything in lightweight, resealable containers.


Pretzels, homemade potato chips, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, and crackers are some of our favorite picnic snacks that are easy to pack and store.

Watermelon is the perfect picnic fruit since it provides the seeds for a seed-spitting contest. Cut it into strips and layer them in a plastic container with the rinds facing out, so each of your friends can grab their own slice.

Ice Pack or Bags of Ice

Prevent food from spoiling by keeping everything cold with re-freezable ice packs. Or, fill a couple of resealable bags with ice cubes: They'll chill food as it's transported. Add ice cubes to drinks during the picnic. Empty out whatever remains before you go, for a lighter trip home.


Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to beat the heat on a scorching day. Bring an assortment of beverages, such as bottled water and juice.


Some kinds of ketchup and mustard come in mini jars that are small enough to throw in your tote. (Keep the jars to refill at home for your next picnic.) And don't forget the salt and pepper.


Plates and Cups

Whether you choose eco-friendly paper, plastic, or bamboo, lightweight, stackable dishes make packing easy. We recommend compostable plates ($4 for 15, Stalk Market), which are made from renewable sugar cane fiber.


If possible, opt for reusable utensils ($30, FinalCutlery). If you're serving salads, you may need tongs or serving spoons. Bringing wine or beer? Pack a corkscrew or bottle opener.

Knife and Cutting Board

It's always handy to have a cutting knife and a firm surface for slicing meat, cheese, and bread. Look for a knife with a cover for safe transport or wrap the blade in a kitchen towel. You can also buy a ready-to-go picnic set that includes these items.


Cloth napkins are lightweight, and they're easy to transport home and clean (just throw them in the washing machine). If you prefer not to use cloth, look for ones made of recycled paper or other materials.


Trash Bags

Your picnic spot might not have a trash can. Bring a bag large enough to toss everything inside, haul it away, and dispose of everything properly. Also, bring a plastic bag for any dirty dishes or utensils you may need to bring home.

Moist Towelettes and Paper Towels

When you don't have access to running water, moist towelettes make it easy to wash up after eating. Keep a roll of paper towels on hand for mopping up spills and wiping bowls, containers, plates, and utensils before you pack them back up.

Cling Wrap or Beeswax Food Wraps

You may have extra food, so be ready to send picnic-goers home with any leftovers. Cling wrap (or more eco-friendly beeswax wrap) will help ensure most leftovers make it home safely, but you can also opt for plastic bags or, if you don't mind digging into your own stash, food storage containers.


Picnic Blanket

Your picnic blanket should be large enough to comfortably hold all your picnic-goers and food. A light one that folds small is a bonus.

Tote, Backpack, Picnic Basket, or Cooler

Stow everything in a lightweight, roomy carrier. Actual wicker baskets play nicely into that picnic aesthetic but aren't the most efficient way to transport food. The truth is, a cooler is best at keeping everything temperature-controlled. Consider bringing a basket for the tableware and blanket, and a cooler for the perishables.

Portable Speaker

Set the vibes at your picnic by curating a music playlist and playing it via a portable speaker while you and your guests chow down.

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