What to Bring to a Picnic: Picnic Essentials
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What to Bring to a Picnic: Essentials for an Outdoor Feast

Written by Sharon Lehman on July 10, 2024

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Enjoying a meal with family and friends outdoors is one of the best ways to enjoy a beautiful day. Some picnic items are a given, like something to sit on and delicious food and drinks, but there are less obvious things to bring to a picnic that you’ll be glad you thought to pack.


We pulled together a picnic checklist to help you plan what to bring to a picnic. Whether you’re unwinding at the beach, hiking in a park, packing a snack spread for a visit to a botanical garden, or hanging out in your backyard, this picnic list can help you ensure your picnic goes off without a hitch and is a fun and memorable time for all.

Picnic Essentials to Pack 

The first picnic items you’ll need are those to create an outdoor table setting. Here are some picnic must-haves to create the ultimate picnic environment:

Blanket or Tablecloth

The first item on our picnic list is a blanket to serve as a table and offer soft seating. If the grass is damp, a vinyl tablecloth or water-resistant outdoor blanket also works to help keep you dry. For backyard picnics, you could add some outdoor pillows or cushions for extra comfort.

Basket and/or Cooler

A picnic basket may be the most obvious of picnic essentials. Traditional wicker baskets may be Insta-worthy, but they don’t offer temperature control for chilled items. A soft-walled insulated tote or small cooler with reusable ice packs is a better choice for keeping your spread cool and fresh. You can still use a basket to pack non-perishables.

Utensils

Your menu will determine what kind of utensils you’ll need. Instead of throwaways, consider investing in reusable picnic items, like lightweight bamboo or recycled plastic utensils. Don’t forget to include the appropriate serving utensils, like a bottle opener or straws for drinks, spreaders for dips or jams, or a small cutting board and knife for a wedge of cheese.

Plates and Cups

Paper and plastic plates and cups are convenient, but not always sturdy or eco-friendly. If you prefer single use items, look for biodegradable options. You won’t need cups if you pack individual beverages, like juice boxes and canned drinks, but they’re a necessity if you’re sharing a bottle of seltzer or wine. 

Napkins

You may not think of cloth napkins when you think of what to bring to a picnic, but they’re sustainable and can be used to roll individual utensil packets for each guest.

Picnic Must-Haves: Delicious Food and Refreshing Drinks

Picnic menus don’t have to be complicated or take a long time to prepare. Shared dishes, finger foods, and field trip snacks are great things to bring to a picnic that travel well.

Here are food and drink ideas for your picnic list:

Sandwiches

Sandwiches are the ultimate make-ahead finger food and are super versatile. There’s classic PB&J and lunchmeat, but hummus and veggies or a fresh batch of chicken, tuna, or egg salad are also picnic-worthy sandwich fillings. If you want to get creative, spread fillings on tortillas, roll, and slice into pinwheels.

Snacks

Not sure what to bring to a picnic you’ve been invited to? You can’t go wrong with picnic snacks that include a selection of sweet and salty snacks, like fresh fruit, nuts or tail mix, granola bars, beef jerky, cheese sticks, baked chips, or veggies with dip. For more ideas, check out 

Chomps beef sticks are a great snack since they’re individually packaged, require no refrigeration, and come in several flavors. A variety pack of Chomps beef sticks offers maximum flavor options.

Beverages

Water is your best bet for staying hydrated in the heat. For fun and healthier options, add some flavored seltzer or prebiotic soda to your spread. Homemade iced tea or lemonade can be packed into a leak-proof thermos or water flask.

Picnic Items for Cleanliness and Sustainability

These picnic items make cleanup a breeze and help you leave nature as you found it.

Hand Sanitizer

A bottle of alcohol-based gel or spray hand sanitizer is an easy way to cleanse hands without water and ensures everyone at your picnic has clean, germ-free hands before handling food. 

Paper Towels and/or Wet Wipes

Paper towels are great for catching drips and wiping smears. If you don’t want to lug along a whole roll, try reusable paper towels or Swedish dishcloths, which are small and absorbent. Wet wipes make it easy to wipe food mess from hands and mouths.

Trash Bag

Not all picnic sites have trash receptacles, so pack a trash bag or reuse a paper or plastic shopping bag to keep trash contained and your picnic area tidy. 

Reusable Storage Wrap

For items that aren’t packed in storage containers or resealable packaging, like charcuterie, eco-friendly storage wrap, like beeswax sheets, makes it easy to store leftovers or send them home with guests. You can even use the wraps to keep trays and plates safe from bugs till it’s time to eat. 

Picnic Essentials for Enjoyable Entertainment and Activities

Good food and even better company are all you really need for a memorable picnic. If you want to go the extra mile, consider packing some of these entertaining extras:

Bluetooth Speaker

Plan a playlist to match your picnic vibe and pack a Bluetooth speaker to enjoy background tunes while you chat, eat, and play.

Lawn Games

Lawn games are fun for kids of all ages and encourage physical activity. Cornhole, ring toss, horseshoes, a bocce set, or a simple frisbee or football to toss can extend the picnic fun beyond mealtime. A simple deck of playing cards is another game option, while bubbles, small squirt guns, and sidewalk chalk can be entertaining for little ones.


Save this picnic checklist to plan what picnic essentials you need to stock up on. Check out Chomps subscribe and save program, which ensures you’ll have a stash of your fave flavors for your next picnic.

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✍️ ABOUT THE AUTHOR 📚

Sharon Lehman

Sharon Lehman

Sharon Lehman, RD Sharon is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and health and wellness writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She enjoys sharing healthy living tips and recipes on her blog: www.heartandstove.com