The best lunch bag
Whether you’re a commuter, student or busy individual on the go, a lunch bag is an essential accessory. Besides keeping food and beverages fresh and cool, for many people, they’re practical alternatives to bulky lunch boxes and single-use bags.
Choosing the right lunch bag for your lifestyle boils down to determining which features you need the most, whether it’s enhanced insulation or a high level of organization. The Yeti DayTrip Lunch Bag, a longstanding favorite of outdoor enthusiasts, promises to keep food and beverages cold for up to eight hours.
What to know before you buy a lunch bag
Why you should use a lunch bag
Lunch bags are flexible, lightweight and easy to fit inside most backpacks, luggage and handbags. They’re often preferred over lunch boxes and coolers because they optimize space, not to mention they’re available in countless designs to suit your personal style. Lunch bags are also eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic and paper bags.
Yet another reason many people opt for lunch bags is because they’re easy to keep clean. Most styles are made with water-resistant materials that can be wiped down with soap and water. Certain lunch bags are even machine washable or can be hosed down.
How to pack a lunch bag
While most lunch bags are insulated, the way you pack them may impact how long they keep food and beverages cold.
- Keep drinks, sandwiches and yogurt cold by wrapping flexible ice packs around them.
- Reusable ice cubes offer an easy way to fill in gaps between food items.
- Separate room temperature and colder foods with napkins or utensils.
- Line the lunch bag with overlapping flat ice packs to maximize insulation.
- Opt for smaller lunch bags to eliminate gaps between foods that may trap warmer air.
Lunch bag features
Quality lunch bags are typically made with durable synthetic materials like nylon, neoprene and polyester. Many of these have water-resistant properties, whereas others are treated with water-repellent coatings. These lunch bags withstand considerable wear and tear given their construction, and on average, they may last through several years of use.
Some lunch bags are made with natural materials, such as cotton or canvas. Not only are they soft and flexible, but they have a unique aesthetic that many people prefer. While these styles may be just as durable as synthetic lunch bags, they’re absorbent and more likely to sustain damage. However, many cotton and canvas lunch bags are easily spot cleaned or machine washable.
Most lunch bags are lined with water-resistant or water-repellent materials, including nylon, waxed canvas or PEVA. These materials are effective at trapping spills so they don’t saturate the bag, and they’re easy to wipe down when messes occur. Behind linings are at least a couple of insulation layers that are often made of foam batting, poly film or proprietary materials.
Traditional lunch bags have a single handle or fold-over design, particularly small or lightweight lunch bags. Contemporary styles, however, often feature dual handles, adjustable crossbody straps or shoulder straps. There are a few backpack-style lunch bags, as well as hybrid styles with adjustable strap systems that offer more than one carrying method.
It’s common for lunch bags to have at least one internal or external compartment, including an outer pocket for water bottles or lid sleeves that accommodate ice packs. Lunch bags with more advanced organization systems, on the other hand, may have six or more compartments.
Lunch bag cost
Lightweight lunch bags with thin linings cost $20 and below. Lunch bags with better insulation and organization options run $25-$35. Specialty and designer lunch bags, such as those geared toward heavy travel or outdoor use, cost $40-$100.
Lunch bag FAQ
How do I determine a lunch bag’s capacity?
A. Dimensions are usually listed in the lunch bag’s product description, and they may give you a good idea of what you can store inside it. Certain styles include images or illustrations of the packed lunch bag to offer a realistic perspective of capacity. A few specialty bags may detail internal dimensions or express their capacity in liters.
What’s the difference between lunch bags for kids and those for adults?
A. For the most part, lunch bags for kids and adults perform the same function, but the main difference between them is in design. Many styles geared toward kids feature friendly characters. Others have unique embellishments, like sparkles, faux fur or 3D details. With that said, there are plenty of adults who are partial to kid-friendly lunch bags.
Which lunch bag should I get?
Best of the best lunch bag
Yeti DayTrip Lunch Bag: available at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Our take: If you’re looking for a lunch bag that withstands the rough and tumble of heavy use, this Yeti bag is the best option.
What we like: Like other Yeti products, the bag offers long-lasting temperature retention. When it’s not in use, it folds down for easy storage. It has a leak-proof liner and water-resistant exterior, both of which can be wiped to clean.
What we dislike: It’s an expensive option, and some buyers didn’t like the closure style.
Best bang for your buck lunch bag
Scorlia Insulated Lunch Shoulder Bag: available at Amazon
Our take: The spacious design of this affordable lunch bag makes it a popular choice for toting several meals, camping or picnicking.
What we like: The bag has several compartments, including an outer pocket for tablets and devices. It has a tri-layer insulated liner that keeps food hot or cold for up to eight hours. While durable, it has a lightweight design for easy, comfortable carrying.
What we dislike: The straps aren’t adjustable, and a few people felt they were too short.
Honorable mention lunch bag
Vera Bradley Cotton Bunch Lunch Bag: available at Amazon
Our take: Stylish and low profile, this Vera Bradley lunch bag is a perennial favorite for commuting and travel use.
What we like: The bag is a sustainable design made with recycled cotton fibers and is machine washable. It has a soft, flexible design that fits easily inside other bags and backpacks. The lid has a slip pocket that secures ice packs.
What we dislike: It doesn’t offer the same level of temperature retention as similarly priced options.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.