The Best Lunch Cooler
When planning your camping trip, one of the most important things is the food. Because you won’t have any supermarkets nearby you need to carefully think everything through. If you’re planning a trip which will last several days, you probably have a hard cooler which will keep your food frozen until you put it on the stove or grill. But hard coolers are bulky and heavy, and they aren’t always the best solution in terms of practicality and portability.
For this reason, lunch coolers are very useful. They allow you the benefits of keeping your food and drinks cold or warm, but with much greater convenience. When you need something to transfer the food, it’s a much better choice than a paper bag. It’s more eco-friendly because you can use it over and over again. They are great not just for camping, but for picnics too and taking your lunch to work of course. An additional benefit is that bringing food from home is cost effective. You spend less money if you prepare your food in advance compared to buying it. And it’s healthier too.
Buying the best lunch cooler allows you to organize your food the way you like it, with much smaller chance of creating a mess. Warm food will stay warm, while cold food will stay cold. This is thanks to the design which usually includes insulation layers and prevents air from circulating. Your food will remain fresh until you decide it’s time to eat.
Depending on the type you get, it will have different efficiency in keeping the temperature. On average, your lunch cooler bag will keep the food and drinks cold for several hours. If you don’t need the prolonged ice life that hard coolers offer, these are much more handy – especially for everyday use or when you don’t need to pack much.
These come with many different features, and you’ll find some of them more useful than others. For example, some have several separate compartments inside, additional pockets, plastic containers included and many other things. You need to go through these features to be sure you’re getting the best lunch cooler. We’ve also included a buying guide so you can get the right information and know what to look for when selecting, so be sure to check it out.
How To Choose The Best Lunch Cooler – Buying Guide
You should tailor the lunch box to your needs, and many factors come into play here. First of all, it needs to be effective. The content inside needs to stay fresh so you can safely eat it. A lunch cooler bag also needs to be convenient. You should be able to pack the food and take it out quickly.
Depending on how much storage you need, the size varies between different lunch boxes. Larger coolers will allow you to bring meals for the whole family, but they will be bulkier and heavier to carry. On the other hand, a smaller cooler won’t be a burden to carry anywhere.
It’s certainly important that your cooler is durable. It’s disappointing if it rips after several uses, or even worse – the contents fall out while carrying. The products we selected are all made from durable materials which you can rely on. While we’re talking about materials, it’s excellent if the bag is waterproof. The lining can contribute to this, and it needs to be high quality.
Additional features can be a big plus and there are really many of them, depending on what type of food and drinks you want to put inside. Luckily, lunch coolers are pretty budget friendly, so we are sure you’ll find the right one. Take a look at some of the features.
Most lunch coolers are designed as a soft box with a zippered lid on top. Despite this being the case, not all of them look the same. We all like it when they look elegant and nice. This is why exterior design is important when talking about lunch bags for adults. Unlike children, adults don’t want cartoon characters on the box. You want to have a good-looking product whether you’re taking it camping or to work.
But it’s not just the looks we’re talking about. Design reflects on functionality too. You need to have easy access to the content inside. Also, the space inside needs to be functional, so you can use it in the best way possible when packing your food and drinks. Some products like the Mier cooler we talked about will offer smarter solutions, and will be easier to use.
It goes without saying that the cooler you choose should be resistant to wear and tear. It’s a product you’ll be taking everywhere with you, so it will be put to some tests. It will get dropped on the ground, scratched, wet and many other things. Of course, durability depends on the materials that were used, and some are much better than others.
Higher quality fabric outside will not tear that easily. As you’ll see later, polyester and nylon fabric are among the best choices for lunch coolers. In addition to fabric, stitching needs to be done properly, so air and water can’t pass through. This is a very important consideration because if it’s not done properly, the cooler will fall apart quickly.
The zipper also has its role. It needs to be durable of course, but it also needs to prevent the cold air from leaving the cooler. This way the efficiency of the cooler is increased. If the zipper jams or breaks, your lunch box will be pretty much useless. Insulation layer inside needs to be durable too, in order to do it’s job properly. Since you will be constantly putting in and removing content, it shouldn’t tear.
While it’s not directly related to the function itself, it certainly helps if the straps and handles are durable too. It comes down to how often you’ll be using the cooler. Exceptional products are available at very affordable prices. You should certainly give thought to material quality when choosing, because spending a few bucks extra will often be worth it.
No matter which cooler you get, it needs to be portable. It’s a big plus if you can take it with you wherever you go. For most soft coolers this is not an issue. Even though they come in various sizes, all can be carried by a single person. On the other hand, hard coolers often encounter this problem, since they can be very heavy and sometimes even require two people to carry them.
Some lunch coolers have handles which allow you to pick them up easily, some come with a shoulder strap, and some have both. The handles are sometimes coated with rubber, which makes them much more comfortable when carrying a heavy load. When it comes to shoulder straps, they can be adjustable and have a padding so they sit better on your shoulder. Some are even designed to be work as backpacks, which makes everything even easier.
In terms of portability, it needs to pack nicely with your other camping gear too – in your car trunk, or in your camping tent. Compared to hard coolers, these pack smaller when they are empty. As we mentioned, the cooler itself doesn’t weigh much, so anyone should be able to carry it. However, it can become heavy if you overload it with stuff, so be sure to think about the distance you’ll need to carry it while packing at home.
To retain food temperature, insulation is something every cooler must have. Outside temperature shouldn’t have a large influence on the content inside. Keep in mind that lunch boxes only retain the temperature, they don’t do the cooling. For this reason, people often add ice packs inside to prolong the cooling effect. Some products will have ice packs included with the purchase, which is an additional plus.
Like we mentioned, every cooler can keep the temperature for a certain period of time, after which it ceases to do its job. The best adult lunch boxes will preserve your food for up to 2 days, given that you’ve added a few ice packs inside. However, most people need something that will be reliable for several hours up to one day. You should always check whether a particular product satisfies your needs in this regard.
Some people put regular ice inside instead of ice packs. While this solution is not as good as the first one, it works as long as you put the ice in a Ziploc bag. This way you will avoid having a puddle in your cooler and your food swimming in it. Ice packs won’t melt, they will just become warm so there is less chance of creating a mess. In addition, it’s best if everything you put inside comes straight out of the fridge. This way the temperature will stay the same for a longer time.
If you’re bringing warm food too, having insulation between compartments will help you retain the temperature of both cold and warm content of your lunch box. If this is not the case, and you want to bring hot meal and a cold drink, it’s not a bad idea to have two separate boxes. To keep it warm for longer, it’s useful to wrap the food in aluminum foil so it doesn’t lose heat.
Since it’s used to store food and drinks, some spills, crumbs and dirt will inevitably end up in your cooler. To make it last longer (and keep it odor free), it needs to be cleaned from time to time. Some are cleaned more easily than others, depending on the materials used. A number of lunch coolers can be safely washed in a washing machine without damage to the structure. Others will allow only the lining to be removed and washed. You should always use mild detergent when washing, so it doesn’t damage the cooler.
When it comes to odor, it is something that happens. While the material used for lining usually isn’t very susceptible to odors, they can remain if something with a strong scent (onions for example) comes in direct contact, and you don’t clean it right away. This can help bacteria and mold develop too, which leads to the box being unsafe to store your food. For this reason it’s a good idea to check and wipe it from time to time, at least with a moist cloth.
Your cooler needs be handy to take with you, without even giving it much thought. Because of this, size plays a significant role. As we said, it depends on how much content you want to put inside. If you’re only bringing a sandwich and a soda, some may be too bulky and unnecessarily large for you.
When we’re talking about size, we must take into consideration both the cooler dimensions as well as the storage space inside (volume). When manufacturers specify storage volume, most often they will be presenting both insulated and non-insulated space. This is something you need to pay attention to, otherwise the cooler may be too small for you.
Depending on what you’re going to use it for, some coolers will have more insulated space, while others will have non-insulated compartments and more pockets. Don’t forget to take ice into consideration if you’re going to add it to keep food fresh for longer – several ice packs can take up significant volume so you won’t be able to fit everything in.
Larger outside dimensions of the cooler don’t mean that it will always have more space inside too. Depending on materials used and insulation, some have thicker walls. Of course, coolers which have longer ice life will have thicker walls. Best option is insulation which is completely effective but not very thick.
It’s certainly not a bad idea to go a bit larger, as long as you can carry it comfortably. You may need the additional space to pack a few extra snacks. When empty, most coolers can be pressed down to make them compact and easier to store.
Some lunch boxes come with only one large central compartment. It has insulation, and you put meals, snacks and drinks all in the same place. On the other hand, some (like a few we talked about in the reviews) have separate compartments. In this case, some will be without insulation which is a good place for storing fruit and snacks.
We mentioned in the temperature section that having insulation between sections is very practical. This gives the insulated lunch box versatility, because you can put everything you need in the same cooler.
Compartments allow you to organize your food neatly and know where everything is. You can avoid digging around the cooler and taking half of the stuff out to find that one thing you are looking for. In addition to this, it’s really great to have several pockets included. They can be located inside or outside.
Inside pockets are usually mesh and can be used to store utensils, napkins and other things you may need. Outside pockets give you a place for your wallet, car keys, cellphone and other things you need at hand. Because cold and moisture can cause damage it’s not a good idea to put these things inside the cooler, so side pockets come very handy.
When you buy a new cooler you will also need storage containers to put your meal in. It’s possible that you already have a few of them home, which can be very useful when packing the food. If not, some manufacturers sell coolers with plastic containers which fit perfectly inside, so it’s very helpful in terms of organization. Others don’t include containers, but offer them separately so it’s not a bad idea to check if those are available. If you choose to buy them from another supplier, be sure to measure the size so they can easily fit inside the cooler.
In addition, pay attention to container design, as well as materials used. Most are made from plastic, but not every plastic is the same. As we’ll discuss later on, some plastic materials can be toxic and not very safe for your food. Be sure that your food won’t suffer changes when stored inside. It’s also great if containers don’t absorb smells from food stored inside. Sure, the smell will be there until you wash it, but some lower quality products will permanently have a weird smell and a change of color.
Finally, the lid is very important too. It’s best if the container has a rubber gasket, which lays closely when the lid is put on. This prevents spilling and mess in your lunch cooler bag. Some containers have snaps on the sides for added security, so they won’t open by accident.
Spills and Stains
Even if you are very careful when sorting and packing your food and have leak-proof containers, accidents can happen. This is a common problem when taking your food “to go”. Sometimes a container opens during transport and the content spills inside the cooler. Everything gets nasty and you end up with a mess. An additional problem is that this is not just dirty, it’s an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
The lining inside your lunch box should be easy to clean, preferably by simply wiping down. It’s always a good idea to clean as soon as possible, to avoid stains. In an even worse scenario, a spill can leak through the cooler. This happens when the cooler isn’t waterproof. It then ends up on your clothes, or on your car seat. Not to mention that your cooler looks bad if the stain has permanently settled and is visible on the surface. However, there are a few things you can do if this happens. Take a peak further down to learn how to properly clean your cooler.
Q: What Are Lunch Boxes Made Of?
Your lunch box will have some type of fabric as the outside layer, and a special lining inside. Going from product to product, there are some differences in the materials used. The outside fabric should be strong and durable, so your cooler won’t tear easily. Then you can put it on the ground beside your camping chair, or on the floor under the cot without worry.
The most common choices are nylon or polyester, while some also use cotton. Besides being durable, nylon and polyester are also very easy to clean. Some manufacturers will point out the quality of the fabric they used when making the cooler. It is measured in D (which stands for Denier), and a higher number means a better quality fabric.
When it comes to the inside of your cooler, most products use the same material – PEVA. This is an abbreviation for poly ethylene vinyl acetate, and it’s a material similar to plastic. The difference compared to PVC is that PEVA doesn’t contain chloride and the structure isn’t the same. For this reason, it’s considered less toxic and carcinogenic, and it was approved by the FDA.
This means it can safely be used for lining lunch coolers, and your food can be placed inside without any health hazards. It’s waterproof and very easy to clean. It’s also a good insulator, which is the main reason it found its place inside. Some products have additional insulation too, so they can maintain temperature longer.
Your cooler will also have a couple of zippers, and they need to be good. If a side zipper malfunctions, it’s not a large problem. However, if the main zipper malfunctions the function of your cooler is compromised. Always take a peek at the materials used so you know what you can expect.
Q: Do Lunch Boxes Sweat When Left Outside?
Sweating on the outside shouldn’t be a problem, at least with better quality products. They are waterproof, so no liquid from the inside will be able to break out to the surface. On the other hand, sweating inside is often inevitable if you put something very cold in. Leaving the lunch box outside (especially in the sun) will make it quicker.
This is because condensation takes place. It’s a natural process where your cold food, drink or ice pack cools the surrounding air. The water vapor present in the air turns to water and forms droplets on the surface of cold things inside. This is one more benefit of having separate compartments – the moisture which forms on the surface of your drink won’t transfer to your sandwich and make it wet for example.
Q: How Do You Clean A Lunch Box?
Cleaning your cooler should be a simple process. As we’ve discussed, coolers with PEVA lining are easy to wipe down. This makes them more pleasant to use and they last longer. Not to mention safety, because having bacteria inside the cooler won’t do much good for your food.
Soft coolers often don’t need to be cleaned after every use (unless something spills of course). Wiping it down after several uses will usually do the trick. Some of them are even safe to wash in the washing machine, while others are washed by hand. In either case, look at the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions so the cooler won’t get damaged in the process.
When wiping, you can use ordinary moist cloth. First, remove all the debris inside, and then go over every surface. Afterward, leave it out in the air to dry. It’s important that it dries completely so bad smells don’t form. If you have to remove some stains, you can use a mild detergent or baking soda solution. Rub the spot where the stain is, and when you’ve removed it wipe with a clean cloth.
Q: What Is The Difference Between Adult and Child Lunch Box?
When it comes to function, these two are basically the same. They both need to preserve the food and keep the drinks cold for several hours. However, adult lunch coolers often have more features on them and larger storage space. This is because adults eat more diverse food and have larger portions.
In addition to this, coolers for children often feature some cartoon or comic book characters. This design is very appealing to young ones, but not many adults will gladly carry a cooler with a Disney princess on it. Adult boxes have a more suitable look, which won’t stand out. Of course, children can use adult lunch boxes too and vice versa (as long as you like the print).
Q: What Is The Best Size For A Lunch Box?
There is no universal size for which we can say it’s going to be perfect for you. Like we mentioned earlier, it depends on the person and their particular needs. If you’re only going to put in a few things, then a small lunch cooler is better because you can take it with you anywhere without hassle. On the other hand, if you need to bring drinks or sandwiches for everyone who’s going camping, you will probably need the largest you can find.
In addition, you need to think about how long you want to keep the food in. If you’re going to use the food tomorrow, it’s not a bad idea to go with a larger cooler so you can put more ice packs inside to keep everything nice and cool. To wrap up, only you can determine what the best size is.
Q: Can Perishable Goods Be Stored In Non-insulated Lunch Box?
Yes, you can safely store perishable goods in a non-insulated compartment. However, you will be time-limited, either to eat the food or put it in a fridge when you reach your destination. It’s certainly a much better option than to keep your food exposed. It depends on the type of goods you’ll be taking, some can last longer than other when left outside. It’s certainly a plus to keep it in a shade so you won’t speed up the process.
Of course, even if the box doesn’t have it’s own insulation, you can still put ice packs inside. This can keep the food cold for several hours despite the box not helping. It’s very useful to have a few ice packs in your freezer at all times, so you have them at hand when you need to pack and go.
Q: How Do Insulated Adult Lunch Boxes Work?
They are designed to maintain temperature for longer time periods. This means that they don’t allow air circulation. When you put your food and drinks inside, they are already cold (assuming they are coming out of the fridge). This cools the air inside the cooler. If you add a few ice packs into the combination, the temperature is even lower.
Materials used (particularly PEVA) are made to be leak-proof, meaning they act as a barrier here and keep the cold inside. Air itself is also a good insulator. Some coolers will have a kind of foam between outside and inside layer, to make them more effective. Materials used, as well as wall thickness prevent the cooler from warming up. Efficiency is at it’s highest if you don’t open it often because this let’s the cold air outside.
Globo Surf Overview
Buying the best lunch cooler may prove to be a very good investment. The reason is that they are so versatile – you can take them camping or to picnics, you can use them to bring your home-made healthy meal to work or your child can take some snacks to school.
Features are different when going from one product to another, but the most important thing is that they are reliable to store your food. We’re certain you’ll be able to find the best lunch box for your needs, since you now have enough information to make a choice you’ll be happy with.
More Camping Reviews:
- Backpack Cooler
- Pop Up Tent
- Family Tent
- Multi Tool
- Portable Radio
- 4 Season Tent
- Camping Gear
- Camping Table
- Camping Games
Have you tried a lunch cooler which made it onto our list? Which one? How long does it keep the content cold? Is it easy to use and maintain? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.
Globo Surf Lunch Coolers Reviews; ; ;