The Best Lunch Boxes to Tote to School, Work, or Play

L.L.Bean’s classic lunch box works for both kids and adults.

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Best Lunch Boxes
Photo: Courtesy of LL Bean

Gone are the days when the word "lunch box" referred to one of those plastic contraptions whose flimsy locks gave out halfway through the school year, sending your PB&J sandwich flying. Today, the term encompasses many vessels, ranging from cleverly designed bento box models to super-insulated, soft-sided lunch bags. The new class of lunch boxes is not just for kids but also for those of us headed back to the office or—more fun—just planning an outdoor meal (maybe even with a bit of booze).

We researched dozens of the top picks—paying particular attention to qualities like durability, insulation, organization, and price—to whittle the list down to nine of the best on the market. Read on to learn about our top picks like L.L.Bean's Lunch Box, plus intel on eight more of the best lunch boxes to buy for kids and adults.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: L. L.Bean Lunch Box

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of L L Bean

Pros: This durable, insulated, roomy lunch bag still fits inside a backpack.

Cons: There is only one compartment inside, which makes organization tricky.

L.L.Bean's signature backpacks with the reflective stripe have been a household staple for decades, so it should be no surprise that the brand's lunch box is similarly reliable. This model can withstand the rigors of even the most exuberant preschooler, constructed from a highly durable packcloth (the same material they use for those popular backpacks). Inside the insulated box are an easy-to-clean BPA-free lining and a compartment that can easily fit a sandwich, a small drink, and a few sides like grapes or an avocado. An interior mesh pocket can also fit an ice pack, napkins, or set of utensils. This lunch box is available in nine different colors and can be embroidered with a name or initials, making it an excellent pick for large families who risk swiping the wrong lunch by accident.

  • Dimensions: 9½"H x 7"W x 3¾"D
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Compartments: 1

Best Value: Simple Modern Hadley Lunch Bag

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of Walmart

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: This reasonably priced lunch box comes in various colors and prints.

Cons: The carry handle is very short, which makes it harder to tote.

A less expensive lunch box doesn't mean sacrificing style — look at the dozens of prints available for Simple Modern's Hadley Lunch Bag. Designs range from pastel unicorns romping in a field of flowers to stylized polar bears and a few solid and striped varieties for those looking for something more understated. Other features that make this bag a great value include triple insulation, a reinforced handle with a snap buckle, interior and exterior zippered pockets, and an elastic in the main compartment to help secure a drink. As a bonus, Simple Modern gives away 10 percent of its profits annually to over 1,000 different organizations.

  • Dimensions: 7.6"H x 9.7"W x 3.4"D
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Compartments: 1

Best Splurge: PlanetBox Rover Stainless Steel Lunch Box

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This box has enough compartments for your lunch main and all its side, plus containers for sauces.

Cons: It's not very deep compared to other bento box models.

PlanetBox calls this model a "picky eater's paradise," and we can see why. With four large compartments, plus one smaller one for treats, this lunch box is ideal for anyone who enjoys a little separation for their snacks and seeks to avoid sandwiches getting crushed by heavier items. Avid followers of lunch box influencers (it's a thing) will also probably recognize this model: The many compartments lend themselves to stylish arrangements of themed lunches, whether it's an all-green palette or a spooky, Halloween-themed meal.

Aside from its organizational benefits, this lunch box is our splurge pick because it's so well-crafted. Made out of stainless steel, it's virtually unbreakable, but we love that you can add a bit of flair to the exterior by purchasing magnets to decorate the outside of the compartments. It also has two sealable bowls, which are ideal for storing dipping sauces or messier items like pasta. We're also a fan of the coordinating carry bag (sold separately), which can fit utensils and even a water bottle in the exterior pocket.

  • Dimensions: 10"H x 7.4"W x 1.5"D
  • Material: 100% stainless steel
  • Compartments: 5

Best Bento-Style: Bentgo Kids Stainless Steel Leak-Resistant Lunch Box

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Target.

Pros: Not only are the wells in this model deep, but the box is also leak-resistant.

Cons: Even though this is technically dishwasher-safe, hand washing is recommended to preserve the silicone.

Bentgo has always been one of the most popular makers of bento-style lunch boxes, but the latest model is designed to be both easier to use and more durable. Notably, the latches have been reconfigured so that not only can smaller hands easily open and close them, but the latches form a tighter seal as well. The unique lid on this model is also contoured to keep this box incredibly leakproof.

Other features make this design our favorite out of all the bento boxes: three deep wells that can fit everything from wraps to a bunch of grapes, an included silicone container to divide the compartments further and five different colorways for the lid. (Speaking of colors, Bentgo also makes great ice packs for kids.)

  • Dimensions: 9.8"H x 7.6"W x 2.2"D
  • Material: stainless steel and silicone
  • Compartments: 3

Best Insulated: Corkcicle Baldwin Boxer Lunch Box

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Corkcicle and Bloomingdales

Pros: This stylish lunch box keeps food cold for hours and has nice carry straps.

Cons: There is only one interior compartment, so food will need to be packaged separately.

This sleek lunch box comes from the brand that offers drinkware to keep your coffee hot and your wine chilled, and it's insulated enough to keep your food cold for hours. We especially love its design with neoprene. The streamlined exterior looks more like a workout bag than your average lunchbox. And indeed, this box is durable enough to bring on a hike, sports practice, or even to the elementary school lunch room.

While this lunch box only has one interior compartment, its thoughtful design carries more than just your lunch. Aside from the main compartment, which has an internal pocket, there is also an exterior pocket for snacks or napkins, plus a clip on the top of the box which can hold a water bottle.

  • Dimensions: 7.75"H x 10.5"W x 4" D
  • Material: neoprene or vegan leather
  • Compartments: 1

Best Personalized: Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Lunch Box

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids

Pros: With dozens of prints and patterns, this lunch box has a version for every personality.

Cons: Adding embroidery will add time to when your order is delivered, so it might not arrive before school starts.

Long known for their wide array of prints and customization in everything from bedding to luggage, Pottery Barn Kids excels when it comes to lunch boxes. Their most popular model, the Mackenzie, offers a design for every kid (or kid at heart). Choose one with an ombre glitter for some sparkle or a bag with glow-in-the-dark dinosaur bones for your amateur paleontologist. All bags can be embroidered with names or initials, and many prints also have coordinating hot/cold containers and interior bento boxes available for an additional cost.

Most Mackenzie models also come in three shapes and sizes: the Classic square, the more rectangular Cold Pack, and the Dual, which boasts two separate zippered compartments. All feature a water-resistant polyester exterior made of recycled plastic bottles, an easy-to-wipe interior, and straps that help them attach to a backpack.

  • Dimensions: varies
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Compartments: 1-2

Best Durable: YETI DayTrip Lunch Box

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Yeti.

Pros: Perfect for camping, hiking, or any sort of outdoor adventure, this lunch box features a waterproof and leak-proof zipper and puncture-resistant fabric.

Cons: While it has three exterior handles, they're all rather short.

From the company that made coolers, well, cool, comes this extremely durable lunch box, loaded with features that make it the ideal choice for eating your lunch on a mountain, near the beach, or anywhere in between. The exterior is made from DryHide Shell, which is waterproof and resistant to punctures and UV rays. Insulation-wise, the box is lined with closed-cell rubber foam, which keeps food at its optimal temperature better than almost any other material. Even the zipper itself is especially rugged: the Hydrolok model is leak-proof and waterproof, ensuring all liquids stay where they should. Finally, the lunch box is rigid, meaning anything from a banana to your hoagie will remain un-squished.

While all these specs make this lunch box sound pretty serious, we also appreciate the wide rainbow of colors available. The alpine yellow is especially cheery and wins points for its ability to be spotted across the lunch room or in the woods.

  • Dimensions: 8.8"H x 8.8"W x 5.8"D
  • Material: Proprietary "Dryhide Shell"
  • Compartments: 1

Best Mini: State Mini Rodgers Snack Pack

Best Lunch Boxes
Courtesy of State Bags

Also available at Sammy and Nat

Pros: A snack bag that's more durable than any other petite bag on the market.

Cons: Since it's small, this isn't big enough for a whole lunch.

State is best known for its trend-forward printed backpacks, but their lunch boxes may be their sleeper hit. We especially love their Mini Rodgers Snack Pack because there aren't many snack-size lunch boxes on the market. These models make a splash wherever you carry them with unique prints like rainbow hearts or ice cream cones and fashion-forward metallics. Like their bigger counterparts, they're fully insulated, have a clip handle, and even boast a see-through interior pocket where you can leave notes for your kid or loved one.

As to what it fits? According to the website, even this small-size bag can handle a variety of snacks (like a bag of animal crackers), a small water bottle, and an apple.

  • Dimensions: 5.12" H x 7.09" W x 3.35" D
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Compartments: 1

Best Warming: Uvi Self-Heating Lunch Box

Uvi Lunchbox
Courtesy of Uvi

Pros: This high-tech machine keeps your food warm and disinfects using UV light.

Cons: Since this has electric parts, it can't be immersed in water (so no dishwasher for this one).

While a self-heating lunch box is more of a luxury than a necessity, it's still a neat concept. Uvi's Self-Heating Lunch Box can warm up food in about 25 minutes; simply plug it in and press the heating button. And if you already have hot food, the insulated liner will keep it toasty for up to two hours. We also love that the interior is made out of an odor-resistant material, which means you can have curry one day and cobbler the next, without worrying about intermingling smells.

The coolest part is when you're done eating. After wiping down the interior, you can put your tableware in, close the lid, press the UV button, and the UV light can disinfect everything inside. The future is now.

  • Dimensions: 8.25"H x 5"W x 3"D
  • Material: plastic, silicone, and aluminum
  • Compartments: 2

Our Favorite

For a classic-style lunch box that's durable and easy on the wallet, L.L.Bean's Lunch Box is our overall winner. But if you want a more rigid model, we love PlanetBox's Rover Stainless Steel Lunch Box as an upgrade.

Factors to Consider

Size

We'd argue that this is the most important element in deciding on a new lunch box. After all, if it won't fit in your kid's backpack or your work tote bag, it's more or less useless. On the other end of the spectrum, a teeny model might not be able to hold enough food for a satisfying lunch, let alone for a kid going through a growth spurt. The ideal model is small enough to travel easily but still large enough to hold a full-sized sandwich, plus a few sides.

Material and Construction

Lunch boxes can be divided into two main camps: soft-sided versions and those more rigidly constructed. The benefit of the former is that they're easier to fill and pack: They can accommodate awkwardly sized objects, like a banana, better than a box and can compress into a corner of a tote. The downside, of course, is that they don't do as good of a job as protecting the food within. On the other hand, a good lunch box, especially a bento box model with compartments, will protect your food from bruising and smushing and keep everything neatly organized.

Insulation

While not every lunch box on our list features insulation, it is common in many models. The benefits are obvious: These styles will keep your salad cooler, or your meatballs warmer, depending on what you place inside. Many insulated models will also contain pockets to place an ice pack, which will extend the life of your food even longer.

Extra Features

Aside from carrying your meal, the best lunch boxes may also come with a few clever add-ons. The handiest features include reusable and sealable bowls for things like sauces or pasta, interior pockets to store napkins or cutlery, and exterior personalization (convenient for multiple family members carrying the same box). Unfortunately, most models will not include cutlery, ice packs, or custom-fit bento boxes (to place inside lunch bags) in the price of the box, but these can be purchased separately.

The Research

To find the best lunch boxes, we polled many food-loving parents (and kids!), scoured online and brick-and-mortar stores, and researched dozens of top choices. We paid special attention to durability, insulation, organization, size, price, and overall design. Our winners scored high marks on all of these, plus they are all pretty nice to look at, to boot.

Pro Panel Q+A

How can I wash my lunch box?

The best way to wash your lunch box will depend on its construction. Fully stainless steel models or those that are a combination of steel and silicone can be tossed right into the dishwasher. Fabric-based or soft-sided lunch boxes or bags will need to be hand-washed; generally, the easiest way to clean them is a quick wipe down with a soapy sponge, followed by a rinse.

How long will my food stay safe in a lunch box?

According to the USDA, perishable foods should sit at room temperature for no more than two hours. So if your lunch box is uninsulated, beware. But, with an insulated model and a freezer pack, you can extend that out-of-fridge time for an extra three to four hours, which should get you to lunch with no problem.

Our Expertise

Juliet Izon is a veteran food and commerce writer who also happens to have a hungry six-year-old daughter. Her family owns not one but three different lunch boxes on this list, and yes, they are all necessary for different occasions.

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