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Lunch box lands end

Contents

The Best Lunch Box

Over a long, hot summer, we tested 19 of the top lunch boxes, bags and coolers designed to keep your food cool and fresh. Our top pick for best lunch box is the Coleman – 9-Can Insulated Lunch Bag with removable hard liner. The Coleman offers plenty of room and utility, and it’s the perfect modern version of a lunch box for adults. For those who only want to carry the basics, we like the High Sierra.

Table of contents

  • How we selected finalists to test
  • Compare the best bento boxes
  • The seven best small insulated lunch bags
  • The nine best large insulated lunch bags
  • Important features to consider
  • How we tested
  • Best overall: Coleman – 9-Can Soft Cooler
  • Other notable finalists
  • Finalists tested but not recommended
  • The bottom line

How we selected finalists to test

We scoured the web for reviews and mentions of great bags. As always, we picked finalists that have plenty of verified purchaser feedback on major retail sites and eliminated contenders with consistent complaints (even if the complaints were in the minority of reviews).

“Lunch box” is a diverse product category. We looked at four groupings:

Bento boxes

These are minimalist trays designed to carry enough food to get most people through the day, and nothing else. Most offer some means of carrying silverware, too; if you need more than 900 calories in a lunch, though, this is definitely not the best way to go (unless you’re carrying something like single-serving potato chips and soda in some other bag, in which case portion control might be exactly what you want).

Lunch bags

This is a category that’s a bit ambiguous, but for the most part this is an insulated nylon bag that works like a reusable paper sack. The trick is that some of these bags actually have more capacity than small coolers; the major distinction is that they’re tall rather than wide. For adults, we looked at bags with enough room to keep a big sandwich and something on the side. For kids, we were looking for frustration-free opening and intuitive organization features.

Small coolers

The most ambiguous category, we defined the small cooler as capable of carrying more than six but fewer than 13 12-oz. beverage cans. These are mostly horizontally-oriented in the way they sit, though you could argue that a few of them are “tall.”

Large coolers

These bags can all carry a twelve-pack of beverages with room for ice, and will carry enough food to feed a family or a small party. A few have multiple insulated compartments, which really makes a difference if you’re carrying a lot of different types of food. If you’re planning on hauling a picnic for a crowd, check out our review of the best cooler or the best thermoelectric cooler.

Compare the best bento boxes

The seven best small insulated lunch bags

The nine best large insulated lunch bags

Important features to consider

Number of insulated compartments: Separate compartments give you the opportunity to take hot or warm items in the same bag without unnecessarily heating up your ice packs in the main compartment. Some of the bags even have insulated pockets. This will be listed as, for example, 2.1 for two main insulated compartments and one insulated pocket.

Capacity: People eat different things for lunch; that’s an uncontrolled variable in a comparison like this. We tried to sort our recommendations into three helpful size categories, but we’ve listed the capacities on our master table based on how many 12 oz. cans we could fit into each bag.

Liners: Some of the bags we tested feature removable liners. While a removable liner is not inherently more waterproof or stain-resistant than a sewn-in liner, it’s easier to deal with a bag that’s dirty if you can take the liner out to wash it.

Accessories: A few of these bags come with additional items that you might use: beverage containers, picnic flatware and even reusable storage containers.

How we tested

We took these lunch bags and coolers everywhere. We took lunch to work, and to the park. We had picnics at the lake, and snacks at the library. We strapped them to a motorcycle, and we even took food to Disneyland in the middle of a hot July.

At the end of our time with the bags, we sat down and rated each one according to these criteria:

Construction quality

This is a ranking of considerations like stitching, zippers, durable materials, easy-to-clean liners and insulation that seems like it’ll maintain its shape over time.

Lunch bags aren’t like gear bags or luggage where the contents are more valuable than the container, so we didn’t do any abusive tests. We definitely took away points for cheap liners or thin nylon, though.

Leak-proofing

Any of these bags will keep food off your car seat, but we wanted to find out if they were good enough to be truly leak-proof. We filled all the bags with water then shook, flipped and dropped them to see how much they leaked. We also scored this category based on how easy it is to clean the liner of a bag.

While each of the plastic single-meal-sized bento options will keep liquids in place, shaking them around means liquid all over the lid of the entire box. PlanetBox’s metal tray is not watertight at all, but the included soup cup is, and that’s definitely the most mess-free way to carry and eat your tikka masala. (Too bad you can’t put it in a microwave.)

The big bags were quite waterproof, but only to a point. None will actually keep water from leaking out the zipper, and even the locking lid on the Stanley cooler will leak if you hold it upside down. So at the end of testing, a five-star rating means that the liner held water perfectly in an upright position and was easy to remove for cleaning. If the bag scored less than a four in this category, that means water had soaked through the liner (or worse, came dribbling out a seam).

Note that the Jaxx – FitPak can stop leaks with the included accessories: six portion-control-friendly reusable containers. The bag has an easy-to-wash rubberized liner, but liquids will slowly leak out at the seams if they’re not in the containers. (We give the system a five, the bag itself an even three.)

Design and practicality

This score is based on a variety of considerations, including bag shape, how comfortable the straps are, removable liners, features like expanding water bottle pockets and any other unique design considerations that made the bag better.

Insulation

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), perishable food like your egg salad sandwich should be kept at 40° F or below. Any higher than that, and you run the risk of bacteria multiplying (yes, there’s already bacteria in your food) to a level that might make you sick. Not all bacteria will make you sick, but unless you can assay a thoroughly representative sample of every lunch you pack… just pack some ice with your fresh food.

To see how much the insulation in these bags can help, we tested each bag in the hot sun. Smaller bags were loaded with three ounces of ice, and the bigger coolers were tested with six ounces. We left all the bags out in the hot sun (ambient temperature was approximately 102 °F) and checked on them after five hours. The score above is the percentage of that 40° target that the bags achieved; higher is better.

The results are not very promising. There was actually very little difference between the bags; smaller bags stayed cooler, but the biggest difference within a category was five degrees Fahrenheit (4% further from the target temperature).

None of these bags would keep a potato salad safe in a car on a hot day without extra ice to soak up the heat. The more ice you keep in your cooler, the longer your food will stay safe; that’s one more reason to carefully choose the capacity you need.

On a hot day in direct sun, even the single ice pack included in the Jaxx kit and the ice-gel-liner in the PackIt bag were insufficient to keep a lunch in the safe zone for five hours out in the sun. The FSIS recommends at least two ice packs per bag, or an ice pack and a frozen beverage. If you have an icemaker and a supply of sturdy zip-seal bags, you can use ice cubes. However, commercial ice packs are durable and convenient. That said, keeping your bag out of the sun is the most important step.

Best overall: Coleman – 9-Can Soft Cooler

With a hard plastic “tub” style liner, good pockets and all the other features we looked for in a basic bag, the Coleman – 9-Can Soft Cooler represents an amazing value at around 14 dollars. This is an ideal lunch box for adults or even a picnic bag for two.

While the Coleman wasn’t the very best at keeping a lunch cold without ice, the real trick to keeping perishable food safe is to use lots of ice, and that’s what this cooler is built for.

The removable hard liner is an ideal ice bucket. This is perfect for keeping a six-pack well buried on a scorching hot day, or carrying a 12-pack (without any ice) on a less-intense outing. Could there be a better way to design a lunch box for men?

The best thing about the hard tub liner is that it’s easier to clean and dry than the soft zip-in liners used in many of the other coolers. Trying to get the last few drops of water out of a vinyl bag is a pain, but the Coleman will air-dry without problems and is easy to wipe down with a towel.

This makes an ideal lunch bag for large or bulky lunches. There’s a zippered mesh pocket in the lid that will hold a small ice pack, and of course lots of room for more ice packs inside the tub.

Top Pick: Coleman – 9-Can Soft Cooler

Coleman’s bag is a good size and its shoulder strap makes it easy to carry. The leak-proof tub liner also makes this much less hassle to clean than other bags.

See Price at Amazon.com

The best reason we could find to use a different bag is if you really need to keep warm and cold food separate. With only one large compartment, you need to decide if you want everything warm or ice-cold. Even in a small insulated bag, though, most hot food will cool quickly: unless you’re carrying soup in a vacuum-sealed container, keeping a hot lunch hot for more than an hour is unrealistic.

The other thing this bag didn’t do is carry the picks from our water bottle review. With a 2.9 inch diameter, the 20-oz Kleen Kanteen will barely squeeze into the mesh side pocket, and while it might count as “fitting,” we’re pretty sure the elastic would tear if you did that every day. Most non-insulated 12-ounce water bottles should fit in the pocket, but there’s enough room inside that you’ll wind up keeping your water in there anyhow.

If you only have a small lunch and don’t want to carry around something this bulky, there are other options. This cooler is a better bargain than even the smallest lunch bags we tested, though, so we recommend that everyone consider it first.

Key takeaways:

  • The Coleman – 9-Can Soft Cooler is a good size for a bigger lunch and has room for plenty of ice in the hard liner ‘tub.’
  • Well-built and utilitarian, Coleman designed this bag with a great set of features and options for the price.

Other notable finalists

The best lunch box for work

An insulated cooler with sandwich bags or reusable containers inside is probably the way most people will want to pack a lunch, but there are other options.

If you’re working in an office that has a break room with a fridge, a microwave and a sink, you might be happiest with a compact lunch box.

The Japanese “bento” concept of taking a lunch in boxes with portion-sized compartments dates back more than four centuries, and modern-day practitioners have made it into an artform.

The three compartmentalized boxes we tried each had some quirks, but on the whole, our favorite was the stacking Monbento – MB Original. With two stacking compartments, it has room for a decent-sized lunch, and you can fit a small banana or carrot inside without cutting it into tiny pieces. The included tiny dish also works as a divider of sorts, which will help if you’re looking for a bento box mostly because you don’t like your foods to touch one another.

Great for Work: Monbento – MB Original

It isn’t cheap, but Monbento gives you a clever way to carry a minimalist lunch.

See Price at Amazon.com

The Modetro Bento also performed quite well if your lunches are small enough, but it’s not as flexible as the Monbento. All three of the boxes we tested offered some way to seal liquids inside (PlanetBox includes a cup with a rubber lid), but we felt the Monbento’s seal was the most reliable and easiest to clean.

None of the bento-style boxes offered much insulation at all, and even the included carry bag provided with the Modetro box doesn’t give you a way to use an ice pack. (It barely has room for utensils.)

The best insulated lunch bag

There are two ways to maximize insulation performance in a lunch bag: use a bag that’s no bigger than you need, or take a lot of ice.

Best Insulation: High Sierra – Stacked Compartment

This bag maximizes the cooling of your ice packs by separating your lunch into two compartments. It also has a separate pocket for stuff that doesn’t need to be kept cold.

See Price at Amazon.com

In our testing, the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag was 3% better at keeping cold than our top pick, almost certainly because its main compartment is smaller. If you’re not using much ice, this bag will also let you pack non-perishable food in a second compartment where it won’t warm up the food in your main compartment. If your lunch bag will sit in a climate-controlled environment all morning, this is a good way to manage.

The one downside to this bag is that with all those zippers, there’s a bigger chance that any leaking liquids will spill out. The Rubbermaid Lunchblox Bag was slightly better at keeping water in for that reason. In either case, you don’t want to pack liquids inside unless you’re very sure they’re not going to leak.

The best cooler bag

If you’re looking to keep things cold for a long time but can’t haul around a large insulated cooler chest, A large bag with plenty of ice is still your best bet. If you need enough food for a few people, then a large bag like the Crew Cooler II from eBags has room to spare.

Jumbo Pick: eBags – Crew Cooler II

Designed for airline crews who pack food for long trips, eBags has packed almost every feature you can imagine into this bag: two insulated compartments, two expanding water bottle pockets and beefy construction all around. A generous insulated lid compartment holds hot food or just accessories you don’t want to ice.

See Price at Amazon.com

We could get 23 12-ounce beverage cans into the two insulated compartments, and the zip-in removable liner is sealed tight so you don’t have to worry about puddles at the end of the day. Like the High Sierra lunch bag, the second insulated compartment is great for stuff that you don’t want to pack in ice — we found that you can fit a bigger-sized DSLR like a Canon 5D in the lid.

The Mojecto – Large Cooler Bag is very similar to the Crew Cooler, but it’s four inches shorter; it also has a more padded shoulder strap. If you anticipate carrying your cooler any significant distance, that might be a better pick. Both bags have expanding water bottle pockets, a removable liner and quick-release buckles for the shoulder strap.

The best lunch bag for kids

A small lunch bag with easy-to-use features is going to be the key to success when picking a lunchbox for school kids. Our favorite small bag is the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag, but for school lunches the Rubbermaid – Lunchblox bag has a few things going for it. The simplicity of a single compartment in the Lunchblox bag might be better for some kids, and the shoulder strap might come in handy for those who tend to drop things and forget them in the hall or on the bus.

Best for Kids: Rubbermaid – Lunchblox

This is a simple bag that will hold plenty of lunch and keep utensils organized.

See Price at Amazon.com

The LunchBlox bag is also a tiny bit better than the High Sierra bag at preventing spills, since it makes a better “tub” shape when it’s lying on its back. If you flip it over, though, liquids will still leak through the zipper.

We love that there’s a place to store utensils securely and enough space to hold a lunch and a water bottle. (Frozen water bottles are a great way to keep perishables cold.)

Finalists tested but not recommended

Modetro – Bento Lunchbox

The Modetro Bento is the least expensive of the bento options we tried, and that might be enough to make it your first pick. The main reason we didn’t pick this over the Monbento is size: the three small compartments limit what you can pack. If you’re chopping up all your food and arranging it sculpturally it’s probably a great choice, especially since the lid is see-through, but if you want to include a stick of celery or a carrot you’ll almost certainly prefer the two deep rectangles of the Monbento box. We were also concerned that the white plastic might stain more easily over time than the black plastic of the Monbento.

PlanetBox – Rover

PlanetBox is all about retro cool, and depending on how you look at things the all-metal Rover might be more earth-friendly than plastic. There isn’t any other reason we could find to choose this to carry a lunch, though. Without a way to carry ice, you’d better have a fridge to keep it in, but in that case the tray will get uncomfortably cold.

The compartments stamped into the Rover are functional, but small. The best thing about this lunch box is the securely-sealing soup cup, but we’re pretty sure you already have a reusable container that will do that job (and if you don’t you shouldn’t pay these prices to get one).

Jaxx – FitPak

Probably the biggest downside to the Jaxx FitPack is a lack of flexibility. No shoulder strap, no removable liner, and a design that forces you to find a way to divide your food among four two-cup and two one-cup containers.

The FitPak set is designed for gym gorillas, so it seemed like overkill for most of our testers; if you’re packing for a family it’s a fairly reasonable size (so long as nobody complains about sharing containers).

Many of the other bags will do the same job, though, with enough cash leftover to buy multiple sets of reusable containers. (Those bags all have shoulder straps, too.)

This is probably a pretty good package for someone who specifically wants the accessories included to fit efficiently into one bag, but we can’t rationalize the price if that’s not exactly what you’re after.

Everest – Cooler Lunch Bag

Everest’s Cooler Lunch Bag is a simple product that meets all the basic criteria. It’s sealed against leaks and fairly well-built, but without even a liner or pocket there aren’t any perks. For a few dollars more, the Coleman 9-Can will be easier to clean and hold more lunch.

Stanley – 7QT Heritage Cooler

A stalwart representative of the old school, we have mixed feelings about our time with Stanley’s Heritage Cooler.

On the one hand, this is the most rugged of the coolers we tested — we’re pretty sure you could run over it with a truck, but the editors don’t like it when we do that. “Few people,” they say, “are ever going to drive over a cooler.”

On the other hand, people do have to carry a lunch bag around. This thing has a handle, but it’s not exactly easy to carry. The Heritage Cooler’s divided compartment also holds fewer than half as many cans as the other coolers its size; you can fit nine cans and some ice in the 15.5 inch-wide frame; the EvoVox cooler mentioned below holds 21 cans in a space just 13” wide.

If the Heritage Cooler gained significant thermal performance or leak-proofing over other bags, it might have earned a special mention, but it leaks when you turn it upside down and it doesn’t really insulate very well, either. What you need for long-term food preservation is plenty of ice, and there are cheaper, better ways of carrying ice than this behemoth.

We do like the included vacuum-insulated ‘Thermos’ flask, though. (Buy it separately, or just buy a good travel mug if that’s what you really need.)

PackIt – Freezable Lunch Bag

PackIt had an interesting idea in the Freezable Lunch Bag that didn’t really pan out in execution. This is a lunch bag only in the most basic sense of the word; it’s a bag, and you could put lunch in it. It’s small, it’s not easy to carry when it’s frozen and stiff, and when we put liquids in it they soaked through the inner liner. If you’re only ever carrying a dry lunch it might be fine, but absorbing liquids generally means smells will start to accumulate over time, too.

Certainly, the idea of a self-contained ice pack is a good one, but it’s not worth the compromises presented here. The High Sierra or Rubbermaid bags are superior in every way, so long as you can make ice, freeze a water bottle, or buy a separate freezable gel pack.

Mojecto – Cooler Bag

For all intents and purposes, the Mojecto Cooler Bag is the same bag as the eBags Crew Cooler II, but a little bit smaller. (It’s about four inches shorter and holds four fewer drink cans when you pack them tight.) That’s not an exaggeration: the way the compartments are designed and even the expanding-wing water-bottle pockets are almost identical. The zipper on the eBags cooler is a bit beefier, but the shoulder strap chosen by Mojecto is a bit better.

If you don’t need the extra space and you can find the Mojecto for less, it’s a good choice. List price for the Mojecto is higher than for the eBags cooler, though, so if you’re looking for a big bag, just get the bigger one.

EvoVox – Insulated Cooler Bag

The Insulated Cooler Bag from EvoVox is a great bag, and nearly got our pick for big-capacity cooler. The construction is rugged, and it seems that EvoVox used neoprene or some other stiff foam in the insulation here that makes the sides stiffer and more protective than the spongy foam in all the other bags. It didn’t make the insulation properties any better, though.

The reason this isn’t recommended above the eBags Crew Cooler or the Mojecto bag is that there’s only one compartment. If you’re not going to be carrying anything that won’t squeeze into the pockets this might be a great bag, but we really loved the flexibility of the two-compartment system when we filled the other coolers with ice.

Oniva – Pranzo

The Pranza “Picnic Time” bag was tough to review. Onvia has carefully thought out many of the features included: dual-compartment insulation for hot-and-cold (okay, ice and no-ice) storage, plus a full set of silverware for your romantic day-trip picnic.

If the main compartment were a little larger and included a removable liner, this would have easily scored a special mention. As it is, the eBags – Crew Cooler II can do everything this bag does and more, so long as you can come up with some silverware on your own.

Arctic Zone – Titan

The Titan is very similar to the Coleman – 9-Can Cooler, but with a liner you can’t remove, a hard lid and velcro instead of a zipper.

We like the removable shelf and the capacity offered by this cooler, but since it sits in the middle of the size range, it’s hard to say for sure it’s going to be big enough for those who pack for a group. The hard lid does seem more robust than the soft lid offered by the Coleman, but it still doesn’t hold water if you flip it upside-down. We’re also not sure how well the Velcro will hold up over time, compared to a zipper.

If you want more capacity than the Coleman bag and find the Arctic Zone Titan on sale, it might be worth going for. At list price, you can buy two of the Coleman bags and get more drinks with the money you saved.

Igloo – Maxcold Gripper 16

If Igloo could have included a liner and a better pocket on the Maxcold Gripper 16 without increasing the price substantially, this probably would have been our favorite bag.

If you want to carry around a whole twelve-pack with ice and stuff some hot sandwiches in the insulated lid for an hour, this bag is fantastic. You don’t get a water bottle pouch, though, and the patch-style pockets that are sewn on won’t hold anything bulkier than the flattest of flatware.

The shoulder strap is basic but well-made, and the handle is very comfortable. The stitching is reinforced at all the right spots, and the strap is even sewn on at a slight angle to reflect the way a bag hangs when it’s loaded. The zippers aren’t exactly heavy-duty, but the main zip is sewn with a liner tape for snag-free zipping.

The antimicrobial lining proved to be fully waterproof in our testing, which is good, but we’d take a removable liner over anti-microbial materials any day.

The Igloo Maxcold doesn’t have features that make it an alternative to pricey coolers like the Mojecto, and it’s also not cheap enough to compete with our top pick. The only things it has on the Coleman nine-can is a bit more capacity and a separate insulated compartment in the lid; the Coleman is better in every other way for about $10 less.

Ramaka – Large Insulated Lunch Bag

Ramaka’s Large Insulated Lunch Bag is basic, but it fared well in testing. It has everything except a removable liner: sturdy YKK zippers, a nice strap and a big water bottle pocket that actually holds a large Nalgene bottle. It’s not that much bigger than the Coleman, though, and without a removable liner it won’t be as easy to clean.

GreEco – Large Capacity Cooler Bag

If you’re looking for the most capacity-per-dollar, GreEco’s Large Capacity Cooler Bag does score a win on that metric. We paid $12 and got 18 cans to fit into the super-tall compartment.
The GreEco bag didn’t leak in our testing, but the construction was merely “good enough” and the shoulder strap was quite short. For a basic bag that you could fold up to keep in a glovebox, this one might be worth considering, but we liked the Coleman much, much more as an every-day lunch bag.

BF Systems – Extreme Pak

We hoped that the Extreme Pak from BF Systems would be a good bargain bag, but there were too many corners cut. The biggest problem here is the liner: It’s sealed with some kind of seam tape, but water still leaked through in the course of our tests. It wasn’t a really bad leak, but if you’re going to be toting ice around all day you’ll wind up leaving puddles everywhere. Not recommended.

The bottom line

We’ve tried to include enough data in our review to help you find a cooler that meets your particular needs. What most people want is a bag that holds enough ice, doesn’t leak or get stained and is easy to clean out at the end of the day.

If you want a small bag to carry a simple lunch around, the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag does all the right things. Split stacked compartments help calm your lunch-organization compulsion and help keep the cold stuff colder.

If you want to be able to carry drinks around for an afternoon (or if you’re packing a monster-work-day sandwich) then the Coleman – 9-Can Cooler (which can hold up to 12 cans) is a fantastic choice. The hard liner makes it perfect for ice, but it also means your lunch won’t get crushed and any spills will be easy to clean up.

We tested some large cooler bags, too, and we loved the features offered by the eBags Crew Cooler II. If you want to carry more food and ice than this will hold (between the two compartments you can almost squeeze in a 24-pack of drink cans) then you almost certainly need something with wheels.

A removable hard liner sets this bag apart from the rest, and price is hard to beat.

See Price at Amazon.com

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Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.

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Neoprene Lunch Bag Reviews

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The Best Lunch Boxes & Coolers for Construction Workers

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A great lunch box for construction workers will protect your lunch from getting ruined and keep it fresh while you work. It should be sturdy, durable, and last you for years. This article will help you decide on the best cooler for your long days at work.

Many construction workers simply leave their job site at lunch time to go through a drive-through. As soon as they drive to the fast food restaurant, wait for their lunch, and get back to work, they are so short on time they have to eat as fast as they can. A lunch box with an already-prepared meal can eliminate this stress and also keep you healthier in the long run.

Bringing your lunch to work at your construction job in a paper bag one time is enough to prove that a stronger container is necessary. By noon, your sandwiches will be squashed flat and your bag may even have dirt or cement in it. If you’ve already made this mistake, you know how important a quality adult lunch box is. If you haven’t, you can prevent it by purchasing one.

Another good reason to pick a good lunch box is the danger zone in food temperatures. Bacteria can grow very quickly if your food doesn’t stay cool, increasing your risk of illness. If you pick the right choice, your lunch box can keep your food safe from this risk. Below, we will cover some of the best lunch boxes available on the market that are suitable for construction workers.

Table of Contents

The Best Lunch Box for Construction Workers

Each of the lunch boxes on this list was selected for its quality, ability to keep food safe from harm, and convenience of design based on user reviews. You will find a variety of sizes and designs on this list.

  1. Stanley 7QT Heritage Cooler
  2. IceMule Coolers Pro Coolers
  3. Carhartt Gear Deluxe Lunch Cooler
  4. Klein Tools 17-Quart Tradesman Pro
  5. Igloo 14.8 Quart Playmate Cooler

Stanley 7QT Heritage Cooler

If you only need a small cooler to keep your lunch fresh and cool all day, the Stanley 7QT Heritage Cooler is a good choice. It comes with a convenient feature on the handle and lid that allows you to lock a Stanley thermos in (included with the purchase).

The cooler is insulated with foam to keep the inside cold and the inside has different storage compartments for separating your lunch items.

“The carrying handle is perfectly acceptable for transporting this cooler, even when it is full,” said The Cooler Zone. “The coolest feature is the specially designed lid that allows for one to snap their thermos in place and still be able to carry it with the handle since it has a specialized notch in it.”

This product is made from plastic, comes in a dark green color, and has a lid that can also work as an eating surface. If you’re done having rushed fast food lunches or using coolers that require buckets of ice, this will be a very welcome change. The thermos that comes with this product will keep your beverages either cold or hot.

What’s great about the Stanley 7QT Heritage Cooler is that it’s not too big. For a construction worker who needs to carry a bunch of tools to work, a smaller cooler is best. You won’t have to make countless trips back and forth between the garage and your truck in the morning this way. Both the handle and lid are solid and durable so you don’t have to worry about breaking it on the way.

When you are deciding which lunch box to choose for work, you may want to consider how long you need to keep your food cool. With this Stanley Heritage Cooler, you can expect the cooling effect to last between 12 and 18 hours. If you need something to take on multiple-day hiking treks, you may want to consider something else.

Some users may find that this cooler is too small, but if you weigh between 180 and 280 pounds, it should have plenty of room for your lunch. The lunch box works well with frozen reusable ice packs, which are affordable and convenient. You can fit a full-sized sandwich, one banana, some carrot sticks, a granola bar, small bag of chips, and more, along with two ice packs.

IceMule Coolers Pro Coolers

If your workdays are a little on the rougher side, a tough cooler like this IceMule Pro Cooler could be exactly what you need. These coolers are leak-proof and versatile, combining the efficiency of a hard lunch box with the portable convenience of a backpack. These coolers are now made with improved, new materials and are built to offer tough, high performance on the job.

This reliable lunch box comes with five different methods for providing superior insulation. It has a foolproof seal for keeping warm air out and ice in, tough outer and inner layers, twice the thickness of other soft coolers, and another insulation layer that keeps your food cool for up to a full day.

In addition, you’ll find an air valve that removes air from the insulation layer, ventilated back pads, and reinforced back straps that will keep you comfortable if you need to carry it around.

The cooler is large and measures 11 inches deep, 14 inches wide, and 17 inches tall when closed. It can even hold 18 cans, plus ice! For those who need a great lunch box for work, plus a cooler that can handle long hiking excursions, this is the ideal selection. When you aren’t using the cooler, it will store flat instead of taking up a lot of room.

Even those who would have a hard time carrying this lunch box fully loaded with their arms will have an easy time transporting this on their back. It will stay looking brand new, even with constant use and can be taken hiking and boating. It will stay cool, no matter the temperature outside. Not only does it keep ice in and air out, but it’s waterproof. It’s also a decent price for what it offers, for those on a budget.

Carhartt Gear Deluxe Lunch Cooler

For a heavy-duty choice that will last and last, consider this Carhartt Gear 358100B lunch box. It’s a nice, quality-made bag with durable outer material and zippers.

The top can be used to store a bottle of water and an 18oz thermos. Some users may not like the mesh in the top and could find that the liner isn’t as substantial as other brands, however.

You could use the top pouch of this lunch box for storing a dessert and chips so they stay intact instead of getting squished. If you’re ready to stop using paper or plastic grocery bags for your work lunch, this upgrade will keep your food cold all day long.

The unisex cooler is well-insulated, repels water effectively, and will protect your food from getting smashed at work. The main compartment is built to keep your food safe from dangerous temperatures, even when you’re working outside in the heat. There is a separate top section for separating different lunch items, along with a zippered pocket in the front.

It has a top handle and shoulder strap for an easy carrying experience. You can also use this as a cooler for beverages on the weekend as it will hold up to six bottles or cans. The lunch box measures 7 by 9 by 10 inches and is perfect for those who would prefer not to carry a hard plastic cooler to work. If you like the Carhartt brand, you’ll be happy that this lunch box stays true to their typical color schemes.

Klein Tools 17-Quart Tradesman Pro

For a rugged choice that will keep your lunch cold day after day and stand the test of time, try the Klein 17-Quart Tradesman Pro.

It can be kept in your car, even in hot temperatures, and will still keep your lunch and beverages the perfect temperature. The cooler is large enough to accommodate 1-liter water bottles, but only if they are lying down.

Durable and sturdy, you will be able to fit everything you need in here along with up to three frozen ice packs. Perfect for keeping your food and drinks cold during a full work day, it also works for longer excursions, like camping or hiking, as it will keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours at a time. The small inner storage space is convenient but better for snacks than your sandwich or other bigger items, as it’s not large enough to hold those.

Note that although the lid has a great seal on it that keeps ice for hours, it also pops open easily, so make sure you keep it stable when it’s in your car. The handle of this cooler is very well-made and has a big belt made of nylon for carrying, with metal hooks added to lend the plastic extra durability. It’s clear that this product was crafted with quality in mind.

If you live in a hot climate and have to keep your lunch box in your car or truck all day long, but still want to have a nice, cool lunch, this is the choice for you. Even in extreme temperatures and locked inside a vehicle, this cooler will do the job.

It comes with a lock function at the front for safety, though some users may find that it could do with some extra mesh on the outside for storage. This is a high-quality lunch box for construction workers that costs a fraction of what other brands are charging.

Igloo 14.8 Quart Playmate Cooler

For construction workers who require more space for their lunch, the Igloo 14.8 Quart Playmate will do the job.

Going back to a classic look, this lunch box just might take you back to your childhood days. The cooler has a sleek design with a black and silver color theme and a textured outside surface.

For construction workers who have job sites in very hot places, this choice is perfect for holding multiple bottles of water and keeping them cold.

The easy-open lid allows for quick access to your food or drinks when you’re in a hurry. Store it in your car without worrying about your lunch getting too hot. This also works well for camping or hiking excursions, in addition to holding your work lunch.

A cooler this big is also great for those who bring their lunch to work in many separate Tupperware containers, which tend to take up a lot of room. Note, however, that some users have reported the cooler leaks when it’s on its side, so try to keep it upright in your car or work truck.

How to Keep Your Lunch Cool on Long Days

Maybe you have a solid routine down for what you bring for your lunch to work, or perhaps you’re always mixing it up. Either way, your homemade lunches must stay cool to remain healthy, delicious, and safe. Warm sandwiches just aren’t as appetizing, plus warm foods increase the risk of sickness. Let’s look at some ways you can help your food stay good, even when you’re working long and hot days:

  • Using Frozen Ice Packs: Using at least one ice pack is recommended for cooling down the temperature of your lunch cooler, but the more, the better. Keep in mind that they must be actually frozen and not just cold. Keep them in the freezer overnight, every night, to ensure this. Not only will your food stay fresher, but it will taste better, too.
  • Freeze your Water Bottle: Although it won’t work as a substitute ice pack, having a frozen water bottle in your lunch box will also keep the temperature down over all inside of it. In addition, your water will be much more refreshing when it’s time to take your lunch break. A reusable bottle will handle freezing better and save you time and money.
  • Use Stainless Steel: You can purchase stainless steel containers for your lunch instead of using plastic Tupperware or bags. These can be kept in the freezer before you pack your lunch. Just make sure that the metal is safe for the freezer before you use them and they will help keep your food cool all day.
  • Store your Cooler in your Fridge: Once your lunch has been packed, keep it in the refrigerator instead of letting it warm up before you go to work. Then you can toss in a frozen ice pack or two and head out the door.

Construction isn’t the easiest job out there and if you want to get through your work days without a struggle, the right lunch will help immensely. All of the tips above will make your lunch taste better, keep you safe from illness, and help you stay focused on your tasks at work.

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What is the Best Soft Lunch Cooler?

Last Updated by Brandon F. on January 17, 2020

When people typically think of coolers they think of large plastic coolers that are intended to hold large amounts of ice and items. However, likely the most commonly used application for coolers is for personal use to pack daily lunches. Sure, these soft lunch coolers don’t fit the usual mold of a cooler. They aren’t large, plastic, and they don’t hold a ton of items but they are coolers nonetheless! So what are the best soft lunch coolers? While these products won’t have the multi-day ice life of their larger counterparts, they can still have pretty significant variance in performance.

This includes ice life, durability, convenience, and the huge range of features that they come with. When analyzing soft lunch coolers you have to look at them slightly different than you would a normal full-sized cooler. Keeping an item chilled for 2 days might not be a big priority, but a comfortable handle and easy storage ability might be.

So what makes a soft lunch cooler good or bad? Before we break down the individual metrics and how they are catered to lunch coolers we have listed our top choices for convenience in the table below. This table will list out some of the most important metrics of the top soft lunch coolers. And below the table, you can read more about what to look for in a soft lunch cooler and a more thorough review of our top choices.

Best Soft Lunch Coolers

Igloo Marine Ultra Soft Cooler Bag Ao Carbon Coleman Soft
Our Rating
Price by Volume (Amazon)
Ice Life 36-48 hours 12-24 hours 6-10 hours
Our Full Review

What to Look for in a Soft Lunch Cooler

Ice Life

As mentioned above, having extremely long ice life isn’t a huge priority. However, you still want a product that will keep your items cold until lunch time or whenever you typically eat. This not only includes sitting on your office desk but also in more demanding environments such as construction sites where it may be very hot and offer little protection from the sun.

Because of this, it is important to find a lunch cooler that can perform well in all environments. When talking specific amounts of ice time, we have found that 12-hour ice life is typically plenty but there will be some variance depending on your particular environment and how often you access contents inside the soft lunch cooler.

Portability

Since you will be transporting a lunch cooler to and from work on a daily basis, it is important that it be very portable. Many people will have to fit their lunch cooler into a restricted space such as a cabinet or locker, so having a cooler that is easily stored is a huge pro. It is also good because you don’t have to worry about carrying around a huge, heavy cooler to and from work every day.

Storage Size

Sure, a soft lunch cooler doesn’t need a huge amount of storage space but it still needs to have enough for your food, drinks, and any necessary ice or ice packs you have.

In addition, since size and bulkiness are much more important with lunch coolers, having adequate storage space while still being easy to transport becomes a bigger issue. This is typically accomplished through efficient insulation and quality construction that allows for adequate storage space without resulting in a large and bulky product.

You will find that many soft lunch coolers are very clever in how the incorporate various storage pockets and areas into their products. Many people will be amazed at just how much stuff they can store in some of these! In regards to specific storage sizes, we have found that 20 quarts or less are usually an adequate amount for an individual’s lunch needs.

Durability

When considering durability for soft lunch coolers, we have to approach it differently than we would a normal plastic cooler. Most lunch coolers aren’t going to be able to handle extreme environments like some of the premium hard plastic or metal coolers, and it would be overkill for them to be.

However, since it will be much more mobile than a normal large cooler it does have unique areas that need to be up to the task. These include the handles, zippers, and Velcro areas since they will be used often. That being said, it still is important that proper manufacturing processes and high-quality materials are used so as to help avoid any potential cuts or scrapes that could occur on the fabric.

Various Accessories

Side pockets and external storage areas are very important on soft lunch coolers. Many people want to be able to store all of their items in the lunch cooler, not just food-related. That’s why many lunch coolers and totes have actually been designed to resemble conventional backpacks or totes. They offer plenty of storage areas (often non-insulated) for your other items.

Whether or not this is important to you will vary from person to person but it is something that needs to be considered. You will also see a lot of comfort-related features on soft lunch coolers such as padded shoulder straps and easy grip handles. This is because the design intent is that you will be carrying these products around a lot, so having something that is comfortable is quite important.

Price

Obviously, the costs associated with these products are quite important. Since these lunch coolers typically are made of lower-quality materials (compared to many premium coolers) and don’t have the extreme requirements and size of many conventional coolers the prices are a bit lower overall. However, the cost in dollar per storage quart can be quite high since they don’t store nearly as much.

It is still important to shop around for the best price you can find, however. So now that we have gone over a few considerations that we recommend you consider in your next lunch cooler purchase, let’s go over our favorite choices. These products do well in most categories and should be good choices for anybody in the market for a new lunch cooler. Click on any of the links below to go to our more thorough full-page review for each cooler.

Lunch Boxes

With a lunch box from Lands’ End, you’ll always be prepared when hunger pangs strike. We have lunch cooler bags and thermoses to help you stick to your lunch habits.

Many of us say we want to buy lunches less, but many of us don’t know where to start. We become frustrated with brown paper bags that leave lunches squashed and at less-than-desirable temperatures. Our reusable lunch bags put an end to this problem, without taking a toll on the planet like single-use plastic and paper lunch bags do.

A lunch pail from Lands’ End is so easy to use. While they have a soft finish, so you can easily slide them into a briefcase or backpack, they have reinforced no-squish sides which stand up for easy packing. You’ll find all the space you need for sandwiches, pieces of fruit, and life’s little indulgences.

Insulated main compartments on every lunch bag and double-wall designs on our thermoses keep your food and drinks at the right temperature for longer. You can also keep lunch even colder by stashing an ice pack or frozen drink bottle in the purpose-built interior mesh pocket. This is a great idea for school students or office workers that don’t have fridge access.

Clean-up is easy when you choose a lunch tote bag or thermos from Lands’ End. With the wipe of a damp cloth, the interior of your lunch tote wipes clean. The compartment is leak resistant too, so leaky drinks will never spill through your backpack or onto school uniforms or corporate wear. Simply wash our thermoses by hand with your regular dishes.

Every thermal lunch bag and thermos from Lands’ End has its own look. Choose patterned or plain colored adult or kids lunch boxes that reflect your sense of style. Our personalization service can make our lunch boxes and totes even more special.

Once you start using one of our lunch solutions, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. Make one of these handy accessories part of your daily routine when you shop with Lands’ End today.

Girls’ Lunch Boxes

Your little lady will be the envy of her school cafeteria with a lunch box for girls from Lands’ End. We sell a wide range of girls’ lunch boxes to keep food fresh and safe throughout the school day.

A polyester girls lunch tote fits easily inside a larger girl’s backpack. Alternatively, you can carry our girls’ cute lunch bags by their top straps. Pop an ice pack in the purpose-built mesh pocket and the insulated main compartments can keep her lunches and snacks fridge-cold for five hours. These compartments are also generous enough for pieces of fruit, juice boxes, sandwiches, and other lunchtime essentials. The leak-resistant interior keeps spilled drinks out of the rest of her bag. Spills also easily wipe clean with a sponge. Choose a girls’ lunch tote bag in a plain color to match her girl’s school uniform or a playful print.

If your girl prefers soups to sandwiches, our insulated thermoses are the ideal choice. They have tough stainless-steel exteriors and a double-wall design that keeps soups and other liquids hot longer. With vibrant teal, grape, and sapphire blue lids, she’ll love them all!

Whether you prefer a girls’ thermos or a girls’ lunch bag, why not make it personal? All our girls’ cute lunch boxes can be customized with monogrammed initials. You could even engrave your child’s whole name on the thermos or select an embroidered icon to set her lunch bag apart. These special touches can make her lunch box a treasured possession.

Most children use our girls’ lunch boxes and totes at school, but they’re also ideal for day trips and vacations. Use them to store road trip snacks and packed lunches when you’re far from home. No matter how you use them, you’ll find the best quality girls’ lunch box for the special little lady in your life at Lands’ End. Shop our lunch box collection today.

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