Essential Items for Summer Picnics


Finally, the weather in most of the country is warming up, meaning gorgeous spring and summer days and nights are on the way. Here in Miami, things are getting near the triple-digit mark already, but we’re getting some breezy nights. To make the most of those, I’ve been doing more outdoor dining over the past few weeks.

Planning a picnic can be a little bit of a hassle, but the results are often worth it. Eating with someone whose company you enjoy, even if that means some peaceful solitude, is a great way to spend a few hours in the great outdoors. Here are some things that I’ve learned I needed along the way. Of course, if you have more suggestions we’d love to hear them.

A Blanket

Of course, any good picnic starts with a blanket to sit on to keep the bugs, dirt, and food well and separated. On this one, you can use any blanket you have and don’t mind getting dirt on, of course. But, here I’ll make a specific recommendation.

The military issues a poncho liner that soldiers call a woobie. A woobie is, basically, a blanket with strings on the corners that are meant to use it to line the poncho. But, it’s big enough to use as a picnic blanket, as well as being made from durable ripstop fabric that won’t catch or snag small branches, and the smooth texture will keep it from picking up much in the way of sand. They’re also really warm blankets, so having one in your car all the time is a more than reasonable idea anyway.

A cooler With A drain

These days, people are willing to spend a car payment on a cooler. I’ve never been one to think that’s horribly necessary, especially when you need something that will keep food and drinks cold for a few hours to get it to a picnic spot.

But, one thing I do consider whenever I’m thinking about a cooler is whether or not it has a drain. Yes, technically a drain is a thermal break that will allow the cool air to escape. But, what little you do lose in the way of cooling, you make up for in convenience. For example, I live in an apartment and thus don’t have room for two big coolers, but if I use my single cooler for fishing, I have the option to wash out the cooler with a hose and some dish detergent outside and let it drain before taking it back in. That’s a lot, lot better than having a cooler without a drain and having to paper towel out the water from the cooler.

A WinE Opener

Obviously, do not drink and drive. With that said, if you’re taking someone with you who is the designated driver, or you plan on staying overnight, then you might find yourself on the lakeshore at some great location with a nice bottle of merlot…and have no smart way of opening the bottle. I’m sure you’ve tried screwdrivers and the like in the past, and it almost never goes according to plan.

There are a lot of good options here, from keeping a wine key in your car to taping an opener to the inside of your cooler lid, but I have one specific recommendation here. A few companies make multi-tools that also have a corkscrew attached to them. I generally encourage people to have a multi-tool in their car in case of emergencies anyway, and if you’re in the market for one, getting an option that also has a wine opener is convenient, and might save a date at some point.


There are very few things I find more annoying in life than sunburn. Thus, no matter what, I put some on my face every morning before heading out, and I keep some high-SPF sunscreen in the car. When you’re planning for a picnic, I think it should go in your bag with paper towels, water, and utensils so that as soon as you get to where you want to go, you can spray it on and not worry about getting burnt. The burns you’ll wake up to tomorrow without it will really sour the overall experience, so you may as well avoid it if you can.

Bags for trash

I can tolerate a lot of disagreement among people. Politics, worldview, whether pineapple goes on pizza: people can disagree about a lot, and still get along as friends and colleagues. That stops, as far as I’m concerned, at littering. If you’re the kind of person who wants to enjoy the great outdoors for a meal, then you probably agree with me, and I don’t have to tell you anything about not littering here.

But, just to remind you, make sure to bring a bag for any trash you might make. With that, I’d also like to offer you a challenge. The next time you go outside, whether it’s for a picnic or any other reason, take a spare bag with you and find one piece of trash that’s not yours to pick up. It’s a small thing, but that’s the sort of thing that makes the world, and our outdoor spaces, a little bit better over time.

Baby Wipes

Sure, some paper towels will help you clean up any mess you make while picnicking. But, afterward, especially before you touch our steering wheel or if you’ve been sweating, it’s nice to have the option to clean up a little more effectively. Baby wipes are perfect for that, and they’re also widely available.


In this piece, I’ve outlined a few things that I always take with me when I go picnicking. I’m sure, like usual, that there’s something that I’m forgetting. At the very least, I hope that this has given you some idea of something else that you might want to add to your picnic list and that you can get into the great outdoors for a good meal with some good company sometime soon.

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