Best Lunch Box of 2021
The YETI Daytrip won us over with its durable, easy to clean waterproof material, excellent temperature control, and leakproof storage. It has a rigid frame that is easy to pack and was one of only three lunch bags with a waterproof liner. In testing, it held cool and hot temperatures better than most in our fleet, with only the PackIt Freezable topping the YETI's performance. We found it easy to pack, and food was protected from getting crushed in transport. The lid has a magnetic closure and a sturdy, large zipper. This bag is made of durable materials and is robust enough to stand on its own when you carry it with one of the three handles on the outside.
We tested all the limitations and packed it full of food to take on the go. We found that even though it's mostly leakproof, it did leak a bit at the zipper, which is its weak point. We also noted that the rigid design we liked (for easy packing, cleaning, and protecting food from getting crushed) also made the bag a little bulky compared to the softer designs that can squish down smaller depending on what's inside and slide into packs easier. The YETI Daytrip is an excellent option for people who want good temperature regulation and need a durable, protective cooler for their lunch.
The Hango is a great two-for-one deal. The set comes with one large and one small lunch bag. In testing temperature control, we found that the small bag performed better, as the ratio of ice to space to keep cool was smaller. So when packing the large bag, throw in an extra ice pack. These bags have leakproof liners, are easy to wipe clean, and have an attractive contrasting color theme. The larger bag can fit a six-pack of cans, while the smaller can fit five cans. Overall this set performed well with a very simple design, and we think it will do the job of carrying your lunch with minimal spills.
The HANGO set didn't score in our top three for insulation and temperature control; the larger bag would need a large ice pack to do the job. The smaller bag did okay in the temperature test, but the ice pack took up much of the usable space. In the leakproof test, the liner was leakproof, but this zipper didn't hold up to the liquid either. The HANGO is a simple design and has no extra pockets or compartments. It is a good choice for someone looking to carry a large or small lunch or looking for an affordable matching parent/child lunch bag set.
The PackIt Freezable is insulated with a re-freezable gel inside the walls of the bag; the bag is the ice pack! You can pop this in your freezer overnight and have a lunch box that will keep your food cold all day. It kept yogurt at a steady temperature — within two degrees of the refrigerated temperature — for the six-hour testing period. The fabric and construction of the bag are soft, and the profile is sleek.
While the PackIt is fantastic at keeping a cold and stable temperature and is easy to wipe clean, the liner of the bag is not leakproof, and neither is the zipper; when water was placed in the bag, it quickly soaked through the liner and outer fabric. We also found that the heavy reusable insulation made the bag slouchy and tricky to pack. The PackIt Freezable lunch bag is an excellent option for those concerned about food-safe temperatures and who need to keep their food cold all day.
The Mazforce Original has a leakproof liner and average temperature control. The liner has no seams, so there are no weak points for leaking. It has an exterior zip pocket for extras like utensils or napkins and a drink mesh holder on the outside of the bag.
Though the Mazforce has a seamless waterproof liner, we ran into the same issue as we did with the other waterproof options; the waterproof models with zippers were often prone to leaking at the zipper. The interior liner was a little difficult to wipe down because it has no shape and is not sewn to the exterior frame of the bag.
The Lille Home Stackable Thermal Compartment was leakproof in our testing and managed warm and hot food well. It has three compartments that stack on top of each other, secured by threads that screw tight. It is built of plastic compartments lined with stainless steel, and when storing hot food, the insulated container is comfortable to touch and hold. We stacked curried lentils, rice, and a yogurt dish in the tiers and carried them around with no leaks. It boasts a smart design for people who like to keep portions separate or bring different courses. It comes with an attractive felt case that it slides into, with a long, adjustable strap for carrying. Cleaning was straightforward; just wash and let air dry in the dish rack.
Though we liked the design and the performance of the Lille Home Stackable set, it is best for warm or room temperature food, and in testing, didn't keep hot food warm for very long — at four hours, the food was just above room temperature. We recommend pre-heating the thermos compartments with hot water before packing hot food to help the food stay warm longer. The containers are also not microwavable; the stackable design means that condensation from hot food (or food remnants) can attach to the bottom of each dish when you are unstacking them, as they are used as the lid to the container below. Be prepared with napkins.
The Black+Blum Stainless Steel impressed with a completely leakproof design. The rubber seal on the lid and the vacuum valve on the lid ensure a very tight fit and leakproof security. The stainless steel divider is designed to fit snugly in the container and move from side to side, so you can adjust the size of the compartments. This model is made of food-safe stainless steel, is super easy to clean, and comes with a rubber band to help secure the box, and also holds the included fork. We liked this sleek and simple design, as it is safe to just toss in your backpack for the day.
Though we enjoyed the function of the Black+Blum, it is not insulated and is not intended to keep food hot or cold. If you need the contents to stay cold, this box will need to be refrigerated. We also found in testing that the divider in the box can move around slightly, and is not sealed, so wet ingredients can leak into the other compartment. It is not meant to contain a soup and salad, rather pasta and salad, or other food that won't leak into each other. Because of its small capacity, this box holds just enough for a lunch portion, but no extras as a standard contender could. The Black+Blum is a good design for people packing daily lunches and who don't ever want to worry about leaks.
The To-Go Ware performed well with large capacity with its three tiers of food storage in food-safe stainless steel containers. We liked that it stores up to three separate food items in secure containers and that it is adjustable; the top container can be carried on its own if a smaller profile is needed. In testing, the top tier/lid of this tiffin design had a tight fit and was leakproof with water in it. We stacked curried lentils, rice, and a yogurt dish in it, just like we did with the Lille Stackable set, and experienced no food leaks. This design is also easy to clean, as easy as washing a dish.
The To-Go is not insulated, and when hot food is placed in it, the containers can be too hot to hold; good thing it has a handle on the top to carry it with. We also didn't love that the clasps that hold the tiers together for easy carrying do not detach from the box, so the bottom tier has long metal arms on it while eating out of it. Lastly, the top tier held water with no leaks, but the bottom two tiers do not have the same snug fit and leak water, so it's best to have thicker, drier food in those tiers. As with the Lille Stackables, the same warning of food on the bottom of the dishes upon unpacking still applies. This is an excellent option for folks who like to pack a variety of servings and flavors and who want a clean, food-safe stainless steel lunch container.
The Lokass Insulated Lunch Tote is an attractive and large-capacity insulated tote. It by far held the most food; it held eight cans of sparkling water and has a mesh pouch on the side that fit a pint jar with a smoothie. The zipper pouch on the front was also the most spacious additional pocket in the testing of all models.
This bag was durable in testing and had a great carrying capacity, but it takes a lot of ice packs to keep a bag this big cool. In testing, it didn't perform as well as others. Because it is so deep, it is also not the easiest to wipe clean. The liner of this bag is not waterproof, so secure any liquids before storing them for the day. This bag would be great to carry a bunch of food prep to the office to put in the refrigerator.
The BALORAY Lunch Tote is an attractive lunch tote lined with food-grade aluminum foil; it also comes in an array of colors and patterns. It has a unique shape that is eye-catching and simple. With an ice pack, the BALORAY stayed in the middle of the pack in temperature testing. It is a decent size and fits a six-pack of sparkling water cans.
The BALORAY is an impressive looking accessory to tote your lunch to work in, but it promised in the product description that it had a leakproof liner, and when tested, the water leaked right through the liner and the canvas exterior. This is an excellent option for someone looking for a cute tote to carry their lunch to the office or school.
The Fit and Fresh Set is a great lunch kit if you are looking for a matching set. This kit comes with a water bottle and two food containers that click together and stack. This bag has a large capacity for whatever nourishment you may need to carry around.
We liked the Fit and Fresh set as a complete lunch kit, but it fell short on the leakproof test leaking through the liner and canvas exterior. The temperature regulation was the worst among those we tested, probably due to the lack of zip closure — the closure on this bag is a strap with a snap button. This is a good choice for someone looking to buy a convenient lunch kit that comes with all the necessities to pack a daily lunch.
Why You Should Trust Us
Kristin Anderson, a food connoisseur who packs a lunch daily, spearheaded this review. To start our testing, we researched over 40 contenders before purchasing the 10 you see in our fleet. With all the lunch bags lined up, we tested things like temperature control, whether the bags were leakproof, capacity, and special features each possessed.
To measure temperature control, we placed an ice pack in each model and placed a yogurt cup in with the ice; we measured the temperature each hour to see which held the temperature best. We also tested the temperature with hot food and hot water. We then poured water into each model and tested if the seams and lids would leak. We then looked at features like capacity, the types of food it could carry, and extra storage pockets.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you want a lunch box that can carry all of your food prep, keep your food at food-safe temperatures, or just a cute bag to take to the office, we have a recommendation for you. We analyzed and tested ten options side by side, both insulated and non-insulated. After a week of packing food and testing their functional qualities, we ranked each based on three metrics: temperature control, leakproof performance, and design (capacity, ease of cleaning, unique features).
To measure each model's ability to maintain temperature, we put cold yogurt in each one and added an ice pack if the model allowed. We then measured the temperature each hour to track which one maintained its temperature the best. We used hot water and hot food to do a similar test. The PackIt Freezable Classic held temperature the best, hot and cold, as its freezable insulation kept yogurt at refrigerator temperatures. Though none of the models kept food piping hot, the PackIt Freezable, when not frozen, proved to be a good insulator for warm food as well. The bottom line for warm food is, if you want piping hot food, be prepared to reheat. Also performing well in this category was the YETI Daytrip, which kept food well insulated for hours.
We then used hot water and hot food to do a similar test.
To see if each contender was leakproof, we put water in each one and waited to see if water leaked through the liner and the exterior. For the lunch containers like the stacking To-Go Ware Stainless Steel, the Lille Stackable Thermal Compartment, and the Black + Blum Stainless Steel, we placed water in each and put them on their side; we then rolled them around to see which ones might experience any leakage. The lunch boxes that hold up to the leakproof testing were the YETI Daytrip, the Maxforce Original Lunch Bag, the Lille Home Stackable Stainless Steel Thermal Compartments, HANGO Insulated Set of two, and the Black + Blum Stainless Steel. None of the zippers on the lunch bags are waterproof, so the YETI, Maxforce, and HANGO lunch boxes are good for protecting against small leaks; however, if you need a seal against liquid and want assurance your work bag or backpack will stay clean, go for the Black + Blum Stainless Steel or the Lille Home Stackable Thermal Compartments — nothing got past them in our leakproof testing.
For the lunch containers like the stacking To-Go Ware Stainless Steel, the Lille Stackable Thermal Compartment, and the Black + Blum Stainless Steel, we placed water in each and put them on their side, rolling them around to see if we could get them to leak.
To assess design, we measured capacity by putting seeing how many cans of sparkling water each vessel would hold. We then evaluated each model's ease of cleaning as well as the features of each box, and whether those features made it more effective or easier to use. Many of the lunch bags have a large capacity; the Baloray, Lokass, and Fit and Fresh insulated totes had the largest capacities and would be good options if you are a food prepper and want a bag that can help you transport your meals to the office. We also liked the Hango lunch bags for capacity, as they offered a large or small capacity depending on your daily needs (or the possibility to use both, if you're a snacker).
The stainless steel Black + Blum and the Lille Home Stackable Compartments topped the list for ease of cleaning, as they are designed to be cleaned like a dish. Most models are trickier to clean and require more elbow grease. Stepping it up a little in the basic features, the YETI Daytrip had the best features of the lunch boxes with its rigid, easy-to-clean shape, waterproof lining, magnetic lid, and sturdy zipper.
Everyone has different needs in a lunch box; whether you are a food prepper, like to carry leftovers, or prefer the traditional sandwich and snacks every day, there are hundreds of lunch box options for you. We hope that our research and testing helps you narrow down the options in a market so saturated, and you're able to choose the best lunch box for your lifestyle.
— Kristin Anderson
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