- 1 A simple, durable insulated lunch box
- 2 A wider variety of styles
- 3 The best bento
- 4 The most durable, heavy-duty bento
- 5 A bento for hot food
L.L.Bean Lunch Box
A simple, durable insulated lunch box
This roomy, soft-sided insulated lunch box fits nicely into a backpack, is easier to clean than many competitors, and is made of rugged materials.
The L.L.Bean Lunch Box is our favorite insulated bag because of its proven durability and reliability. The lunch box is made of the same hard-wearing nylon as L.L.Bean’s much-loved backpacks, and its smooth interior is easier to wipe clean than that of many other models with exposed seams and crevices that trap food and residue. It has plenty of room for a food thermos and multiple containers, and the interior mesh pocket can hold an ice pack to keep contents cool. If you need even more room, there’s an expandable version, which unzips to add about 2 extra inches of depth. L.L.Bean, as with all of its items, offers a one-year satisfaction guarantee on this lunch box. Among the lunch box’s few flaws: Its soft sides don’t do much to protect fragile foods, getting tough stains out can be challenging, and its mesh pockets are likely to get caught on things and rip.
Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Classic Lunch Bag
A wider variety of styles
This insulated lunch box comes in the widest variety of styles we found, including popular character themes, and its reinforced sides make it easier to clean and more protective of fragile foods than the L.L.Bean Lunch Box.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $18.
The Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Classic Lunch Bag is similar in construction and quality to the L.L.Bean Lunch Box but comes in a greater number of designs that may be appealing to your kid, including Disney princesses, Pixar’s Cars, Star Wars, superheroes, and Harry Potter. Its reinforced sides protect soft fruit and crunchy snacks better than the L.L.Bean’s soft sides but can get indented easily. This lunch bag is the only one of our picks that does not come with a warranty.
The best bento
This plastic bento-style lunch box is easier for younger kids to use and has fewer parts to deal with, but it’s less durable than our other bento picks.
Bento-style lunch boxes have convenient compartments within a rigid case, keeping foods separate, protected, and nicely organized. The streamlined Bentgo Fresh is our favorite bento for kids because it has a versatile layout and remains compact enough so it doesn’t cram a backpack but still holds plenty of food for an elementary-age kid (including comfortably fitting a whole sandwich, which other bentos can’t). The Bentgo has fewer parts for kids (and parents) to contend with, which means fewer lost pieces, and the removable, dishwasher-safe tray makes for easy cleanup. It’s the only leakproof bento we tested, and the lightest and least expensive of our bento picks.
The most durable, heavy-duty bento
This all-stainless-steel lunch box is the most durable of our bento picks and the easiest to clean because it can go straight into the dishwasher.
Many parents who have bought the PlanetBox Rover immediately concede that it cost more money than they ever expected to pay for a lunch box, but in the same breath they extol its durability: It lasts years and shows wear less readily than our other bento picks. Its simple steel construction also makes it the easiest to clean, because you can throw the whole thing into the dishwasher. The optional insulated bag that you can get in a set with the lunch box adds versatility, with room in the outer pockets to pack a kid-size thermos or water bottle and additional food containers. Although the tray itself has no seals and is thus not leakproof, the included lidded containers are. PlanetBox also offers the longest warranty of all our picks: five years.
A bento for hot food
The plastic OmieBox comes with an insulated food jar, making it the only bento we found that can carry hot and cold foods. Its parts are easily replaceable.
If you regularly pack hot food for your child, you may prefer the OmieBox, which keeps foods such as pasta and soup warm in its integrated vacuum-insulated jar. (The container also keeps cold foods like yogurt and cottage cheese cool.) The OmieBox’s removable seals make it easier to clean thoroughly than bento boxes with attached seals, and those seals are also replaceable if they break or get moldy. But the OmieBox is heavier than our other picks, and we found that the food jar doesn’t hold enough food for older kids. In addition, younger kids may find the lid difficult to latch and unlatch and the food container tough to open.
How our picks’ interiors compare
Source: NY Times – Wirecutter