The Best Lunch Boxes of 2022

Curb your expensive dining-out habit by brown-bagging your lunch in one of these insulated lunch boxes and meal prep sets.

By Tony Carrick | Updated Jun 2, 2022 11:56 AM

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The Best Lunch Box

Photo: amazon.com

The days of a packed lunch equating to a sandwich in a brown paper bag are long gone. Today’s lunch boxes allow us to tote a much broader selection of cuisine than we could in years past, thanks to innovative designs that can keep food cool or hot for hours.

If you’re looking to bring meals to work or pack your child’s school lunch, read on for shopping tips and choose one of the best lunch box options available today. Each of the top picks below was selected after an in-depth review of the market and thorough product vetting.

  1. BEST OVERALL: MIER Adult Lunch Box Insulated Lunch Bag
  2. BEST BUDGET: Rubbermaid LunchBlox Lunch Bag
  3. UPGRADE PICK: YETI Daytrip Packable Lunch Bag
  4. BEST LUXURY: Modern Picnic The Luncher
  5. BEST PATTERNED: Vera Bradley Cotton Bunch Lunch Bag
  6. BEST ELECTRIC: COROTC Electric Lunch Box
  7. BEST SMALL: MIER Thermal Insulated Mini Lunch Bag
  8. BEST LARGE: Lifewit Large Insulated Lunch Bag
  9. BEST WITH CONTAINERS: MDMP Meal Prep Lunch Bag
  10. BEST BENTO BOX: UMAMI All-in-One Bento Box for Adults/Children
  11. BEST FOR JOB SITES: Stanley Classic Lunch Box
  12. BEST FOR KIDS: Bentgo Kids Bento-Style Lunch Box
The Best Lunch Box Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lunch Box

For a lunch box to be useful, it needs to be large enough to hold a complete meal, comfortable to carry, and well insulated to keep food warm or cold. Keep the following types of lunch boxes and features in mind while shopping.

Style and Shape

Lunch boxes come in numerous styles and shapes. Ahead, learn more about the diverse range of options that are available when shopping for a new lunch box.

  • Standard lunch boxes are, indeed, box-shaped or rectangular. They’re available in basic and insulated designs and typically unzip on three sides, allowing easy access to the entire contents. These lunch boxes work especially well when they are used in tandem with similarly shaped food containers. This style of lunch box usually has a shoulder strap and/or a handle for easy carrying.
  • Lunch bags are soft, typically insulated containers that come in a few styles. Some have a stylish design similar to that of tote bags, while others are less visually appealing with a compact rectangular or box shape. A lunch tote bag may be easier to carry compared to bulkier box-shaped lunch boxes, but it might have a small opening with limited access and capacity.
  • Workman’s lunch boxes riff off the classic metal job site lunch box, which has a large upper section that hinges open from the lower section. Some modern versions of the style separate the box interior into upper and lower compartments. The two insulated compartments allow for dual temperature zones–a cold zone for beverages, vegetables, and fruit, and a hot zone for warm meals.
  • Bento boxes, which originated in Japan, are designed to hold a single-serve packed meal that typically consists of a main dish and two or three side dishes. The main compartment of a bento box has three or four sections to pack a protein, vegetable, fruit, and starch without having to resort to individual sandwich bags or plastic or glass containers. A lid attaches tightly to the top of the compartment, ensuring each food item remains in its respective section and giving the bento its box shape. Bento boxes sometimes have additional compartments that hold utensils.
  • Kids lunch boxes are no longer the plastic or metal box-shaped vintage lunch boxes with cartoon graphics on the sides that so many adults remember using when they were young. Today’s kids lunch boxes come in soft insulated bags and containers designed to keep food cool and sandwiches from becoming soggy before lunch time. These bags are typically compact and foldable, making them easier to transport in a backpack.

Insulation 

The key to keeping food warm (or cold) from the time it’s packed in the morning until it’s time for lunch is insulation. Most lunch boxes and insulated lunch tote bags use polyethylene foam insulation, a closed-cell material that is durable, lightweight, and has excellent insulating properties.

A lunch box with 5 or 6 millimeters of insulation should be able to keep food cool or warm for up to 5 hours (or longer when used with an ice pack). Some higher-end insulated lunch boxes feature padded insulation up to 8 millimeters thick. Many lunch box manufacturers also line their products with a vinyl foil material to help the lunch box retain heat or cold.

Size

Lunch boxes and totes vary in size and storage capacity. Larger lunch boxes measure about 10 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 10 inches high, which is roomy enough to transport a large meal or several small ones. Smaller lunch boxes are 9 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 9 inches high, enough for an average-size lunch. High-capacity lunch boxes, which are ideal for meal prep, might be as large as 16 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 10 inches high.

Portability 

By their nature, lunch boxes are portable, and manufacturers design them to be easy to carry. Most feature dual handles: a small handle that allows the user to carry it as a traditional lunch box and a shoulder strap so it can be worn as one would a handbag or messenger bag. Many handles and straps are padded with neoprene and foam, making the lunch box comfortable to carry.

Additional Features 

Many lunch boxes have convenient pockets that are useful in organizing a meal. Internal mesh pockets and external side pockets are places to store utensils and napkins. Side pockets provide a convenient spot to hold a water bottle. Some also come with accessories, such as plastic storage containers and ice packs to organize meals and keep them cold.

Our Top Picks

With those key features and shopping tips in mind, we’ve narrowed the field to some of the best lunch boxes for adults and kids alike.

Best Overall

The Best Lunch Box Options: MIER Adult Lunch Box Insulated Lunch Bag
Photo: amazon.com

This lunch box from MIER sports a thoughtful design and large capacity, making it a worthy choice for hungry commuters. It has two separate compartments, so meals can be kept hot, if need be, and drinks cold. The roomy top pouch is ideal for drinks and snacks, while the large bottom section works well for sandwiches, salads, and other lunch mains. A handy front zipper pocket provides a convenient spot for utensils, napkins, and valuables.

A thick layer of foam lining insulation keeps this lunch box cool or warm for hours. A soft handle strap and large shoulder strap provide two options for toting this lunch box, which measures 10.2 inches long, 7.9 inches wide, and 11 inches high. With nine different colors to choose from, this bag will suit numerous tastes. For those who don’t need to tote a whole day’s worth of food, this same lunch box is also available in a smaller size.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 10.2 by 7.9 by 11 inches
  • Storage: 1 pocket/2 compartments
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Multiple storage compartments add versatility
  • Capacity for larger meals or a meal and drinks
  • Can keep food or drinks warm or cool for hours

Cons

  • Bulkier size than other lunch boxes

Get the MIER lunch box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Budget

The Best Lunch Box Option: Rubbermaid LunchBlox Lunch Bag
Photo: amazon.com

Rubbermaid’s moderately priced lunch box has ample insulation for keeping food and drink warm or cold. At just 5.4 inches long, 8.8 inches wide, and 5.9 inches high, it is easy to tote to and from the workplace but large enough to hold a substantial lunch and an ice pack. The design of this lunch bag easily accommodates Rubbermaid’s LunchBlox food containers.

A three-sided zipper offers full access to the lunch box’s interior, making it easier to retrieve food while also making it easier to clean. Thick foam insulation keeps food warm or cool, and a mesh pouch on the flap is a convenient spot for utensils and condiments. A mesh side pouch is the right size for a small water bottle, and a top handle and shoulder strap allow for easy transport.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 5.4 by 8.8 by 5.9 inches
  • Storage: 3 pockets/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Large flap allows easy access to the interior
  • Internal pockets for utensils
  • Side pockets for drinks
  • Designed to fit LunchBlox

Cons

  • Must purchase LunchBlox or Rubbermaid containers separately

Get the Rubbermaid lunch box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Lunch Box Option: YETI Daytrip Packable Lunch Bag
Photo: amazon.com

While it’s a bit of an investment, this lunch box from Yeti is among the best at keeping food chilled (or warm) without the use of electricity. The Yeti lunch box is rugged and built to keep food insulated in extreme conditions. It uses closed-cell foam insulation to keep the cold in and hot air out. The soft bag measures 8.75 by 5.75 by 8.75 inches and has a flexible grid design to expand or fold down.

The cooler closes via a plastic hook and a series of loops that run down its front. Simply choose the loop that suits the size of the meal inside; this ensures a tight fit and better insulation to keep your lunch cooler for longer. When lunch is over, the bag folds flat for easy transport. Yeti’s Daytrip lunch bag comes in nine color options to suit various tastes.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 8.75 by 5.75 by 8.75 inches
  • Storage: 0 pockets/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: Yes

Pros

  • Closed-cell foam insulation and compactable design better insulate
  • Folds flat for easy storage
  • Nine color options

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No outer pockets

Get the YETI lunch box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Luxury

The Best Lunch Box Option: Modern Picnic The Luncher
Photo: modernpicnic.com

Modern Picnic reinvents the concept of brown bagging it with a stylish lunch box that looks more like a designer handbag than something you’d use to tote your lunch to work. With its vegan leather material and alligator-skin pattern, this bag looks more suitable for transporting sushi and foie gras than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Unlike a standard handbag, however, the Luncher is insulated to keep your lunch cool. It uses small magnetic discs to hold the lunch bag securely closed. Small straps sewn into the interior conveniently hold utensils while a back pocket serves as a great spot for a napkin.

This luxury lunch bag measures 8.5 inches tall by 9.8 inches wide by 6.5 inches deep. Tote the Luncher via its handbag-style handles or its shoulder strap. This large lunch tote also comes with a designer price tag and is one of the more expensive lunch boxes on the market.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 8.5 by 9.8 by 6.5 inches
  • Storage: 1 pocket/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Looks like a designer handbag
  • Ample space for a large lunch
  • Includes straps for utensils

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Large size might be bulky

Get the Modern Picnic lunch box at Modern Picnic.

Best Patterned

The Best Lunch Box Option: Vera Bradley Cotton Bunch Lunch Bag
Photo: amazon.com

The Vera Bradley cotton lunch bag marries designer style with the traditional lunch box function to create a lunch bag that’s more attractive than traditional utilitarian options. Vera Bradley’s designer lunch bags come in more than 35 different floral and monochrome prints.

With its quilted cotton fabric and an insulated liner that includes an insert for ice packs, this best lunch bag is well designed for keeping food cold. A wraparound zipper opens the entire side of the lunch box for easy packing and unpacking, while an exterior ID window lets others know the lunch bag’s owner.

This handy, nearly customizable bag measures 9 inches tall by 8 inches wide by 4 inches deep. Lunch bags can get dirty on the daily commute, and with its cotton construction, the Vera Bradley lunch bag can be tossed right into the washing machine to clean.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 9 by 8 by 4 inches
  • Storage: 1 pocket/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • More than 35 designer print options
  • Wraparound zipper for easy access to contents
  • Insulated liner

Cons

  • Cotton not as rugged as other materials

Get the Vera Bradley lunch box on Amazon.

Best Electric

The Best Lunch Box Option: COROTC Electric Lunch Box
Photo: amazon.com

Getting a hot lunch while on the road or at work usually requires a microwave. Not so with this electric lunch box from COROTC, which will heat up lunch at your desk or even in your car. It works by plugging it into a standard electrical outlet or 12-volt vehicle outlet. The box measures 9.5 inches long by 7 inches wide by 5 inches deep.

The COROTC electric lunch box consists of a hard plastic container with a metal liner. Four clips hold the lid of the container securely to the body while a large handle makes it easy to carry. A small internal tray keeps cool items separate from items that need to be warmed. It can take 30 to 50 minutes to warm food, so make sure to plug it in well before the lunch bell rings.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 9.5 by 7 by 5 inches
  • Storage: 0 pockets/2 compartments
  • Insulated: No
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Can heat up lunch in a car
  • Rugged rigid plastic construction
  • Large 1.5-liter capacity

Cons

  • Not well insulated
  • Requires at least 30 minutes to heat food

Get the CORTOC electric lunch box on Amazon.

Best Small

The Best Lunch Box Option: MIER Thermal Insulated Mini Lunch Bag
Photo: amazon.com

Most kids’ backpacks are already crammed with notebooks, textbooks and tablets for school, leaving little room for a large lunch box. With its small size—just 9.5 inches long, 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep—the Mier Thermal Insulated Mini Lunch Bag can fit into tight spaces. Despite its smaller size, it’s still large enough to hold a sandwich or a small plastic container.

The insulated bag has an aluminum-foil lining to keep food cold or warm for up to 4 hours. With a polyester outer material, it’s durable enough to hold up to the rigors of a morning commute to work or school. The Mier mini lunch bag comes in more than 10 different colors and designs.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 9.5 by 6 by 3 inches
  • Storage: 0 pockets/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Compact size fits easily into a backpack
  • Keeps food cold or warm for up to 4 hours
  • Multiple color and pattern options
  • Rugged outer material

Cons

  • May be too small for larger lunches
  • No additional pockets

Get the MIER lunch box on Amazon.

Best Large

The Best Lunch Box Options: Lifewit Large Lunch Bag Insulated Lunch Box
Photo: amazon.com

Big enough to carry an entire case of soda cans, this lunch bag from Lifewit is a worthy choice for those who are toting lunch for two or packing more than one meal for themselves. It is durable enough to hold up to the bustle of morning commutes, thanks to its waterproof and dirt-resistant, 600-denier oxford fabric.

The top has a zipper that spans three sides and flips open for easy access to the bag’s contents. Heavy 6-millimeter foam insulation and a reflective foil lining keep food warm or cold for more than 5 hours.

The Lifewit lunch bag has a large external pocket and mesh side pockets in which to store utensils, napkins, keys, smartphones, or other valuables. This square-shaped bag measures 12 inches long, 9 inches deep, 9 inches high, and has a 15-liter capacity.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 12 by 9 by 9 inches
  • Storage: 1 pocket/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Large capacity for multiple lunches or 24 cans
  • Durable 600-denier fabric construction
  • Wide mouth for easy access to interior

Cons

  • Large size bulkier to store or carry

Get the Lifewit lunch box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best with Containers

The Best Lunch Box Options: MDMP Meal Prep Lunch Bag
Photo: amazon.com

Those who regularly tote lunch for the entire family or or who feed the team at the office will get lots of mileage out of MDMP’s meal prep lunch bag. It measures 16.5 inches by 7 inches by 10.6 inches and comes with three large containers with buckle seals and two ice packs. A large top compartment holds loose foods like fruits and veggies, while the middle compartment houses the three food containers and two ice packs.

Large side pouches hold water bottles or additional food, while foam insulation keeps everything cool. This lunch bag also comes with a 22-ounce shaker water bottle, which features a separate storage compartment for drink mixes and vitamin supplements. A large padded shoulder strap makes carrying heavy loads comfortable. The bag is made of a long-lasting durable PVC material with YKK zippers.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 16.5 by 7 by 10.6
  • Storage: 2 pockets/2 compartments
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Multiple pockets and compartments for organization
  • Includes large containers that fit the cooler
  • Side pouches provide additional storage
  • Padded strap for carrying

Cons

  • More pricey than other lunch boxes

Get the MDMP lunch box on Amazon.

Best Bento Box

The Best Lunch Box Option: UMAMI All-in-One Bento Box for Adults Children
Photo: amazon.com

This smartly designed take on the classic Japanese bento box keeps food cool while also storing sauces and silverware. Its multiple layers include a top lid cover, followed by a tray that holds a three-piece cutlery set, under which is a compartment for food. The compartment comes equipped with two adjustable dividers for separating the main dish and two sides along with a small cup for dressings or sauces.

All the layers come together to form a compact 7 inch long by 4 inch wide and 4 inch thick box that’s insulated and leakproof. The Umami Bento Box is also stylish, with multiple color options and faux wood surfaces that create a modern yet sophisticated take on the classic bento box.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 7 by 4 by 4 inches
  • Storage: 0 pockets/2 compartments
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Separate compartment and tray with silverware
  • Two adjustable dividers in main compartment
  • Attractive, sophisticated look
  • Several color options available

Cons

  • Not as well insulated as other lunch boxes
  • Pricey

Get the UMAMI lunch box on Amazon.

Best for Job Sites

The Best Lunch Box Option: Stanley Classic Lunch Box
Photo: amazon.com

The large size and durable construction of this classic blue-collar worker’s lunch box help it keep food fresh on a rugged job site. With its steel construction, the Stanley Classic Lunch Box is built to endure abuse. It’s also well suited for large appetites. With its 5-quart size and packable lid, it has enough room to hold a few sandwiches and a large insulated thermos.

The classic lunch box measures 10.4 inches long by 4.9 inches wide by 8.4 inches high. A large handle allows the user to get a firm grip when carrying the box to and from the work site, while sturdy metal latches and hinges hold the lid tightly closed during transport. Keep in mind that this lunch box is not insulated and is suitable for food that does not need to be kept cool.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 10.4 by 4.9 by 8.4 inches
  • Storage: 0 pockets/1 compartment
  • Insulated: No
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Rugged steel construction will hold up to abuse
  • Large capacity with loadable lid
  • Large handle makes it easy to carry

Cons

  • Not insulated

Get the Stanley lunch box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best for Kids

The Best Lunch Box Option: Bentgo Kids Bento-Style Lunch Box
Photo: amazon.com

With its multiple compartments, lockable design, and beefy insulation, this Bentgo kids lunch box is the best lunch box for kids. It includes four molded compartments to hold a main course, three sides, and a sauce. The lid is molded to fit inside each separate compartment, ensuring that each stays tightly sealed. This design prevents the food from leaking or spilling into an adjacent compartment even if the lunch box flips over.

At 8.5 inches long by 6.5 inches wide by 2 inches deep, this BPA-free bento box holds plenty of food for child-size appetites. Two large latches tightly lock the lid to the base for transport. The entire meal tray detaches from the lunch box, making it easy to heat up lunch in the microwave or wash the tray in the dishwasher. The Bentgo Kids Bento-Style Lunch Box comes in a choice of three kid-friendly colors including blue, green, and purple.

Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 8.5 by 6.5 by 2 inches
  • Storage: 0 pockets/1 compartment
  • Insulated: Yes
  • Foldable: No

Pros

  • Multiple leakproof compartments for organizing food
  • Tray removes and is microwave and dishwasher safe
  • Rugged hard plastic construction keeps food safe
  • BPA-free

Cons

  • Compartments are a little small

Get the Bentgo lunch box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Our Verdict

With its ample size and smart design, the MIER Adult Insulated Lunch Bag is one of the best alternatives to a brown bag for taking lunch to work or school. Those looking for a well-designed lunch box for younger kids should consider the Bentgo Kids Bento-Style Lunch Box, a bento-style design that’s easy to pack and store a healthy lunch.

How We Chose the Best Lunch Boxes

We considered a broad range of criteria while reviewing dozens of options for our list of the best lunch bags and boxes. Since a lunch box is designed to go on the road, we chose lunch boxes with durable designs and materials that can endure the rigors of a construction site or school backpack. Insulation is also key if packing a lunch that needs to stay cool or warm, so we made sure to include models that could keep food cold (or warm) for at least 4 hours.

A lunch box design should also make it easy to pack and unpack food and drinks, so we chose lunch boxes with large lids or flaps that grant full access to the lunch box’s interior. And, since style is important when heading to the workplace, we also included several of the best lunch boxes for adults that workers can proudly carry and display in the office.

FAQs

If you’re wondering how long a lunch box can keep your food cool or what a bento box is, then read on for answers to these and other commonly asked questions about lunch boxes.

Q: Is a lunch box an insulator?

That depends on the construction of the lunch box. Lunch boxes or lunch totes built with insulated walls of foam panels will insulate food, keeping it cool or warm for 4 hours or more. Lunch boxes that do not have insulation will fail to maintain the temperature of the food inside of them.

Q: How do you make lunch boxes stay cold?

To make a lunch box stay cold, pack it tightly, since open air pockets will cause a lunch box to more quickly warm up. You can also use ice packs for lunch boxes to help maintain a low temperature.

Q: Do thermal lunch boxes keep food warm?

Yes. In addition to a layer of insulation, thermal lunch boxes create a vacuum between the outer layer and inner layer that traps hot air inside the cooler, helping to keep it warm.

Q: What is a bento box?

A bento box is a single-portion meal assembled inside a box that is transportable and ready to eat. While bento boxes are of Japanese origin, the design concept is often used in modern American lunch boxes.

Q: What ages are bento boxes suitable for?

Bento boxes are great for kids because they best accommodate creating and storing a balanced meal, thanks to separate compartments for a main and two or three sides. That being said, they are well suited for adults, too.