The Best Lunch Packing Gear You Need for Kids & Teens
Looking for the best thermos, the best lunch box, or the best water bottle for kids? Here are our road-tested favorites.
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The cutesy water bottle that leaked.
The pricey lunch box your first grader couldn’t open.
The brand-name thermos that served up barely-lukewarm tomato soup at lunchtime.
We’ve all bought new lunch packing gear with high hopes–that quickly fizzled into buyer’s remorse.
So whether you’re a first-timer stocking up or a seasoned pro upgrading your stash, I rounded up a list of road-tested products for you in a few different categories.
Because believe me, I’ve bought my fair share of duds over the years too.
But this is the gear that made the cut. All of these are items we have and use in real life. Here’s to no more buyer’s remorse!
(And if you’d like your kids to become independent lunch packers this year, scroll down for my free email series to help make it happen.)
Mira Food Jar: We’ve tried a lot of thermoses over the years, and this one keeps food warmer longer (we found it works better for liquids like soup than foods like mac-n-cheese FYI). The Mira Food Jar comes in a few different sizes and colors. Ours holds 13.5 ounces and keeps food warm for five hours. It has a slightly slimmer design than other thermoses, so it fits easily in insulated lunch bags along with side items.
Runner-Up: Thermos Funtainer Food Jar This one holds 10 ounces of food and keeps it hot for five hours. Like the Mira food jar, we found it works better with liquids (like soup) than solid foods (like pasta). It comes in solid colors and fun designs and has a wide mouth–so it’s easy to fill and easy for kids to dig in.
Best Water Bottle for Teens
Contigo Autospout Water Bottle: My older son carried these through high school. It holds 20 ounces, comes in a few colors, and keeps water cold for up to 18 hours. The slim shape fits easily into cup holders and backpack side pockets–and it only requires one hand to pop up the straw and sip.
Runner-Up: Hydro Flask Yes, it’s trendy–and from what I can tell, it’s all about the stickers kids use to decorate it. It keeps liquid cold for 24 hours (hot up to 12) and comes in different sizes and colors. If your teen prefers drinking from a straw, they now make a version with interchangeable lids.
Best Water Bottle for Little Kids
Thermos Funtainer: We had these for years when the kids were younger. It’s durable, holds 12 ounces and keeps it cold for 12 hours. And it comes in a whole bunch of fun designs (my boys were partial to Star Wars). Yep, your kid will chew on the straw, so pick up a pack of replacement straws to swap in when it gets gnarly.
Runner-Up: Yeti Rambler Jr. My younger son transitioned to this more “sophisticated looking” water bottle in middle school (though it still holds just 12 ounces). We like the easy-to-flip-up spout and the fact that it keeps water ice-cold. The only drawback: It’s a bit heavy.
Best Everyday Lunchbox
EasyLunchboxes Bento Lunchbox: We’ve used these for years and love how durable and versatile they are. The simple, clean design isn’t baby-ish, so even my teens will pack them for school. Sold in a set of four, so there’s always one clean. Note: These are NOT leak-proof, so pack liquids, yogurt, and dips separately.
Runner-Up: Sistema To Go Snack Attack Real Mom Nutrition team member Cheryll swears by these as her kids’ everyday lunchboxes. Her daughter loves opening the little doors on the side compartments, which nicely corral loose items like trail mix. The latching lid is easy to operate for big or small hands, and it fits a lot of food.
Best Snack Box
EasyLunchboxes Bento Snack Boxes: They’re a perfect size to tuck all kinds of munchies into the four compartments. They’re durable, dishwasher-safe, and come in a pack of four. Like the EasyLunchboxes bento lunch boxes, they’re not leakproof, so pack liquids and dips separately.
Best Insulated Lunch Bag
Lands End Insulated Soft Sided Lunch Bag Both of my boys used these lunch bags for years. They’re the perfect size for holding an EasyLunchbox plus cold pack tucked into an interior pocket. Put a small drink or water bottle on the side. Comes in lots of colors, and you can even have it monogrammed.
Runner-Up: PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag No need to fuss with separate cold packs. They’re built right into this bag. The PackIt bag folds flat to freeze, then it’s ready to fill in the morning. Keeps food cold for up to 10 hours and comes in different colors and patterns. My younger son uses one for school, and my husband uses one for work.
Runner-Up: Cute Stainless Steel Cocktail /Dessert Forks Your kids can use these to spear and eat berries, melon chunks, and other small bites of food. The cute shapes are similar to the ones I bought long ago. (And no, neither of my kids ever used these as a weapon in the lunchroom, but use your best judgement!)
I hope this round-up of the best thermos for kids, best water bottles for teens and littles, and best lunch boxes and lunch-packing accessories help you and your kids feel better prepared for back to school–at least where lunch is concerned!
Have you tried any of these, or have you found something else that made packing lunch for school easier? I’d love to hear about it.
Wish your kids packed their OWN lunches?
By all means, let’s make it happen! Sign up for my free 5-day email course, Pack Your Own (Darn) Lunch. You’ll learn how to pass on the job to your kids and get printables, strategies, and even fun recipes. You’ll help grow your child’s independence and take “pack lunches” off your to-do list.