This expandable version has the same features and durability, with the option of about 2 inches of additional depth (which is useful if you regularly pack drink cans or large containers).
The L.L.Bean Lunch Box is our favorite insulated bag because of its proven durability and reliability. This 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 the interiors of many other models with exposed seams and crevices that trap food and residue. It has plenty of room for multiple containers and a food thermos, 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 provide about 2 extra inches of depth. As with all of its gear, L.L.Bean offers a one-year satisfaction guarantee on this lunch box. Among the 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 catch on things and rip.
This insulated lunch box comes in the widest variety of styles we found, including popular character themes. And its reinforced sides make the Pottery Barn Kids bag easier to clean and more protective of fragile foods than the L.L.Bean Lunch Box.
The Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Classic Lunch Box is similar in construction and quality to the L.L.Bean Lunch Box. But the Pottery Barn bag comes in a greater number of designs that may appeal to your kid, including Disney princesses, action heroes, and dinosaurs. Its reinforced sides protect soft fruit and crunchy snacks better than the L.L.Bean bag’s soft sides, but they can easily become indented. This lunch bag is the only one of our picks that does not come with a warranty.
Bento-style lunch boxes have convenient compartments within a rigid case, to keep foods separate, protected, and nicely organized. The streamlined Bentgo Fresh Lunch Box is our favorite bento for kids for a few reasons. For one thing, it has a versatile layout. And it remains compact enough that it doesn’t crowd a backpack but still comfortably holds plenty of food for an elementary-age kid (including a whole sandwich, which other bentos can’t). The Bentgo has fewer parts for kids (and adults) to contend with, which means fewer lost pieces. And the removable, dishwasher-safe tray makes for easy cleanup. The Bentgo is the only leakproof bento we tested, and it was the lightest and least expensive of our bento picks. This bento does have durability issues, however: The latches and hinges are especially susceptible to breaking. Our testing has shown it should last at least a school year, but it’s unlikely to be a long-term investment.
Many parents who’ve bought the PlanetBox Rover Stainless Steel Lunch Box immediately concede it cost more than they’d ever expected to pay for a lunch box. Yet in the same breath, they extol its durability: The Rover 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, which 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, as well as additional food containers. Although the tray itself has no seals and is therefore not leakproof, the included lidded containers are. PlanetBox also offers the longest warranty of all our picks: five years.
How our picks’ interiors compare
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