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10 tips and ideas to help you plan the perfect picnic

 Spoiler alert - we sell wool picnic blankets. You know, the ones with a protective water resistant backing that roll up into a leather carry cradle. Super range of colours and styles from large check to herringbone and cross hatch.

Obviously if you’re planning a picnic, you’ll need one of those, but what about all the other little bits you forget in the rush to get out the door and enjoy the sunshine. After all, if you snooze you lose in the UK. Wonderful as it is, the British summer can be cruel to the underprepared.

Ten simple picnic hacks you need to know

In this article, we’ll cover everything from choosing the right knife to taking an effective bug repellent and how to entertain your guests - well, how to keep them occupied at least, so they don't interfere while you set everything up! As is the case with so many things in life, the success of your picnic is nearly always 95% down to planning and 5% luck - mainly the weather!

One thing I learnt early on about looking after yourself outdoors was not to skimp on the essentials. There are many products on the market that promise to save you time and hassle, but often fall short of expectations. Picnicking hardware and gadgetry are no exception.

One particular lesson that stands out in my memory was painfully taught to me by an instructor when I was a young soldier in training. This nugget of advice, like all of his best advice, was dispensed as he was ‘making my eyes bleed’ (his words not mine), with an impromptu PT session in a Welsh forestry block at some ungodly hour in the morning. My mistake: to have failed to shave properly, despite the subzero temperatures and a face full of greasy camouflage paint.

Rather than follow his sage advice to pack a decent razor and a small can of shaving foam, I’d foolishly decided to save space in my bergen (large rucksack) by packing a disposable Bic razor and a small capsule of 'magic' shaving oil, which was supposedly ‘just as effective as other shaving products on the market’, requiring only one drop per shave. Utter twaddle - it was useless. However, a life lesson painfully learned...I digress, but it is relevant to picnicking. All the Ps: Perfect preparation prevents pi-- poor performance:)

For example, how many times have you been on a picnic and made a complete hash of slicing the salami? Salami only tastes good finely sliced so it looks like salami, not a cross between cold corned beef hash and mince meat. Or is it just me?

1. Always take a salami knife

Sliced Salami for a picnic

Anyhow, tip number 1, always take a decent knife, long enough and sharp enough to slice your salami. With regards knives, we recommend going French: either Opinel or Laguiole have a comprehensive selection ranging from entry level affordable to more sophisticated and stylish (expensive) versions.

2. Make sure you’ve got something to spread the Houmous

Tip number two, take another knife to spread the butter and houmous. Attempting to spread butter on a lovely freshly baked baguette with a sharp knife invariably leads to disappointment, leaving butter or whatever you’re spreading all over the ground or worse on your picnic blanket, waiting for someone to sit in it. We’ve all been there. So, don’t mix your knives!

Butter knife essential for a picnic

3. No good having a knife without a chopping board

Tip number three: take a decent size chopping board.Trying to save space by using a piece of cardboard packaging or worse a plastic bag just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Chopping board for a picnic

The added benefit of having a decent chopping board is that once you’re done chopping it becomes a serving board / tray, which saves you trying to balance all of your delicious picnic food precariously on uneven ground or your beautiful picnic rug. It also provides a focal point for your picnic. Somewhere to clearly and safely stow the salami knife, rather than risk it getting hidden in a fold of the picnic blanket only for someone to sit or stand on it after a couple of drinks. Ouch! Stuff of nightmares. We’ve found a great chopping board that’s easy to clean and the right size to slip down the back of a day sack (35cm x 24cm).

4. Make sure you’ve got somewhere to store the rubbish

Tip number four: take enough rubbish bags, thick enough not to split when one of the kids decides it's fun to swing them around their head on the way back to the car. Don’t rely on using the supermarket carrier bag you picked up on the way. Use them to protect the ice:) See tip number 8.

Having an obvious rubbish bag to hand is a good admin point, especially if you have guests or are trying to make people feel relaxed. There’s something deeply stressful about sitting in a beautiful picnic spot surrounded by stunning countryside only to spend half your time carefully unwrapping your food with one hand while trying not to let the packaging get blown away with the other. Especially if you’re surrounded by a hoard of kids screaming for their ice creams!

5. Take something to keep people occupied

Tip number five: make sure you’ve got something to do other than eating and laying around on your picnic blanket. Whether you’re going solo, heading out for a romantic date, on a family outing or looking to impress at one of the many British outdoor events like Henley Regatta, Glyndebourne festival of Opera, Holland Park Opera or Royal Ascot, to name a handful, make sure you’ve thought about a concurrent activity. It’s vital to keep people interested and occupied while you’re setting up or trying to grab a well deserved nap after the main event.

Flying a kite at a picnic

This is surely a topic worthy of another article, but it can be as simple as taking a kite, book, football, frisbee or boomerang. With minimal encouragement, children can be surprisingly resourceful at creating their own games with minimum equipment. Well, that’s providing they haven't hijacked your smartphone or tablet:) One thing's for sure, if the adults in the group can co-ordinate and hold firm to ensure smart phones are left in bags or the car, we guarantee everyone will have a more fulfilling and memorable experience. Nothing you don't already know:)

6. Don’t let the bugs cramp your style

Tip number six: Take a good bug spray, especially if you’re planning to picnic by the side of a river or lake anytime close to sunset or sunrise. Nothing worse than fending off mosquitoes or midges as you try to relax.

Avoiding midges at a picnic

Something with enough Pyrethrin and DEET as the active ingredients normally does the trick. Just be sure to wash your hands with the wipes (tip number 7) before eating and don’t get it on any plastic. It is extremely effective but requires some supervision if kids are involved. They won’t appreciate getting insect repellant in their eyes!

7. Never forget the baby wipes

Tip number seven: Wipes. Anyone who's had kids will appreciate the near magical properties of baby wipes. Perfect for dealing with sticky fingers and faces, particularly if there’s no running water in the environs of your chosen picnic spot. They’re also good for cleaning grease and fat off the salami knife, especially if you’ve got one of those clasp knives or a Leatherman. Saves masses of time trying to unjam the mechanism by the time you’ve sobered up and started to think about the washing up. We recommend the biodegradable bamboo type as some of the others have a poor environmental track record.

8. Take a proper cooling system and ice, plenty of ice

Tip number eight: proper cooling system. If you’ve got a cooler, don’t forget to take it and make sure that the ice blocks are diligently stored in your freezer during the picnic season. Nobody likes drinking lukewarm Prosecco or warm beers / gin and tonic or Pimms. But don’t leave it at that. Make sure you supplement your cooling system with a couple of bags of ice, easily picked up on the way out from most corner shops. There are few things, other than dry ice, that’ll keep your drinks chilled more effectively on a hot day than a cooler with ice, a bit of water and your ice blocks. Essential;) We’ve found this fantastic inflatable cooler bag made by Decathlon. It’s a really fab product at a really attractive price £34.99. If you're not familiar with Decathlon, we'd also recommend you check it out as there are few outdoor / sports retailers that have such a good quality range of products at such affordable prices.

Cooler box for picnics

9. Concentrate on getting one drink perfect

Tip number nine: choose one drink and do it well. To cover this topic properly requires another article, but for the purpose of this one, it’s difficult to go wrong with ice cold gin and tonic or that British summer time stalwart Pimms and lemonade.

Picnic with Pimms and lemonade

Don’t mess around trying to please everyone. Choose which drink you want to serve everyone and make it spectacular. If someone wants something else, there’s always water and it's almost inevitable that one of your guests will have brought a six pack of beer. There are lots of good ideas for making gin and tonic in this Independent article about world gin day. For Pimms, we recommend you take a look at this article and video on Good Housekeeping.

10. Be prepared for the unpredictable British weather

Picnicking in hte rain

Tip number 10: have a stash of blankets in the boot of the car. If you’ve lived in the UK for a while you’ll be all too aware of the unpredictability of the British summer. It might be all blue sky and birds chirping as you draw the curtains back and enthusiastically decide to seize the moment by heading out for a picnic, only to see the clouds roll in a few hours later. Rather than give in, pack up and head home, grab a blanket and snuggle up on your beautiful wool picnic blanket with a protective water resistant bottom, like the ones we described earlier. For blankets, take a look at our extensive collection of pure new wool and recycled wool blankets.

Wool blanket as part of a picnic

Bonus tip: Whatever you do, make sure you have a Leatherman multitool

Tip number 11. Leatherman. I know we’ve already mentioned knives, but you’ll always find a use for a Leatherman multitool. Check out their full range. They don’t take up much room and we’ve yet to come across someone who’s regretted owning one! If you're confused about which Leatherman to buy, they've created a handy online tool to help you choose.

If you’ve enjoyed our article and have your own top tips for making the perfect picnic, please leave them in the comments below. We’ll be adding to the list as we go.

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