When you have to cram your tired body into an overcrowded train every morning to get to work, you quickly realize the advantages of traveling light. Especially if you’re tethered to a keyboard for your job and have to carry a laptop with you, every additional item you’re lugging makes commuting exponentially more cumbersome. And if that additional item is food? You’re inviting an entirely new level of chaos into your life.
Take it from me. For months, I attempted to smuggle lunch to work, and every single time it failed. Case in point: My classic zip-up lunch box was too big to fit in my backpack and too annoying to have to carry. And so, I eventually gave up, opting to just slop the complimentary office oatmeal into my gullet everyday instead.
But did I simply have the wrong lunch box? Could a different one have solved my commuting conundrum? For a train-riding office jockey like myself, I’d need something small but sturdy. A lunch box that could effectively protect the integrity of my lunch, prevent leakage and take up the least amount of space possible. A lunch box very much like those below…
Best Lunch Box for Men: Office Edition
On the Buy It for Life subreddit, a no-bullshit community dedicated to real-world reviews of products that “last a lifetime,” there are a number of highly-rated lunch boxes for men. Among the most recommended are the Yeti Daytrip Lunch Box, a small, no-nonsense lunch box with a hard cover; “Louie’s Lunch Box” from Duluth Trading Company; and an insulated cooler bag from either Coleman or Carhartt.
“I’ve been using a Yeti Daytrip for almost two years and it still looks brand new,” writes one subscriber. “Louie’s Lunch Box. Buy one. Be set for life,” another adds. “My husband’s is going on 10 years now, with hard daily use every weekday.”
Best Lunch Box for Men: Commuter Edition
Still, if you’re like me and want something even less cumbersome than a whole-ass lunch box — something you could just cram some salad into then shove into your bookbag, you’re in luck. In terms of simple, indestructible food containers, there’s Rubbermaid’s “LunchBlox” salad kit, Bentgo’s $30 stainless steel, airtight bento box, or this slim, stainless steel contraption from YumBox, which is essentially a lunch tray you can close.
The close-able steel lunch box contraption “keeps me from buying single-use containers, and it goes right in the dishwasher, only taking up as much space as two plates,” a Buy It for Life subscriber praises. “Also, it’s nice to open up your lunch, and it’s all right there, instead of having to open each thing separately.”
Otherwise, the best lunch box for men like me might just be a bookbag with a built-in lunch box like this insulated Carhartt bag.
Best Lunch Box for Men: Hard Hat Lunch Pail Edition
When it comes to preserving the lunches of men who work in more physically-demanding jobs, there are a number of options. “When you’re out on a worksite, one thing a lot of guys want in a lunch box is for it to also be a seat,” Jeff, a 29-year-old contractor in Illinois, tells me. “But you also need it to be sturdy, because it’ll get tossed around, kicked, cut, nailed, smashed, you name it.”
With that in mind, Jeff argues the best lunch box for men is the Igloo Legend 6-Can Cooler. “It’s cheap, it’s easy and it’ll survive the apocalypse,” he says. “Plus, you can sit on it.”
If the Igloo 6-canner — or its oft-recommended cousin, the Igloo Playmate — are a little too “drunk uncle” for your taste, don’t worry. The “Tradesman Pro Tough Box” from Klein Tools is among the top recommended hard-top lunch boxes. Not only does the 18-can capacity “keep cool for up to 30 hours,” but the cooler’s own description boasts its ability to “support up to 300 pounds,” thus making it “a handy place to sit.” A bit sleeker in design, albeit similarly priced, are the dry boxes from Engel Coolers.
“I have had [the Engel cooler] for a few years as an industrial mechanic beating the shit out of it, and I would never buy another lunch box,” says one redditor on Buy It For Life. “Couldn’t recommend enough,” adds another. “Keeps food/drinks cold forever. The seal is real solid. Very spacious if using for a lunch box.”
But hands down the highest recommended, best lunch box was the $77 “Adventure Heritage Cooler + Bottle Set” from Stanley. It might not provide a place to sit as well as the others, but its classic, industrial look, and sturdy frame is beloved by men of all stars and stripes. Again, look no further than the Buy It for Life community, who almost universally agree it’s the best lunch box out there — whether you work in an office or trade. “Been using the 10-quart for many years, big enough to carry breakfast and lunch,” writes one. “It’s stood the test of time and abuse mightily. There’s a reason this style lunch box has been in production for nearly a century.”
But it’s not just about the lunch box’s physical bona fides. For some, the Adventure Heritage Cooler is the best because it’s more than a container meant to schlep sandwiches around — it’s a lunch box with an emotional connection to the past. “My dad carried the same Stanley lunch box and Stanley thermos from 1947, when he first got out of the army after WW2, until he retired in 1997,” a Buy It for Life subscriber reminisces. “Fifty years, and it still kept his peanut butter and banana sandwiches fresh and his coffee piping hot. I’d give a lot to see him carrying it for one more day.”