The “Park Basket” Is My Hack for Getting and Staying Ready to Go Outside

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People enjoying a beautiful summer day in Sheep Meadow, Central Park. The sun shines through the trees in the late afternoon.
Credit: DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where sunshine comes at a premium. Each time early summer rolls around and the rain stops, there’s a mad dash to get outside every day and enjoy the nice weather.

I love to visit the public parks in my area, whether it’s to read, spend time with my dog, or have a picnic with friends. But I used to scramble to fill a bag with everything I needed before heading out the door, and each time I would feel frustrated later when I realized I had forgotten something.

Credit: Abigail J. Fallon

Then, I came up with the “park basket” — a vessel for storing and transporting everything you need to enjoy some leisure time outdoors. I keep my park basket packed at all times because it helps me get and stay ready for a trip to the park, so I can make the most out of the warmer months.

My basket was a gift from my mom, but you can always find beautiful, affordable baskets at thrift stores if you want to go the sustainable route. If a basket isn’t your style or carrying it proves difficult, a large backpack or duffel bag will work just fine.

Here’s everything I store in my park basket.

A Blanket

You can get a hand-woven Mexican blanket like mine from Amazon for just $24.99, invest in a quilted mat with a carrying strap, or you can use a flat sheet or blanket you already own. A bug-repellant throw blanket is also a great option — especially if you plan to have a picnic — because it helps keep mosquitos and other pests away.


I love blowing bubbles — it helps me stay in the present, and it makes me feel like a kid again. I usually pick up a single bubble wand from Target’s Dollar Spot section, but you can get a six-pack of bubble wands from Target, too. They’re colorful, easy to transport, and never seem to spill.

A Book to Read

I usually add whatever book I’m currently reading to my park basket, but you could also keep a few of your favorite books in yours so you always have pages to leaf through.

A Puzzle Book 

Puzzle books are another great technology-free way to stay busy at the park. I like to keep a crossword puzzle book in my park basket, and you can get all kinds of inexpensive puzzle, crossword, and word search books (including one that’s all about Dolly Parton!) online or at your local FiveBelow.

A Game

It can also be fun to keep a game for two in your park basket in case you have company. I keep a Velcro toss-and-catch game like this one in my park basket because it’s easy to play and super satisfying.

A Snack 

I always make sure I have a Clif Bar or two in my park basket in case I get hungry. You can add other fresh snacks before you head out, but Clif Bars stay good for a long time and are mess-free, so they’re perfect for a park basket.

A Small Cooler Bag

There’s nothing like cracking open a fresh seltzer or cold brew at the park. I keep this insulated Vera Bradley lunch bag in my park basket, which reminds me to grab a few beverages from the fridge to bring with me before I go.

A Stake

If you’re a dog owner, a stake to hold your dog’s leash is a great investment. I always keep a stake in my park basket because it allows me to bring my dog to the park without having to hold onto her at all times.

Dog Treats

Because I bring my dog to the park often, I also keep a small container full of dog treats in my park basket. That way, I can work on training exercises with her, reward her for her good behavior, and make sure she has a little snack of her own. 

Nature has a lot to offer, so you don’t need much to have a great time outdoors. But if you use this park basket method to make it easier to get outside, you just might find yourself doing it more often.