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All The Things You Need for Tailgating: The Ultimate List

2 months ago

The tailgate party – one of the highlights of watching a football game aside from, well, the game itself. There’s nothing like cracking open a few beers and grilling some burgers with your buddies and fellow fans as you cheer your team to victory. And with a tailgate party, win or lose, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

But just like any other event, the success of a tailgate comes down to thoughtful preparation. In the excitement and anticipation of the big game, it can be challenging to remember everything you’ll need to bring. To help you plan the best pre-game party, we’ve created a list of must-have tailgate items for any setup.

Tailgate Necessities

Foldable Outdoor Chair

The folding chair is, without a doubt, the most fundamental requirement on the list of tailgating necessities. Indeed, if you had to bring just one item to your tailgate, this is it. After all, this is where you’ll be sitting most of the time.

At the bare minimum, the folding chair needs to be soft and comfortable enough to use for the entire day. Because of this, it has to be sturdy as well. A cup holder is a must-have for having your drink within reach at all times, even if you have a folding table as well. Plus, you’ll gain points with your fellow fans if your chair proudly represents your team’s colors or logo. 

Portable Canopy

A portable canopy is a fantastic addition to your tailgate setup for many reasons. First of all, it keeps you nice and cool from harsh sunlight or rain if the weather suddenly takes a nasty turn. Second, it’s yet another chance to represent your team. And finally, it’s going to make your tailgate the go-to spot because most people don’t think to bring one. 

Alternatively, if you find that a canopy is too bulky, consider a “tailbrella.” You can purchase an umbrella hitch mount (such as this one) then attach an umbrella for portable shade in a pinch.

Foldable Tables

What’s a foldable chair without a foldable table? This is an awesome tailgate setup item that holds all of your other tailgate items, from plates of food to your cooler of beer. If your group is a rowdier bunch that likes playing games before the big game, it can also double as a playing table for popular tailgating activities such as poker or beer pong. 

There are plenty of options out there, from simple metal camping tables to foldable canvas tables with shelves, cup holders, and built-in coolers. Whichever table you prefer, getting the right size is crucial. This depends on how many people you’re hosting and how much stuff you’re bringing to your tailgate. Of course, it should also be able to fit into your car, so be sure to consider the size of your backseat or trunk. Also, plan ahead as you’ll probably need several tables, depending on the crowd.

Many table designs and colors are available, allowing you to pick the one that best fits your sporting event and team colors.

Portable Grill and Accessories

Barbecue is synonymous with a great tailgate; hence, a grill is one of the must-have tailgate items on any list. There are plenty of portable options for any budget. The best value for money would be a charcoal grill, like this reliable Weber option. It also imparts that authentic smoky flavor to your burgers, hotdogs, and sausages.

However, a propane grill is just the ticket if you don’t want to dabble with priming up the coal. What you sacrifice in smoky flavor, you make up for in the ease and speed of setting up. This NOMADIQ Propane Griller is one of our favorites, as it’s compact enough to be carried like a small suitcase.

Whatever you pick, don’t forget to bring your cooking and grilling accessories with you. This includes lighters, lighting fluid, tongs, and potholders. If you’re considering a new lighter, we recommend getting this arc lighter. The elongated neck allows you to ignite the grill at a safe distance without risking burning your hands. In addition, the arc flame is energy efficient and can operate in any weather.

Coolers

A tailgate without cold beers is like a party without food or music – what’s the point? And keeping your brews chilled and ready for popping is what a quality cooler is all about.

Ideally, you’d need two coolers at the minimum — one for food and one for drinks. Admittedly, this can take up much space in your trunk, which is where collapsible coolers like CleverMade come in handy. These handy coolers can fold completely flat when empty for easy storage before and after the tailgate.

Protip: instead of loading up on ice, consider getting reusable ice packs, like this one from YETI. Not only are they economical, but they’re also less messy and eco-friendly.

Koozies

Keeping your beer cold is a common tailgating challenge when you’re slowly nursing your drink (which you should, especially if it’s hot). This problem is easily solved with a koozie, which is basically a foam sleeve that insulates your beer can or bottle. Ideally, have one for each person in your group. If you want to spice things up, get a personalized koozie for each of your friends.

You can keep it simple with simple foam sleeves or go for sophistication with stainless steel insulators like the BruMate Hopsulator.

Cleaning Supplies and Materials

Be prepared to clean up the inevitable spills by having lots of paper towels and wet wipes on hand. Hand sanitizers and alcohol are also handy for keeping things clean, especially if you don’t have access to running water.

Finally, a responsible tailgater always cleans up, so make sure you have enough garbage bags for all of your trash. Reusable plastic containers are also a good idea for storing leftovers.

Tools and First Aid

You never know what can happen at a tailgate, so it pays to come prepared. This means having first aid kits, flashlights, and handyman tools in case of an emergency. We also highly recommend bungee cords and duct tape for odd tasks like securing tables or your canopy on a windy day.

Portable Generators

For more elaborate tailgate parties with lots of electronic gear, a portable generator is a must. You can use it to power everything from a television to an electric grill if you have one.

There are lots to choose from, but this EnginStar Portable Power Station is a good mix of price and capacity. It can store 298-watt hours, giving you enough juice to power any electrical device at less than 300W. USB-A and USB-C slots, plug outlets, and DC outputs are included for your convenience.

Portable Television

Sometimes, tailgates become so much fun that it’s hard to leave to watch the game. But you want to see your favorite team in action, so what’s a fan to do? Stream the game right to your tailgate party!

Television is the preferred option, but setting this up might be challenging and expensive. Another option is purchasing a small projector if you have a clean white wall to project onto. A cheaper alternative is using a laptop and using your smartphone as an Internet hotspot.

Rain Gear

The number one rule of any tailgate: expect it will rain, no matter how sunny it is. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to pack rain gear, just in case. An umbrella is a basic necessity and will keep you dry for most conditions. However, when the rain really pours, a raincoat or poncho will be more suitable. This is where that canopy we mentioned earlier will come especially in handy.

It’s also prudent to bring an outdoor blanket (this Lightspeed Soft Plush Fleece Blanket hits the spot for us) to help keep you warm during chilly weather or for laying out on the grass for a picnic-style hangout.

Disposable Plates and Utensils

Unless you want to eat solely with your hands, don’t forget your cutlery! Going the disposable route is an option, but we recommend purchasing reusable eco-friendly outdoor cutlery. In addition, don’t forget napkins and paper towels. Or, if you’re really environmentally conscious, go for reusable cloth napkins. 

College Tailgate Ideas

Flip Cup and Beer Pong

Flip cup and beer pong, together with the iconic red solo cups, are the most ubiquitous sights at any college party or tailgating event. It’s loads of fun and a great way to pass the time before the game. 

Plus, it’s straightforward to set up – you just need plastic cups, a few ping pong balls, and a good sturdy table. You can make it even easier if you buy Flip Cup sets like this one from Wicked Big Sports. They feature the perfect size and weight for optimal flipping.

Speakers

Good music is always key to the best tailgate setup. The easiest way to get everyone’s energy levels up and dancing is to connect a good Bluetooth speaker to your smartphone. Then, simply load up your favorite Spotify playlist, and you’re good to go.

When choosing a Bluetooth speaker, sound quality is a top priority. Long battery life is also ideal, though you can always charge it via your car or a power bank. You’ll also want your speaker to be durable and waterproof for any weather condition. Finally, a microphone input is helpful for impromptu karaoke sessions.

Can’t think of a good Bluetooth speaker? The JBL FLIP 4 is an excellent choice.

Team Gear

Sure, tailgates are a chance to be merry with fellow fans but don’t forget why you’re there – to support your favorite team. So, show your camaraderie and school spirit with team gear to match!

Jerseys, shirts in your team’s colors, school jackets, foam hands – there are endless ways to let everyone know which team you’re rooting for with pride. But the most majestic and epic of these is the school flag hoisted up on a pole. Have this on hand, and your tailgate is sure to be the rallying point for your fellow fans!

Football, Frisbees, and Other Lawn Games

A college football tailgate wouldn’t be complete without a few footballs of your own flying around the lot. It’s an excellent way for fans to pass the time, have fun, and show off their skills in the process. Equally fun “catch and pass” alternatives include Frisbee and baseball.

Alternatively, you can also try a host of other popular lawn games like ladder golf, corn hole, and washer pitching. In short, any game that’s easy to set up with minimal materials is a prime candidate for a tailgate pastime.

Watermelon Tap Kit

Here’s an idea that’s one part practical and two parts awesome — transform a hollowed-out watermelon into a beverage dispenser. This Watermelon Tap Kit gives you all the tools to do just that. It’s the perfect receptacle to serve a watermelon-inspired cocktail in and a surefire way to make your tailgate memorable. And you’re not limited to just watermelons here. Try using it on a pumpkin for the ultimate autumn feels! 

Tabletop Games

If you think tabletop games are just for board game night, think again. There are plenty of fun and simple-to-play games that are perfect for a tailgate party. Bluffing games like Avalon are great for cunning players, while Cards Against Humanity will quickly end up with gut-wrenching laughter. Finally, don’t forget classic but equally fun games like Clue or Wits and Wagers if you’re feeling a bit nostalgic.

In a pinch, a simple deck of playing cards will do wonders. You can even throw in some chips and make it a full-blown tailgate poker party.

Best Tailgating Trends

Homegating

Social distancing and health standards due to the COVID-19 pandemic have undoubtedly changed how we plan and attend social gatherings, tailgating included. So, how do you keep the tailgating tradition while staying safe? Tailgating at home, or “homegating,” is the new tailgate! 

This new trend combines the fun of tailgating with the convenience of having everything accessible to you. There’s minimal preparation needed, as you already have all the must-have tailgate items you need at home. Plus, with a kitchen at your disposal, you can whip up even more elaborate meals.

You can even make it a much more authentic experience by hosting it in your backyard or driveway, behind your actual car. You can then invite your buddies to do the same and hop on a Zoom call for a virtual tailgating party.

Reunion Tailgating Parties

If there’s one thing that most people miss during the pandemic, it’s big social gatherings. With many colleges and universities canceling tailgates for the season, many sports fans are looking forward to resuming this time-honored tradition.

This means that when tailgate parties go back to full swing, it’s going to be bigger than ever. People will not just gather with close friends but invite acquaintances and old college friends into the mix. As a result, tailgate parties can and will quickly become tailgate reunion parties – which is more fun for everyone!

Gourmet Tailgating Food

The classic tailgate food has always been burgers, sausages, salads, and the occasional chips and dip. But with most people stuck at home during the pandemic, quite a lot of us have taken up the art of cooking. And with it, the discovery of new recipes.

So it’s reasonable to expect that, come time that tailgates resume, people will be bringing more of these innovative dishes to tailgate parties. Who knows, we might see another tailgate food sensation like the Palmetto Cheese recipe.

Things to Skip in Your Tailgating Setup

Beer Keg

A keg of beer might seem like a good idea to serve at a tailgate. Why not? They’re a popular addition to house parties. But the truth is that a beer keg is a bad idea. It’s a hassle to lug around and equally challenging to cool down. In these cases, it’s much simpler just to bring bottles and cans.

In addition, a keg is asking for trouble. Many college campuses and stadiums have banned kegs on their premises. This also goes for “rapid beer-drinking implements” like beer bongs.

Hard to Cook Food

When it comes to grub, the name of the game is convenience. That means burgers are in, but a huge slab of steak? Not so much. See, while steaks can be divine in a tailgate, they are a pain to cook. You need to watch over them like a hawk, or else they overcook (or worse, undercook). That means less time socializing and having a good time for you.

If you really want steak at your tailgate, prep it ahead of time. Cook it sous-vide to get it to the proper and safe level, then just pop it on the grill for a quick sear.

Glass Cups and Utensils

Bringing glassware is another tailgating accessory you should definitely leave at home. Not only does it create a risk of breakages, they’re also heavy to bring to the tailgate and to bring home after the party.

It’s simpler and much easier to simply bring reusable plastic or bamboo cups, utensils, and plates to the party, even if it means drinking Merlot from something other than a wine glass.

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