A Checklist for What to Bring for a Great Tailgate Party
Fall is here, which means it’s prime tailgating season. Time to fire up the grill, get some ice in the cooler, and assemble your tailgating dream team. What’s that, you don’t have the gear for tailgating? No worries! Here is a playbook to get you ready in time for game day.
What’s a tailgate party without a grill? It’s possible to bring cold cuts and snacks in a cooler, but it’s just not the same. If you are the grill master, you should take your job seriously. There are plenty of propane grills out there for under $100. Those are acceptable if you want to cook a few hot dogs for your family, but you will need to up your grilling game to get to the big leagues
Cook up some burgers on your grill the weekend before the party to check out its power, paying attention to the cooking time. Can it keep up? If not, you should still have time to upgrade your grill or find an alternate.
Also, make sure you pack enough fuel for game day. Whether you are using a generator, gas, or charcoal, you don’t want to run out of juice halfway through cooking your food.
If the grill is the MVP of the tailgating experience, the cooler is the star coach. Keeping all your food and beverages fresh is key. Even a small group can go through a lot of drinks in a couple of hours, so break out the biggest cooler you have.
If you want to get into tailgating, now is a great time to upgrade from that 15-year-old cooler you “borrowed” from your parent’s basement. A high-quality cooler can last you a long time. It also doubles for camping, picnicking, or any other outdoor event. Heavy duty brand name coolers can reach several hundred dollars, but you can find solid substitutes for a reasonable price.
Plates, Cups, Cutlery, and Other Kitchen Essentials
Do you want your crew walking into the stadium covered in potato salad and ketchup stains? If not, you need to bring plates, cutlery, napkins, and other kitchen essentials. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but having these necessities on hand will be a big help.
Since we are talking about paper plates and plastic forks, you will want trash bags and a trash bag holder. The Ecogarby Collapsible Trash Can is a convenient way to keep your tailgating party tidy. Pro-tip: get a second trash bag holder for your empties, so you can save some money on your next trip to the beer store.
Everyone needs a timeout sometimes. Folding chairs these days are way better than 10 or 20 years ago. You can get sturdy, comfortable chairs for a reasonable price. Like many items on this list, folding chairs are great for any outdoor gathering, not just tailgating.
Even if you are trying to be the ultimate host, I strongly recommend a BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair) policy. Handling one or two chairs is manageable, but dealing with a pile becomes a hassle. Also, you need to save room in your trunk for other necessities like… beer pong!
Games and Tunes
Games like beer pong and corn hole are a great way to get your competitive juices flowing before the big game. There are all sorts of lawn games and outdoor activities you can find on Amazon or a department store. Don’t overdo it, as classic games are often preferred over newer games that no one knows how to play.
Music is another excellent addition to your tailgate gathering. Ideally, you or one of your amigos has a solid set of speakers in your vehicle. If not, you will probably need to rely on a Bluetooth speaker. People will understand if the sound quality isn’t perfect – it’s a parking lot, after all.
Fall weather can be highly unpredictable. No matter what the weather forecast says, there is always a chance that a stiff wind or an unexpected chill will whip up to put a damper on your party.
How prepared you want to be for the weather depends on how far you want to go in the season. Grilling down in Georgia in September is a totally different experience than Edmonton in November. Here are three levels of pre-game weather prep.
Every experienced tailgater knows you should have a couple blankets ready in case things get cold. Blankets are great because they are so multi-functional. Want to spread out on a lawn picnic-style? Do you have to keep warm in the bleachers? Need to improvise a parachute? Okay, that last one doesn’t count, but blankets are still plenty versatile, and you will be thankful to have them on hand.
A simple pop-up gazebo is the best way to protect you from getting rained out and is an excellent pickup for anyone who likes to entertain outside. Nowadays, a decent pop-up gazebo is only a couple hundred dollars and will last for years if properly maintained. Obviously, these won’t stand up against a full-on storm, but they will make mild-to-moderate rain much more tolerable.
If you want to go pro in the tailgating game, an outdoor space heater is the best way to go late in the season. Quality outdoor space heaters are an investment, especially since you might need multiple space heaters to keep a group warm. You will also need propane or a generator to run the space heater, so that’s another expense. Still, if you really want to pull out all the stops, this is the end-game of weather protection.
***There you have it, sports fans, the essentials for an all-star tailgating experience. A lot comes down to the playstyle of your tailgating team, but with a bit of practice, you can refine your list further. Hopefully, this playbook gives you the strategies you need to execute a winning game plan.