6 Must-Haves for the Perfect Tailgate

Learn how to take your tailgating game to the next level with a few pointers on the essentials.

Are you ready for some tailgating? That’s right. It’s football season once again and the perfect time of year to grab the barby, load up the truck, and head out to a game. If you’re a college ball fanatic or an NFL junkie, you probably already know a thing or 2 about throwing the perfect tailgate party. But if you happen to be a rookie, we put together a few tips to help you out with the fundamentals of this time-honored tradition.

1. Vehicle

The ultimate tailgating vehicle is a truck or a van, something with a back or side door. Show your spirit by investing in some car flags, a license plate frame, or magnetic emblems from your favorite team. And don’t skimp on the maintenance (like oil changes, checking fluid levels, and tire pressure). You don’t want to miss the big game just because you had a flat tire.

2. Foods and drinks

This is probably the single most important item. It’s also what your friends will want to know about. Food can be anything you like, but finger foods work best (leaving you a free hand with which to hold your beverage).

Some classic tailgate foods are brats, burgers, dogs, ribs, chili, dip (guacamole is always a favorite), cookies, brownies, and cake, but you can find almost anything imaginable if you stroll around the parking lot. Sautéed shrimp and deep-fried catfish, anyone?

And it’s hardly a party without beer, wine, or the makings of your favorite cocktail. But be sure to choose a designated driver beforehand, drink responsibly, and bring nonalcoholic beverages along for the kids and driver. And, of course, a cooler with plenty of ice.

3. Supplies

Not sure about what you’ll need? A quick list includes matches, plates, napkins, cups, plastic utensils, foil and plastic bags, garbage bags, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and condiments. Now, of course, there are those who go all out and use real knives, forks, dishes, and linens, but that’s your call.

4. Tools

The grill can be anything from a tabletop to a big standup charcoal grill or one that attaches to the trailer hitch of your truck. Whatever type of grill you have, don’t forget fuel (propane or charcoal depending on your grill).

You’ll also need cooking tools: a sharp knife, spatula, tongs, maybe a wooden spoon, serving spoons, and a cutting board. Don’t forget the corkscrew or bottle opener (or both).

5. Entertainment

To keep the pre-game party jumping, pack a flat screen TV (just kidding, but yes, we’ve seen it), music player with speakers, and a football or bean bags for tossing. The important thing is to choose whatever fits your style.

6. Comfort

Bring stacking resin or folding camp chairs (preferably with cupholders), a pop-up tent (to protect against sun or rain), and folding card tables.

So there you have it. Check online to find out when your local stadium opens and make sure you know the rules. Call your friends and agree on how to meet up. Maybe you want to caravan to the park so you know you have enough adjoining spots.

The bottom line: get your game gear on, your supplies packed, and head on out. And don’t forget to enjoy the game!

Tailgating pro? Tell us your tips.

Related links

Checklist (PDF)
A nice list of items to bring for your tailgate. Print it out and take it with you.

Shopping
Accessorize with the finest items from your favorite team.

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