The Essential Guide to Being the Ultimate Tailgater

Do you think you have what it takes to be the ultimate tailgater? From portable grills and quality food to flat-screen TVs, pop-up tents and lawn games, check out our list of tailgating essentials and see if you make the cut.

By: Ben Breslerman

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The Main Ingredient: The Food

Whether you’re a vegetarian or a full-on carnivore, what food you bring can make or break a good tailgate. From burgers, chicken and steak to hot dogs, sausages, corn and other assorted veggies, make sure to know your crowd and pack accordingly. Sandwiches are also always a welcome addition, so try out these 26 unique sandwich recipes, and you’ll be the talk of the tailgate.

Chips and Dips

The best way to kick off any tailgate is to crack open a cold one and chow down on some appetizers. From guacamole and salsa to hummus and spinach, no matter what you decide to bring, you can never go wrong with chips and dip. And, if you’re looking for options other then chips, bring along some fresh cut-up vegetables like carrots, cucumber and celery, perfect for healthy dipping.

Charcoal and Matches / Portable Grill

One of, if not the, most essential item on the tailgating checklist is a portable grill. If you want to make grilling quick and easy, bring a portable gas grill with an attached propane tank, but if you want that smoky bbq flavor (and believe me, you do), make sure to bring a bag of charcoal and some matches to get the party started.

Essential Utensils and Paper Products

Ideal for tailgating, plastic silverware and cups are useful and easy to dispose of. The same can be said with paper plates, napkins and paper towels. Bringing proper grilling utensils is also key, so if you have one, bring a grilling kit, equipped with tongs, a spatula and a cleaning brush.

Condiments

As we all know, the importance of quality food is essential to quality taste. However, almost more important to ensure complete deliciousness are the condiments. Ketchup, mustard, relish, salt and pepper should be on hand at every tailgate, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Beer, Wine, Water and More

A major key to a successful tailgate is definitely your beverage selection. For early-season games in warm weather — and heck, all games for that matter — beer and wine are as essential to a tailgate as players are to a football game. When braving the cold, drinks like warm apple cider punch and spiked Thai coffee are sure to keep you warm and give you a nice buzz. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. Tailgating can be an all day event, so bring plenty of water to help stave off any pregame hangovers.

Over-the-Top Electronics

If you want to be considered the ultimate tailgater, that means pulling out all the stops. Make sure you bring a fully-charged speaker (wireless preferred) to get the party started with some tunes. But perhaps the greatest addition to any tailgate, is a flat-screen TV, perfect for watching pregame coverage or any other games being played during tailgating hours. Ideal locations for said TV are, the trunk of your SUV, the bed of your pickup truck or on top of your centerfold table under your pop-up tent (canopy).

Essential Pieces to the Electronic Puzzle

In order to keep your status as the ultimate tailgater, you’ll need two very important pieces of equipment to get your TV up and running. An inverter charger that can be used like a household power outlet when connected to your car’s DC port, and a power strip that can hold the plugs for the cable box, TV and whatever other appliances you may have brought along.

Pop-Up Tent (Canopy)

Weather be damned! One thing is for sure when bringing a pop-up tent to a tailgate, you’ll be protected by anything mother nature sends your way. Keep yourself and the food dry when it rains or snows, relax in the shade when the sun is scorching down or set up your flat-screen for primo game watching without the glare.

Games, Games, Games

Want to bring a little more fun to your tailgate before your team hits the field? A football has, and always will be, a priority for any tailgate. However, lawn games such as bocce ball, corn hole and can jam are becoming increasingly more popular at tailgates across the country.

Centerfold Table

Not only is a table a welcome addition, it’s practically a necessity to the tailgating checklist these days. Small enough to fold up and slide into tight spaces in your trunk, a centerfold table is ideal not only for something to eat on, but is also the perfect size to set up and play a tailgating favorite, beer pong.

Collapsible Chairs

You wanna be comfortable when your tailgating, right? Sure, you can always use the bed of your pickup or the trunk of your SUV to take a load off, but the most ideal sitting option would be to bring collapsible camping chairs — both comfortable and lightweight — and also easy to store.

Protect Yourself With Sprays and Lotions

During those early fall games, you definitely want to make sure your skin is protected. Tailgating can be an all-day affair, so make sure you bring sunscreen to avoid sun burn and bug repellant to stave off any unwanted bug bites.

Gear Up!

Whether your at a home game or an away game, making your team allegiances known is an important part of tailgating tradition. From hats and t-shirts to flags, blankets and yes, the occasional blow-up figure, decorate your camp site in your favorite teams colors and apparel.

Don’t Forget These Key Items

I can’t tell you how many tailgates I’ve been to where two very key items we’re missing. DO NOT forget to bring trash bags to clean up after yourself, and DO NOT forget to bring a bottle opener / wine key to help open your beverages.

A Camera / Phone

There’s no better way to save all your favorite tailgating memories then snapping a few pics (and selfies!) of you and your crew. Trust me, if you are the ultimate tailgater, there’s plenty of fun to be had and you won’t want to ever forget it.

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