Top Tailgating Essentials

Tailgate Party PhotosWhen it’s time to tailgate at the big game, I know as well as anyone that you’ve got to have the right gear. We’re huge sports fans in my house, and nothing will take the wind out of your sails like showing up without the proper tailgating accessories.

Now, you might think that you’ve already got all the gear you need, but let me tell you, times have changed. I remember when a tailgate party just meant some cans of your favorite beverage, but these days, folks have taken tailgating to a whole new level. My family always wants to have the coolest tailgate party in the parking lot, and that means keeping up with the latest innovations. If you do it right, trust me, you’ll end up having more fun at the party than ever before.

What I want to do today is share with you what I’ve learned over the years, because I think our household has figured out all the vital pieces of the modern tailgate-party puzzle. Here are my top tailgating essentials that make every game a win for your crew.


Need I say more? Cold beverages are the foundation of any great tailgate party, and you’ve got to keep them cold for the whole game. Plus, you need to bring more than enough for everyone involved. So get a big old cooler, fill it with ice, and keep it stocked with your favorite libations. That’s Job No. 1.


Arguably just as important as the cooler — well, let’s go with “almost” — is the portable grill. You can get all sorts of newfangled grills nowdays, but if you ask me, why mess with success? Just pick up a standard portable grill and a bag of charcoal, and you’ll get great taste and reliable performance, time after time.


This one’s for when you’re ready to take your tailgating game to the highest level. Anyone can bring a cooler and a grill, but it takes true dedication to bring your own portable generator, too. With a generator, you can power all sorts of handy appliances (including the final two items on this list), and some of the newer ones even have USB connectivity for recharging electronics. You’re in the tailgating big leagues when you show up with one of these.


If you don’t want to go with a full-blown generator, consider an inverter, which (if you haven’t heard) is a nifty device that uses your car’s battery power to provide auxiliary power with household-style three-prong outlets. The downside is that if you don’t turn your engine on, you’ll drain your battery after a while — and if you do turn your engine on, the tailgaters might take a bit too much exhaust smoke to the face. But if you think you’ll only need electrical current occasionally at your tailgate parties, an inverter could be a perfect solution. It’s tiny relative to a generator, and it’s just the thing if partiers may need to plug in for short periods.


The bottles and cans in your cooler are all well and good, but imagine the possibilities if you had a blender, too. You’ve already got ice in the cooler, after all; how about some margaritas for the adults and smoothies for the kids? Plug it into your generator/inverter and you’re good to go. Warning: you might get some unwanted attention from neighboring parties wishing they had a blender of their own.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

Can you imagine a tailgate party without the Internet? I can, of course, because that’s the only kind we used to have! But I know we’re all spoiled today with our phones and iPads and what-have-you, and the best way to ensure that everyone can connect is to bring along a portable wi-fi hotspot. You can find a nice selection at Best Buy, for example, and they’re more or less giving them away if you sign up for a monthly plan. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone that doubles as a hotspot (check with your provider), you’ve already got a solution in your pocket.


You’re potentially solving two problems with this generator/inverter-powered machine. First, the games aren’t always exciting from start to finish, so napping partygoers can be a common sight. A cup of joe could be just the thing to help them stay alert. Second, tailgating season stretches through the winter months, and not everyone comes prepared with their subzero jackets and gloves. If you’re not already the most popular tailgater in town, you’re going to be when your friends find out you’re serving piping hot coffee on demand.

Your Turn

I know I’m not the only seasoned tailgater around these parts. What are your top tailgating essentials that I didn’t mention? Let’s hear about them in the comments.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for a top selection of generators and inverters, plus the essential parts to help get you to the game.

Tailgating: big-league style!

Advance Auto PartsIf you’re like my family and me, we’ll be catching that big game nowhere near that sold-out stadium in Louisiana. Instead, we’ll be letting the good times roll in our own way. A few hours before those teams from San Francisco and Baltimore start tossing around that pigskin, we’ll pack up all of our tailgating gear, tailgating food and any other essential tailgate accessories and head to the park by the lake here in town. Once there, we’ll most definitely run into other neighbors who also have serious cases of tailgate on the mind. Welcome to our annual mid-winter gathering of tailgaters who love, love, love football.

But before the tailgate festivities can happen, we all make sure we have plenty of power generators and propane generators on hand. They’ll be giving life to the laptops that’ll be streaming the game live online. Plus, these power generators and propane generators will be fueling the grills, portable outdoor heaters and the appliances that will keep the food and drink warm and plentiful during what we hope will be a mild winter day. I can’t begin to tell you what a great and handy invention these power generators are. We found ours online at a pretty sweet savings deal. I like that this combination power generator does double duty as both a jump starter and portable power unit.

So while the techno-geeks among us set up the game-viewing area with the laptops, auxiliary monitors and power generators (the propane generators had another task), the kids get assigned the task of fanning out the tailgate furniture: foldout seats, tables and canopy or two. That leaves the cooks among us organizing our impromptu outdoor tailgate kitchen.

The power generators and propane generators are switched on and tailgate game-day grub is the name of the game. The park air is soon filled with the traditional aromas of easy tailgating recipes: chicken wings, chili, nachos, potato skins, sloppy joes, appetizers. I always like to throw in a non-traditional entrée to make things interesting. This year, I thought I’d honor the two top teams by firing up my power generator and getting my grill good and hot to heat up the pre-barbecued — and mostly rare — meat for Baltimore’s beloved pit beef sandwiches.

But instead of using the traditional Kaiser roll, I’ll be slicing up loaves of, what else? One of San Francisco’s culinary claims to fame: that super sourdough bread. My business partner (we run a little foodie catering business when I’m not musing about DIY) got her portable propane generator going and soon her stovetop had a pot filled with another SF staple: cioppino seafood stew, while her power generator kept her portable oven busy with mounds of Maryland crabcakes!

We’ll cheer the plays, we’ll reach for another serving of our favorite dishes from those easy tailgating recipes, and we’ll all be glad we didn’t offer to host this party at our own home. Just a quick clean up of our park “living room” and “kitchen”, pack in our tailgating gear, and call it another year until we meet again with our power generators, propane generators and other tailgating gear.

New Orleans may have their beignets, gumbo and jambalaya, but for our big game Sunday, nothing beats all that our tailgate parties have come to symbolize for us all these years.

Editor’s note: While the powers that be at said Big Game prohibit businesses from directly referencing their prized namesake, Advance Auto Parts can still offer you Super Savings on accessories, supplies and more, to get your tailgating party going in high style.