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Tailgating and football seem to go hand in hand. If you drive through a college football stadium parking lot on game day, then you’ll be able to see people with their grills out flipping burgers and roasting hotdogs.

Some people get more elaborate and break out their smokers to make barbeque chicken, ribs, or brisket. If you’re considering tailgating before the big game, here are some things you will need for your tailgate toolbox.

Food Decisions

Before getting too far into planning what you need to take with you to the game, you need to decide what type of food you want to make. This decision will influence the equipment and supplies that you’re going need to take with you.

If you’re meeting up with friends, then your group may want to consider a potluck to ensure there are different types of food available for everyone and not just meat. So, if it’s your turn to bring the potato salad, then you won’t need to bring a grill or cook stove unless you’re making it onsite.

If you’re tailgating with only your family, then you will need to consider what type of equipment to pack to prepare the food your crew will want to eat. While you don’t want to bring every piece of outdoor equipment you own, there is some tailgating gear you cannot do without.

Tailgate Cooler

One essential piece of tailgating equipment is a good cooler. Whether you’re bringing beverages for the entire gang, or you need the sides to stay cool, a sturdy cooler is a must. Forget the cheap Styrofoam coolers and invest in a hard plastic or metal insulated cooler, so the ice remains solid.

Cooler sizes come in quart measurements, so when shopping for one, you will see 48, 50, 100-quart coolers or larger. Anything over 100 quarts is considered an extra-large cooler. Most 50-quart coolers will hold about 70 cans of soda or beer, which is about six 12 packs.

You should consider getting a cooler for beverages and another one to keep the food you’re preparing or bringing with you cool. Having two coolers will prevent cross-contamination issues, especially if you’re taking foods like raw chicken to grill or smoke.

Grill or Smoker

If you’re going to smoke meat at your tailgate party, then you will need to get to the parking lot early. For a slab of pork ribs, it takes about four hours, or more, to properly smoke them on a charcoal smoker. You will need to allow for enough time to ensure the food is properly done before serving it.

Along with the smoker, or grill, you will need some tailgating essentials like grill tools to handle the meat to keep from burning yourself. You’ll also need a meat thermometer to help tell you when the meat is done and a regular thermometer to ensure the grill or smoker is hot enough on which to cook if the grill or smoker doesn’t have one.

If you’re a tailgate newbie, research cooking times and temperatures for the food you’re preparing. It will prevent serving raw food and making people sick at the game.  

Table and Chairs

Unless you’re driving an RV or towing a trailer, you’ll want to bring a portable table and chairs, so there is a place to sit and eat. Fortunately, many folding tables and chairs on the market take up little space in most vehicles. You can even find an aluminum table that folds down into the size of a briefcase.

To show off your team pride, you can purchase nylon camping chairs in your team’s colors or with their logo that fold into a bag. Most of them are sturdy enough to hold almost anyone, and they are comfortable.

Of course, you can find more elaborate folding chairs with padding, that recline, and with beverage holders to bring with you. Read this short guide to help you choose the best chairs for your next tailgate party.

Tailgating Supplies

Among the items, you’ll want to consider for your tailgate toolbox is shade for sunny days and blankets for when the weather starts to get colder.

Portable Canopies

A portable canopy to provide shade for the food table can keep the sun from beating down on it and warming food that needs to be served cold. There are many sizes of folding canopies, with 10’x10’ or 12’x12’ being common sizes.

Some canopies come with windscreens or netting to prevent insects from buzzing around the food. Since they are available many colors, you can choose the same colors as your team or a bright color to make it easier to find your vehicle in a crowded parking lot.

Portable Heaters

As the temperatures drop, you’ll want to bring something that will help everyone stay warm. An investment in a portable heater will help keep your family and friends from freezing. Although some portable heaters run on electricity, there are portable camping heaters that run on propane.

A propane heater can put out up to 9,000 BTUs, so your area should be nice and warm on game days in late fall and early winter. Along with a portable heater, bring hand warmers and plush blankets to keep everyone cozy while enjoying the game inside the stadium.

Tableware

There is a wide variety of plastic tableware available for camping, tailgating, and other outdoor activities. For instance, if you like drinking wine instead of beer, you can buy a set of plastic wine goblets that look like an adult sippy cups. The goblet is inside of a clear plastic glass with a top, so you don’t need to worry about spills while having a good time.

Inside of using paper plates and flimsy plastic utensils, be environmentally friendly and bring reusable tableware and flatware. No, you don’t need to bring your old china because there are plastic tableware options that look like china.

While many of the plastic options are disposable, you can go to a local party or discount store to find reusable tableware. Consider plastic plates with compartments to keep foods separate, so they don’t mix. Not everyone enjoys a combination of coleslaw and cake.

Other important supplies will include:

  • Condiments, especially barbeque sauce.
  • Seasonings for cooking.
  • Disposable cups.
  • Trash bags.
  • Napkins, paper towels, and/or baby wipes with which to clean faces.

Entertainment for Tailgating

When you arrive early to set up your grill or smoker, you may get bored while waiting for the food to cook, especially if you’re the first of your group to arrive. Although music or games are not tailgating necessities, they can help pass the time until the rest of your party shows up.

Bring a Boombox

Of course, the “boombox” term may be a little old school, but you can listen to the pre-game shows or music while you’re toiling away in front of the grill. Instead of running down the battery in your vehicle, bring a portable stereo or a Bluetooth speaker to tune into your favorite radio channels, play downloaded music, or podcasts.

Hook Up a Television

There are some people who attend tailgates who don’t go inside of the stadium to watch the game. While some people may not have been able to score tickets to the game, others prefer the close-up views from a television. So, if you want to watch from the parking lot, bring a television for those in your group not attending the game.

Play Cornhole

If you have the room in your area, break out a cornhole board. It is a game both adults and kids can play because the object of it is easy. All you need to do is toss a beanbag in a hole on the game board. It can keep the younger attendees occupied while you cook or clean up after eating.

Play Trivia

There are many trivia game themes, including an NFL trivia game that most guys may like to play while tailgating. They can discuss the facts and statistics that come up in the questions and answers and learn new things about their favorite players.

Break Out the Cards

If you don’t have room for tossing or throwing games, break out a deck of playing cards and set up a poker game. Bring Uno or Skipbo cards for the kids or for those who don’t like playing poker. The card games will help pass the time until the food is done and the game starts.

Make New Friends

If you’re out in the parking lot early to set up your grill or smoker, chances are, you won’t be alone. Meet some of the other tailgaters and make new friends among the regular attendees. You can swap stories about the games you’ve seen or exchange recipes and tailgating tips.

Tailgating is as American as apple pie and a fun way to hang out with friends going to the game with you. By bringing these tailgate toolbox items, you can enjoy a delicious meal and have fun before the game kicks off.  

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