When 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.
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.
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.