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September is a time of transformation. Maybe it’s a pivot from shorts and tees to flannels, cords and denim, or the nearly involuntary embrace of pumpkin spice and maple in our favorite food and beverages (we’re looking at you pumpkin beer). But perhaps, most importantly for NFL fans, football season finally kicks off across the country. Though the days of suiting up and hitting the field are probably long over, tailgating with friends, family and fellow enthusiasts is more likely part of the game plan.
Before taking to the parking lot, you’re going to need a few essentials beyond those rugged coolers and versatile camping chairs already in your arsenal. To help you up your tailgating game, we rounded up our favorite must-haves to elevate your pre-game experience. Below, find the essential gear we recommend for Saturdays at your alma mater or Sundays outside the stadium. Because, ahem, are you ready for some football?
The Best Tailgating Gear
Grab some shade in the parking lot or stay out of the rain with ABCCanopy’s Pop-Up Canopy Tent. The sunshade comes in various sizes for groups large and small but only requires two people to set it up — in seconds flat. Choose from a variety of colors to represent your team, then wheel it around with the included roller bag for easy transport to and from the big game.
No tailgate is complete without a cooler, so you might as well invest in one that can dominate on game-day. Featuring 65 liters of space and room for 42 cans of cold brews (using Yeti’s 2:1 ice-to-can ratio), the Tundra 65 really is the best of the best. From the draining system that dumps melted ice after the game to the durable exterior that acts as a makeshift seat, stop weighing your options and just get a Yeti, already.
This portable grill from PK has a trick up its sleeve. Though it serves as a conventional charcoal grill, the design uses PK’s FlipKit to recruit both the top and bottom of the grill for double the grilling surface. Though it may not boast countless burners nor excessive BTUs, the compact system is incredibly mobile and fully capable of stirring up some excellent pre-game grub.
Ditch the chairs you typically bring to the kids soccer games and invest in one the whole crew can enjoy. This zero-gravity chair, from Caravan Sports, features a double-bungee system to suspend you within its durable steel frame — and it supports up to 300 pounds. Unlike conventional lawn chairs, it also reclines, locks in place and folds down for easy transport. Kick back with a cold one or rest up knowing you’ll soon be on your feet for hours, cheering on your team. PS: you’ll also blow away those parents at the soccer game.
Unless you’ve placed a preorder for the highly anticipated Ford F-150 Lightning, you’ll need a way to keep power on hand for gameday. This 2,200-watt, gasoline-powered generator is refreshingly quiet and incredibly portable, weighing less than 50 pounds. The fuel-efficient throttle system adjusts engine speed based on the usage load, and Honda’s My Generator app lets you control everything from your phone.
We all prefer using plastic flatware on gameday for obvious reasons, but single-use plastics wreak havoc on the environment. Ditch the dainty utensils and designate this flatware set from Barebones as your go-to cutlery collection for tailgates. The stainless steel knives, forks and spoons are suitable for outdoor use and look tougher than your team’s defensive line in the matte finish. Pair the set with Coleman’s enamel dinnerware to round out your collection of reusable goods.
Center-folding plastic tables are no match for the Bills Mafia (stay alert if you’re heading to Highmark Stadium), but you should still get one anyway. They’re cheap, easy to move and essential for feeding everyone at the tailgate. This Cosco model has a five-year limited warranty, but don’t expect it to cover table slams.
If the JBL Flip 5 looks familiar, that’s because you’ve probably seen it before. It’s the same portable speaker found at many barbecue and beach gatherings, which is why we recommend it for its size, playback time and durability. Use JBL’s PartyBoost mode to daisy-chain multiple speakers together for a stereo-like sound that’s sure to draw a crowd.
Though we prefer using the Looft Lighter whenever possible, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a power source at the game. For that reason, we also pack the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter. Simply fill the container with charcoal, light the base with fire starters and wait for the fuel to catch before dumping it into your grill. The process takes only 20 minutes from start to finish, giving you enough time to prepare your grill fare while your briquettes heat up.
Let’s be honest, pouring a can of cheap beer into an insulated cup sounds great in theory, but you’re probably too lazy to go through with it (we sure are). That’s where RTIC’s Insulated Can Koozie comes in handy. The design allows you to place your favorite tallboy inside, just as you would with a traditional koozie, but here it stays cold for up to 24 hours. Pair it with the 12-ounce Can Cooler that’s equally durable.
It’s probably the last piece of gear you’d think to pack for a tailgate, but accessible outlets aren’t exactly common in a parking lot. To power up your equipment, we recommend Voltec’s 50-Foot Extension Cord for its durable design, power capacity and value. One end also features an integrated locking mechanism, ensuring the cord stays attached to whatever equipment you’re using.
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