Now that tailgating season is officially on (wait, did it ever end?), there’s no better way to indulge than at a perfectly planned pregame, stadium-side picnic with family, friends and random folks who feel like long-lost brethren after however many rounds of ribs and beer pong. And, sure, you could just grab some dogs ’n’ buns, borrow your neighbor’s portable grill, smear on a little face paint and throw a bucket of beanbags in the trunk. But America’s favorite parking lot party is, at its best, so much more than that. Here’s a quick play-by-play of the essentials you need to tailgate like a pro.The Seating
Tailgating furniture needs to be portable and comfy, which is why we love Instant Tailgate’s Captain’s Chair. It comes in a compact bag and inflates in under a minute into a cushy-but-durable nylon armchair with dual cup holders.
$99, www.instanttailgate.comThe Grill
Blacktop 360’s Party Hub Grill Fryer bagged a National Hardware Show Retailers’ Choice Award and a Best Tailgating Product nod for its no-nonsense 24,000 BTUs of cooking power and multitasking design (you can simultaneously grill, griddle, fry and deep-fry). It handles anything from burgers and dogs to eggs and pancakes.
$250, www.blacktop360.comThe Sound System
Music enlivens any party, and for tailgating, it also drowns out the inevitably bad tunes playing
at your neighbor’s encampment. Ion Audio’s Tailgater AM/FM Compact Speaker System
for iPhone and iPod provides solid, portable sound with two-way speakers, multiple audio inputs, an iPod/iPhone dock and a radio function so you can tune into the game if you decide to stick
to the parking lot.
$170, www.ionaudio.comThe Cooler
No three elements of tailgating are more important than cold drinks, low exertion and hilarious novelty, which is why you need the Cruzin Cooler. It keeps brewskis chilled and can carry you and your beer at a mean 13 mph (perfect for visiting neighboring tailgates).
$350 to $1,400, www.cruzincooler.comThe Entertainment
Tailgating games occupy their own sporty world of beanbags, washers and the like. New to the league, though, is Basketpong, a 2012 National Hardware Show “Best New Tailgate Game” winner. Quickly (and easily) assemble the portable backboard, pole and base;
insert rim cups and — presto — basketball meets pingpong.
$99 to $180, www.basketpong.com
TipsAppoint a Tailgating Chief & Know Your Venue
Don’t be fooled by the laissez-faire, Woodstock-at-Qualcomm vibe. “Tailgates can get messy when there are too many people in charge,” says Stacey Moore, managing director of Inside Tailgating, a resource for all facets of the tailgating lifestyle. Go with one primary organizer, delegate tasks to the rest of the group and — this is important — vet the venue. Most facilities have rules (like no charcoal grills and no glass bottles), which they post under designated tailgating sections on their websites.Drinks: Two Cardinal Rules & One No-Brainer
1) Regardless of whatever else you’re drinking, bring lots of water to stay hydrated.
2) When in doubt, go with the larger ice chest. “It’s definitely better to run out of food than beverages,” says Moore.
3) If you can’t find a designated driver, you’re it. ’Nuff said.