How to prepare for tailgating season

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The following is a guest article by Joe Pawlikowski.

Tailgating in October 2007. Photo by Karin Dalziel.
Photo by Karin Dalziel. Licensed CC BY 2.0.

Sure, football season is underway, and for many of us that means five months of having our Sundays spoken for. It's just us, the couch, some brews. But for others, the more diehard among us, football season is secondary. For that rugged crew it's tailgating season. It's an experience that simply cannot be beat. It's not just the party before the main event. It's a downright extension of the main event.

If you're planning to tailgate this football season, you'll want to come prepared. There's nothing worse than showing up with a rinky dink outfit and seeing all the true diehards around you living it up. If you plan to just bring a small portable grill, forget it. You need plenty more to set up for a real tailgate. So let's start from the beginning.

More Power

Nothing brings a tailgate from good to great quite like a little electricity. That's likely in scarce supply, since you're sitting in the middle of a parking lot. But fret not. Seasoned tailgaters know that their greatest tool is a portable generator. You probably don't need to drop even a grand on one of these. You'll run a few gadgets off them, but not too too much. So what runs on the generator?

The boob tube. TV at a tailgate? Surely I must be joking. But I'm not. In the past I questioned friends who brought TVs along to tailgates. But you know what? This isn't roughing it in the woods. If you're there for a late game and the early games are on TV, you and your friends will want to watch. Just make sure you've got rabbit ears or some way of getting reception in the parking lot.

Electric heater. It can get mighty cold during football season, and depending on where you live it might get cold early. I had a friend with Jets season tickets who spent the last two tailgates in his car with the heat turned on, it was so frigid outside. You can find decent electric heaters for a good price. You might not want to spend too much money on one anyway, since you don't want it eating too much of your generator juice.

Grill backup. In case the propane runs out and you have one of those hybrid grills.

Phone charging. You wouldn't buy a generator just to charge your phone, but sure is a nice benefit.

Cooking With Heat

When it comes to buying a portable grill, go big. Don't buy something small and then realize that you don't have enough room to cook for everyone, or that you don't have enough power to cook food properly. With any small grill you're already working with a disadvantage. Don't worsen it by going small and cheap with the grill. If you need to make sacrifices to your tailgate arsenal, do not skimp on this. Make sure it can fit at least four hamburger patties and our dogs, and has as many BTUs as you can find.

The Setup

Here's another item I never thought necessary, but proved useful. There's just something about a canopy that completes the tailgate. It marks your territory, for one. It also gives you a place to lay the food out of the sun. You don't want or need anything too large, so you can go relatively cheap with the canopy and get all the intended effects. Trust me, you will not regret the decision. You also want to grab a couple of folding tables, so that you have a place to lay the food.


While these are the big items in any tailgate repertoire, there are plenty of other items you'll need to remember for your weekly cookout.

  • A football. Because, duh.
  • Camping chairs. They're foldable and reasonably comfortable.
  • Paper plates and plastic cups. Most places won't let you just carry around a beer, so you'll need to dump it in a cup.
  • Cooler. Again, duh.
  • Sunglasses. Another personal caution. It gets bright when the sun reflects off all the cars around you.

There you have it. Think you're ready to tailgate with the big boys this season? Then have at it. Tailgating is an equal opportunity sport. Just make sure you bring the right equipment and the world is your oyster.

Joe Pawlikowski writes the Yankees blog River Avenue Blues. He does penance during football season by rooting for the Jets.