College football and the NFL are huge moneymakers. But fans and businesses also now want a piece of the beer- and brat-fueled fellowship that goes down in the parking lot.
Before the competition gets underway on the field, the tailgate party is where fans go for camaraderie — and to trot out the latest in game-day gadgetry.
“I think people like to one-up each other,” said Stacey Moore, director of Inside Tailgating, a digital publication that covers all aspects of the tailgating lifestyle. “You’ve got to have something new each year to kind of show off at your tailgate.”
Just as fan allegiances vary, so too do the interests of tailgaters. Some are just there to enjoy the party. But for others, it’s all about the food, gadgets or showing off the freshest team apparel.
So which kind of tailgater are you? And what do you need to take your tailgate to the next level?
Here’s a look at some of the best gear available for tailgaters across the spectrum.
Whether their team is winless or undefeated, some fans will always show up to tailgate. But for them, only a product that has it all will suffice — food preparation capability, flat-screen TVs, and easy access to cold beverages.
It’s these fans that Towable Tailgates has in mind.
It started as a way for Jason Green and his business partner, Joshua Daniel, to transport tailgating supplies. The pair built their first tailgate trailer in 2008 to take to games at the University of Georgia. Soon, friends were asking, “Hey, where can I get one of those?”
“We decided that after the season, we’d put up a little website and see if anyone wanted to buy them,” Green said.
Towable Tailgates now builds around 70 tailgate trailers each year, decked out with TVs, grills and just about anything else you can imagine — from LED party lighting to a full wet bar.
“Pretty much if you name it, we can put it in a trailer,” Green said.
For hardcore tailgaters who want to go to the games with all the comforts of their “man cave,” Moore and Inside Tailgating recommend the Airstream Interstate Lounge EXT, complete with high-definition TV, lounge seating and a full bathroom.
The parking lot chef
No pregame festivity is complete without food. And for home cooks and grill masters, football tailgates are the ultimate stage — a place to showcase recipes and cooking equipment.
Since tailgating is typically an outdoor activity, the best game-day cooks are well-versed in the art of grilling and smoking.
Regardless of what you’re throwing on the grill, you’ll want to be cooking on the best. For that, Moore recommends the folks at BQ Grills, who offer a variety of towable grills, smokers and custom-built units to suit the needs of serious chefs.
Even for the most experienced grill masters, cooking for a crowd at a tailgate can be distracting. But technology can help: Remote thermometers and apps like Weber’s iGrill let cooks monitor the temperature of food on the grill from a smartphone, ensuring your game-day grub is smoked or seared to perfection.
‘I’m just here for the party’
We all know a few of these guys or gals — or perhaps you are one. They emphasize the “party” in tailgate party, and take a serious interest in ensuring that nobody is ever far from a cold beverage.
But true party animals cannot be expected to stay at one tailgate, and traveling from place to place lugging around a cooler can be exhausting.
So, why not take a seat on your cooler and let it take you to your next destination? For the party-goer on the move, Moore recommends Crazy Coolers’ motorized coolers as the vehicle of choice. And should your search for the next party take you off-road, Crazy Coolers’ all-terrain wheels and suspension lets you tackle rough terrain with confidence.
Warm drinks can ruin a good time, but if you forgot to put beverages on ice before the tailgate, you’re in luck. Using a bit of science, the SpinChill claims it can cool your drinks 20 times faster than a traditional cooler. Simply clip it to the top of a can or bottle, lay it on ice, and watch it spin and cool your drink in minutes.
While some fans live for the big game, others see the tailgate as a personal fashion runway — a chance to impress others with the latest team gear. For stylish tailgaters, there is no shortage of options.
As the NFL Playoffs kickoff, fashionable tailgaters will want to get their hands on Dooney Bourke’s newest line of handbags and accessories, featuring logos of your favorite NFL teams.
And of course, sites like FansEdge and Fanatics have apparel and accessories for fans of any team.
‘Hey — recycle that!’
When surrounded by friends and great food, it’s easy to enjoy tailgating. But between the energy needed to power gadgets and the amount of trash they produce, tailgates are not so easy on the environment.
Thanks to new products, tailgaters who care about their team and Mother Nature can have fun in good conscience.
The Swedes have invented a product called the Looftlighter, which uses superheated air to spark your charcoal grill in seconds, eliminating the need for nasty lighter fluid. If you need a generator to power your tailgate, check out Goal Zero’s solar-powered options to energize the party.
And to cut down on waste, “Inside Tailgating” recommends Aardvark’s durable and biodegradable straws. And The Great Plate is a reusable way to hold your food and drinks.