The Best Tailgating Gear for Game Time Fun

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Get ready for the big game or the big hunt – In style!

   09.16.21

The Best Tailgating Gear for Game Time Fun

Are you ready for some football? If you’re not picturing a bearded guy in a cowboy hat belting out that phrase at the top of his lungs, I’m not sure we can be friends. Seriously though, it is that time of year again, and what could be more of a fall classic thing than to tailgate with friends and family. Whether you’re headed to a football game, hockey game, figure skating tournament (hey don’t judge!), or you’re having a lunch break between duck hunts, tailgating is a rich tradition that many of us enjoy. Looking to take your tailgating to the next level? Here’s some of our picks for the best tailgating gear for game time fun.

Photo: Shutterstock/Hansen

1. Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner Camp Stove

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Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner Camp Stove

You’ve likely seen this one pop up in several articles recently, but with good cause. Camp Chef is simply put – the best way to cook outdoors. This two-burner stove pumps out 60,000BTUs and gives you flexibility with the various attachments from Camp Chef, letting you grill on one side with the BBQ box, and much more. It folds down and is pretty easy to carry and set up. Get the brats started and put on a pot of beans!

Pros/Versatile and easy to use

Cons/If you want to grill on it, you need to buy accessories to set it up

Bottom Line/A high-quality setup for cooking outside.

2. Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Grill

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Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Grill

Another way to cookout in the parking lot is to use one of Coleman’s RoadTrip grills. We’ve used these for a while now and know they do a great job of cooking up food on the go. This baby has three independently controlled burners delivering up to 20,000 BTUs of brat and burger grilling fun.

Pros/A quick and easy way to set up a propane grill wherever you need to cook

Cons/Small surface area and when cooking for a bigger group, it can slow down

Bottom Line/If you want to set up a sweet little grill to cook off burgers and brats before the game, or duing a lunch break, it’s hard to beat the Coleman

3. Polar Cap Equalizer 80-Quart Cooler

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Polar Cap Equalizer 80-Quart Cooler

A cooler is required equipment these days, and that goes for any outdoor activity. The injection-molded cooler craze is still in full swing, too, and with good reason. They flat out work to keep your stuff colder. There was some independent testing done of many of the top brands, including Cabela’s Polar Cap, and the Cap came out on top in terms of ice retention and durability. It has an outstanding insulation-to-weight ratio and a freezer-like seal to keep things secure. There is a pressure-relief valve to make opening the cooler easier and durable, molded-in handles make carrying it easier. The price point is really good for an 80-quart cooler with these features, making it a great choice for your tailgate adventures, hunting trips and much more.

Pros/80 quart size, price for performance

Cons/None really. It’s a great cooler

Bottom Line/One of the better injection-molded coolers you’ll find, easy to carry and keeps ice longer than most

4. Caravan Canopy Sports 10’x10′ Cirrus Slant Leg Canopy

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Caravan Canopy Sports 10'x10' Cirrus Slant Leg Canopy

A canopy is a great addition to your tailgating gear. It can serve as a sun shade, or a place to get out of the rain that often seems to hit when you’re waiting for the game to start. They also come in handy while hunting for the same reasons. This canopy comes in several colors, including a TrueTimber Strata camo version that looks great and lets everyone around you know that you’re a hunter, so the food is definitely going to be better at your party. It has adjustable slanted legs and a 10ft by 10ft coverage size.

Pros/Easy to set up and take down

Cons/No options for a side wall (that comes in handy when it’s windy)

Bottom Line/Protect your party from the sun and the rain, so you can keep it going

6. Competition Barbecue Rub

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Competition Barbecue Rub

If you’re cooking up some sweet BBQ for your tailgaters,  you need to dry rub your meat. Trust me on this. I used to slather on the sauce, then I tried this rub mix and was hooked. It’s easier to use and the taste is amazing. Works great with pork, chicken and even beef – like brisket. OK, now I’m hungry for BBQ on the grill.

Pros/Great BBQ flavor and easy to use

Cons/None

Bottom Line/Once you go rub…

7. Big Outdoorsman XL Fold-Up Chair

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Big Outdoorsman XL Fold-Up Chair

You’re going to need chairs if you’re going to tailgate, and this is one chair that everyone will end up fighting over. It’s comfortable and fits everyone. I have two and the competition to see who sits there is sometimes better than the game on the field. It’ll support up to 400 pounds and is made from extremely durable components. I’ve had mine for several years and they still look great.

Pros/Suer comfy and sturdy

Cons/The fight over who gets to sit in it can get ugly

Bottom Line/Regardless of your size, this is a comfortable, sturdy chair that will take a ton of abuse

Tailgate etiquette

There are rules to tailgating. No, they’re not set in stone, but you really don’t want to be “that guy.” Get along and show some class.

  1. If you’re not with the party, wait to be offered food or drink before you dive in.
  2. If you sit on the cooler, you’re going to have to get up. It’s the job of the cooler sitter to get up and not complain.
  3. Forget the body paint. Always. No one wants to see it and you look like a goofball. You’re welcome.
  4. Don’t be “Mr. Bag-O-Chips.” It’s common courtesy to bring a real dish to pass.
  5. The same goes for “Mr. Cheapo Beer.”
  6. Don’t brag about how good of a cook you are if you’re not the one doing the cooking.
  7. If you are a picky eater, stay home and watch the game on TV. No one has time for that.
  8. Help clean up when you’re all done.
  9. If someone has the Cabela’s Big Man chair, sit only when invited to and then get back up. Go buy your own now.
  10. Don’t complain about anything. You’re all there to have fun.
  11. Don’t be overly obnoxious – like if a Detroit Lions fan is there and starts talking about going to the Superbowl. We all know he’s wrong, but there’s no point making him feel bad about it.
  12. If a non-hunter starts complaining about the sweet elk sausage brats you made, remember – bruises can be used as evidence.

Remember, it’s all good fun. Enjoy your party and the game, or the hunt, or whatever you’re tailgating for.

Brats
MMMMmmmmmmmmmm
Photo: Shutterstock/Hofacker

Cooking the perfect brat

You want to be the hero of the tailgate party? The best way to do it to have the best tasting food and plenty of it to satisfy all your friends and family that are partying with you, as well as the stragglers that wander in. Here’s my recipe for the perfect tailgate party brat.

Start out with raw brats. I will either make my own using ingredients I know the source of, or I will buy brats, but you have to be picky. I usually go to a local butcher shop and place an order ahead of time. My preferred brat is fresh Canada goose breast, fresh Colby cheese and fresh pork. Grind it up and stuff those casings.

Brats

Cut up Vidalia onions and add them to beer in a pan, brining the whole concoction to a boil. Add the brats and cook them until they are 160-degrees. Use a meat thermometer to tell. From the boil, you finish them off on the grill and use the onions for relish. I’ve used a couple different kinds of beer for the boil. An interesting one is to use Angry Orchard hard apple cider. It makes for a sweet taste to the brats. The only downside is – you don’t get to drink it.

Why are they called tailgate parties?

According to the American Tailgater Association, the practice developed from the first college football game (Princeton vs Rutgers) in 1869. Spectators gathered to grill sausages at the “tail end” of a horse, giving rise to the name. Of course, the practice took on more meaning when trucks were invented and widely used, as party goes would find food, drinks and more on the truck’s tailgate.

Is the food free at a tailgate party?

Yes and no. Check the etiquette section above, but you can’t just waltz into a tailgate party and start munching. That’s bad manners and might even get you tossed. Generally, you should be invited in, or at least have a dish to pass.

About the Author

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Derrek Sigler has been a professional outdoor writer for more than two decades since earning his Master’s Degree in creative writing with a thesis about fishing humor. But if you ask anyone that knows him, he’s been telling fishin’ stories since he was old enough to hold a pole. He has written for Cabela’s and served as editorial director for Gun Digest books. Over the years, he has also written for Petersen’s Hunting, North American Whitetail Magazine, Wildfowl, Grand View Media, and has worked with Bass Pro Shops, Hard Core Brands and Bone Collector. Successful Farming had him write for their magazine and he has appeared on their TV show to discuss hunting and ATVs on multiple occasions. He writes about the things he loves – hunting, fishing, camping, trucks, ATVs, boating, snowmobiles and the outdoor lifestyle he enjoys with his family in their home state of Michigan and more as they adventure around North America.

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