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What to Bring to an NFL Tailgate?

What to Bring to an NFL Tailgate?

Whether you’re a casual fan or a diehard football one, attending a tailgate before the big game can be one of the most fun and memorable experiences. From hanging out with likeminded fans to awaiting the start of the game to basking in the smells of hamburgers and hotdogs roasting over a hot grill.

However, for many less experienced tailgaters, the experience can be a daunting one. That’s why, below, we are going to not only review what to bring to an NFL tailgate, but also review just how to tailgate properly.

What is Tailgating?

Tailgating, or a tailgate party, is generally a social event both on and around an open car tailgate. Generally involving the consumption of snacks, barbecue, and various beverages, tailgate parties typically occur near or around a sporting stadium.

However, as tailgating has become more popular, many tailgaters will do so without a tailgate attached to their vehicle. Rather, for many fans, being able to bring portable appliances, grills, and chairs allows them to enjoy the revelry before the start of the game.

And, particularly in the United States, where many stadiums are adjoined by equally large parking lots, many tailgaters will simply arrive to the stadium many hours ahead of the scheduled game to allow for ample time to barbecue, drink, and party before the start of the game.

However, no two tailgates are exactly the same. That is, a tailgate does not need to follow a strict guideline or frame of reference. Rather, due to the informal nature of tailgating, tailgaters are encouraged to personalize and customize the tailgate to their liking and to their preference.

Lastly, and again due to the informal nature of a tailgate, common interests and fandom for the team generally dictates a warm and hospitable environment. That is, when tailgating, expect to interact and party with fellow tailgaters and don’t be shy to introduce yourself to other tailgaters, all of whom are there looking to enjoy themselves and look forward to the teams success.

Things to Know Before Heading Out to a Tailgate

While tailgating can be tons of fun and an unforgettable experience, there are a few general rules and pieces of advice that can make the experience all the more fun. By following these general rules, you’ll have a more enjoyable time and will be able to reminisce on the fun for years to come.

  • Arrive Early – tailgaters are famous for arriving to the tailgating location early. Providing themselves with ample time to get situated, start grilling, and to find parking spaces, you should plan to arrive to the tailgate location a minimum of three hours before the start of the NFL game.
  • Purchase Tickets – for many NFL stadiums, tailgates will be housed and spaced in a specific location near the arena. However, due to the popularity of tailgating, many NFL teams will charge a small fee for entrance into the tailgating location. Be sure to lookup your specific team’s rules, locations, and prices beforehand.
  • Find The Location Beforehand – similarly, many NFL team’s will house the tailgaters in a specific location either within the parking lot or in a nearby one. It is recommended to confirm the location before the day of the event so that you can plan accordingly.
  • Organize and Prepare Your Items – no tailgate can be complete without a few essential items. And whether you’re bringing a portable grill, a canopy tent, or campfire chairs, you should prepare all the items a day before so that you are ready to leave the morning of.
  • Prepare as Much as You Can at Home – whether you’re planning to grill steaks, burgers, or chicken, you should prepare and refrigerate those items the day before. Doing so will make the grilling process much easier and will also allow for sufficient time for the meat to soak in the juice and sauces.
  • Leave No Trace – a common theme in the camping world, you should leave no trace after you depart from the tailgate. That means, be sure to clean up after yourself and other tailgaters around you.

Preparing For a Tailgate

Before you can head out to a tailgate, whether one for any NFL or college football team, it is important to be fully prepared for the tailgate. And while tailgating can be tons of fun, being ill-prepared can dampen the fun and ruin an otherwise memorable experience.

For starters, as tailgating requires bringing a ton of equipment with you to the parking lot or tailgating location, you should ensure that you have a car or vehicle large enough to house all the items. Ideally, having an SUV or pick-up truck will help in transporting, loading, and unloading all the items you plan to bring along.

Further, as tailgating tends to be a lifelong hobby, we highly recommend creating and dedicating a space within your house or garage to keep all the tailgate items organized. A simple, cordoned off area or space within your home or garage should suffice and will allow you to more easily remain prepared and organized for your next tailgate.

Lastly, be sure to always check the weather and traffic conditions before leaving the house. Understanding the weather and traffic conditions will not only help you to prepare for the tailgate but will also ensure you are dressed appropriately and provide yourself a sufficient amount of time to arrive to the tailgate location.

Items to Bring to an NFL Tailgate

Below, we are going to review the full list of items you can bring to a tailgate. And while some of these items are necessary, many of them are simply nice-to-have. As such, we will identify items you should absolutely bring along and items which are simply good to have.

Again, there are no specific rules on how to run or organize a tailgate and you can personalize the experience to suit your own needs. However, if you would like some guidance, feel free to use the below list.

Basic Items

  • Team Apparel – a nice-to-have item, team apparel isn’t necessarily required, but you will definitely feel more in-tune with the rest of the crowd by wearing your team’s colors and apparel. And while an NFL jersey is a popular choice, they can be prohibitively expensive for many. Rather, consider an officially licensed NFL apparel item to save on costs.
  • NFL Team Cap – similarly, and especially if the weather calls for a warmer day, consider bringing along an NFL themed cap. Doing so will not only help to keep your face protected from the beating sun but will also further help you to showcase your team’s fandom.
  • NFL Team Canopy Tent – further, a canopy tent will help to shield you and your friends from the elements. There are a plethora of available options, but we always stick with our specific NFL team’s themed one.
  • NFL Themed Camp Chairs – arriving to the tailgate hours before the start of the game will definitely leave your feet and legs sore and tired. As such, be sure to bring along some team themed camp chairs to help relieve some pressure off your feet.
  • NFL Team Themed Table(s) – if you’re planning on serving food, be sure to bring along some portable tables. Doing so will not only help to make eating even easier, but can also double as a serving table to place all your food and drink items on.
  • Coolers – no tailgate is complete without a proper cooler. Useful for keeping your food, drink, and snacks cool and cold, a capable cooler is a must. And while there are a ton of options available, we personally love and use our YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler.
  • Ice and Ice Packs – with a cooler, you will need to fill it with both ice and ice packs. Easily available at a nearby supermarket or gas station, filling your cooler with ice will keep your items cool and cold throughout the day and while you’re at the tailgate.
  • First Aid Kit – we’ve previously discussed the importance of bringing and carrying a first aid kit with you while camping and the same holds true while tailgating. And while we hope you won’t need to use one, it is better to be prepared. Personally, we are huge fans of the Homestock+ First Aid Kit.  Well-stocked with the most important and necessary items, the Homestock+ First Aid Kit contains a plethora of supplies, each labeled in individualized compartments.  In addition, each supply contains a user-guide, providing you with comprehensive instructions for each item and how to properly use.

Food Items

  • Portable Grill – no tailgate is complete without grilled burgers and hotdogs. And as you will be traveling to the tailgate location, you will need a portable grill to get your grill on. We personally love the Coleman RoadTrip 225 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill. Light and extremely portable, you will be able to get your grilling done in style and efficiently.
  • Propane Tank – also available at any nearby supermarket or gas station, a propane tank will be needed to light your grill.
  • Grill Tools – with a portable grill, you will need grilling tools. Personally, we like to keep our home and tailgate tools separate and love this Cuisinart Portable Grill Set. A 20-piece set, you’ll be able to easily and efficiently bring along all necessary tools to your next tailgate.
  • Grilling Mitts – likewise, while handling hot food and over a live fire, it’s important to do so with a grilling mitt. If you want to further showcase your team’s fandom, consider purchasing an NFL team specific themed grill mitt.
  • Disposable Utensils, Cups, and Napkins – we’re fans of all-in-one sets and with this 175 piece set, you’ll get disposable plates, utensils, cups, and napkins all in one. Perfect for tailgating and affordable, we’ve used this set multiple times and have never had any issues with the items provided.
  • Food and Drink – there’s really no right or wrong answer here. Whatever your dietary restrictions or preferences, be sure to bring a good supply of food and drink items to the tailgate. And while most fans and tailgaters will bring burgers and hotdogs, feel free to mix it up and try to bring unique and new items.
  • Condiments – likewise, if you are making burgers and hotdogs, don’t forget the condiments. We love this Grab-n-Go Condiments Pack, which provides 50 single serve pouches of ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish.
  • Snacks – while tailgating, snacks are an absolute must. From chips and crackers, to popcorn and candy, to beef jerky and trail mix, be sure to bring a sufficient amount as you’ll likely be snacking throughout the tailgate.
  • Water – while you’re likely to bring other drink options, don’t forget to bring a case or two of water. It’s important to remain hydrated, particularly on warmer days.

Clean Up, Leftovers, and Cleanliness

While tailgating is tons of fun, it can also be quite messy. As such, be sure to bring along the following items to help keep things, and yourself, clean and mess-free.

  • Plastic Containers – perfect for leftovers, we love this 50-pack which is large enough to hold most leftover food items from the tailgate.
  • Paper Towels – likewise, for cleanup and messes, paper towels are an absolute must.
  • Hand Sanitizer – a quick way to keep your hands clean and germ-free, be sure to bring along some hand sanitizer.
  • Wet Wipes – for bigger messes, having wet wipes on hand will help make cleanup both easier and faster.
  • Garbage Bags – lastly, with thousands of fans at a tailgate, finding an empty trash can may be difficult. Be sure to bring along some garbage bags to quickly and easily dispose of food and trash items.

Miscellaneous and Cool Items

Not exactly necessary, a lot of these items are just cool and useful to have and to bring along with you!

  • A Football – what better item to bring to a tailgate then a football. Great for tossing around or playing a quick, informal game, bringing along a licensed NFL football will make you feel like you’re a part of the big game.
  • Blankets – if the forecast calls for colder weather, be sure to bring along some blankets for additional warmth.
  • Bug Spray and Sunblock – for warmer days, and to avoid both bugs and harmful UV rays, be sure to bring along both bug spray and sunblock. Nothing is more annoying than pesky bugs flying overhead while you’re trying to enjoy a meal!
  • Sunglasses – if the forecast calls for a sunny day, then we definitely recommend bringing along sunglasses.
  • Wireless Speaker – to make the tailgate even more enjoyable, consider bringing along a wireless speaker. You’ll be able to play your favorite tunes or even analysis of the upcoming game. We personally love the JBL FLIP 5, which is both waterproof and Bluetooth capable.
  • Battery Powered Fans – for warmer days, consider bringing along a battery powered fan. With Atlanta heat reaching into the upper 90’s, a battery powered fan can help to keep you cool during warmer days. We personally use this one, which has an oscillating function and can be controlled via remote control.
  • Portable Phone Charger – you’ll likely be using your phone to take pictures and videos and you don’t want to be left without battery. That’s why we highly recommend bringing along a portable phone charger to keep your phone filled with power.