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Tailgating the Right Way: Maximize Your Fun with These Tips

Grilling food

Tailgating can be the best part of being at the game. Sure it’s fun to watch your favorite players, but it’s even better to hang out with your buddies and relax with great music and food just before everything kicks off. Having the right setup for your vehicle can mean the difference between a fun time and an epic time. Check out these tips on how to maximize your tailgating experience with a little preparation:

Use That Trailer Hitch

Does your car or truck have a trailer hitch? If so, then you can access an entire world of tailgating accessories designed to take advantage of this sturdy mounting point. Anything from a BBQ grill, to a cooler to a full set of benches and picnic table can be hooked to your hitch, giving you a way to keep important items off the ground and completely level at all times.

Made In the Shade

Temps may cool down later in the season, but in fall you may still feel the heat beating down at your favorite stadium parking lot. If you have a vehicle with a roof rack a  fold out vehicle awning is a great way to throw some shade without having to set up a full blown tent. Add a few folding chairs and a folding table for the ultimate rest spot for pre-game fun. When game time rolls around everything folds back up for easy storage and minimal fuss. No easy way to mount an awning? If you have a  SUV or minivan you can always pop open the rear hatch for a makeshift sun shade. Just make sure your lift struts are up to the task.

Power, Power, PowerJumper cables

Want to keep the good times going with the right tunes? You’ll need to make sure you have access to a steady source of power at all times. If your vehicle doesn’t offer an AC outlet, you can pick up an inverter that will convert your vehicle’s DC power to 110-volt current, useful for stereos and small TVs. Another great power source is an emergency jump pack. Many of these jump boxes feature USB and 12v power outlets that can function as a mega power bank. For truly epic tailgating a small generator can power lights, a TV, a portable fan, and the all important blender.

Pro tip: always pack jumper cables just in case you forgot to turn the lights off before the team hits the field.

Grill It Up

Trailer hitch-mounted or not, you’re going to want to cook up your favorite game day snacks while tailgating. This means ensuring you pack a grill that fits perfectly inside your trunk or cargo area; preferably one that folds up for easy storage. Before grabbing the grill make sure to check what is allowed at the stadium property, as there may be limitations. Gas grills are usually the most popular because there’s no need to deal with charcoal or lighter fluid, plus there’s the advantage of being able to turn them off when it’s time to head to your seats without having to worry about a fire hazard. Never store a hot grill near or under a vehicle. If you choose to tailgate with a grill pack a small fire extinguisher just in case.

Get Organized

There are some great organization solutions on the market today. If you have a rolling tool box give it a break on game day and use it for all your tailgating supplies. Grab a few modular crates for snacks and you are ready to cross any parking lot in search of the perfect spot. Consider bringing two coolers if you are cooking and hanging out. One cooler should be used for cold drinks, while the other is used for food. This keeps both coolers from being opened too often and losing their cool. Ideally you should chill down drinks in your home refrigerator a few days before the game for maximum coldness. Speaking of coolers, freeze a few water bottles to not only keep things in the coolers chilly, but also quench your thirst after the game. It is also a good idea to bring along a case of bottled water to keep everyone hydrated. Lastly pack more trash bags than you think you need so you can leave the area just as you found it or better.

Don’t Forget Tunes

Liven up the party with a portable Bluetooth speaker and you become your own DJ. Tune into the pre-game show or your favorite streaming audio service. Just make sure to recharge your speaker between games. You can also up your car stereo game with a new digital media receiver and subwoofer for big sound that covers the parking lot. Just make sure to keep an eye on your car battery so you don’t accidently need to those jumper cables we mentioned earlier.

Get Creative

Want to protect your tailgating gear from the weather and prying eyes? A truck-bed toolbox is a great way to go, or even a smaller toolbox that you can lock in the trunk of your car. Keep the excitement going by packing a few outside games to play. A football to toss around or corn hole game let guests show off their stuff before game time. Need an easy way for your friends to find you in the parking lot? How about a big, colorful helium balloon tied to your bumper? And don’t forget: in an emergency, you can always use your vehicle’s door hinge as a bottle opener. Speaking of emergency bring along a small first aid kit just in case.

Tailgating fun is really a combination of good planning, tasty food and lots of sunscreen. With a little planning your tailgate will be the envy of the parking lot.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on turning your vehicle into the ultimate tailgate machine, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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