For most of us, tailgating brings to mind images of a crowded parking lot on game day during football season. We’re picturing laughter, fun, and a neverending stream of snacks.
While tailgating is all about living in the moment, a little planning can go a long way. It’s not only about bringing the right food and drinks. Okay — it is mostly about the food and drinks, but there are a few other must-haves you’ll need on your tailgate adventure.
Here’s how you can make your tailgate one for the ages.
Make a New Friend: Your Checklist
Tailgates are all about friendship. That’s why the first list you need is your invite list. Curating a group of pals who get along is crucial for keeping the mood fun and spirits high.
However, there’s one special friend that you need to bring along for this ride of a lifetime: a comprehensive list of what to bring.
Creating a to-do list will help keep you organized and let you prepare ahead of time. Trying to get everything done day-of is a one-way road to stress city — and if there’s one thing a tailgate shouldn’t have, it’s stress.
A Good Picnic Requires Good Eats
No matter how much you love your favorite team, we know you’re here for the food. While we can all agree that eating tailgating snacks is half the fun, there’s one tailgate debate that we just can’t shake: should we cook food ahead of time or make it on location?
The answer to that age-old question is up to you, but doing a little prep work before the big day is always a wise idea.
Some people prefer to pre-make nearly everything so that they can chow down as soon as they park. Others prefer to camp out at the grill all afternoon and get to work cooking for the masses.
Even if you proudly wear the title of grill master, minimizing your prep work can help you have a better time. It’s hard to socialize when your only priority is making sure that the skewers are cooked to perfection. Simple steps like cutting any vegetables at home will make for easier clean-up and get food on the table more quickly.
Classic Tailgate Snacks, Made Lighter
Many of the foods that we associate with tailgates can be heavy, but we don’t want our favorite treats weighing us down when there’s celebrating to do.
Even though you might not be playing in the big game yourself, there are countless tailgating activities to enjoy — and you’ll want to be wide awake when your team takes the field. Plan tailgate snacks that are fun to eat without slowing you down.
Here are some easy swaps for when you want to have your burger and eat it, too:
- Rather than typical sliders made with hamburgers, consider grilling some turkey burgers or veggie burgers.
- Choose whole-wheat buns or skip them in favor of lettuce wraps.
- Fried foods like jalapeño poppers can be cooked in the air fryer instead of in oil.
- Ease up on the dairy by swapping out ingredients in blue cheese dip and buffalo chicken dip for Greek yogurt or non-dairy alternatives.
At your next tailgate, make sure that the vegans in your life have all of the options they could ever want. We all deserve to indulge every now and again, and tailgate day is the perfect time to live a little.
It’s important to have vegan options so everyone can join in on the fun, but it’s not enough to just slap an Impossible Burger on the barbecue and call it a day. Picking the right vegan snacks takes the same consideration and thought as choosing their dairy-loving counterparts.
Of all the classic tailgate recipes that are already vegan, tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa, and black bean dip are among the most popular. If you’re making these goodies from scratch, remember to avoid including meat, dairy, or other non-vegan ingredients.
If you’re buying your components pre-made, check the labels to make sure they’ll work for everyone.
Other common dips can easily be made vegan with just a few adjustments. For example, an artichoke dip can use vegan cheese, nutritional yeast, and non-dairy milk. Meanwhile, a seven-layer taco dip can forego the sour cream and include vegan Mexican cheese while still keeping its delicious flavors and textures.
Once you’ve got your menu picked, make sure you’ve got everything on-hand to serve and prepare your tailgate snacks.
A few items you’ll definitely need include:
- A BBQ grill
- Paper towels
- A bottle opener
- Aluminum foil
- A corkscrew
- A lighter or matches
- Wet wipes
Don’t Forget the Drinks
When you’re grilling it up in the sun, hydration is key. Drinks are just as crucial to setting the mood at a tailgate as the food, so make sure you have plenty of options for all sorts of palates.
Any day spent outside (or inside, for that matter) is going to call for water. Bring a water cooler or a water pitcher to quench your thirst.
Soda and Sparkling Water
Countless sodas use natural flavoring and sugars. Opt for a cooler full of soda’s more down-to-Earth counterparts instead of soda full of corn syrup and artificial sugars — or skip the soda entirely in favor of flavored sparkling water.
There’s nothing quite like fresh-squeezed juice. Whether you buy it at the store or make it yourself, your guests will appreciate this delicious treat. Just make sure you avoid the highly processed, sugar-filled versions that you see lining grocery store shelves.
Those who revel in a hoppy IPA will love our light Tropical Hops Hard Kombucha, which combines the tang of Simcoe, Citra, or Mosiac hops with bright tropical fruits. Meanwhile, fans of mango coconut, pineapple chili, black cherry, or ginger will think our High ABV Heaven Pack is a game-day touchdown.
Think about your guests when deciding which flavors you’ll bring. Hard kombucha pong, anyone?
Weather: Subject to Change
Any outdoor event leaves us at the mercy of the weather, and we know how unpredictable those forecasts can be. A little rain isn’t enough to stop the party, but it’s still a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected.
Hot Weather or Cold Weather Clothes
Comfort is a top priority at any tailgate. Luckily, Outdoor Voices has stylish ‘fits for any weather, rain or shine. Layering is always the name of the game, so you can go from bundling up to catching a tan in no time.
Spontaneous beach picnics, outdoor movie nights, Steelers games — you never know when a blanket might come in handy, so it’s a wise idea to have one in your trunk 24/7. Sand Cloud offers blankets that are sustainable and benefit marine conservation efforts. That’s one towel with an impressive resume.
Even a supposedly cloudy day can get bright fast, so having a pair of sunglasses at your disposal could come in handy. You won’t want to miss a second of the action, whether it’s your team’s first touchdown or your turn for cornhole.
Another age-old hack for keeping the sun out of your eyes is a hat. Level up this classic look by choosing a hat supporting your team. There’s no such thing as too much team spirit.
Any outdoor event comes with the risk of bugs, especially when food is involved. Reduce this risk with the help of your choice of bug spray. We’re big fans of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets — but actual yellow jackets? Not so much.
Staying protected from the sun while outside is crucial. Bring sunscreen, and be sure to reapply liberally.
What Miscellaneous Items Do You Need for a Tailgate?
Other than food, drinks, and weather-appropriate clothes, there are a few other must-haves you’ll need to make the most of your tailgate.
Batteries and Chargers for Devices
The last thing you want is to run out of juice before the game even starts. Bring chargers and reusable batteries with you so your phone can last all day long.
Outdoor Games for the Win
Rousing games like cornhole, horseshoes, and more can be easily set up and taken down to make tailgating a more active event.
Pack the Trunk
As long as you think ahead and pack accordingly, you’ll be prepared to make this tailgate one for the history books. Rid your cooler of boring old beers — Flying Embers is everything you could ever want and need in that red solo cup.