Sure, you could celebrate the victories and lament the losses of your favourite sports team in front of a gigantic HDTV. But wouldn't you rather sip those ice cold brewskis and munch on delicious grilled meats a little bit closer to the action? The tailgate party is still one of America's favourite pastimes, and you don't need to be a stereotypical gun-toting, pickup-truck-driving sports fan to enjoy yourself. Here's some gear that will let you booze, snack, cook, and sit in style. Or not, depending on your inebriation level.
That case of High Life is all well and good, but we prefer a more egalitarian tailgating experience, one that embraces alcohol in all its forms. And for the wine drinkers, we can't recommend these grown-up sippy cups enough. You shouldn't have to worry about jostling and sloshing in the middle of an intense cornhole session. And with these, you'll never have to, in a way that's way classier than a Dixie cup with a Saran Wrap cover. $US13.
How many beers have you had? Gosh, it's so hard to keep track. The more you drink, the fuzzier things get. Let the Bevometer take care of that for you. Not only will it keep your can cool by adding a little bit of insulation, it will automatically detect each time you insert a new drink so you can observe (or joyfully ignore) your self-imposed limits. $US15.
If you're the one serving up delightfully chilled bottles of the good stuff, this one-handed bottle opener will further impress your friends. With a little practice, you can reach into the cooler, grab a bottle, and pop off the cap in one smooth motion. $US16.
Say there's a no-glass-container policy at your tailgating spot, or you want to continue drinking wine while you watch the game and the field's house red isn't cutting it. There is a subtle way to carry around your favourite shiraz before, during, and after the tailgate: The Winerack. A bra filled with beer sounds might sound like a gag gift, and to be fair, it could be. But it's that fine line between stupid-silly and clever that's just perfect for a party. Guys should look up the Beer Belly or Sneaky Shorts. $US30.
We've all seen the ol' classic double-beer-holster helmet; but how many of us have had the real-world experience of getting tipsy from a noggin lager? Tailgating is the perfect opportunity to enjoy what just might be the ultimate hands-free device. Strap two cans in and drink while playing cornhole; sip while competing in a flip-cup tournament; chug while high-fiving the ever-living heck out of every person you see. If you feel like this thing will not grab the attention you're after, opt for a model with a horn, or why not two horns, or a cowboy hat, or even this illuminator suitable for night games. It might just be the best $US20 you'll ever spend in the pursuit of a good time.
What's more fun than just drinking? Have a number to quantify how drunk you are and using it to compare blood alcohol content with your friends and family! A breathalyzer will make you the life of the increasingly inebriated and perhaps dangerously competitive party. There's a whole spectrum of options: Dabblers can snag a BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer for just $US30, while more obsessive drinkers might want to opt for a $US150 smartphone capable version. Either way, a breathalyzer is a fun safety measure. At least so long as no one is dumb enough to try and race to .4 or anything. $US30-$150.
Cramming a fully-loaded cooler into an already packed vehicle is a challenge even for a Tetris master. So the folks at Yeti have applied their expertise at keeping food and drinks cold to a soft-sided cooler bag which can be squeezed into the tightest spots. With a capacity of 6.5 gallons Yeti promises the $US300 Hopper will keep ice frozen for days, without leaking a single drop when it melts thanks to a waterproof, airtight zipper on top. And its shoulder strap and handles make it easy for one person to carry, even when it overfloweth with libations. $US300.
There's nothing better than cracking open a freezing cold beer on a warm autumn afternoon — or a warm autumn morning (no judgement). Conversely, there's nothing worse than having to drink the last half of that beer after it's warmed beneath your palm for an hour. Break the terrible cycle of body-temperature beer consumption with the Chillsner: A stainless steel rod you can throw in your freezer or cooler and bring with you to the game. When you crack the top off of your beer, you screw this device in its place — cooling the beer inside and letting you swill at will, thanks to its moulded venting. A two-pack will set you back about $US23 on sale, but that's a small price to pay to avoid ruining a good brew.
Forgot to toss your cans in the cooler? There is the slow, boring way to chill your beer, and then there is the SpinChill way. The portable chiller takes advantage of a quirk of physics, where rapidly spinning a can in ice water will cooler it 20 times faster than usual. (Don't worry, it doesn't make your beer explode either.) Instead of waiting around for lukewarm beer, show off your SpinChill. $US30.
No cooler, no worries. Bring the Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Steel Growler by your favourite local brewery and it will keep your beer cold for many hours, even on a sweltering day. Or, if it's freezing out, fill it with some boozy hot chocolate, and it will keep it hot until long after the game is over. We tested the hell out of it, and it works as advertised. $US55.
Everybody knows to bring enough beverages to the tailgate to share, but lugging around 24 canned consumables will leave you too tired to make it past halftime. The motorised Riding Cooler lets you transport an entire case of cans on ice to wherever they're most needed, no lugging required. Cruising at up to 13 MPH, it's plenty fast, so have fun zipping around giving drinks to your home-team supporters. Just don't drink and drive. $US569.
Folding Briefcase Travel Couch
Standing's for suckers, and if you're properly enjoying yourself at a tailgate party, you'll probably have a hard time staying on two feet anyways. But who wants to kick back in a flimsy folding lawn chair when you can relax on this portable foam sofa that comes complete with arm rests for taking a quick nap? The whole thing collapses into a briefcase-sized hunk of foam that's easy to stash in a trunk, complete with a shoulder strap for easy transport. You can even use it in a stadium with uncomfortable cold bleacher seats to make cheering your team more enjoyable. $US120.
While mere mortals have to sit with their feet on the ground, you can lord over your tailgate in style from these hammocks. The three-piece stand attaches right to the trailer hitch of your car, and it's strong enough to support you and a friend. $US350.
Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler
Not everyone can cram into the back of your Dodge Ram. Here's a comfy throne that keeps 95% of your tailgating needs at the ready. The Coleman Oversized Quad Chair With Cooler is lightweight, durable, and comes equipped with multiple secret pouches to store your pre-game reserves. A single chair can hold up to FIVE beverages at once, just about the amount you'll legally need to consume to truly enjoy sitting through an entire football game. Talk about efficient; you won't even have to stand up until you are guaranteed to be very drunk. The best part is that for just a few dollars more, you can find a version of this very chair on Amazon that's already branded with your team logo. (We just picked one at random. Swear.) $US35.
Tailgating food is not healthy, but damn it, chilli cheese dogs are so tasty. Make the most of your pre-game calorie splurge and make sure your food stays hot and show up packing the Wonderbag. If you want to throw together a perfect buffalo chicken dip or a chilli so good it will make you forget how friggin COLD drinking in parking lots is, the Wonderbag is your friend. It's a portable slow cooker that doesn't use electricity; you heat up the food at home first and put it in the heavily insulated bag to continue cooking. Dishes cook for up to 12 hours, so this will keep your food warm even if you're having a marathon tailgate. $US58.
Mobile Foodie Survival Kit
Just because you can practically taste the testosterone in the air doesn't mean you have to check your food snobbery at the door. For us picky eaters, there's a " Mobile Foodie Survival Kit" — a.k.a. a portable tube of various spices. It's small enough to clandestinely season your hot wings, and customisable, so you can bring along the cayenne and sea salt but probably leave the organic rosemary at home. $US26.
Why should you have to pick between drinking an ice cold beer and holding a plate of food? You can do both with a Go Plate, even if you don't have a table. The plates (sold in packs of 10) fit right over your bottle's neck or even a cup or can. Clearly, you shouldn't take a swig until you remove your food, but at least you'll be able to eat without losing track of your beverage. $US19.
If you love green energy and multitasking, check out the BioLite Basecamp. This handsome stainless steel grill uses energy created from burning wood to charge your devices. We once called the BioLite Basecamp a "grillmaster's group-friendly dream," but it's also a dream come true for tailgaters. You can cook burgers and charge up your iPhone without missing a beat. Just remember you'll need a hot fire to charge that phone, and even then it might take a while. $US300.
Coleman Portable Propane Oven
Delicious grilled meats aren't hard to come by at a tailgate, but what about chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls, or a pizza? With this portable propane oven (which doubles as a stove) you could deliver delicious baked goodies unto your grateful tailgating guests. $US250.
A Gizmodo favourite for nearly a decade, the Thermapen is the thermometer of choice when you need to check temperature FAST — for instance, fast enough to protect yourself from that oh-so-suspicious chicken breast or burger patty without offending the chef. $96.
Tactical Chef Apron
Nothing says Kiss The Chef like a military grade apron with modular MOLLE loops. Add a few extra pouches from an army surplus store, and you'll never have to hunt for a place to set down your BBQ tools. $US30.
PhotoJojo Fisheye Smartphone Camera Lens
Tailgating involves many inebriated people crowding around small coolers and grills. Don't you want to be able to snap some memorable photos of the craziness? For some extra zing in your camera roll, attach one of PhotoJojo's super-fisheye adapters to your smartphone's camera. It captures a full 180 degree field-of-view so you can get all your drunk friends in the in the picture. $US30.
Sol Republic Deck Ultra
It wouldn't be a party without music, and Sol Republic's Deck Ultra can pump out your jams. It's a very loud Bluetooth Speaker that still slides comfortably into your back pocket. There's a special outdoor loudness boost mode so you can hear it over the crowd at the BBQ next door, while the sharing mode lets you and four friends connect simultaneously to fight over whose jam it's playing. The latest model has a 22 hour battery that will last way past just the tailgate to the after party and into your Monday morning hangover. All for $US150.
Executioner Bug Zapper
Pesky flies darting about your precious food supply? Show them who's boss and have fun at the same time with this tennis racket of a bug zapper. $US20.
FLIR ONE Thermal Camera Smartphone Case
Sure, those burgers on the grill are probably hot, and those beers in the cooler are hopefully cold, but which are the hottest and coldest? Whip out your $US350 FLIR ONE thermal camera case to find out, then steal the best food and drinks for yourself. You also might want to take a look at the Seek alternative, which doesn't necessarily require a particular iPhone and costs a slightly more palatable $US200.
Trio Charging Cable
You know how your parents taught you to share? Give the gift of power to your fellow partygoer's dying gadgets with this 3-in-1 cable. It's got a 30-pin jack for old iPhones and iPads, a Lightning jack for new iPhones and iPads, and a micro-USB end for practically everything else. Buy a cheap micro-USB to mini-USB adaptor on Monoprice or Amazon, and you'll be the guy or gal who saved the day when your streaming video feed of the game would otherwise have run out. $US18.
Lead image by Jim Cooke, photo by Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com