Ten Terrific Tailgating Technologies

The Best Gadgets for Tailgating

tailgating
There's nothing wrong with low tech tailgating, but these devices and gadgets can make it a whole lot more fun. Brand X Pictures / Stockbyte / Getty

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment in history when tailgating was born, but it’s probably safe to say that it’s been around in one form or another for a lot longer than either tailgates or football—the sport with which it is so heavily associated.

Although modern tailgating started out as a pre-game activity where football fans congregated in parking lots outside stadiums, the activity is really just one part of a social tapestry that includes everything from old fashioned block parties to pot lucks and everything in between.

Today, you don’t have to be a football fan—or even wait for football season—to tailgate. Whether you choose to pre-game at your non-football sport of choice, or just get together with your friends at a park, beach, or anywhere else, tailgating is the perfect excuse to get outside, grill up some great food, maybe have a drink or two, and enjoy yourself.

But what does one bring to a tailgating party? Well, for a lot of years the basics included things like a portable grill, cooler, for various meats and libations, and, of course, a tailgate. If you want to move beyond the basics, then here are our top 10 tailgating gadgets and technologies:

01
of 10

Power Inverter

A power inverter for tailgating that can be plugged into a cigarette lighter.

Alan Levine / Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)

 

A journey of a thousand miles might begin with a single step, but a properly electrified tailgating party begins with a beefy power inverter. This is the essential component that will allow you to plug in basically any electronic device you want, so it’s absolutely vital to start here.

Of course, not all power inverters are created equal, and dinky little cigarette lighter inverters are probably the least equal of all. Unless you want to sit around in the dark like a caveman, make sure to pick up an inverter that’s capable of meeting all your electricity needs.

If you want to make sure you don't run out of juice, make sure to check out our full guide to estimating inverter output requirements.

What We Like
  • Power for all your other gadgets.

  • Some of these have both USB and standard power outlets.

What We Don't Like
  • Your battery will go dead if you don't run your engine.

02
of 10

Extra Battery

An extra battery for tailgating.

Pixabay

If you aren’t familiar with how power inverters work, or how your vehicle’s electrical system works, then suffice it to say that a long day of tailgating is basically a recipe for a dead battery.

You can help mitigate that by starting and running your engine, which will help keep the battery charged, but who wants to sit around in a cloud of exhaust?

If you get an extra deep cycle battery to run all of your electronics, then you’ll never have to deal with the dreaded dead-battery-click when it’s time to head home.

What We Like
  • Perfect pairing for an inverter, providing power without running your engine.

What We Don't Like
  • Not all vehicles are set up for an extra battery.

03
of 10

Portable Power Pack

A jump box power pack.

 Laineema / Flickr / CC-BY-2.0

Although an extra battery and a good inverter will go a long way, a portable power pack is a great way to keep your smaller gadgets like your phone, tablet, and portable game systems juiced up.

Most portable power backs are only suitable for small electronics, but larger jump boxes that are primarily designed to jump start cars can provide a whole lot more juice. Some of them even have built-in inverters.

What We Like
  • More portable alternative to an inverter and an extra battery.

  • Some of these double as a jump starter when you aren't tailgating.

What We Don't Like
  • The good ones are expensive.

  • Power capacity isn't always the best compared to a real battery.

04
of 10

TV and Mobile Video

Men watch mobile video while tailgating.

Hero Images / Getty

So long as your battery and inverter can handle it, there are a ton of great tailgating entertainment options available. Even if you narrow the focus down to just mobile video, you can settle for tablets connected to your mobile Wi-Fi, bring along a portable 12 volt television that will run straight off your battery, or even pack a regular tv and plug it into your inverter.

If you're feeling adventurous, or even go whole hog with a built-in mobile video system with multiple video monitors, multiple video sources, and maybe even a projector if you’re feeling adventurous.

For more information that will help you keep up with all the other games while you're tailgating, check out our guide to watching TV in your car.

What We Like
  • Great alternative to listening to the radio.

  • Keep up to date, or stay entertained, while waiting for the game.

What We Don't Like
  • For local television, you need to figure out some kind of antenna rig.

  • For mobile video, you need a high speed internet connection.

05
of 10

Satellite, HD, or Internet Radio

People dancing at a tailgating party.

Hero Images

Satellite radio and HD radio are completely different technologies that are both great to have when you’re tailgating. Sure you can settle for regular old AM/FM radio, but why would you?

HD radio is a free option that allows you to listen to a lot of extra content in most major cities, and satellite is a subscription service that has something for everyone.

Internet radio is another great option if you have some kind of mobile internet available. A lot of newer head units have apps for services like Spotify and Pandora built right in.

If you’re tailgating the old fashioned way, then satellite radio is also a great way to keep up with all of the other football games that you aren’t currently at. If you’re not, then it’s a lot easier than carting around a bunch of mixtape CDs.

If you're on the fence about what kind of radio to get, check out our guide to choosing between HD and satellite radio.

What We Like
  • The perfect solution if your local radio or television options aren't up to par.

What We Don't Like
  • Not cheap.

06
of 10

Mobile Internet

A portable Wi-Fi device for tailgating.

Wikimedia Commons 

In the same way that an inverter and deep cycle battery form the cornerstone of your whole electricity situation when you’re tailgating, a mobile hotspot can provide both connectivity and access to a wealth of other entertainment options.

If you're not sure about the best way to share internet access at your next tailgating party, check out our guide to getting Wi-Fi in your car.

What We Like
  • Absolutely necessary if you want to watch live streaming video on your mobile devices.

  • Lots of different uses.

What We Don't Like
  • Mobile data isn't cheap.

07
of 10

Can Cooler/Fridge

portable cooler
Use a portable cooler to keep your drinks chilly at your next tailgating event.

Stephan Ridgway / Flickr / CC-BY-2.0

Old fashioned coolers are fine, if you don’t mind messing around with ice, but if you’re already powered up, why not go the extra mile?

If your battery and inverter can handle it, then throw a portable can cooler, or even a mini fridge, in the bed of your truck and stock them to the nines.

We’re not talking about your old dorm fridge here, since that would probably drain your battery faster than you’d like, which leads us into the subject of tailgating food prep.

What We Like
  • Who doesn't like a frosty beverage on a hot day?

  • Some of these units are battery powered and include advanced features that put them head and shoulders above regular coolers.

What We Don't Like
  • The good ones are very expensive, and the not-so-good ones aren't that much of an improvement over traditional coolers.

  • Use a lot of power if you don't have a battery operated unit.

08
of 10

Portable Cookers and Grills

portable cookers tailgating
Pack a portable cooker or food warmer to heat up some brats you grilled at home, or a slick portable grill to get the job done at the game.

Hero Images / Getty

As it happens, some electric car coolers also double as food warmers. So while everyone else is grilling with charcoal or propane like cavemen, you can pull out your ice cold cans, stick in your food item of choice, and show them what the 21st century looks like.

Of course, your options for portable car cookers don’t stop there. And, if we’re being honest, you might as well bring along a grill too. While there are some pretty great high tech portable grills out there, any small charcoal or gas grill will get the job done just fine.

What We Like
  • Grilling and tailgating are two classics that just go great together.

What We Don't Like
  • Depending on the grill, you either have to lug around charcoal or propane, or worry about power drain on your battery setup.

09
of 10

Swamp Cooler, Misting Fan or Portable A/C

Misting fans for keeping cool while tailgating.

nojustice / Getty 

Just because it happens to be summer, and you happen to be outside, doesn’t necessarily mean you also have to be hot and sweaty. And even if your truck has air conditioning, you're not going to sit in the cab while everyone is having fun outside.

Luckily, some decidedly old-fashioned tech has come around again in the form of swamp coolers, which are also referred to as evaporative coolers and misting fans. These are some great, low-cost ways to stay cool if you live in a relatively dry environment.

For more information about how swamp coolers work, check out our guide to cheap alternatives to broken car A/C.

What We Like
  • Perfect way to stay cool in arid climates.

What We Don't Like
  • Don't work in humid climates.

10
of 10

Smartphone and Car Radio Apps

A woman uses her phone at a tailgating party.

Thomas Barwick / Taxi / Getty

There are a ton of great smartphone apps and radio apps out there that are tailor made for tailgating—so many that they could probably fill up a whole new list.

For instance, if you want to make sure that you can actually find your friends in the sea of all the other tailgaters, then grab a GPS locator app that lets you do just that.

What We Like
  • You've already got a smartphone, so why not load up on useful apps?

What We Don't Like
  • Staring at your phone all day won't make you the most popular guy at the party.