6 Essentials to Kick Off a Winning Tailgating Season

Up your football tailgating game with these expert tips for the ultimate pregame party.

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Football season is here, but for many, tailgating is where the real party is. Sure, it’s fun to scream for your favorite team and watch the star players, but no football season would be complete without a grill, cold ones and good company.

Here at NAPA AUTO PARTS, we understand there’s a lot involved with setting up the perfect tailgating event, so here are a few essentials and tips to help you score the ultimate pregame party.

A portable grill

Tailgating is synonymous with game-time munchies — from burgers and brats to barbecue, chicken wings and chili — so make sure you have the right cooking equipment to serve up a delicious feast for your crew.

A portable charcoal grill is the easiest to manage for most tailgating parties, but if you’re cooking for a larger crowd, you’ll probably want something bigger, like the Coleman RoadTrip LXE portable propane grill.

Whatever kind of grill you choose, always remember to put safety first. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, bring along a metal bucket for safely disposing of hot coals and make sure your grill has fully cooled before packing up to leave.

PRO TIP: Keep a toolbox packed with spatulas, tongs, skewers, a basting brush, trash bags and other essential supplies and utensils that you can quickly grab on your way to the big game.

Temperature-safe food storage

The next essential for your tailgating adventure is a quality cooler to keep your beverages and prepped food at the optimal temperatures. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 F and 140 F, so be sure your meat cooler is well-insulated or has a temperature control feature.

PRO TIP: If you have more than one cooler, designate one for beverages and the other for meats with labels. That way, you and your friends won’t be constantly opening your meat cooler looking for a drink.

family tailgating grilling food
Make sure your food is chilled and prepped for optimal grilling. Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Power inverter

To really up your tailgating game and be the envy of your crew, consider getting a power inverter. These cool devices let you use your vehicle’s battery to power “plugged” electronic devices like a radio, slow cooker, blender or TV.

Depending on how much power you need, you can get a small power inverter that runs from your car’s 12V power port or more robust devices that hook up directly to your battery.

PRO TIP: When pulling power from your vehicle, remember to run your engine for about 10 minutes every hour so you don’t drain the battery, and always have a pair of jumper cables or a booster pac on hand, just in case.

Shade and air flow

Outdoor temperatures change dramatically over the course of the football season, so make sure you and your crew are prepared for both. On hot days, a pop-up tent can provide some much-needed shade, and a heavy-duty fan or portable cooling unit can keep you from getting overheated.

During the colder months, pack plenty of blankets, hot beverages and consider getting a portable heater to enjoy being outside in low temps.

PRO TIP: Instead of (or in addition to) packing your cooler with loose ice, use frozen bottles of water as cold packs. Not only will it keep the cooler temperature low, but you’ll have fresh, cold water to drink after they melt.

football fans
Make sure you and your crew are prepared for football season's unpredictable weather. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

First-aid kit

However unlikely, it’s good to be prepared in case an accident or injury occurs while tailgating. Always keep a safety first-aid kit in your car so you can quickly deal with any emergency situations should they arise.

PRO TIP: Because sports events are big drinking occasions, plan ahead for who will be the designated driver after the game so everyone can have a fun time and get home safely.


Once you’ve picked up all the necessary supplies, you need a way to transport them to your tailgating party. For truck owners, a truck-bed toolbox is a great way to store equipment and keep supplies and valuables safe.

No truck bed? No problem. There are a lot of cargo carriers you can purchase that connect to a trailer hitch receiver or mount to your car’s roof rack.

PRO TIP: If you don’t already have a hitch for your vehicle, contact your local NAPA AutoCare Center and get one installed. You can also look up compatible hitches for your car or truck on the NAPA AUTO PARTS website.