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The Essential Tailgating Checklist

There’s nothing like attending a live sporting event and experiencing the roar of the crowd, the game-changing plays, and the sweet taste of victory. However, for some, the action outside the stadium is almost as important as the game itself. Tailgating is part of American sports culture, and you’re sure to spot fans partying outside of stadiums, from the college ranks to the pros, for nearly every sport.

If you’re one of these passionate tailgaters, make sure you head to your next game prepared with this essential tailgating checklist.


Your parking spot will be home base for your tailgating experience. To make the most of this space, you’ll need all the right items to make it feel homey. A canopy tent is an excellent investment for tailgating, no matter the season, as it will protect you from the sun in the warmer months and the elements during colder months.

The grill is often the centerpiece of many tailgates. While some tailgaters will bring a grill with all the bells and whistles, you should be fine with a smaller portable grill to cook up your favorite tailgating grub. It can be important to check any rules and regulations of the venue you plan to tailgate at, as the site may limit what type of grill you can use.

Don’t forget to pack:

  • Canopy tent
  • Grill
  • Grilling utensils and mitt
  • Propane or charcoal
  • Lighter fluid/lighter
  • Chairs
  • Tables/ tablecloth
  • Blankets
  • Extension cords
  • Tool kit
  • Flashlight
  • Bungee cords

Cooking supplies

Of all the supplies you pack, disposable plates, cups, and utensils may be some of the most important. They provide easy clean-up and help you avoid bringing home a heap of dirty dishes. You can bring a large plastic bin to store anything you can’t throw away, such as dirty utensils and serving trays. If you need somewhere to throw your trash, use pop-up laundry hampers as makeshift garbage cans or recycling bins.

As game time approaches, try to tidy up as much of your tailgate party as possible. Cleaning up late at night in a dimly lit parking lot is an experience you’ll likely want to avoid.

Don’t forget to pack:

  • Disposable plates, cups, and utensils
  • Trash bags
  • Aluminum foil
  • Can opener
  • Cooler
  • Cooking spray
  • Ice packs
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Crockpot
  • Serving trays
  • Serving spoons and forks
  • Koozies
  • Extra batteries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • First-aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher


The highlight of many tailgates is the food, and it takes plenty of preparation to get ready. You can make your game day a little less hectic by preparing as much food as you can beforehand. An excellent example is marinating barbecue or skewering kebabs the day before for the main course. You can also shape and pack hamburger patties between pieces of wax paper the day before the game. Also, don’t forget to slice up toppings like tomatoes, onions, and lettuce. Side dishes such as potato salad, macaroni salad, and dips are all great foods to prep a day or two before the game.

To help your next tailgate stand out, try color-coding your food to your team’s colors. For example, if the team has red uniforms, bring some red skin potato salad, skewers with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers, and red velvet cupcakes. If your team wears green, you can serve guacamole, roasted jalapeño poppers, and sandwiches in spinach wraps.

Don’t forget to pack:

  • Main course
  • Buns or rolls
  • Prepared foods
  • Condiments
  • Toppings
  • Snacks
  • Bottled water
  • Soda
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Dessert


As important as food is during a tailgating party, so is the entertainment. Make sure to pack games like cornhole or bring a football to pass around to help entertain your party guests as you prepare the food. Wireless speakers won’t drain your car battery and allow you to listen to the pregame show or music that will fire up your fellow tailgaters. If you’re putting together a pregame hype playlist, don’t forget to include your team’s fight song.

Remember to dress the part. You can choose your favorite jersey or take it to the next level with an eye-catching face paint design.

Don’t forget to pack:

  • Tickets
  • Cash
  • Credit cards
  • Phone/charger
  • Cornhole
  • Football
  • Frisbee
  • Wireless speakers
  • Team flag
  • Jersey
  • Face paint
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Flashlight
  • Cold-weather gear (coat, beanie, gloves, hand warmers)
  • Rain gear

Now that you know what to pack, it’s time to load your car. Use this guide to make sure you make the most of your space and keep your food fresh.

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