Football season is upon us. Finally. College football gets underway on Thursday night, and the NFL comes a week later with a Super Bowl rematch between the Peyton-less Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, led by the no-longer-dabbing Cam Newton. That means it’s time to switch from talking about Colin Kaepernick as a political activist to talking about him as a once good, now shitty quarterback. It’s time to start speculating if the top-ranked (again!) Alabama Crimson Tide could actually beat an NFL team.
And it’s also time to tailgate.
As great as the in-home experience has become with 200-inch, 6K 3D TVs equipped with NFL Sunday Ticket and ESPN College Extra, nothing beats a good tailgate. Drinking beer, eating burgers from the BBQ and throwing your shoulder out during a parking lot game of two-hand touch are the ultimate way to get pumped up before a game. And you can do those same things after, whether you’re attempting to recreate the winning pass or seeking solace in the fact that your team lost.
In the same way that football coaches spend countless hours disecting game film to get ready for gameday, epic tailgates require proper planning: a coach needs to have the right players just as a tailgater needs to have the right stuff. To help you kick off the football season, here is a checklist of gear to make sure your tailgate is one that people who park next to you will side-eye with jealousy.
COLEMAN 54 QUART COOLER
With its stainless steel design, this cooler looks as sleek as an Airstream trailer—and can hold just about as many beers. The cooler stores up to 85 cans and is tall enough that two-liter bottles can stand upright. It keeps ice cold for up to four days in case your team plays on Sunday and again on Thursday and you don’t feel like going home in between.
NIMA BLUETOOTH SPEAKER
Whether you’re listening to the talking heads provide pregame analysis or bumping the jock jams (no “Cotton Eyed Joe,” please), you are going to need a speaker at your tailgate. Nima’s large speaker packs a 5.5-inch woofer inside of a regulation-sized football helmet to deliver ample volume and bass to drown out whoever is parked next to you.
WILSON X FOOTBALL
Wilson’s new connected football will arm you with the data required to talk serious smack to your buddies. It tracks info like distance and velocity as well as catches and drops so you can eliminate the guesswork about which of your friends has the best arm. It’s available in official NFL size, but if the only football you play is at the tailgate then you might want to opt for the junior version so you can lift your hand above your head the next day.
JEEP GRAND WAGONEER
A truly proper tailgate requires an actual tailgate. And there are few better tailgate vehicles than the classic Jeep Grand Wagoneer with its wood-paneled sides. Jeep discontinued the Grand Wagoneer in 1991, but the folks at Wagonmaster in Texas have made it their mission to preserve and restore them. They have a solid inventory of low-mileage Grand Wagoneers from throughout the model’s lifespan and they strive to keep them in as close to original condition as possible.
Let everyone else worry about the gas vs. charcoal debate. Traeger uses wood pellets on its grills. The wood is easy to ignite (and turn off) and adds an awesome smoky flavor to whatever you’re cooking. It also has precise temperature controls so you can do everything from quickly searing a steak to cooking a brisket “low and slow”. The legs on the Tailgater model fold, so you can easily stow it away before the game starts and bring it back out afterward. Its 300-square-inch grilling area can cook 12 burgers at a time so none of your friends will go hungry.
The Colster is not your standard koozie. For starters, it doesn’t say “I got wasted in Daytona Beach” on it. Then there’s the fact that it keeps 12-ounce cans and bottles really cold—so cold you’re surprised when you finish a beer because you’d expected the last sip to be warmer. The body is stainless steel and the gasket on top keeps whatever its contents secure.
MITCHELL & NESS SWEATSHIRT
Regardless of whether or not you’re a Rams fan, it’s still good to see an NFL team back in Los Angeles. And this sweatshirt will look sharp no matter what team you root for. With a tailored fit that is slimmer through the body and sleeves, it pays tribute to the Los Angeles Rams team that won the NFL Championship (before there was a Super Bowl) in 1951.
When you’ve got a dead arm from throwing the football around too much but the competitive juices are still flowing, it might be time to switch to cornhole. It’s about as simple as games get, yet still infinitely fun. And you can play it without ever having to put your beer down.