Best Tailgating Gear, From Grille to Grill
Because it's football season, time for burgers, buddies, and boom boxes in stadium parking lots
Late summer means the kickoff of football season. And that means it’s time to gear up for tailgating, that great American pastime that unites Buckeyes and Bruins, Cowboys and Broncos, even Horned Frogs and Banana Slugs.
If you’re planning to join the festivities, the Consumer Reports labs and auto test track have recommendations on everything you need to dominate on game day, from the Honda Ridgeline, a truck with a built-in ice chest, to a football-worthy LG television, a grill, and more.
We purchase all of our test samples, from trucks to toasters, from retail sources and never accept freebies from manufacturers.
Cooking for a crowd? The Weber Q 2200 54060001 is one of the largest portable models we’ve tested, with a 315-square-inch cooking surface that can hold up to 19 burgers. It cooks well, earning a rating of Very Good for evenness, and it has an electronic igniter and two side shelves.
This 49-inch 4K smart TV from LG will make you the envy of other tailgaters with tiny TVs. Despite its nice price, you get satisfying picture quality everywhere it counts (except for its subpar HDR performance). It also has a wider-than average viewing angle for friends watching the set from the sidelines.
Another bonus, especially for a set this size: It has very good sound that can convey all the impact of a bone-crushing tackle. Plus, you can yell at the set, and not just because your team is down by 20 points in the fourth quarter—it supports voice commands from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Ion Tailgater Sport is proof that in audio, size matters. This beefy block of a speaker, about a foot in each dimension, uses its considerable mass to produce impressive sound.
The Tailgater Sport is well-suited to pumping out tunes between the grill and the cooler on the patio, in the park, or at your favorite tailgating spot. The sound lacks a little nuance and detail compared with that of the very best wireless speakers, but if you’re blasting music in the great outdoors, that’s not as important as sheer volume. And that’s what this speaker delivers.
Our testers also give this modestly priced speaker high marks for versatility and ease of use. It boasts a large and well-labeled volume knob, and includes not only a microphone input but also the mic itself, which makes it easy to channel your inner DJ.
The Cuisinart SmartPower CPB-300 is light enough to take on the road—it weighs just 4 pounds—and the 350-watt motor is within the limits of most power inverters.
This blender holds up to 4 cups, and earns a Very Good rating in our icy-drinks tests, serving up smooth, thick piña coladas. It’s also very good at crushing ice, turning out ice similar to a snow cone’s. Four 16-ounce travel cups with lids come with the blender, a nice extra for your buddies during the game.
Any good pickup truck may seem like a natural for tailgating excursions, but the Honda Ridgeline stands out as perhaps the best option available today.
It’s not the traditional body-on-frame pickup but is more like a typical SUV, which means it drives more like a car than a truck. The bed sits lower than that of other trucks, making it easier to get stuff in and out. And it has a unique tailgate that can either open flat or swing on side hinges. This pickup also comes with a protective bed liner to limit scratches.
The biggest draw for tailgating is the Ridgeline’s under-the-bed trunk: It’s bigger than an 80-quart cooler, with built-in drain plugs, shown above. If you want to listen to the game while you party, there is an available waterproof audio system that turns the bed walls into speakers. (Or you can use the burly wireless speaker listed in this article.)
You can change the audio source or volume with a paired smartphone. The system will also automatically shut off before the battery is drained. And you can plug a TV or other devices into the bed’s two-prong outlet.
Consumer Reports recommends the 2019 Ridgeline; it’s at the top of our compact pickup truck ratings. If you want a Ridgeline for tailgating, choose the RTL-E trim—it’s the cheapest version that has in-bed speakers and power outlet. (Lower versions don’t offer either.) That trim level also includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. It starts at just under $42,000, not including the destination fee.