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People at a tailgate party in a football stadium parking lot

Best Tailgating Gear, From Grille to Grill

Because it's football season, time for burgers, buddies, and boomboxes in stadium parking lots

Late summer means the kickoff of football season. Which also 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 autos 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 portable generator, grill, and more.   

We purchase all of our test samples, from trucks to toasters, from retail sources and never accept freebies from manufacturers.

1
Party Truck
Honda Ridgeline
Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline

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 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 below.)

 

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.

2
TV on the Go
LG 49UK6300PUE
LG 49UK6300PUE

    LG 49UK6300PUE

    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 very good high-definition picture quality, very good UHD performance, and a wider-than-average viewing angle for friends viewing the set from the sidelines.

     

    Another bonus: very good sound, to 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 both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

    3
    Portable Sound Champ
    Braven BRV-XXL
    Braven BRV-XXL

      Braven BRV-XXL

      Our highest-rated portable speaker is a testament to how sheer mass can improve sound quality. The aptly named XXL weighs a spine-twisting 19 pounds, and the result is a speaker that's a sonic heavyweight, the only portable model in our current ratings to earn a Very Good in sound quality. (It's also one of the pricier models.)

       

      The Braven's bass goes very deep but it's not tubby or flabby. And the crucial midrange—the section of the sonic spectrum where most vocals and solo instruments reside—is surprisingly delicate and detailed.

       

      With its rubberized surfaces, heavy-duty construction and sturdy grill protecting the speaker drivers, the XXL exudes a military-spec vibe. While it looks like it can deal with any abuse that tailgaters can dish out, the speaker is only splashproof, not fully waterproof, according to the manufacturer. Just keep that in mind if you want it to do double duty by the pool.

      4
      Game Day Power
      Predator 62523
      Predator 62523

        Predator 62523

        The Predator is a nifty little inverter generator that’ll let you power a TV or speaker at your tailgate. It earns a score of Excellent for power quality, which is imperative if you want to use it for sensitive audio/visual equipment.

         

        Of course you can also use it to charge phones or some portable lights to cook after dark. At 56 pounds, it’s light enough to tuck in the bed of your truck single-handedly, and it’ll run 4 to 10 hours on a single gallon of gas.

        5
        Tough Blender
        Cuisinart SmartPower CPB-300
        Cuisinart SmartPower CPB-300

          Cuisinart SmartPower CPB-300

          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 rates a Very Good in our icy-drinks tests, serving up smooth, thick pina coladas. And it earns a Very Good in our ice-crushing tests, 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.

          6
          Versatile Grill
          Blue Rhino CrossFire GBT1508M
          Blue Rhino CrossFire GBT1508M

            Blue Rhino CrossFire GBT1508M

            The Blue Rhino has a little something for everyone at your tailgate. The 250-square-inch cooking surface is big enough to hold at least a dozen burgers, and it can run on small, convenient, 1-pound propane cylinders. If you’re tailgating for longer stretches, you can also hook it up to a full-sized, 20-pound tank.

             

            It earns a score of Excellent for its even heating, a rare feat for a single-burner portable grill. But its best feature may be that it can run on gas or charcoal—just remove the cooking grates and fill the grill with lit coals if you prefer cooking over coal.

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