You’re sporting the school colors, you bought charcoal for the grill and you stocked the cooler with beverages for your whole crew. College football season has arrived.
That means it’s tailgating season too. And from slow cookers for keeping your chili hot to wireless speakers for blasting the fight song, a tricked out tailgate needs a tech infusion.
We talked to Best Buy Blue Shirts in some of America’s top college football towns to get tips on choosing the top tech for your tailgate party.
Take Your TV with You
The modern tailgate goes far beyond listening to tunes and playing cornhole. It’s now common to see lots of flat-screen TVs while walking through a crowded tailgating lot.
Many fans opt for value-priced TVs, such as those made by Best Buy’s exclusive Insignia brand. And, in this case, bigger isn’t necessarily better — a 42-inch screen should be about right for the back of your truck or SUV.
Just be sure you have a plan for how to safely transport your TV (hint: keep it upright and well secured in the back of your vehicle) and for where you’ll put it once you get to the stadium. Standard TV stands aren’t designed to work on uneven or unstable surfaces.
“Most people keep their TV in the back of their SUV or bed of their truck to keep it more protected than putting it out on a folding table or something like that,” said Gabe Snop, a Blue Shirt in Norman, Oklahoma. (Before joining Best Buy, Gabe worked at the nearby tailgate lots.)
Another option: Go small with a portable Pico Pocket Projector.
“It’s easier than lugging around a 42-inch TV,” said Shawn Kays, who works at the Best Buy store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “You can just hang up a sheet under a canopy tent at your tailgate and hook the projector up to your satellite receiver box with an HDMI cable.”
Don’t miss any action
Just because you get to the stadium early doesn’t mean you have to miss the pregame shows or any of the day’s other top games. Some people bring their satellite dishes from home, but there are several other great ways to make sure you catch all of the day’s top action.
Shawn recommends the Dish Playmaker, a small, portable satellite that’s designed for tailgating and other outdoor activities.
“That’s almost a necessity in Tuscaloosa, because people want to watch all of the other conference games while tailgating,” he said. “Some of the tailgaters don’t even have tickets to the game. They just want to be part of the atmosphere.”
Ben Donovan, at the Best Buy store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said he and his friends use the Mohu Leaf 50 antennae to tune into games when tailgating. But that only works for over-the-air broadcasts. For watching cable networks, he recommends a Slingbox because it allows you to tune into anything you could watch on your home TV.
“Slingbox is an amazing way to do it, if you want to stream the game,” he said. “You set it up at home, then you can use any laptop or smartphone to pick up the signal — and you could plug that into a TV.”
Turn up the volume
Prefer to keep things simple? A wireless Bluetooth speaker is perfect for streaming music to get you pumped up for the opening kickoff.
There are plenty of sizes, shapes and prices to choose from. Most have plenty of battery life to go for hours, and many are “water-resistant” or “splash-proof” to ensure they keep working even if your buddy spills his beer.
Ben in Michigan recommends the rugged Braven BRV Pro speaker. It’s water-resistant, has a 100-foot wireless range and comes with an action mount. Shawn in Alabama likes Sony’s High-Power Home Audio System, a large Bluetooth speaker that allows you to connect additional devices in a chain for higher sound output and has a carry handle for easy portability.
Prepare a feast
No tailgate party is complete without great food. Firing up the grill for some burgers and brats is a timeless classic, but you can take your spread to the next level by bringing along your favorite small appliances.
A slow cooker is perfect for keeping your meatballs, bite-sized sausages or queso dip warm. And blenders are popular for mixing frozen drinks on hot days.
Have a hankering for some chicken wings or onion rings? An air fryer delivers all of the deep-fried taste and texture without the fat and grease.
“The air fryers are really cool,” Ben said. “You can cook a bunch of different snacks, and you don’t really have to clean it, so you can use it repeatedly throughout the day. You’re not using a vat of oil, you’re only using a tablespoon.”
Keep it all powered up
If you’re taking your tailgate party high-tech this season, you’re going to need some portable power to keep it all running.
“Most people use a portable gas generator to be able to handle that kind of load,” Gabe said.
Otherwise, you could opt for a power inverter that takes direct-current (DC) power from your car’s 12-volt system and converts it into the alternating-current (AC) power required for appliances and electronics. But beware that it will drain your battery, so you’ll need to run your car or risk getting stranded in the parking lot after the game.
For more of the latest and greatest technology at home or on the road, visit your local Best Buy store or BestBuy.com.