6 Tailgate Product Buying Tips
Expert Advice

Whether you tailgate year-round or just a select number of events, most would agree that when you think “tailgating” you think “football”.  Far more people tailgate at college and NFL stadiums than any other sport. So, if football season is considered tailgate season, springtime, should be considered the tailgate products buying season.

Because the products we use to go tailgating are so versatile and can cross over into many other activities such as hunting, fishing, camping, going to the beach or the lake, etc., much of the tailgate gear is lumped into these categories as well. It is very rare that a manufacturer of a tailgating product will produce it so that it only can be used for tailgating and nothing else.

If you can afford to invest in new tailgating gear now, you will be thankful come football season for numerous reasons. It’s akin to getting your Christmas shopping done weeks before the holiday. Also, you can take your time in researching different products and will not feel rushed and panicked that you have to find a replacement because the game is next weekend.

Last, you’ll save money because we all know supply and demand drive price. Once inventory starts to dwindle at the end of summer, those prices will undoubtedly start rising. The only drawback to tailgate shopping in the spring? You must find a place to store it all until you break it out in the parking lot. The positive side? You get to play with your new tailgating toys all summer long.

How do you know what needs to be replaced or repaired before football season? The simplest answer is to use your memory and think back to your last tailgate party. Was everything functioning properly? Did something break during the season and you just put up with it not working properly until the season ended? Those are the items that need replacing immediately and there is no better time than the spring to do it.

Maybe your memory is not that great, or you think everything is in fine working order. In that case, do a “dress rehearsal” with your tailgating gear in the spring just to make sure. Of course, there are no football games to tailgate but there are plenty of Major League, or minor league baseball teams playing at this time of the year. Chances are there is a ballpark within a relatively short drive from your location.

Break out your gear and invite your friends to join you in some dry run tailgating. Do you think your tailgating pals have been itching to get together ever since football season ended? If you are going to take this advice, the one piece of equipment you need to test out at home is your grill. Since this piece of equipment is responsible for preparing the food and making sure you are not serving up a platter of salmonella, having your grill working properly needs to be determined at home before you leave. If you get to the tailgate lot and your radio batteries have died, not a big deal. You get parked and find out your propane hose is cracked and leaking, that’s a huge problem.

Tailgating grills, by their nature of being portable, require a little more maintenance than the grill in your backyard. Because your tailgating grill is mobile, it is subject to shock, vibration and thermal extremes that call for periodic inspection and maintenance. Think about this. If you are in a cold weather climate, your grill at home might not get fired up once the mercury gets into the 40’s. Your tailgating grill on the other hand will get heated up no matter how cold it is in the parking lot. Because your grill will go from freezing to 500 degrees in 10 minutes, that puts a bit of stress and strain on the parts and pieces. So, before you break the old grill out, here are a few simple steps to follow to get it back in shape or determine if you need a new one.

– Perform a good exterior cleaning on your grill. You know your grill the best and you can go buy a metal spray cleaner or just good old-fashioned soap and water may do the trick. Your grill has been mothballed for a few months now, so it is bound to have collected some dust and dirt while in storage.

– Give your grill a good once over. That means check for rust, make sure vents open and close smoothly, handles are not wobbly, and all nuts, bolts and screws are tightly fastened. Break out the old tool set of crescent wrenches, screw drivers and allen wrenches and tighten anything that appears loose.

– If you employ a gas grill to tailgate with, make sure the gas line is not cracked or leaking. The easiest way is to hook up your grill and turn it on but do not engage the igniter. You can’t trust your sense of smell or hearing to detect if the gas hose has a leak because gas will be flowing out of the burners. The best way is to put together a mixture of soapy water (regular dish soap you find under the kitchen sink is fine) in a bowl. You then use a rag or your hand and rub the soap solution all along the gas line. If bubbles start to form, then you have spotted a gas leak. If your gas hose does have a leak, it is best to replace it rather than trying to patch or repair it. Gas hoses are relatively cheap and cost about $25-$30 in any home improvement store or online.

– Another tip for gas grill users is to clean out the drip areas under your burners. This area can be a major danger zone if left unchecked. When you fire up your grill and the internal heat begins to rise, it could easily start a fire with all the pooled grease left behind from tailgates gone by. Grease fires are nasty and difficult to put out and you especially do not want one while out in the middle of a parking lot.

– Check your burners to make sure they are properly fastened and attached to your grill. Because tailgating grills get moved around and are taken in and out of vehicles, the burners could easily become loose or dislodged. When you are dealing with gas and flames in a controlled environment, you want those burners positioned exactly as the manufacturer had intended. While you’re at it, check the ends of the burner tubes where they connect with the valves to be sure there aren’t any spider nests in there. Spiders like the smell of propane and tend to nest in unused grills. This will affect performance and could be a fire hazard.

No matter if your grill needs to be replaced, or your entire tailgating cache is in tip top shape, spring is the time to buy any new gear you might need. Maybe you have had your eye on that piece of tailgating equipment that will bring your tailgate to the next level? Now is the time to start doing some research and finding out if it is a luxury item that you can now afford. You might be surprised at the deals you are able to find with retailers eager to get a jump on the summer grilling season. The smart and savvy tailgater that takes advantage of spring sales will be that much more ahead of the game come football season. Feel free to use that time and money to play in yet another fantasy football league. Like you needed another excuse?

Tailgater Magazine