We’ve gotten you in the door—you’ve parked in your preferred location (hopefully), whether it’s Lot H, the golf course, or one of the paved lots. Now it’s time to set up.
Can you make margaritas with a blender? Absolutely. Can you plug in an electric griddle and cook up some pancakes and eggs for a noon kickoff breakfast tailgate? Sure. And, of course, you can fire up your HD TV and watch games from the Pac 12 and other conferences until kick off.
In another post, we’ll cover tailgating essentials like easy-ups, chairs, tables, etc. But something that has taken quite a bit of research and trial and error by my crew has been the way we bring electricity to our event.
First, this part of the set up requires some thought and preplanning. If you get to the Rose Bowl and forget to bring mayonnaise for the sandwiches (did that, still can’t live it down), you can always get something like that from the food vendors or fellow Bruin tailgators. But if you leave behind an extension cord or power strip, you’re screwed. We tend to keep all those accessories pre-packed in the same bag for every tailgate, and don’t touch it otherwise. It stays in the garage with all of our other equipment and it’s ready for gameday.
So, what are the options for electricity?
If you’re totally crazy like we are, you’ll get a third vehicle that’s just for tailgating (in our case, a pick up that I can barely get in to), grab a generator, and go. We’ve toyed with the idea of a generator for years, but they are cumbersome, take up a lot of space, and require gasoline to run that you might not want to store in your car. We had an SUV for years, and we didn’t want to be sucking up fumes on the drive to Pasadena and back. It wasn’t until we bought our truck that we decided to move on to the generator.
My brother-in-law picked up a pretty sweet one at Home Depot, which has bluetooth monitoring capabilities for your phone and 1800 running watts. This will be more than enough to power our TV (or two if we set up video games for the kids), cooking appliances, etc. Ryobi didn’t pay me to endorse them—it’s just the one we happened to get, and it has the same capabilities as the more expensive Honda version. WIth 816 reviews on Home Depot’s website it has a five-star rating, so I’m going to guess we’ll be doing ok with this one.
However, if you don’t have the space or desire to lug around a 50-pound piece of equipment but you still want to watch TV, you have other options.
The first thing we tried years back was a small power inverter that we plugged in to the cigarette lighter. It had an outlet on it that we then plugged an extension cord and a power strip in to, and voila! power. The only caveat is that you have to keep your engine running to keep the battery powered. If you aren’t tailgating for that long, of if you only need power to cook something for a bit, you should be ok. These little gems are small enough to fit in a shoe box and are great if you don’t need to plug stuff in for six hours (we would just turn ours on and off when we needed it). We found them at both Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods in the camping section. Here’s the one we used, and it served us well until our needs outgrew it. Again, no one has asked for my endorsement. There are a ton of options out there at different price points, but that was the one we chose. We weren’t running a TV at the time.
Something that was a nice happy medium until we got the generator was this bad boy (ours is no longer available, but this is the newer version). I have to give credit to Boss Tagaloa’s family—they had one, and when I saw it I had to know what it was. So, I marched myself right up to Boss’s dad and asked where he got it (I didn’t know who he was until I got closer to their set up...). He picked his up on a local item exchange app, and we got ours through Wal-Mart. Again, these things come in at different price points and wattages, and you can spend several hundred dollars if you want, but we didn’t want to go that way. The great thing about it is that it requires no gas. They’re pretty heavy, but take up no more space than a couple of shoe boxes and give enough power for a TV and a laptop to stream the games (which I’ll explain in another post how to do), and when fully charged can supposedly jump start a car. The one thing you have to remember is to charge these things—for up to three days, especially when you first buy them. We had one and another crew member had one, and we’d usually end up draining them both in a six hour tailgate.
There is one other option out there called a marine battery—I have absolutely no experience with this, so if you do, please add some information in the comments. It always seemed a bit more complicated than I wanted to go, and since we just want to get the TV going and the snacks set up, we just stuck with what seemed easiest.
Again, I’ll be covering the options for streaming games and setting up TVs in another post, so stay tuned. Until then...