The Ultimate Guide to the coolest, practical, (and non-practical), amazing tailgating and “man cave” stuff that you should own to make the most out of watching football… wherever that may be.
This isn’t a guide of shoddy stuff that you don’t need, it is the best of the best, with well-researched and thoughtful explanations for every football watching treasure. From the simplest items you never thought you needed but will never go without again (spray for satellite dishes so they won’t ice over), to the reason you need an electric smoker that you should never use on game day, this is the page you bookmark and share with your friends.
Twenty-five years in the making, we have collected our notes from over two dozen cabin-owning football nuts to present to you our guide to the Best Tailgating and Man Cave Gear.
A Symbolic Start: Stop the Insanity and Get Back to the Basics!
Let’s face it, things have gotten off of the rails a bit with nonsense tailgating and man cave gadgets, BBQ accessories that are useless, food television recipes ruining game day classics, and beers that are better suited to fancy brunches rather than our hallowed football weekends.
We’ll get this started with a return to simplicity and perfection: the buffalo wing. Set aside your recipe that “takes it to the next level” and let’s return to how this American classic can be made at home with no frills. You will need some Frank’s Red Hot, and a good sized deep fryer- we recommend the Cuisinart CDF-200 Deep Fryer, 4 quart, Stainless Steel.
This is a simple fry / dip / bake / dip method that will produce classic buffalo wings. The key is that you can do the frying days before, and on game day, finish them off. The sauce is just Frank’s and some butter or margarine (your preference) heated in a sauce pan. Nothing else. Fry at 375°F for 6-8 minutes in small batches. You don’t want to crowd them. Place on some paper towels or wire cookie rack to cool. Toss the wings in a large bowl in the sauce. You don’t have to add too much sauce at this stage. After all the fried wings are tossed in some sauce, spread out on a cookie sheet with some foil (for easy clean up). Heat at 400°F for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately toss again in the same bowl, adding more sauce. Serve.
Preparing Your Body For Drinking
If you hate hangovers, there are a few things you can do to not only ease the discomfort the next day, but also to help your body to fight the negative effects. First, start hydrating the day before with lots of water, or better yet, try some AquaHydrate Electrolyte Enhanced Water. Stock up on this stuff and have it the night before and the day after drinking. The “morning of” try some low fat yogurt with some granola. Yogurt and granola are a great combo to have just before drinking as it will slow down the digestion of alcohol. Eggs are another pre-drinking wonder. Eggs are high in protein and cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down the toxins in alcohol. For the day after, have some Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder New Formula to help get your body back in balance. Finally, have some Milk Thistle the morning of, and the next morning to help protect your liver.
Other foods that are known to help the digestion of alcohol include pears, salmon, and asparagus.
Cooking The Day Before
One of the most common mistakes that people make when entertaining, and specifically for days of watching football, is putting too much into cooking on the day of the event. Some holidays are meant to be chaotic, with the kitchen being the hub of activity, such as Thanksgiving, but football days are about watching football. Don’t be an amateur. Learn to get a top quality spread done mostly the day before.
Smoke your meat the night or days before! Don’t get bullied by so-called BBQ purists, what you want is an electric box smoker that has a reliable temperature control cooking mechanism. What that means is that you don’t have to babysit your meat day and night. The Masterbuilt 20077515 Front Controller Electric Smoker is the cooking device you will fall in love with, and will actually use week in and week out. It even has a remote control so you can monitor your temperature and cooking time while getting other things done.
Two items you should consider with BBQ’ing: first, get yourself a cool pair of welding gloves (this pair is awesome). You don’t need any overpriced fancy cooking mits or specialized BBQ gear. Welding gloves are the best thing you can use to protect yourself from the heat and they look cool. Next, get into the habit of doing your meat smoking well in advance and just do the final step when ready to eat. You will need a FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System, and a little knowledge on how far to cook before sealing. Pulled pork and sausages can be fully done and sealed up, but with dishes like ribs, BBQ chicken, or chicken wings, you will want do your smoking first, then seal. Simply finish on the grill with some sauce and no one will be the wiser.
If you want to enjoy yourself without playing the part of a caterer, you need to stop putting out food that can’t sit out all day. Most food should not sit out more than 2 hours, ever. That simply doesn’t work well with a day of watching football. The answer is don’t try to fight that problem, but do a work around. Instead of managing food spreads that need to go in and out of the fridge, make a variety of foods that you can keep warm all day with a Triple Slow Cooker and keep them at a safe temperature all day. Chips, breads and other delivery food can be laid out in front, and the web is full of tasty recipes.
The Best Cold Drink Holder Ever
The Yeti Rambler Insulated Tumbler Cup Mug Combo, 20 oz./30 oz. is best and last cold beverage holder you will ever own. Yeti makes a number of these drinking receptacles, but this combo is our favorite. If you have a cold beverage it stays cold, if you have a hot beverage it stays hot. They are legendarily durable, and perfect for cabin living.
Going to be heading outside the confines of your cabin and need to transport some cold beverages without having to lug around a cooler? Try the YETI Hopper Portable Cooler. It looks like an ordinary soft-sided bag, but as with all Yeti products, this thing is built beautifully. Fill it with anything you need to keep cool, add ice and zip up. It will keep cool for days on end, and makes transporting your beverages or snacks a snap.
Projecting The Game
Projectors for watching sports or movies are something that once you try it once, you get hooked. The problem is that buying the right one for your needs is quite daunting. Very easily it can be a purchase you regret and rarely use if you don’t know what to look for. Here are two highly recommended projectors that fulfill very different needs.
First, if you need to project no further than about 13 ft, and can do so in a fairly dark environment, the Mini Projectors, RAGU Z400 Video Projector 1600 Luminous Efficiency Portable Home Entertainment Theater is incredibly affordable, and can easily give you an excellent projection that can even work off of your mobile phone. This projector needs an external audio device, but a good set of PC speakers will do the trick. For the price, you won’t mind grabbing a set of speakers off of your home computer.
The other projector we recommend is the Optoma GT1080Darbee 1080p 3000 Lumens 3D DLP Short Throw Gaming Projector and be warned, once you experience this for watching football, you will have a difficult time going back to your TV. The graphics are mind-blowing, and it still comes in at a reasonable price.
Keep The Air Clean
Nobody worries about stink in the air until there is stink in the air. Cooking, pets, smoking, and general humanity can cause odors that linger and can ruin a nice day of watching football. What you need is a powerful air purifier that you can tuck into a corner, turn on and forget about. The Levoit Air Purifier Filtration with True HEPA Filter is the best small air purifier on the market, and won’t break the bank. This comes with filters, but we suggest buying some replacements when you buy the unit as they have some great deals if you buy as a package. Filters last about 6 months.
Need to Watch Quietly?
Sometimes plans to watch the game don’t work out as planned, and either you need to watch in silence, or you need to provide a way for someone else at the cabin to be able to watch their TV without being disturbed. What you need is to have a good set of wireless headphones for watching TV or music that does a nice job of isolating the wearer from sounds going on around them. The Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones, iDeaUSA Wireless Over Ear Headphones are marriage-savers, and have many more uses than just allowing one person to isolate themselves. The noise-cancelling feature is astounding, and the sound quality is exceptional. They include a mic, so can be used to transmit as well, and are perfect for use on airplanes.
Sometimes you just need to transport your booze from point A to point B and that can be a problem. A clever solution are these GoPong Hidden Sunscreen Alcohol Flask, 2-Pack flasks that look like ordinary sunscreen.
A Folding Chair That Isn’t Junk
Tailgating or watching the game in the yard and need more seating? Most foldable furniture is far too flimsy to be comfortable for the average sized person, and they break easily. Not the Therm-a-Rest Quadra Chair, which can handle up to 300 lbs. without seeming like it is going to collapse at any moment. This is the mother of all folding chairs, comes in many colors, won’t break, and easily folds up nice and small for easy transport.
The Right Sized, Quiet Generator For Tailgating
You don’t need a generator that can power your house when the storm knocks out the power- what you need is a quiet, powerful, clean running, affordable generator from a trusted brand name. The right sized device for the task at hand. The Ryobi 2200-Watt Digital Inverter Generator is the perfect tailgating or outside party generator, and can even be doubled up if needed.
Create a “Game Time” Button
We are not ones to recommend seemingly impractical gadgets just on the basis of them being cool, but bear with us on this one, it really is fantastic. Let’s say you have been waiting on the big game all morning, but being at home you don’t have that dramatic effect at the moment the game is starting which really gets the day going. Enter the Logitech Pop System. With one big button you can control the lighting, play some music, control the TV, close the blinds- basically control any of your smart devices (especially if you learn to master IFTTT apps).
The reason we recommend this, and don’t put it into the category as just another useless gadget, is that you can use these buttons for setting up various types of “moods”. If you use Alexa, it is particularly practical, as you can have it control many commands instead of having to repeat “Hey Alexa” over and over again.
Skip the Gadgets – Stay Warm with Hand and Foot Warmers
If you are an experienced camper, hunter, or fisherman, you may have already been “burned” by fancy gadgets that promise to keep you warm, and that cost an arm and a leg. Forget all of those, nothing beats the simple and effective HotHands Hand Warmers and HotHands Toe Warmers. Get the 40 packs as they are a great buy, and you definitely will use them.
Keep Your Satellite Dish Clean
If you live a cold weather environment, and your cabin is where you only can get the game via a satellite dish, you have probably had to head out and knock the ice off of the dish. You won’t have to worry if you treat the dish once a year with Rust Oleum 274232 Never Wet Multi Purpose Kit. Don’t wait too late as you have to apply it when it is over 50° outside.
Never Wet is not just for your satellite dish. You will be able to seal metal, wood, aluminum, galvanized metal, PVC, concrete, masonry, asphalt, vinyl siding, fiberglass and more.
Quality Massage Therapy When Your Team Stresses You Out
The problem with home massaging devices is that they over promise and under deliver. They are hard to position, not very powerful, and require a lot of work from the recipient. Most are simply junk. However, there are some well-thought-out and well-engineered products out there, and our favorite is the FITFIRST Neck Massage Shoulder Massager Shiatsu Neck Back Foot Massager with Shiatsu Kneading Massage and Heat for Home and Travel Use. It can be used on the neck, shoulders, waist, abdomen, legs, and feet with a design that allows you be comfortable during usage. It provides heat and also has the power to get deep into muscles. We love the auto shut off feature as well, in case you doze off while using it. This is a massage device that doesn’t pretend to try to be the end all, be all for providing relaxation. If your team is letting you down and causing you to tense up, you will love having this device around.
Need a simple way to deal with your stress during the game? Try a tried and true stress ball that you can squeeze for hours. Actually, it is quite amazing how stressed the body can get while watching sports, and after trying one of these while watching a terrible game, we were shocked on how good they work.
Next Level Smart Bulbs
If you can follow a few step by step instructions, you can set up your light bulbs to flash when your team scores. You will need some LIFX bulbs to make this work. They connect directly to your Wi-Fi. Next, you need a free IFTTT.com account. There is a free app that will allow you to configure your bulbs to flash to their team color when they score or at the end of the game.
Once you get familiar with all you can do with the LIFX bulbs, you will be able to preset all kinds of different “moods” for your cabin. The bulbs support are adjustable up to 16 million colors and 1000 shades of whites.
LIFX bulbs works with their own app, but also Google Assistant, Alexa, Nest, IFTTT, Logitech Pop (see recommendation on that in this post), Logitech Harmony, Samsung SmartThings, and Flic.
The Best Insta-Read Thermometer
You don’t need to go broke investing in the essential insta-read thermometer. Yes, you definitely need one to make sure you are cooking meat to the right temperature, but there is no reason to spend more than a 20 spot on one. The primary criteria are accuracy, durability, clear read out, minimal “poking” size, remembering last reading, small and portable, and affordable. Check all the boxes for the Palermo Instant Read Digital Cooking Thermometer with Collapsible Internal Probe.
Be The Hero – Pack Jumper Cables That Work Solo
Almost any large tailgating event features someone who pushed their car battery to the limit and that needs a jump. Often, cars are too packed in to maneuver in a friend’s car to get a jump. For this situation, and to have a way to jump your own car even when alone, the STANLEY J5C09 Jump Starter: 1000 Peak/500 Instant Amps, 120 PSI Air Compressor is an incredibly convenient device to keep in your trunk. This will allow you to jump your car or another car without connecting to another vehicle, and has an air compressor to fill low tires or other inflatables used for tailgating.