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How to Pack for a Tailgate with Confidence

Find out everything you should pack for a tailgate and bring with you to any outdoor events like a concert, football game, picnic, or the beach!

Want to guess our favorite kind of entertainment?

If you guessed watching football, you’d be close.

Or maybe you guessed going to concerts, which is pretty close too!

How about a picnic with live music at our local vineyard? That’s another good guess!

But all of these fun activities have one thing in common…


Two women standing in front of a table at a tailgate party

Okay, a picnic is a little different from a tailgate, but we still bring a lot of the same things.

No matter what you call it, spending time outside with good friends is always so much fun!

If you prefer to avoid crowds, be sure to check out our ideas for hosting an at-home football party.

Over the years we’ve learned everything to pack for a tailgate.

Today we’re sharing our number one secret to make it easy to get out the door with you!

Table covered with orange plaid table cloth displaying bags of snacks, platters of cookies, and bowls of food at a tailgate picnic in a parking lot

We love creating a fun display of food (this is just the snack and dessert table!).

Making our table look festive is part of the fun for us.

Here’s a bunch of fun ideas for decorating a table for a tailgate.

But even if you don’t want things to be fancy, there are still a lot of items to remember to bring.

Can you believe I forgot plates one time?

Good grief!

That won’t happen again thanks to the tip I’m about to share.

You might also like our printable Tailgating/Picnic Checklist.

It’s one of the many useful things you’ll find in our VIP Printable Library when you subscribe to our blog.

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Two large open rectangular tote bags filled with supplies to bring to a tailgate

The secret I’ve discovered to always be prepared for the next tailgate is to put together a bag of essentials.

This bag makes it easy to grab and go and be ready for any outdoor gathering away from home!

You can even store the bag in the back of your car, van, or SUV.

Then you’re truly ready at a moments notice to get together with friends and have fun at your next tailgate or picnic.

We shared some fun ideas for a tailgating menu here and you can find over 40 keto-friendly game day recipes here!

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How To Assemble a Tailgating Bag

I’ve found that no matter what kind of tailgate I’m doing, there are certain things I always need.

Let’s take a look at the essentials I keep in my bag.

Assortment of paper products, coozies, food storage containers, and paper products to take to a tailgate displayed on a table

I like to store everything in resealable zipper bags.

Not only does it keep everything organized, it also keeps it clean.

Since the bags are clear it’s also easy to see whether I need to restock anything.

Large ziploc bags filled with plasticware, napkins, disposable plates, and a container of Clorox wipes.

Here are the bagged items in my picnic bag:

  • Napkins
  • Paper plates
  • Plastic utensils
  • Trash bags

I used to use the colorful or printed napkins, but they just aren’t as absorbent as regular white napkins.

Buying all these items in bulk from our local Costco or BJs keeps costs down.

Typically I like to keep enough packed in the bag for 3-4 outings.

Container of Clorox wipes and a large bag filled with disposable serving ware for tailgating or picnics

Some more essentials I keep packed in this bag:

A container of Clorox wipes and a roll of paper towels (not pictured) are also great for cleaning up any messes.

Display of assorted coozies, plastic solo cups, shop cloths, and plastic food storage containers for a picnic or tailgate party

I picked up a package of white shop cloths recently because they have tons of uses!

  • washable basket liners
  • cleaning if you need something sturdier than a paper towel
  • cloth napkins if you want to look a little fancy

The great thing about shop cloths is they’re really inexpensive.

So if one accidentally gets thrown away, it’s not a big deal.

And if a stain gets set in because you couldn’t wash it out quickly? Also not a problem.

I should probably store them in a zip-closed bag too!

My tailgating bag also holds an assortment of coozies, a stack of solo cups, and plastic wine glasses.

We really love this new coozie that works for any size can or bottle!

Plastic serving bowl holding chip clips

I tend to make food for tailgating in disposable aluminum pans.

Sadly, we had to toss several casseroles that got water-logged when we were at the game or concert when we put them back in the cooler.

So now I keep an assortment of food storage containers with lids in this bag!

Chip clips are also handy for protecting leftovers.

Large open rectangular tote bag filled with supplies to bring to a tailgate

Everything fits compactly into this large rectangular tote with a wire frame around the top.

This is a similar tote bag that has three exterior pockets along the front.

I also like this bag that has exterior pockets on the short ends.

So now you know my secret to always being ready with the basics for a great tailgate!

This bag is perfect whether you pick up food on your way, or if you bring food with you that’s already prepared.

But what if you want to cook while you’re there?

Or you want your table to look more fancy?

Let’s take a look at my second tailgate bag to answer those questions!

More Tailgating Favorites

I actually have two large rectangular bags that come with me to tailgates.

While one stays packed and ready at all times, the second one carries different things depending on the menu.

Sometimes we only have an hour or two to hang out.

On those days, this bag carries boxes of crackers, bags of snacks, and any food that doesn’t go in the cooler.

Table displaying items to bring to a tailgate party including grill utensils, tablecloth, serving bowls, decorations, and snacks

Mom tip: Instead of bringing large bags of chips for any outdoor event, bring individual bags. The chips will stay fresh and you don’t have tons of dirty hands reaching into your bowl…

If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll throw in some reusable plastic serving bowls and baskets.

Maybe a tablecloth. (Don’t forget to bring either tablecloth weights or these great clips to keep it in place!)

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Click on any image to shop items from this post

Sometimes I bring along a cute little accent for the table like a pumpkin, or pompoms.

When we have longer to tailgate (like for a 3:30 PM or 7 PM kickoff), we step things up a notch!

That’s when we cook food while we’re there.

There’s nothing like grilling at a tailgate or picnic!

Display of small snack bags in a serving basket with metal grill tools and a plaid tablecloth for tailgating

When we’re grilling, I put everything we need to grill into this bag:

  • Grill tools
  • Cooking spray
  • Aluminum pans to put the hot food into
Disposable aluminum pans, aluminum foil, small skillet, spatual, burlap pumpkin, football serving bowls, plastic trays, and cooking spray displayed for tailgating party.
  • Aluminum foil
  • If needed, a small frying pan (our grill can hold a 10-inch pan).
  • Oven mitts

Some More Tailgating Gear You’ll Love

Now that my family is tailgating at least once a week, I have my eye on some other fun gear for tailgates!

I’d really like to be able to make pancakes or French toast for those early mornings when there’s a noon kickoff.

I’ve been checking out either a portable electric griddle like this one or this less expensive option that has amazing ratings.

Of course then we’d also need a portable generator

If we had a generator, I could also bring along a crockpot for chili or a taco bar!

How cool is this crockpot that’s made for traveling with a seal-tight lid?

I’m also eyeing these up to keep foods cool on the table when the weather is really hot.

Prepare for Your Next Tailgate or Picnic Easily

There are lots of different things you can bring to a tailgate or a picnic!

Which means there are lots of things you might forget…

Pre-packing a bag of essentials definitely makes it easier!

To make sure you remember everything you might need, be sure to download our printable Tailgating & Picnic Checklist.

Graphic for printable tailgate checklist

To access this, plus all our other helpful printables, simply subscribe to our blog below:

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Saturday 18th of September 2021

You guys are the cutest! Love all your packing tips! xo


Sunday 19th of September 2021

Thanks so much Stacy! :)