Six essentials for any tech-savvy tailgater

Tailgating used to be a relatively low-tech affair. A hibachi full of charcoal briquettes, a transistor radio barking out scores from other games, and a reasonable supply of adult beverages (consumed responsibly) was all you needed to mark the hours leading up to kickoff. We live in more complex times, calling for increasingly sophisticated ways for big-game preparation. Not to fear, though: We’ve tracked down the gadgets and apps you’ll need to usher your tailgate party into the digital age.

Solar JOOS Orange

In those hours when everyone is hanging around the back of your vehicle, there’s going to be all manner of gadgetry in constant operation. The last thing you and your crew want to is head inside the stadium with a batch of low batteries. The cigarette lighter adapter in your vehicle isn’t going to cut it, so you better bring some spare power along. This solar battery pack weighs 1.5 pounds—a smidge heavier than an iPad—and will give your phone another two hours of 3G connectivity with just an hour of direct sun. Durable, splashproof, and reasonably priced, it’s an easy way to ensure everyone’s smartphone, tablet, and other assorted electronics head inside the stadium game as charge up as the players on your favorite team ($149, Solar JOOS).

Logitech Wireless Boombox

Providing a media-rich tailgate environment means nothing if folks can’t hear what’s going on. If you’re in need of free-range audio that won’t cost a bundle, this wireless, Bluetooth-powered model from Logitech won’t steer you wrong. Its effective radius extends out 33 feet from the iOS device it’s paired with, and its six-hour rechargeable battery should see you through to kickoff, even if your tailgate party gets started long before gametime. Best of all, the two three-inch neodymium drivers provide a clear, rich soundtrack for any gathering ($150, Logitech).

ESPN Radio

ESPN kicked up a PR tornado earlier this year when it inexplicably retired its ESPN Radio app and instituted a new version, forcing existing users to essentially re-buy an app they already owned. After that initial uproar, the company dropped the in-app purchase, making the 4.0 version of its radio app free through the end of the year; also, users who don’t have ESPN.com accounts can now bypass the log-in screen and head straight to the app. Once inside, you can access archived shows on demand, peruse the latest podcasts for quick download, and even pull up 35 live streams of ESPN Radio affiliates. Users on iOS devices can pause and rewind up to an hour of live radio, a feature that should be available for Android soon. And with fresh SportsCenter video updates available every 20 minutes, you’re plugged into what’s going in sports beyond the party in your parking space (Free, iOS and Android).

Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler

For a large tailgating crowd, an accommodating cooler is a necessity, but you should try and find one that keep things chilly, eschews ice, and has space to spare. This 40-quart model from Coleman should do the trick, with room for 44 cans as well as snacks. It works in both orientations—upright and in traditional “chest” mode—and its internal power supply means it can keep the goods below 40 degrees without the hassle of a sloshy, watery ice bath. And because it plugs into your vehicle’s lighter adapter, portability and power are never out of reach ($175, Coleman.)

The Beerbelly

Any good tailgate means the beverages flow freely. But having to keep trudging over to the cooler for a cold one can be cumbersome and annoying. Better yet to strap on one of these nylon-and-neoprene getups that hold 80 ounces of liquid sippable through an external, silicone spigot. The fluids, which can be hot or cold, live in a large, spread-out bladder that encompasses the torso, so that when it’s completely filled up, you just look like any other schlub with a hops-enhanced gut. Come gametime, the more daring, rule-flouting fan might have visions of sneaking a full one past turnstile security, though a pat-down would likely mean the jig is up. The same company also offers the Wine Rack for women—it’s a similar prop that serves the same purpose, only contoured specifically for female fans ($35 The Beerbelly).

Assorted mobile streaming apps

WatchESPN for iOS

The days of gathering around a portable TV to watch flickering over-the-air signals from other games around the country are long gone. These days, mobile apps are the way to get your pregame football fix. As we’ve noted previously, college football fans have a few mobile options for watching live games on their digital devices. The WatchESPN app, available for iOS and Android, delivers a full slate of college football to your phone or tablet (provided you’re a customer of an affiliated cable provider). The CBS Sports app for the iPhone, iPad, and Android streams college games as well. NFL options are more limited: DirecTV offers a mobile app on iOS and Android, but it only streams games to subscribers who’ve paid up for the $300 NFL Sunday Ticket Max package. NFL Mobile from Verizon streams selected night games to iOS and Android users, but only if they’ve paid $10 per month to subscribe to the carrier’s V Cast service. Still, if you subscribe to any of the above services and own a compatible smartphone or tablet, these apps can augment your tailgate party with some video highlights.

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