How To Tailgate With Your 4x4 Pickup Truck or SUV

tailgating party
(Ben Vardi/Wikimedia Commons)

If it's Fall, odds are most of us are participating in, watching, or cheering on some kind of sports team. And for many fans, a game is not a game unless a tailgate precedes it. Taking it one step further... If you've got a 4WD Pick up Truck or SUV, chances are your vehicle serves as home base for your friends and family at the tailgate party!

Following is the best tailgater's guide for where to go, what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, how to stay warm, funny and practical tips, facts about tailgating, and much, much more!

Regardless of whether you like to tailgate at music concerts, football games, basketball games, auto races, hockey games, or baseball games... this is the best place to find helpful tips for tailgating in your Truck or SUV.

The Art of Tailgating

Fanatical fans and tailgaters show their team spirit by their food, their attire, and their vehicles. Here are the top features to look for when choosing your tailgating vehicle, and the best tailgating vehicles you can buy.

Did you know there's even a Commissioner of Tailgating? It's true. Commissioner Joe is a tailgating guru and he's visiting NFL and college stadiums across America on the Tailgating America Tour 2006 looking for the most "fanatical" fans, tasting what's cooking on the grill, and searching for the latest and greatest tailgating toys.

How do you know when you're a professional tailgater?... According to some, it's all about envy! If people are walking by you, wishing they were doing what you're doing, then you're a Professional Tailgater.

Everyone has a story or two about their experiences tailgating. Those who tailgate regularly, perhaps even obsessively, have a wealth of tailgating tips to share. Following are some tips from the pros, as well as some humorous tailgating tips.

For some little known facts about tailgating, this tailgating trivia was gathered from parking lots across America.

Where to Tailgate

When it comes to tailgating, the best locations are too numerous to count. You can tailgate at concerts, auto races, football games, basketball games, hockey games, soccer games, kids sporting events, and more.

If you're stuck at home unable to get out and tailgate, then Tailgate TV is for you! It captures the spirit and enthusiasm of sports fans who gather every week at football and NASCAR events around the United States. After the game, pop in one of these top football movies to round out your day of football.

What To Take

When it comes to tailgating, you can never take too much -- whether it be food, drink, or gadgets.

And everyone knows that grilling dogs, burgers, and brats along with downing a few brews is an important part of the tailgating experience. That, and the aroma of bar-b-que permeating the air. Here are some great food prep tips and menu ideas for your tailgate party.

And remember, alcohol only provides temporary warmth. Too much will de-sensitize you to the cold, but not protect you from its effects. Here's how to stay warm when it's cold outside.

Unique Features To Look For In A Tailgating Vehicle

For those who enjoy taking their truck or SUV off road, in addition to using it for tailgating purposes each Fall, you'll be interested in knowing which off road vehicles also serve as the best tailgating vehicles!

And for those who do a little off road camping when your out 4 wheeling, these features will also come in handy when your camping or picnicking too, even if you never plan to go to a tailgate party in your vehicle.

So, when deciding which vehicle to take to the tailgate party, or... which vehicle to purchase for the slew of tailgate parties you'll be going to this year, the following guidelines will be helpful.

First, the features you'll want to look for in the perfect tailgate vehicle:

  1. Overall Capacity - We're talking cubic feet of spacing here. You'll need adequate space to haul all your gear, your food, your goodies, and your passengers to and from the actual tailgate party. There are many seven-passenger trucks and SUVs to choose from on the market today that provide a lot of cargo room.

    If your tailgate vehicle is not quite large enough, consider these:

    • attach a small trailer to the hitch of your vehicle
    • take along a second vehicle
    • roof-top carrier to provide additional cargo storage
    • hitch-mounted cargo carrier
  1. Adequate Seating - While comfort certainly isn't the #1 issue when it come to tailgating (since true tailgaters are usually willing to sacrifice convenience in place of fun), you'll want to have enough seating for those times when your guests need a place to temporarily escape from the sun, rain, or wind.

    Whatever seating your tailgate vehicle lacks, can be "created":

    • folding chairs
    • coolers
    • roof of the vehicle
    • actual tailgate of the vehicle
    • tents or canopies
    • many trucks and SUVs have room to sit under the liftgate for protection from the elements
    • umbrellas (large or hand-held)
  2. Table Space & Flat Surfaces - Perhaps the most sought after thing at a tailgate party is a good 'ol flat surface! You'll want a space to both "prepare" and "serve" all your goodies. And don't forget that valuable space devoted to "displaying" all your fun memorabilia!

    In a pinch, the following substitutions will also suffice:

    • blankets on the ground
    • dashboard
    • roof of the vehicle
    • actual tailgate of the vehicle
    • folding tables
  3. Audio/Video Equipment - A luxury to some; a necessity to others... Things like a good sound system or television set can make or break the tailgate party.

    As far as the sound system goes, you'll want to also have some powerful speakers to listen to music and/or pre-game highlights on the radio, and if there's a rear-area/tailgate control for the radio... all the better! Plus, when it comes to tailgate party pre-game highlights, nothing's better than video footage viewed on a television screen that's as large as you can physically tote to the party!

  4. Additional Features / Little "Extras" - Consider some of the little features that newer models have today, many which come as "options" like:
    • a/c power in the rear (cigarette-lighter style or household outlet style) for providing power to party lights, small refrigerators, and more.
    • cup holders
    • additional tailgate gadgets you can add-on to your vehicle as after-market items

Tailgate-Friendly Vehicles

The following trucks and SUVs serve as superior tailgate party vehicles, thanks to their large number of unique, tailgate-friendly features:

  1. Buick Rendezvous

    With seating for 7, the Rendezvous has an extra roomy interior with lots of passenger and cargo room, and even extra interior storage space thanks to the cleverly designed rear storage system. The Buick Rendezvous also comes with a 6-speaker premium audio system includes a 6-disc in-dash CD player, 2nd row sound controls, and a 3rd row removable seat, and satellite radio. The rear DVD entertainment system features a flip-down 7-in liquid crystal screen, wireless headphones and remote control.

  2. Cadillac Escalade

    The Escalade seats up to 8 passengers and comes with a Bose stereo system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and 9 speakers, satellite radio, rear sound controls, and a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a roof-mounted DVD system with pull-down screen. It has a removable 3rd row seat that folds for extra volume and removes completely for vast cargo volume (especially with the 2nd-row seat folded). The Cadillac Escalade also has a midgate wall between the cab and cargo bed, and removing its rear window allows dropping the midgate to extend the bed from 5.3 ft to 8.1 ft.

  3. Chevrolet Avalanche

    With lots of passenger and cargo room and seating for 6, the Avalanche is a full-size pickup truck that also boasts a lot of storage space. It has an open cargo bed that is separated from the cab by a midgate. By lowering the midgate and rear seat you can extend the 5.3-ft cargo box to 8.1 ft. The Chevy Avalanche hauls what most big pickups can, and bulky or long loads can be accommodated by quickly folding down the back seat and midgate. The rear window can also be completely removed. Avalanche also comes with satellite radio, rear DVD entertainment, a hose-out cargo box with a tough plastic liner and lamps that also light its lockable side-rail storage boxes.

  4. Chevy Equinox

    The Equinox seats 5, and the sliding rear seat can be moved forward or backward 8 inches to maximize passenger or cargo space. Plus, the front-passenger seatback folds flat to provide room for long objects. The adjustable-height cargo shelf provides many storage options. It even has a rear cargo panel system that adjusts to 3 different positions and includes cargo hooks. This unique cargo panel also doubles as a table when used with the integrated leg. The one-piece rear hatch also provides overhead coverage from the elements. The sound system features satellite radio and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and 7 speakers for premium sound. And there are 12-volt power outlets in the front, rear, and cargo areas.

  5. Dodge Durango

    With 3rd row seating, the Durango SUV will fit up to 7, and the 2nd and 3rd rows drop flat to the floor for additional storage space. Also included: an AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD/mp3 changer and 8 speakers, a DVD rear entertainment system that also plays CDs and mp3s and has a 7-in screen, and satellite radio. The Durango's "Adventurer" model is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts and includes a rubber cargo-area liner with a built-in cargo organizer and a special roof rack.

  6. GMC Envoy

    The Envoy is a 7-passenger SUV with a power sliding rear roof section, a "midgate" (with a power-down glass divider window) that can be dropped with the rear seat to extend the cargo area, and a convenient dual-action swing-open/drop-down tailgate with a power window (most other liftgates with separate-opening glass). The 3rd row of seats can be folded flat to the floor for added passenger and cargo room. The GMC Envoy's cabin also has plenty of small-item storage spaces throughout, plus 12-volt power outlets in the front, rear, and cargo areas.

  7. Honda CR-V

    Although the Honda CR-V is a "compact SUV", it provides seating for 5 with plenty of room inside for all your stuff. The interior is great for wider, taller objects or passengers - even with rear seat up. Plus, there's extra storage space under the passenger seat. The seat sections also flip up and fold to extend floor space. The cargo floor inside the CR-V actually lifts out and can be used as a folding picnic table, and a useful waterproof storage bin hides beneath the lift-out rear cargo floor. Outstanding interior storage includes a handy flip-up tray between the front seats, and front- and rear-seat cup holders. The liftgate features a glass window that opens separately. The sound system includes an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and disc autochanger, plus 6 speakers. There are 12-volt power outlets in the front and cargo areas.

  8. Honda Element

    The Honda Element has an upper liftgate and a drop-down tailgate -- a unique combination that provides additional seating, workspace, or cover from the elements. The Element has stain- and water-resistant cloth seats. The rubber-like floor covering is also water-resistant and lifts out. Screw-in legs turn the lift-out rear cargo floor into a small table. It has ample passenger and cargo room, and with the seats arranged, it can tote a 10-foot surfboard or sleep two 6-foot adults with the hatch closed. There's additional cargo space behind the split rear bench, whose sections swing up to the side or easily remove for even more room. Plus, the cabin has lots of nooks and crannies for storing smaller items. Since the back doors are hinged to open from rear, when opened at the same time as the front doors, you get extra-wide access inside the vehicle. Although it only seats four (on front bucket seats and a split rear bench), the Honda Element is more like a motorized sports tote on wheels than your typical SUV.

  9. Lincoln Navigator

    The Navigator has seating for 7, including second-row seating (either two buckets with a center console or a 3-passenger split folding bench), and 3rd row seating (a 60/40 split folding bench with a power-folding feature for each section). Inside there’s ample space for even the largest occupants, and more than enough cargo room -- especially with the 3rd row seat folded down, even more will all rear seats dropped. The power liftgate opens and closes with the touch of a button, and opens high enough to clear a 6-footer's head. Power running boards automatically extend whenever a side door opens and automatically glide back in once the door is closed. The Lincoln Navigator has a great rear DVD entertainment system and a sound system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, headphone jacks, 9 speakers, and remote audio controls.

  10. Nissan Titan

    Best in class in both headroom and interior volume, the Nissan Titan is a full-size half-ton pickup truck with seating for 5. The Titan includes a lot of pickup "firsts" including a locking storage compartment in the left rear fender, a factory straight side pickup spray-in bedliner, adjustable cargo-bed tie-downs, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. Inside, there’s a powerful audio system including an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, rear radio controls, headphones, and 10 speakers, as well as 12-volt power outlets in the front, rear, and cargo areas.

  11. Pontiac Aztek

    The interior of the Aztek is large and versatile, and it seats 5 comfortably. There are lots of small nuances which make this a tailgate-friendly vehicle, including some very unique storage capacities. The front console doubles as a lightweight drink cooler that’s fully insulated and watertight, as well as removable with a folding handle. And, the rear-sliding storage cargo tray is clever and practical with built-in wheels, pop-up storage compartments that provides lots of hidden storage. The Pontiac Aztek has a rear bench that easily removes in two sections, and a combination liftgate/tailgate. The rear DVD entertainment system is built-in overhead, and the sound system features an in-dash CD changer and CD/MP3 player, plus rear audio controls, satellite radio and 10 speakers. There are also three 12-volt power outlets in the front, rear, and cargo areas.controls, satellite radio and 10 speakers. There are also three 12-volt power outlets in the front, rear, and cargo areas.