WHEN CHEZ CHESAK goes back to tailgating this year, he’ll have plenty of company. A New England Patriots fan who’s now living in Cincinnati, the 51-year-old belongs to an “expat” club that already has more than 100 Patriots zealots signed up to travel to Indianapolis this football season when their team plays the Colts. “I miss the camaraderie, energy and excitement,” said Mr. Chesak.
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Tailgating gear has improved tremendously since you, too, last partied in a parking lot with friends, family and face-painted strangers. So think about what you’re packing before you storm the asphalt, making up for lost time. From coolers that double as on-the-go kitchens to energizing speakers and portable chargers that can power all of your devices, we found the gear to ensure this year’s festivities are worth the wait.
A Comfier Seat
This modern lawn chair retains the best traits of the classics—woven webbing, easy setup—but adds handsome beech wood armrests and a detachable cooler underneath to keep drinks and snacks handy. An aircraft-grade aluminum frame means the chair is light enough to wear as a backpack (with straps), yet strong enough to support a 350-pound fan. Our favorite feature is the height: Unlike many camp chairs whose undersides practically scrape the ground, the Voyager sits higher to make getting in and out easier. ($220, parkitmovement.com)
Sportstar Zoom 8-24×25
Once you’re inside the stadium, these Nikon binoculars will let you read the catcher’s signs from the nosebleeds. A top-mounted lever makes for easy switching between four zoom distances with your index finger, while coated optics brighten the view. It weighs less than a bottled water, so you won’t strain your neck during the seventh-inning stretch. ($150, nikonusa.com)
JBL Charge 5
A Hardy Speaker
Your smart speaker from home won’t do in a WiFi-less stadium parking lot. Instead, opt for JBL’s new, thermos-size speaker with Bluetooth connectivity, great sound and a 20-hour battery life per charge. The Charge 5 is waterproof in case of spilled suds, and, should it tumble off a table, its rugged housing will ensure it hits the asphalt intact. ($180, jbl.com)
RovR RollR 45
A Better Beer Wagon
More of a mobile kitchen than a cooler, the RollR’s internal bin keeps 24 cans frosty while a separate compartment guarantees that burger patties, bacon and salad fixings don’t get soggy. Factor in its cup holders, cutting board and umbrella stand (available from $40) and you’ll see why this cooler becomes the heart of the tailgate. With its telescoping handle and toothy wheels, it’s easily rolled through gravel and over curbs. (From $400, rovrproducts.com)
Goal Zero Yeti 200x Power Station
A Personal Power Plant
Don’t power your devices by running an emission-spewing gas generator, or worse, by plugging them into your console’s USB port and sapping your car’s battery. If you charge this 5-pound lithium-ion battery for four hours before heading out, you’ll have enough juice to power a small refrigerator and your phones—or those of fellow revelers in exchange for their sausage and peppers. ($300, goalzero.com)
Hitchfire Forge 15
An Easier Grill
To a tailgater, a grill is as quintessential as the stadium’s overpriced beers. After you park, this two-burner propane grill can be quickly deployed: it travels attached to your SUV’s hitch as would a bike or kayak rack. Swing the grill out and you’ll be cooking on 400 square inches—enough room to fit 10 burger patties—at a comfortable height. Or, disconnect it from the hitch and cook on a tabletop. The best part: With the grill mounted outside of the car, grease won’t be riding shotgun on the way home. ($549, hitchfire.com)
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