Bed Time: Truck Guy’s guide to tailgating

Breadcrumb Trail Links Top 10s and Lists Shopping Advice Pickup trucks Entertainment Planning ahead before the big game Author of the article: Matthew Guy Photo by Ford Article content NFL season is back in full swing, meaning teams are hitting the grid iron trying to advance their plays one excruciating […]

Planning ahead before the big game

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NFL season is back in full swing, meaning teams are hitting the grid iron trying to advance their plays one excruciating yard at a time. For gearheads in the room, this means one thing: breaking out the pickup truck for a good tailgate party.


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You’ll find these impromptu soirées in driveways and parking lots across the nation. While they’re often more closely associated with American fans, the Yanks aren’t the only ones who know how to have a good time around the business end of a 4×4. Sure, most of us will have to dress up like a mummer to ward off frostbite long before our neighbours to the south, but tailgating can be a great social event prior to — and, let’s be honest, sometimes during and after — the big game. Here’s how you can plan ahead.

Street legal

2019 Ram Heavy Duty

First off the bat, make sure you’re within the bounds of whatever laws apply to the physical location where you’re planning to hold a tailgate party. Gathering restrictions in terms of Covid-related rules have been relaxed in many areas, and you’re probably parked about six feet distant from the next guy or girl anyway, but some establishments are all too ready to throw cold water on a tailgate party.


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Why? Loitering laws, for one. The consumption of alcohol in a public place is another. In fact, it’s the latter which has led to any number of tailgating bans in certain North American parking lots; it should go without saying that you and your crew should have a zero tolerance for drinking and driving. If you’ve the all clear to party, assign a designated driver who can get the truck home after the event (while laughing at the antics of their drunken buddies, of course).

Party up

2022 Ford Maverick
2022 Ford Maverick Photo by Ford

If you want to go all out (up in here), a pickup truck is definitely the best vehicle to bring to a tailgate party. After all, it’s the rig from which the party’s name was literally taken. Most trucks have a 5.5- or 6.5-foot bed, which is more than enough space to put on a good spread. If one of your crew has an old school pickup with an 8-foot box, so much the better — though getting all hands home in a single cab may be a challenge.


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One positive side effect of SUVs and crossovers becoming the dominant choice of whip for the majority of Canadians? They’re essentially hatchbacks providing a wide-open portal to the rig’s spacious cargo area. Pro tip: assign vehicle duty to someone who has an SUV whose hatch rises skyward in the traditional manner. This puts the hatch door out of the way while also providing a shelter if weather patterns turn foul. Tell your friend with the mid-2000s RAV and its side-swinging rear cargo door to leave their machine at home.

Modern tech

Back to pickup trucks, there is no shortage of modern and handy tech that’s been introduced in recent years which — intentionally or not — make tailgating a whole lot easier. Plenty of trucks now have household-style electrical outlets located right in their bed, perfect for plugging in a fridge or banging stereo. The newest F-150s, particularly the hybrid variant with its 7.2kW built-in generator with multiple outlets, are capable of keeping the party going long after your favourite team has taken the W. Other companies like GM offer speakers built right into the tailgate, while Ram’s fantastic RamBox — which are lockable areas lining the side of the truck bed — can double as handy coolers, thanks to their easy-peasy drainage system.


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Absent of truck-based kit, portable power stations such as the robust battery units from companies like Jackery, are just the ticket for providing electricity to your party. They’re much less noisy, and a lot more considerate to your neighbours, than a smoking gas-powered generator.

Traditional toys

But one doesn’t need to spend a king’s ransom on a new truck in order to have a good time. There are plenty of traditional accessories available which are designed for the serious tailgater — and some of them can even be used in other applications if you’re having a hard time justifying the expense to your significant other. You’re on your own, though, if you’re trying to sell the idea of splashing out big bucks on hammocks that mount to a trailer hitch or a ten-person tent which attaches to the back of your SUV.


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Chief amongst the items you’ll want to pick up are a portable grill — don’t forget to safely pack some propane or charcoal for fuel — and a decent set of camping-style kitchen tools. Your author has forgotten the latter on any number of occasions, resulting in him tending to grilling food with a set of pliers that were hastily cleaned off after being hauled from the truck’s toolbox.

Invest in a good cooler. Yes, some of the top-shelf options from Yeti or Chilly Moose are eye-wateringly expensive but they live up to the hype and will last forever. While it sounds like a hackneyed cliché, keeping hot food hot and cold food (or drinks) cold is at the root of a successful tailgate party. Try noshing on cold burgers and warm beer to discover the importance of this detail.


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Elida Schollmeyer

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