While the beginning of football season boasts perfect weather for tailgating and cheering on your favorite team, the weather for game time is going to turn really cold really fast. Let’s not forget that football season stretches well into the winter months, and that can mean a ton of snow (I know my fellow Packers fans out there can relate).
If you’re a huge fan, I totally get that you still want to tailgate and cheer on your favorite team well into the season — and that’s more than fine! But with hypothermia being a real risk of spending extended periods of time in the cold (and at the very least, it can be very unpleasant), you should follow these tailgating tips to ensure your experience is safe, fun and full of good food and drinks.
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1. Trap your heat
Most of your body heat escapes through your head, face, hands and feet. While you should definitely be covered from head to toe, you want to be doubly sure you’re not letting any body heat escape from those particular areas, so you should be wearing heavy gloves, a hat, a scarf, and thick socks and boots.
Luckily, most teams understand that their dedicated fans are going to cheer them on even in freezing temperatures, so you’ll easily be able to find winter gear that bears the logo of your favorite team. Check out all the team merchandise at the CBS Sports Shop for starters.
Additionally, you should definitely stock up on disposable hand and toe warmers.
I use the HotHands brand when I play outdoor volleyball in the fall and winter months; they’re great and last a long time! You can get them starting at $23 per box at Amazon and stuff them in your gloves and socks for instant warmth.
2. There’s no such thing as too many layers
Seriously, layer up. Yeah, it’ll make going to the bathroom slightly inconvenient, but it’s worth the trade-off. We’ve already covered outerwear such as gloves and scarves, but you should definitely be wearing Under Armor and tight long johns before you even think about putting on clothes. Your rule of thumb should be, “It’s easier to subtract layers than add them.”
I find that sweatpants trap heat better than jeans, especially if you have another pair of pants on underneath. On top, you could wear Under Armor, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt and then a jacket. If that’s still not enough (no judgement here; I’m freezing once the temperature dips below 70), then you should invest in a fleece blanket. My sister got me a sweatshirt blanket (like this one for $40 at Amazon) for Christmas because she was sick of me complaining about being cold, and I think it’d be perfect for cold weather tailgating because it will absolutely fit over all your layers!
3. Heat your seat
There is nothing worse than the shock your body receives when you sit down on a cold stadium seat. You’ve done all that hard work to stay warm before the game only to immediately start freezing to death at kickoff. This one is a real game changer. Turns out they make heated seat pads for stadium seating! If you buy this one ($40 at Amazon), it also comes with a little blanket to wrap around yourself during the game. But the GameWarmer rechargeable seat warmer ($40 at Amazon) can also charge your phone. Either way, from this day on, our butts will never again freeze to a seat.
4. Watch the forecast
You don’t want to shade yourself from the sun if you’re lucky enough to see any, but if there is even so much as a chance of rain, snow or harsh wind, you want to make sure you’re prepared. It’s one thing to be cold, but being cold and wet will put a huge damper on your day (pun 100 percent intended). Make sure you pack a collapsible tent like this portable canopy ($65 at Amazon) to ensure your protection from the weather.
5. Put me in, coach!
What’s the fastest and easiest way to warm up? By getting up and moving! Football, cornhole ($114 at Amazon) and Kan-Jam ($38 at Amazon) are popular games to play during a tailgate, so start a catch or play a game with your neighbors and you’ll suddenly forget how cold you really are.
6. Drink smarter, not harder
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they were planning to drink beers until they could no longer feel the cold. While they may mean it, that strategy is problematic for a number of reasons. Just because you, in your intoxicated state, may not be able to feel yourself freezing, that doesn’t mean you’re not still freezing. And while a cold beer sounds great any time of year, it’s probably not the best thing to be drinking on a freezing Sunday morning before your team takes the field.
If you absolutely must drink beer or anything out of a can, you should invest in cozies or other holders so that your hands won’t freeze to a cold piece of aluminum. Like outerwear, your favorite teams most likely sell cozies, so you can rep your team while holding your beer. Check out these official NFL team can coolers (2 for $9 at Amazon).
But my suggestion to you would be to embrace fall and winter flavors and drinks, and prepare a warm spiked drink that all your friends can enjoy. There are tons of recipes for mulled wines and ciders (if you don’t already have a favorite recipe), and I wrote this article last fall listing some unusual but delicious spiked warm drinks. You won’t regret trying them! And if you have a few nondrinkers in the bunch, a Thermos of coffee or hot chocolate goes a long way. Either way, this stainless-steel king-size Thermos ($23 at Amazon) should do the trick.
7. Eat with your hands in mind
The first thing I told you to do was prioritize your hands. Once they start to freeze, it’s all over for you. So, when considering food, you may not want to bring too many finger foods where you’d have to expose your hands to the nippy air. Nachos, for example, are probably not the best food for a winter tailgate. Additionally, like I said with the drinks, you should want foods that will keep you warm!
Enter: Our Jerk Turkey Chili (or any chili, really), which will keep you warm inside, and you can eat it while still wearing gloves, so it’s a win-win.
The same goes for neater burgers and sliders, like this beer-braised Pulled Pork Slider recipe. If you want something messier like a fresh taco or a Sloppy Joe, I totally understand and do not expect you to get your gloves dirty. Luckily, the warmth of the fresh-cooked sandwich in your hands will keep you plenty warm until you’re done eating and can pop the gloves back on. Just bring plenty of napkins (and/or wrap the sandwiches in foil to keep them warmer longer and minimize the mess).
8. Kebabs do the job
Remember how I said nonmessy foods are great for cold weather tailgating because you can eat them with your gloves on? That same rule applies here. For some reason, when we think of the perfect tailgate foods, we never think of kebabs. We think of ribs, wings, burgers and hot dogs, but we leave out another staple grilled food that shouldn’t be forgotten as summer fades.
Kebabs are perfect for a cold tailgate because they only take a minute or so to grill up (so you can spend more time drinking and less time doing the hard work at the grill), they’re the easiest thing in the world to eat and they always taste great. This Pineapple Shrimp Skewer recipe, for example, is a quick fix and a delicious pregame snack. And these flat metal skewers (10 for $18 on Amazon) keep your food from spinning around.
9. Generate s’more warmth
If you have a grill or a lidded fire pit available, you should definitely angle your chairs around it and huddle up for extra warmth. You don’t want to be just sitting in the cold if you can avoid it. The reason I bring up s’mores is that I cannot sit down by a fire without instantly craving them. I think I have a problem. But s’mores are fun to make and their simplicity and quick prep time makes them a perfect tailgating dessert, so if you’re already around a fire you may as well toast a marshmallow!
10. Eat, drink and be merry!
What I’m trying to say here is, “Don’t be a party pooper.” Everyone at the stadium will be well aware that it’s freezing cold. Trust me, literally everyone will know. So there is no point in complaining about how cold you are every 10 seconds. You’ll just annoy people and odds are you won’t be invited to the next tailgate.
If you’re not a cold-weather person (like me), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with declining a tailgating invitation in favor of watching the game at home in your favorite fuzzy pajamas, either! But if you do brave the weather, there are plenty of ways you can keep warm and many of them involve eating and drinking. So pig out, indulge for once and enjoy yourself. Here’s to a great season.
This story was written by Toniann Pasqueralle for Chowhound.