Top Tailgating Vehicles

Tailgating 101: The dos and don'ts

Tailgating is one of the best parts of any football game. Good friends, the pent-up excitement before kickoff time and the sweet aroma of kalbi ribs sizzling on the grill are practically a right of passage here in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, tailgating at Aloha Stadium has one tragic flaw: Stuff. That’s right, tons and tons of stuff!

While they start out small enough, successful tailgate parties wind up requiring more gear than RIMPAC exercises at Pearl Harbor. Think about it. For starters, you need two or three coolers packed with ice, folding tables, an assortment of beach chairs, a hibachi, charcoal, chop sticks, water jugs, garbage bags and a slew of kitchen utensils worthy of an Iron Chef.  Some seasoned tailgaters even bring along portable TVs, pop-up tents, generators and propane lamps for post-game partying.

But that’s only half the battle. No tailgate party would be complete without an ample supply of musubi, burgers, auntie’s famous potato salad, a tub of Zippy’s chili, three types of poke, Redondo Winners, beer, a gallon-size jug of kim chee and a case of Hawaiian Sun fruit juice to wash it all down.

But let’s be honest. You can’t cram all that “stuff” into a compact Corolla without leaving at least one of your kids stranded at the curb. The solution, of course, is a bigger, beefier ride. After test-driving dozens of trucks and SUVs at local dealerships, I came up with a hit list of candidates for hauling all your tailgate amenitities. Not only are these vehicles up to the task, they also offer a few built-in surprises.

• The Dodge Ram Crew Cab, for example, is nearly perfect. It seats six good size adults; the rear cab has store-in-the-floor storage bins; and the fold-down tailgate provides a built-in seat.

• Although the cargo bed of Honda’s Ridgeline is small compared to full-size pickups, it easily holds lawn chairs and a grill. For added convenience, the flip-down tailgate also opens from the side. Best yet, the hidden in-bed trunk comes with a drain plug — allowing you to ice down beverages without needing a cooler.

• The Ford Flex SEL proves that it’s “hip to be square.” This boxy beauty features 110-volt outlets for powering blenders (think daiquiris), a huge cargo area and a power liftgate that provides protection from the noonday sun. 

• You’ll never have trouble finding the GMC Sierra Denali in a crowded parking lot. On top of the plushest interior GM offers in its trucks, it also offers tri-mode power steps that make getting things out of the side of the bed easier, a power-sliding rear window and available spray-on bedliner if you plan on making tailgating a regular activity.

Other top contenders range from the Subaru Forester and Honda Odyssey to the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner.

Of course there are two other alternatives worth considering for your next tailgate party. You can either rent a cargo van for the weekend or organize your friends into a convoy to help transport all of your “stuff.”

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