Best TV Equipment For The Tailgate Party

Be honest … how many of you had so much fun in the parking lot that you ended up not going into the stadium?  And weren’t you just a tad envious of those dudes kicking back by their big RVs, their TVs hooked up to their satellite dishes, watching the game while simultaneously BBQing, playing cornhole, trivia and emptying their large Kegerators?  I’ve basked in their glory and learned from their handed-down wisdom.  My vehicle was often parked next to a great big monster and the equipment had to be seen to be believed.  Seems like they’d just relocated the man-cave to a double car-space and wanted for nuthin’.  Well, I got over being envious, did some nosing around and found some practical ways to have it all – some a little more upmarket – but you can justify anything for the game when you’re tailgating, right?

Let’s get the sticker shock over and done with.  Say you have a man-cave and that has a patio with its own outdoor kitchen.  Well, that’s where you’d want to stage your tailgate party as a home-gating party, wouldn’t you?

Especially if it had one of these built into the wall facing a couple of comfy Lazy-boys:

Peerless Ciil CL-40PLC67-S Ciil 40″ Ultraview Weatherproof LCD Display

Peerless Ciil CL-40PLC67-S Ciil 40" Ultraview Weatherproof LCD Display

Peerless Ciil CL-40PLC67-S

For around $4500 you can have this little beauty: an outdoor LCD TV that is fully-encased, no openings so that it is thoroughly dust, water, snow, sleet, insect and pollution proof.  You won’t even get any slugs, wasps, ants etc. creeping through its aluminum body which of course, will neither rust nor corrode.  The internal thermal control system keeps the components at optimum temperature without the need for ventilation.  We all know that an LCD picture is terrific and gives a sharp contrast whether in shadow or direct sun.  Finally, there’s an impact resistant safety glass panel over the screen to protect it and the viewers from any material damage in the event of impact.  The 40” is measured diagonally.  I’ve seen these being installed in some of those yard makeover programs and drooled.  Anyway it is more for home-gating than tailgating (and if you had this in your set-up, you probably would never want to go out.

From the manufacturer’s description:

‘The Peerless CL-40PLC67-S Ciil 40″ Ultraview is fully-sealed waterproof and dustproof LCD display provides outstanding protection against the elements, making them the best choice outdoors and indoors. Unique heat-sink technology keeps the display properly cooled in the heat and properly warmed in the cold, all without vents, filters or exhaust fans, providing no opportunity for liquids, dust or insects to get into the display and damage it. This UltraView display takes digital content virtually anywhere.”

Note that it is also available in black at a cheaper price.

But dragging yourself out of that comfort zone and joining the tailgate party fun of the shared event in the parking lot, what are the options for TV viewing?  I like to wander in amongst the rows of party animals early and ask them questions about their particular viewing set-up before they hit the juice. That way you get some coherent hints on how to get a good picture at the lowest possible cost.

Here’s a range of gear that is worth collecting and investing in to make watching the game a really easy experience.  Of course, you’re not restricted to watching the one in the stadium, just whatever your satellite provider covers.

The consensus seemed to opt for DirecTV and Dishnet as the preferred program suppliers.

Say you have bought the NFL Sunday Ticket already and intended to watch at home.  Did you know you can take the box to the parking lot and enjoy the game there?  And you can access free-to-air satellite providers as well.  It all depends on how you configure  the system.  We’ll talk more about the VuQube system (an easy set up one)  later but we will start clearly with DirectTV and Dishnet.

Here’s the equipment you will need and you’ll find more explanation of the systems below:

Receiver (DirecTV or Dishnet), DVR or Tivo.  Cables.  You probably already have this so just bring it from home.  Bring ALL the cables you need.  I usually put a tag on them or take a picture on my Smartphone so that I know exactly how to put it back together.

DISH Network VIP211k HD Receiver

DISH Network VIP211k HD Receiver

Satellite Dish (compatible with your service, VuQube, DirecTV or Dishnet) and an appropriate stand to mount it on. Tripods are very effective and allow you to angle the dish well uot of the way of signal interference.  A compass is handy so that you can figure out the direction that the satellite signal is coming from.

VuQube Flex VQ2100 Portable Automatic Satellite Antenna

VuQube Flex VQ2100

Subscription to the sports channels of your choice (DirecTV or Dishnet). Make sure you have the sports package that interests you.

32” TV with speakers (this seems to be the best quality). LCD is preferred in bright light situations including outdoors. Anything smaller than a 32” TV is a computer monitor. IMHO. Appropriate remotes with your appliances.

Seiki SC324FB 32-Inch 720p 60Hz LCD TV

Seiki 32-Inch LCD TV

The Seiki is a great little extra TV at a low cost and all you need to be dragging around tailgate parties.  You can also plug in an X-Box or other game console.

TV stand that is secure and won’t blow over in the wind.

Audio2000's Ast423y Flat Panel Portable Tripod Tv Stand

Audio2000’s Tripod TV Stand

Portable power supply (either a low noise gas operated generator or power inverter and enough fuel for the day). Note that the inverter will be plugged into your car battery and is a risk.  Your car battery could go dead.  I prefer a small generator and you want to choose one that is as close to silent as possible, well muffled.  Set it up down wind so that the noise goes elsewhere.  Pump up the volume on the TV. Yaaaay!

Champion 4-Stroke Gas Powered Portable Generator

Champion Portable Generator

Note that this 3500-4000 watts generator will run all your gear and is CARB compliant – in other words is not fumey or noisy and quite acceptable in California, unlike many on the market. Of course, you could hire one, but ownership has its privileges – you can always rent it out to your buddies and make a few bucks on the side. It will run for 12 hours.

Exterior extension cord and a power board with a circuit breaker capability (not a cheap one from Walmart).

RCA leads, Coax or S-Video cables.

Plan your set-up ahead and do a reccy of the area.  Most people I know go to the same car-space every tailgate party and know the area like the back of their hands.  Look out for anything that may stop a satellite signal reaching your dish – a tree, a building, a massive banner, an obese neighbor.  Hopefully, your site is flat to make set-up simple.

On the day, plant your satellite dish with an unobstructed sky view.  Plug into the generator and connect it to the box (receiver) and DVR.  Then cable the TV to the receiver using the supplied leads and then to the genny. Turn it on and select your input channel and work through the start-up menu which will prompt you to configure the satellite and inform you of the strength of signal.  You need a buddy to fiddle with the dish at this time to point it at the strongest signal (like fiddling with rabbit ears to get a picture) as you twiddle with the TV.  75% is considered a good result here but at that point if you can’t see the picture, call the customer support for your satellite service as they are generally very informed and helpful.

Otherwise, select your favorite game channel, pour a round of beers and let the laid-back tailgating begin!  If you buy the full ticket, you will have so many choices of games that you’ll be set for hours.

Now here is another thought.  Get a few of your regular parking lot buddies together  and beam the games up onto this massive screen.  You’ll need a projector that connects to your TV system but that is quite feasible.

Gemmy Airblown® 39121X Movie Screen-12 ft. Screen w/Storage Bag

Gemmy Airblown® 39121X Movie Screen-12 ft. Screen w/Storage Bag

Gemmy Airblown® 12 ft. Movie Screen

It pumps up like an airbed.  Easy.  You just put the stakes into the ground and tether it to the stakes so that it won’t blow over.  You do have to leave the fan running during use which can be annoying but in a tailgate party, the noise of the game will easily drown that out. It only weighs 17 pounds, is easy to transport and is 151 x 36 x 107 inches.  A big, big screen. A projector can be used to connect to your computer or TV to play a game or movies on this big screen.

HINT: Use a couple of concrete breeze blocks if you are tailgating in the parking lot and can’t put the stakes into blacktop or concrete and tie the tethers through the holes in the blocks. Practice setting the thing up before you take it to the parking lot – it takes two to set it up.  Ideal for home-gating too!

Backyard Theater Complete 8-foot Outdoor Entertainment System

Backyard Theater Complete 8-foot Outdoor Entertainment System

8-foot Outdoor Entertainment System

You can go the whole hog and set up this big system.  There’s an 8 foot system (pictured) and a 12 foot system.A fine screen, includes the projector and everything you need, speakers, electric powered flat screen, stands, DVD player, cables, instruction and warranty.  You can connect any device from iPhone, iPad, i-Pod, PS3, X-Box, Wii.  Imagine how amazing your tailgate parties could be if a few of you set this up in the parking lot! But of course, for home-gating it would be the main event.  Play movies on it, connect your satellite or cable system and watch the game or just set up the Wii and play all your games the high tech way!  So it’s edging into luxury land, but wow, what fun!

Supersonic SC-1512 15.4-Inch Class LED HDTV with Built-in DVD Player

Supersonic SC-1512 15.4-Inch Class LED HDTV with Built-in DVD Player

Supersonic SC-1512

I’m including this very small portable LED HDTV as it is a  easy one to integrate into your tailgate party kit.  It is compact so doesn’t take up much space, can be set up on a table, isn’t a huge power drain and is 16:9 – 1440 x 900 – 720p – a good picture.  People love these in RVs and motor homes and it draws very little power at 12 volts (1 amp) so you could actually run it off a car battery rather than a generator.  It can be plugged into mains with the supplied transformer.

Dish Network DISH500 Portable Satellite Kit for Campers and RV’s

Dish Network DISH500 Portable Satellite Kit for Campers and RV's

Dish Network DISH500 Portable Satellite

This kit has most stuff you need to go portable and if you already subscribe to Dishnet, all you do is take the box (receiver) with you and run off the same account/subscription as you do at home.

It contains the Satellite dish, the tripod, a Co-axial cable (50 feet) the 3 foot RG6 Jumper cable and connectors and a satellite finder, the latter  being a very handy gadget..

Dishnet will give you all the help you need over the phone.

Account/subscription-wise you can pay-as-you-go.  Very handy.  Just subscribe for the tailgate party season then drop out again.

DISH Network VIP211k HD Receiver

DISH Network VIP211k HD Receiver

DISH Network VIP211k HD Receiver

This receiver supports one independent HDTV with its own remote control and is compatible with the Tailgater satellite antenna. With an optional module, you can also receive free-to-air telecasts.  Cover all the games you need.  As well, you will need to purchase an HDMI cable if you don’t already have one.  Again, Dish will talk you through the process.

Dish Network VQ2500 Tailgater Portable Satellite Antenna

Dish Network VQ2500 Tailgater Portable Satellite Antenna

Dish Network VQ2500 Tailgater Portable Satellite Antenna

Here’s how you get automatic satellite acquisition with no separate remote control or power source required. Just connect the Tailgater to your DISH Network ViP211k HD receiver via the supplied 50 ft. coax cable and in minutes you’re watching your favorite satellite TV shows in crystal clear HDTV, the star of any tailgate party.

The custom designed user interface with on-screen graphics is an exclusive feature you will not find with other mobile antennas and makes for an effortless setup. No need to configure the receiver when you take it back and forth between your home and RV because with the Tailgater, receiver configuration is automatic – no more check switches! Just place it anywhere in your tailgate parking lot with a clear view to the southern sky. It even tells you if your satellite signal is partially or completely blocked via on-screen diagnostics. Less than half the price of other automatic satellite antennas but without all the set-up hassles. All you need is your own DISH Network compatible receiver. The Tailgater® is a fully automatic portable satellite dish that can be used with a 211k/211/411 receiver when pointed to Western Arc satellites.  It’s offered at a great discount at the moment.

Only draws 20 watts of power and is totally quiet and incredibly easy to use flicking automatically between 3 satellites for maximum cover. Also, you can just pay for the month(s) that you use this system. You own the equipment so this means there’s no contract and no fees no extra charges EVER!  If you already had a dish subscription- then you have the option of paying a small monthly fee to add this receiver and antenna system. RV enthusiasts love this system.  You just need to stay in touch with Dish.  Oh, and that means you can visit all the stadiums, bowls and games and tailgate party throughout the land as long as you have power!

The 211k receiver and tailgater antenna takes about 20-22 watts whenever it’s plugged in (the receiver draws the same power no matter if it’s on or off).  Solar power is ideal by the way.  A small boat rig of solar, inverter and your receiver makes this a breeze.  Just remember that you need to call Dish if you are at an away game so that they can send a new signal to you for the new area.  Oh and high trees and thunderstorms and pouring rain and thick cloud are the enemies of satellites.  There’s not a lot you can do about that except maybe sit in the car and apply the beer bong and listen to the radio broadcast of the game instead.

However, when it’s a clear sky, this satellite system rocks!

Winegard GM-MP1 Carryout Black MP1 Manual Portable Satellite TV Antenna

Winegard GM-MP1 Carryout Black MP1 Manual Portable Satellite TV Antenna

Winegard GM-MP1 Portable Satellite TV Antenna

This system is compatible with Dish (SD & HD), Directv (SD) and Bell TV (SD & HD) and you can run it from your home receiver anywhere as long as you have a power supply and call your supplier to let them know if you are ‘out of area’. It’s rugged with a fully enclosed ‘sandbag’ style case that converts to a base that you can fill with very dry sand or small washed pebbles to make even more stable.  The filling must be clean and dry.

Quite well designed, the kit includes a spirit level, compass, elevation markings and a 25 foot co-ax cable (you may need an extension to this)  Locally made in he USA.   Extremely compact and super affordable, it’s great for tailgate parties anywhere you want to go.  Local channels have a range of between 100 and 200 miles but out of area you need to call the support for your service.  Apparently they are really fast to respond and helpful.  Manual to setup, not auto but easy and inexpensive.
Durable, fully enclosed case with base that can be filled with water or sand for increased stability

Manually set-up and lock on satellite using included bubble level, compass and elevation markings

Azimuth lock knob threads through center of top portion and base to prevent left to right movement

Includes 25 foot coax cable

Compatible with DISH (SD and HD), DIRECTV (SD) and Bell TV (SD and HD)

Extremely compact and super affordable, take this antenna anywhere you go. Perfect for races, tailgating, camping, traveling and other outdoor activities. Manual antenna stores in compact, durable case that doubles as the antenna base when in use. Case features easy grip handle for carrying or locking down. Bubble level, compass and elevation markings molded in base make set up quick and easy. Includes 25 foot coax cable to allow for optimal antenna placement. Case with antenna measures 16 inch width by 18.5 inch height by 10 inch diameter, weighs 9 pounds. Features 2 coax inputs. Receives standard DIRECTV programming and all standard and HD programming for DISH and Bell TV. Made in the USA.  If budget is a consideration, this is a great option but otherwise, a more expensive auto system could be better for you.

VuQube Flex VQ2100 Portable Automatic Satellite Antenna

VuQube Flex VQ2100 Portable Automatic Satellite Antenna

VuQube Flex VQ2100 Portable Automatic Satellite Antenna

So here’s an automatic satellite-finding antenna.  So many people say that it is very worth paying the additional moolah to buy this that I have listed it.  You can look around car parks at tailgating parties and you will see a lot of these neat kits wherever TV is watched.

It finds and locks onto the satellite (usually three and switches around them for optimal viewing) and works with DirectTV, Dish HD, Bell and Bell HD.

Technophobes will like its simplicity.  And actually, that’s what you need when partying, not fiddling with equipment, is the priority.  Check it out beforehand though and practice the setup so that you have no stress on the day.  It has a simple one-coax cable connection with no external power cable required.  The cable is 50 feet long and I don’t recommend extending this to further from the power source. You can add a second receiver to watch different channels on two different TVs. You can cover games really well that way. You do need a power supply (generator) – see above discussion of generator.  RV users LOVE this one.  It is ideal for tailgate parties as you are restricted to a small space anyway.

Winegard GM-1518 Carryout White Automatic Portable Satellite TV Antenna

Winegard GM-1518 Carryout White Automatic Portable Satellite TV Antenna

Winegard GM-1518 Satellite TV Antenna

The Carryout is another good tailgate party option from experienced company Winegard.  They’ve been around for nearly 60 years.  As with others, you need a generator or other power source. It is vey lightweight but when set up will find and lock into a single satellite.  It has two inputs for receivers so that you can watch 2 programs on 2 TVs from the one unit.  A generator as discussed above will power it all.  50′ 12V power cable, 50′ coax cable, printed documentation, warranty

Super neat easy-carry unit which has lock-down eyelets for additional security.

Compatible with DirectTV, Dish HD, Bell and Bell HD and Eastern arc satellites.

The company website has a ton of info and the help-line is always there for any trouble-shooting.  Taking your computer or Smartphone with you tailgating just in case is a practical idea.  Don’t think I even need to say that – most people will have Smartphones prised from their cold, dead hands.

I recommend that you buy the matching tripod mount rather than setting it up on the ground.

Winegard TR-1518 Carryout Gray Tripod Mount

Winegard TR-1518 Carryout Gray Tripod Mount

Winegard TR-1518 Carryout Gray Tripod Mount

It is height adjustable, compact and leveling settings of 14.5 inches to 22 inches.  Easy to erect and take town to pack in the car after the tailgate party.  This one is for the Carryout models only. Sturdy ground anchor, 6 inches bungee cord and anchor loop hold the tripod and satellite antenna securely.

An alternative TV setup for the parking lot.

Axess TVD1801-22 22-Inch 1080p Digital HDTV with DVD Player

Axess TVD1801-22 22-Inch 1080p Digital HDTV with DVD Player

Axess TVD1801 22-Inch 1080p Digital HDTV with DVD Player

This versatile and useful 22” LED AC/DC TV is actually DC-powered only and the AC power comes from an external converter for 110 AC (120V A/C input, 4Amp 12Volt DC output).  It is fully equipped with DVD Player (not Blu-Ray) Full HD with HDMI, SD card reader and USB.  Everything you need is in the box including the QAM tuner so that you don’t need a converter box for digital.

Note that if you are running this on DC power, do use a well-charged battery. Many RV owners love this so it is ideal for tailgating and though the audio is not fabulous, it is good enough for sports. If that concerns you, get a Jambox or other external speaker.  I also recommend keeping a few spare fuses in the tailgate party kit (10 – amp for this one).

A Note on Security

You now will have a truckload of gear including BBQ and media.  Be very security conscious even if you have been using the same space every year for yonks.  Many of the satellite dish cases can be padlocked with a heavy-duty cable so that they are at least very difficult to steal.  You can also even attach some small alarms.  Be sure to pack all your gear securely, lock the car and choose a space in plain sight.  Most parking lots have an element of security with regular patrols, but thieves are generally very savvy as to the route and frequency of these.  If you need to leave your site, make sure the neighbor you ask to keep an eye on your space really has the time to do it.

Happy tailgate party!