Extreme-weather tailgating is the ultimate test of any football fanatic. To enter the ranks of the Ravens tailgating elites, fans must be willing to endure often brutal weather conditions that come with winter in Baltimore.
Luckily, the coldest month of the year for Baltimore is January, when football season for most is in recess, but with the Ravens’ record so far this season, an AFC Wild Card or Conference Championship game in 2013 is highly probable.
Either way, even in fall and early winter, temperatures will take a nosedive once the sun sets, increasing the risk of hypothermia. Occasionally, nor’easters are Maryland’s greatest winter storms and will dump heavy snow and strong winds. And to keep things interesting, ice storms are also not uncommon to the Baltimore area. However, much more common to the area can be 35 degrees Fahrenheit and rain, arguably one of the most miserable conditions for tailgaters.
The trick is not letting Mother Nature put a damper on your team spirit by following these bad weather “bare essentials.”
Cold-weather food not only helps warm you from the inside out, but is guaranteed to bring smiles back as well. A hearty bowl of chili or chowder (typically clam, crab or a seafood chowder for Baltimore fans), hot sandwiches and a tall mug of steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows says it all.
For tailgating cooks, the colder the temperatures, the longer the prep time necessary for the grill. To cut back on pre-game cooking time, consider precooking as much as possible and then just reheating and re-saucing on the grill. Also, plan your menu wisely to include foods that don’t require a fork and knife, or bare fingers – instead opt for food on a stick or anything you can sip so that gloves can stay on while feasting.
Since grills lose heat fast when the lid is off, low and slow barbecuing can be your best bet on chilly game days. Also, with the grill working twice as hard to stay heated, come prepared with extra fuel. A good rule of thumb is to anticipate using about 25 percent more fuel than you would on warmer game days.
It bears repeating that no fan has ever been steered wrong with layers, layers, layers. If done correctly, the rule of three layers will retain body heat and keep you dry. The innermost layer should keep moisture away from the body, so look for garments that are made of “wicking” material. The middle layer(s) should trap in warm air – think wool, down and thermal garments. The outermost layer is for protection against the elements, whether rain, wind or snow. The chief goal is water resistance so that the inner layers remain dry. This last layer doesn’t necessarily need to be thick, but must be weatherproof. Above all, your layers should allow for freedom of movement since it’s the science behind the layers that keeps you warm, not the sheer number of them.
Even if you layer perfectly, a cold head or cold feet will counterbalance your success, so hats are critical at all times and shoes/boots should always be waterproof.
While canopy tents are often at the top of every tailgater’s list, tarps and windscreens will make the difference when it comes to battling cold winds or sideways rain. However the greater danger to tailgaters can come from tents and tarps that aren’t anchored properly and will blow away or give a sharp whip with strong winds. If tailgating on asphalt, add bricks or sandbags to your gear list to ensure the safety of yourself and nearby fans – plus the sandbags will come in handy after an unexpected snowfall, which may leave some wheels spinning for hours in the lot.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going! It’s harder to constantly think about being cold when you’re moving around and staying active, whether that’s playing games or just huddling together and engaging in interesting conversation. Activity will keep your mind from focusing on the negatives and have you enjoying more of the positives. Remember, perspective is half the battle.
Before leaving home, review this checklist of essential gear to have when bad weather threatens Baltimore:
- Tent or canopy covering
- Sand bag or kitty litter
- Ice scraper with brush
- Broom (for heavy snowfalls)
- Hand and foot warmers
- Blankets (at least one waterproof and one fleece)
- Portable heaters
- Warm drinks – tea, coffee, hot chocolate
- Waterproof shoes/boots
- Wool or thermal socks
- Face mask
- Hat, scarf and gloves
- Beer koozies
- Add your own essentials gear to the comments section of this article for fellow fans to benefit from
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