One of the fun things about reviewing outdoor gear is that you never know when a product is going to surprise you. Something that seems like a good idea may actually wind up falling short in testing, while a product you weren’t sure you’d like becomes one of your favorite pieces of kit; the Tailgater Tire Table is a perfect example of the latter. While it may have seemed bulky and a tad limiting offhand, it has now found a permanent home in my Excursion. So, here is a look at the reasons the Tailgater won me over, and the places where it still falls short.
One of my biggest complaints with most camp tables is how unstable they are. Unless you’re on perfectly level ground, one or two legs always seem to be hovering just above the dirt, allowing the table’s contents to flop over quicker than a soccer player looking for a yellow card. The Tailgater, on the other hand, doesn’t rely on the ground for stability. In fact, because it uses a set of brackets to wedge around the tire and hold its weight, it doesn’t need to touch the ground at all. There’s an adjustable support arm underneath for added stability under heavy loads, but for your standard camp meal, it’s not even necessary, which makes it perfect for any terrain from sand to snow.
The welded structure is also far better suited for supporting heavy objects like cases of soda, recovery gear, or tool rolls without bending or becoming unbalanced. While I’ve often found my lightweight folding table will bow under even a battery pack and my laptop, the Tire Table has easily stood up to the task of holding 5-gallon and even 10-gallon water cans, making it perfect for anything from washing dishes to filling bottles.
Easy to Clean
My first camp table was an aluminum folding model from Cabela’s, and while it served me well, I could never stand how smeared and dirty it would always look after each trip. The ultralight table I replaced it with had a machine-washable fabric cover which I had hoped would be better, but the eventual stains and marks from various foods proved otherwise. The tire table, though, is made from simple powder-coated steel, which not only stands up to scrubbing but allows spilled foods to hose off easily.
The combination of its stability, strength, and ease of cleaning has allowed me to use the Tailgater for far more tasks than I would have subjected my previous camp tables to. When I’m working on the truck and need a place to set parts, I can put them on the grate without worrying about grease getting stuck to the top. When fishing, I can set the end of my fly rod on it while I string things up, and then leave my wading boots on it at night to dry out of reach of snakes and spiders. Whenever I need a space to dry towels or clothes, the ventilated surface is an ideal fit, and if there’s a hot plate or pan that needs to be set down, the Tailgater is ready to handle it. I’ve seen it used to hold surfboards, snorkel gear, and even mounted to construction equipment.
It can be stored outside on your spare tire or roof-rack.
While the tire table may not be the most space-efficient product on the planet, it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It’s definitely wide, but thanks to a slim design and legs that tuck neatly inside the table with retention pins, you can slide it behind your seats, between bags, or up against the side of your cargo areas without issue. If you don’t want it in the car at all, the durable construction means you can strap it to your roof rack or even to your spare tire without worry. Just be aware that because it’s steel, you’ll likely get a little rust in the grate when stored outside.
It’s stuck to your vehicle.
Despite the extra strength and stability, having a table attached to your vehicle can pose problems. For example, I was recently using it to hold tools while working on a vehicle in a driveway. When someone else pulled in that needed to get into the garage, I had to remove all the tools, take the table off the tire, and then put it back on the tire once they had pulled in—instead of just shuffling a standard table over a foot or so. Then there’s the obvious downside of not being able to bring your table over to the campfire, set it under a tree in camp, or take it down by the water for a picnic. While you may not do those things every day, it’s nice to have the option when you want to. Finally, you can’t go for a quick drive or shift the truck around in camp without breaking the table down. Sure, it only takes a few seconds to take it on and off the tire if the table is empty, but if you have food laid out, cleanup can be a pain.
The griptape moved easily.
Is this nitpicky? Absolutely, but the uneven griptape drove me nuts. Maybe it was just the contrast against the quality seen in the rest of the product, but the fact that this tape moved every time I used the table left me a little disappointed. In the end, I just peeled it off entirely, as it’s not necessary for the table to work properly. Update: Tailgater has since switched to a heavy-duty 3M grip tape, and will replace the previous tapes for any customers who contact them and ask.
While the Tailgater may not be the lightest or most portable table on the market, it’s one of my favorites. I love its quick setup time and rock-solid stability, and the easy-to-clean surfaces mean I never have to worry about using it for everyday tasks. If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all table for your family camp meals, this may not be the solution for you, but if you want a bomber side table ready to tackle everything from serving up tacos to holding up tool rolls, the Tailgater is worth a look.
To learn more, visit the Tailgater Tire Table website here.
Price – $140
Weight – 12 pounds
Dimensions – 23 W x 29 L x 1.5 H (inches)
Compatible tire size – 14″ and up, wheel well space allowing. (Owner states he has seen it used on tires up to 46″)