Traeger Tailgater Vs Traeger Ranger – A Detailed Comparison

The Ranger and Tailgater are Traeger’s two portable grills. Even though these grills are designed for tailgating or camping, they can also smoke meat at home. If you’re trying to decide between these two grills, here’s a detailed side-by-side comparison to help you decide between the two models. 

Traeger Grill Price And Main Features At A Glance

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Price$529.99 (updated price from the official Traeger Grill website)$449.99 (updated price from the official Traeger website)
Cooking Space300 sq. in.184 sq. in. 
Pellet Hopper Capacity8 lbs.8 lbs.
Minimum Grill Temperature180 °F (82 °C)165 °F (74°C)
Maximum Grill Temperature450 °F  (232 °C)450 °F (232°C)
Product WarrantyOverall warranty: 7 years (warranty for other parts vary – refer to list below)Overall warranty: 3 years

Price Difference

There’s about a $80 difference in price between these two portable Traeger models. The Tailgater usually sells for about $500 to $530, and the Ranger is usually around the $400 to $450 range. Obviously prices change constantly, so check the Traeger website for the latest prices. 

Look out for sales because I’ve seen Tailgater’s going for $375 to $400. But you need to be patient for those prices to come along. Look out for demo or display models because they usually get the price marked down.   

Where To Buy?

You can buy the Ranger and the Tailgater from the Traeger website. As with most Traeger grills, you get FREE SHIPPING. Traeger also offer buy-now-pay-later with affirm. The Tailgater works out to $48 per month, and the Ranger is $41 a month.

Traeger Tailgater Traeger Ranger

Can You Use The Tailgater and Ranger At Home?

Traeger designed the Ranger and Tailgater for taking on the road, but you can use them at home for short cooks to feed two or three people. They made these portable grills from lighter materials, so they don’t have the insulation needed for long cooks. It’s not impossible to cook brisket, ribs and pork butt on a Tailgater—but it’s hard work. The Ranger, however, is more suited for camping and cooking smaller cuts of meat. 

Grill Cooking Capacity And Grill Dimensions

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Cooking Capacity2 chickens, 3 rib racks, or 12 burgers1 rib racks, 6 burgers, or 10 hotdogs
Total Cooking or Grilling Space300 sq. in.184 sq. in. 
Weight62 lbs.60 lbs.
Height36 in13 in.
Depth18 in.20 in.
Width37 in.21 in.

Size And Weight Differences

The Tailgater only weighs 2 pounds more than the Ranger. The Tailgater weighs in at 62lbs and the Ranger weighs 60lbs—which is about as heavy as a large microwave oven. 

Light and Portable

This makes the Tailgater and Ranger easy to get in and out of an SUV or a truck. To make a light pellet grill, thee needs to be some sacrifices. Therefore, some components are plastic. To make it light, the Tailgater has plastic handles and plastic wheels — something you will only see on Traeger’s portable models. 

Temperature Range

When comparing the temperature range, these two models are similar. The maximum temperature on the Ranger is 450° F. The Tailgater can cook between 180° F and 450° F. 

Pellet Hopper Capacity

Another similarity between these portable models is the hopper size. The Ranger and Tailgater can hold 8 pounds of wood pellets in the hopper — which isn’t enough for long cooks. 

The 8lbs hopper is designed for short cooks, so if you want to cook longer, be prepared to refill the pellets constantly throughout the cook. 

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Portable SolutionYesYes
Built-In Meat ProbeYesYes
Included Cooking GrateYes (porcelain-coated)Yes (porcelain-coated)                                                       
Included GriddleNoYes (made of cast-iron material)
Latched LidNoYes
EZ Folding LegsYesNo
Wheeled LegsYesNo

Cooking Area

  • When comparing cooking area, the Tailgater can cook nearly twice as much food as the Ranger. 
  • The Ranger has 176 square inches of cooking area, while the Tailgater has 300 square inches. 
  • The Ranger can cook a full rack of ribs, or six burgers, or 10 hot dogs.
  • You can cook about four decent sized ribeye steaks at one time.
  • The Tailgater can handle 2 whole chickens, or 3 rib racks, or 12 burgers.

Can You Cook Roasts On The Ranger? 

Slow roasting is possible on the Ranger, but only small roasts. A small a brisket, or a chuck roast, no problem. The lid has enough room where you could cook a whole chicken comfortably. 

Can You Cook A Brisket On A Ranger? 

The Ranger only has enough space to smoke a small brisket flat. The Ranger can cook a whole chicken, so if your brisket is bigger than a whole bird, the lid might not close. 

Constantly having to refill the wood pellets will be your other challenge when smoking a brisket on a Ranger. A brisket will take several hours to cook, which means lots of pellets. The Ranger’s 8lbs hopper doesn’t last long, so be prepared to keep topping up the hopper. 

Special Traeger Grill Features

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Digital Arc ControllerYesYes
Wifi ConnectivityNoNo
Control Panel and DisplayYesYes
Bluetooth RangeNoNo
Idle ModeYesYes
Grill TimerYesYes
Keep Warm ModeYesYes


The Tailgater doesn’t come with any shelving, however, you can add one on for about $80. Not having a shelf could be annoying if you want to put a tray of meat down when you’re camping, or tailgating. 

The Ranger sits on a table, so it doesn’t need a side shelf.

Best For Low-and-Slow

Even though you can use Traeger grills to cook burgers, sausages, etc, pellet grills take more time than regular grills. Pellet grills are designed for low-and-slow cooking. But when you’re camping and tailgating, you normally have some extra time. 

The Ranger’s Griddle

The Ranger comes with a cast iron griddle, which is handy for when you’re camping. The cast iron griddle sits on top of the grill grate. This gives you the option to sear steaks or cook bacon and eggs. To use the griddle, increase the temp on the Ranger to the maximum temperature of 450° F. 

Even though the maximum temperature on the Ranger is 450° F, the temp may go higher.

Traeger Grill Control Panel And Display Buttons And Parts

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Keep Warm FunctionYesYes
Press and Hold FunctionsYesYes
Status DisplayYesYes
Meat Probe JackYesYes
Ignite ButtonYesYes
Indicator Light PanelYesYes
Up and Down ButtonYesYes
Center ButtonYesYes
Temperature DisplayCelsius and FahrenheitCelsius and Fahrenheit

Built-in Thermometer

The Ranger and Tailgater have built-in thermometers, although I wouldn’t trust the accuracy. More often than not, built-in thermometers are wildly inaccurate. I recommend using your own thermometer. If not, do an ice bath test to test for accuracy and then try to recalibrate the thermometer. You at least want to know how far off the thermometer is to the correct temperature.


Since Traeger made these grills for the outdoors, a cover is a good idea. The Ranger and the Tailgater don’t come with a cover, but you can buy them from Traeger. Covers sell for about $40 from the Traeger website. 

Covers really help if you’re cooking in cold weather. If the metal on the Ranger and Tailgater is cold, it’s going to take longer for your smoker to come up to temperature. And the longer it takes, the more pellets you will burn. So a cover might be a worthwhile investment.

Handles And Latches

The Ranger has brushed handles that don’t get hot, which is important. Especially if you need to move the grill while it’s hot. However, the clips on the front of the Ranger get extremely hot during cooking. 

The Ranger has two latches to secure the lid for transportation and storage. The latches also make a tight seal when cooking and help hold in the heat.

Traeger Grill Parts

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Grill LidYesYes
Lid/Door HandleYesYes
Grill GrateYesYes
Grease Drip TrayYesYes
Grease Drain PortNoYes
Grease BucketYesYes
Pellet HopperYesYes
Heat BaffleYesNo
Main Power SwitchYesYes
Pellet Hopper LidYesYes
Side Lift HandlesYesNo
Rubberized FeetYesYes
Stationary LegsYesNo
Power CordYesYes

Ranger Specs

  • Keep warm mode
  • Digital controller
  • Meat probe
  • Porcelain grill grates
  • Cast iron Griddle
  • Cooking capacity 194 square inches
  • Total weight, 60 pounds
  • Pellet Hopper capacity, 8 lb
  • Maximum temperature, 450° F
  • Height, 13 in
  • Weight, 60 lb
  • Width, 21 in
  • Depth 20 in

Does The Ranger Have A Smoke Stack?

All smokers have an exhaust system to remove unwanted gases. Most smokers have a chimney-style smokestack, but the Ranger has vents on the back and the sides for smoke to escape.

Temperature Accuracy

The temperature on the Ranger is accurate and will hold the temperature that you set. The Tailgater, however, is sometimes out by 10°F.

 Traeger TailgaterTraeger Ranger
Power SourceElectric and WoodburningElectric and Woodburning
Voltage120 V120 V
Fuel TypeHardwood PelletsHardwood Pellets

The Keep Warm Setting

The Ranger has a “keep warm” setting to keep the meat warm until you are ready to eat. This mode will keep the Ranger at 165° F—which is a safe temperature to hold food. 

When your food is close to done, hit the Keep Warm button. Your meat will almost rest and redistribute moisture. Also, you may not eat all the meat that you cooked, so whatever you don’t use you can put back into the Ranger in Keep Warm mode.

The Ranger’s Hopper

Most pellet hoppers are attached to the side of the smoker, but the Ranger’s hopper is contained within the unit itself. There’s a divider between the pellet hopper and the fire pot, so there’s no chance the firebox doesn’t ignite the pellet hopper. 

The hopper is a box, and it holds 8 lbs of wood pellets. You can top it up during the cook, and the hopper is safe to open and won’t burn your hand. 

Drip Pan And Heat Reflector

The Ranger has an all-in-one drip pan, and a heat deflector built into one attachment. At the rear end of the trip tray is an attachment for a grease can. There’s a separate grill grate that lies on top of the heat deflector/drip pan. 

Prime Button

Like most pellet grills, the Ranger also has a Prime button so you can begin cooking sooner. By holding up the button, the auger feeds pellets into the fire pot. Then, once you’re ready to cook, the Ranger will come up to temperature sooner. 

Is The Ranger Safe?

The Ranger gets extremely hot on the front side of the grill. Also, the clip in front of the firebox gets extremely hot, so be careful when going to open the lid. So be very careful when small children are around. 

So What’s Better? The Tailgater Or The Ranger?

  • The Ranger is easy to clean, quick-and-easy to use. 
  • Some people prefer the Ranger to the Tailgater for a camping or Tailgating grill. It’s more compact, and still can still cook enough food for a few people. 
  • The Tailgater cooks more food. 

Transporting The Ranger And Tailgater

Folding the Tailgater legs can be frustrating. This is a common problem. Everyone complains about this. 

At least with the Ranger, you don’t have to worry about dissembling the legs every time you want to take off in your RV or go camping.

Reverse Searing Steaks On The Ranger

Reverse searing steaks are much easier on the Ranger. Begin by slowly smoking the steaks, then turn up the heat and finish with a sear. 

  1. To do this, smoke the steaks at a low temperature.
  2. Once they reach an internal temp of 110° F, remove the steaks and increase the temperature of the Ranger to 450° F. 
  3. Place the griddle on the drip tray/deflector, or use a grill grate. Place the steaks back on, and sear them until they’re done.

Assembling the Tailgater

The assembly process is simple. When you buy a Traeger, they pack the box really well, so you don’t get any damaged parts. 

The grill comes in three sections; the main cook chamber, the auger/pellet hopper, and the legs. You just have to attach the pellet hopper with the legs. 

How Does The Tailgater Work?

If you haven’t used a pellet grill before, they are extremely simple. 

  • There’s a cook chamber, and a separate pellet hopper where you house the wood pellets. 
  • An auger feeds the pellets from the pellet hopper into a fire pot. 
  • A hot rod in the fire pot ignites the wood pellets. 
  • By adjusting the temperature gauge, the auger will feed the right amount of pellets to reach your desired temperature. 
  • If you increase the temperature on your digital controller, then the auger will increase feed more pellets into the firebox. 

Tailgater – Temperature Fluctuations

One of the biggest criticisms of the Tailgater is the temperature fluctuations. If you spend another few hundred dollars, you can get the Traeger Pro 575, or the Pro 22. By upgrading, you won’t get the wild temperature swings. 

You may find the first few hours the temperature is stable, but if you are doing a long cook, you may experience a huge temperature swing. 

Great For Beginners

The Tailgater is a good little entry-level smoker, but if you find you like your new hobby, you will probably regret not buying a larger model. 

However, if your primary purpose for buying the Tailgater is portability, then you won’t have any complaints. 

Buy A Thermometer

Using your own wireless thermometer is a good idea if you’re going to smoke on a Tailgater. The Tailgater has huge temperature fluctuations, so a good wireless thermometer will help you keep track of the temps so you can make adjustments. 

More Affordable

If you’re on a tight budget, the Tailgater is good value for money. Obviously bigger is always better, but if you can only afford the Tailgater, you still have a good pellet smoker. 

What Is A Junior Elite?

The Junior Elite was the Traeger’s portable model prior to the Tailgater. 

Keep Your Traeger Clean

Before using your Traeger Tailgater, always give it a good clean—especially if you doing a long cook. 

Although pellet grills are supposed to be set-and-forget, they can be dangerous and need close monitoring and maintenance.  

Other Traeger Reviews:

Traeger Tailgater vs The Pro 22 – What’s The Best Small Traeger?

Ranger vs Tailgater – We Compare The Portable Traeger Grills

Pro 575 vs Pro 22 – A Side-By-Side Comparison

Pro 575 vs Pro 780 – What’s The Difference?

Timberline 1300 vs 850 – A Detailed Comparison

Ironwood vs Pro Series – We Review Both Series

Pro 34 vs 780 – A Side-By-Side Comparison

Ironwood vs Timberline – We Compare Traeger’s High-End Grills

Traeger Pro 34 vs Pro 22 – A Side-By-Side Comparison


Author and founder at Meat Smoking HQ

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