Welcome to our roundup of the best barbecues, lights, furniture, speakers, gadgets and games for the ultimate in outdoor entertaining
Having a cool garden party isn’t just about having the best sunglasses, although of course that’s important. It’s about setting the mood, serving up great food and trampolining the odd guest into your neighbours’ back yard - and we’ve discovered the best ways to do all of those things and more.
Yes, we know that God laughs while we make plans, and the weather tends to prove it: how many times have the warm, sun-drenched garden parties of our imaginations left us soaked and shivering as the climate throws everything at us?
That’s why we’ve ensured our guide also includes waterproof, shock-proof and drunken-uncle-proof products for when the sun doesn’t shine quite as much as we’d like.
Best barbecue (or BBQ, if you must)
Probably our favourite outdoor grill is the Napoleon Rodeo Professional. However, that really is on the expensive side, so our nomination for most grillsmen is the evergreen Weber grill in its 57cm Master-Touch guise.
It’s a design classic, a joy to cook on and employs a useful system for swapping grill for wok, pizza stone or griddle. Our round-up includes gas barbecues too, but they’re a little too kitchen-y for us: there’s something primal about charcoal cooking that appeals to our inner caveperson.
Best barbecue accessories
There’s nothing remotely funny about food poisoning, but it can be a side-effect of barbecue-related fun.
Make sure severe digestive unpleasantness and potential hospitalisation don’t befall your guests by investing in a wireless thermometer such as our best buy, the Char-Broil Wireless Digital Thermometer.
It takes the guesswork out of grilling to ensure that whatever you’re cooking ends up at the right temperature.
- Read: The best barbecue accessories 2017
- Read: The best cooking thermometers 2017
- Expert barbecue tips, from experts
Best garden games
It is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody can be grumpy when there’s a game of Twister on the go, and that’s not your only option: there’s a giant Jenga-style blocks game, a massive folding trampoline and a giant version of Connect 4 too.
Good games like these are ideal for any age, and the grown-ups are probably more enthusiastic about them than children are.
Just be careful where you put the trampoline unless you want to see your guests flying over the neighbours’ fence. You know the neighbours won’t give them back.
Best robot lawnmower
Although we wouldn't necessarily recommend letting a robo mower lose when guests are here with their children and pets, a well kept lawn is a must for a proper garden party.
It’s a place to stand and chat, to lounge around, to play games on and to stare at the stars when you’re happily plastered.
Unleash a robot lawnmower such as the extremely capable Robomow RS635 before they arrive and your sward will be the talk of the village.
The RS635 can handle even the biggest gardens, but can be a tad slow. If you'd rather do it yourself, we’ve picked the best cordless, electric lawnmowers of 2017 for you too: they're as convenient as mowers get.
Best pressure washer
Finished the lawn? Why not give the decking, the patio or the garden furniture a blast while you’re at it?
Pressure washers such as the Karcher K7 are our favourite ways to get rid of green staining and other unpleasantness, and provided you’re not in an area where there’s a hosepipe ban they’re much more environmentally friendly than splashing chemical cleaners all round the place.
If you’re a pressure washer novice it’s worth mentioning that up close, these things are fierce: be careful on decking or you’ll end up stripping any paint or varnish, and don’t get too close to anything painted.
On the plus side, you can also use them to threaten guests who’ve overstayed their welcome.
Best ice cream maker
Ice cream’s the perfect pudding on a warm summer day, and you get even more brownie points if it’s ice cream you’ve made yourself.
There are plenty of ice cream makers around, but few of them are really top quality. Our favourite is the Cuisinart ICE100BCU. It takes about an hour and a half to make a batch, but it’s a decent batch: the capacity is 1.5L and it’s not too much of a pain to clean afterwards.
Best garden furniture
Not wanting to over-specialise and bore you with a list of 200 deckchairs, our garden furniture round-up instead musters up rattan loungers, gazebos and even inflatable hot tubs, as well as old-school favourites such as swing chairs and steamer chairs.
The Lay-Z-Spa hot tub’s a great laugh and a superb ice-breaker, but please note that it is also a substantial beast to store away, and probably not ideal if you’re hosting a party for the local clergy.
Best wireless speakers
Every party needs a playlist, and in these days of Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, it’s never been easier to get the perfect summer soundtrack when you’re entertaining.
Our round-ups of the best wireless speakers include all manner of indoor and outdoor options, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but our top recommendation for garden parties is the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom.
It’s made of really tough stuff and is totally waterproof too - none of your IPX5, 'splashproof' nonsense here - so you could literally throw it in the hot tub, if you wanted.
Want something louder? Monster's Superstar Blaster is for full-on party-starting rather than plinking away while everyone has a Pimms.
It's only splash-resistant and requires a lot of power to run, so do not under any circumstances throw this one in the pool.
Best garden lights
There are some abominably shoddy solar-powered garden lights out there but if you shop wisely you can get ones that look good, that work well and that’ll be lighting up next year’s parties as well as this year’s.
Our current favourite comes from SolarCentre as its Lumify lights are solidly made, throw a pleasing light and can be topped up via USB if the sun hasn’t had his hat on long enough to charge the battery.
Best patio heater
In an ideal world it’d be warm enough for garden parties to last well into the wee small hours without anybody feeling cold.
Unfortunately it’s not an ideal world, it's Britain, and the further north you go the more likely you are to feel the cold before the sun even sets.
A patio heater isn’t as environmentally friendly as a jumper but unless it’s a very big jumper you can’t heat as many people as effectively, and the Firefly 2KW electric infrared heater does a decent job for a more than reasonable price.