Listen to Austin 360 Radio

SXSW Survival Guide: Gear up

Eric Webb

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 10, 2014

Every year in March, Austin says “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses of music fans trying to get into as many shows as they possibly can and stay alive.” South By Southwest Music runs March 11-16, and it’s going to be a jungle out there. Free shows? Secret shows? Giant Doritos vending machines? Who can keep track? Leading up to and during the music festival, we’ll be offering a series of tips to staying ahead of the pack in our SXSW Survival Guide.

Tip No. 3: Gear up.

Think of SXSW as a real-life game of Oregon Trail. You’ll need to pack goods with you to survive the long, arduous journey (and something to barter with at the trading post when you need a liniment, or perhaps a poultice).

It goes without saying that you should go approach any event like SXSW as prepared as possible. On the same note, you want to be as unfettered as possible so that you might glide from event to event with the most aerodynamic of ease.

Here’s a list of equipment worthy of your SXSW backpack/bindle. Mix and match at your leisure:

Phone charger. This one is non-negotiable. Your phone (preferably of the “smart-” variety) is your GPS, your communication device, your party tip feed, your ticket to entry at plenty of events, your camera, your schedule-keeper, your way to let your mother know you’re not dead. If it dies, your festival dreams might expire with it.

Sunscreen (because you’re in Austin)

Small umbrella or rain poncho (because you’re in Austin)

A light sweater, like a cardigan (because you’re in Austin)


Pain reliever

A government-issued form of photo identification

Sunglasses (if you forget these, you will be able to find a pair at your nearest swag booth)

Cash (friends don’t let friends pay ATM fees)

Snacks (no meltable foods, and nothing that you have to wash your hands after you eating)

Water bottle (refillable)

Glasses/spare contacts (for those of the non-20/20 persuasion)

Travel-size deodorant, mouthwash, and other personal freshening supplies

A book to read while waiting in lines (it’s not all non-stop raging)

Bandana (bonus dual utility: sweat catching and style complementing)

Some combination of a printed-out schedule, a map and directions to where you’re going (when your phone dies, you will need to become Christopher Columbus, minus the smallpox)

Small first aid kit (including bandages for the inevitable blisters)


Extra socks (nothing is more demoralizing than slogging around in wet socks after it rains)

Wet wipes (to mop off the cheap Jack-and-Cokes that will surely find their way onto you)

Toilet paper (actually, this is also non-negotiable)

Stamina the likes of which the world has never seen.

Anything else you think is a must-bring for any SXSW attendee? Let us know in the comments.

NEXT TIME: Do your research.