Party Smart With This Simple SXSW Survival Kit Checklist


Ah hell, it’s that time of the year again: SXSW is here. Locals love to hate it, but if we’re being honest, we take advantage of it too. How could we not? There are a multitude of free events, and they’re often flowing with free libations and hedonistic crowds. So how does one cope? By being prepared!

Marching into the mayhem of SXSW is always a risk, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Taking care of the essentials will go a long way toward ensuring you have a good time. A few minutes gathering supplies and double checking your outfit will be time well spent so pay attention and plan accordingly. This checklist isn’t comprehensive, but having just a few of these items can smooth many potential bumps in the road.

Arcie Cola. Photo by Erica Nix.

You are reading “Arcie’s Austin,” a blog by the one and only Arcie Cola. Photo by Erica Nix.

There are two ways to do this: Pockets and bags. We’ll start with pockets. The number and utility of pockets is highly dependent on the weather and personal style. Skinny jeans have been in vogue for a while, and although it’s perfectly normal to see bulging bits of whatever, it’s still a fashion faux pas. Bottoms need to be smooth, and if cargo pants are a no-go, there are very few options.

Alas, we all must choose our own burdens. Since you’re not baggin’ it, carry the bare minimum. Here’s your list:

Cards and keys

ID, credit/debit card, keys to domicile/vehicle–the stuff y’all can’t leave home without.


Most places accept cards, but sponsored parties are often in makeshift tents so it’s important carry a few dollar bills to tip the bartenders for all those free drinks. Plan to use a pedicab? Need a quick slice of pizza? Cash is king!


Shit gets loud, y’all! Protection is as easy as plug-em-up. They’re small and light so bring an extra pair if you care to share.


The utility of a few squares of tissue cannot be stressed enough. Porta-potty? Food truck? Allergy attack? Mysterious cleanup? Just think about it, and pack one extra.


Bad breath is a huge obstacle when meeting new folks. Carry a supply of fresheners, use them liberally, and pack enough to share with friends.


If you wanna make doin' SXSW look good, this is what you need.

If you wanna make doin’ SXSW look good, this is what you need.

Aside from the above essentials, there are a few other items that can mean the difference between an awesome time and a crappy one. If pockets won’t be adequate, there’s no shame in carrying a bag or utility belt. I’ve heard the SPIbelt (stands for Small Personal Item) is pretty good, and very Austin since it’s made here, although I’ve not personally tried it. Bags should be small, because only fools want to drag around five pounds of crap all day.

If y’all decide to carry a purse/murse/tote etc, the following additions for maximum festival comfort:


It’s not strictly necessary if y’all think about it, and the networks will likely be sloooow with so many people downtown, but whatever. Still, it can be helpful to have, especially if you’re using some of the SXSW-related apps like Skoop Events for the unofficial stuff, or SXSW Go for all the officially scheduled stuff.


A small assortment of OTC pills for party pooper situations like allergies, headaches, heartburn, etc. Other “medicines” are up to individual discretion.


A small bottle of hand sanitizer, baby wipes, or moist towelettes are always welcome in the porta-potty, after a greasy taco, or for freshening up.

Emergency Nutrition

Whether it’s a package of gas station nuts, or a whole-food-energy-woo-woo-bar, having an emergency snack on hand is invaluable. Many sponsored events are short on food, and copious amounts of free alcohol are better absorbed on a full stomach.

Lip Balm

Dry lips are annoying, and drinking is dehydrating, so slick up that kisser.


Hey, y’all might get lucky! And if not, just leave them in a conspicuous place for somebody else to find.


And just because we love you, here’s a few more parting tips for surviving the festival intact. It can get rough out there, y’all!

Dress For The Forecast

Texas weather can change in an instant, and wearing shorts while the temperature drops 20 degrees in 10 minutes is never fun. Bring some layers and if it gets hot, ditch them in a corner during the show. Nobody will mess with an old hoodie or granny sweater. Hitting up some outdoor shows in the sunshine? It’s possible to get roasted in March, so wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Looks like rain? Bring an umbrella, because chances are good that it will pour.

Go With The Flow

Planning is great, but shit happens, so don’t get hung up on anything. Sometimes the most amazing experiences happen unexpectedly. Follow your gut and try something new. Don’t worry about keeping up with friends; be willing to do your own thing.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Many folks ignore this rule at their peril. Yes, there are lots of trendy people in the crowd, but they’re probably too busy taking selfies to care about your unfashionable shoes. Choose a pair to confidently wear from 6th/Chicon to 6th/Rio Grande without working up a blister. It’ll be worth any imaginary side-eye from the crowd.

Pee When Possible

Finding a restroom that isn’t reserved for x-y-z can be a pain, so take advantage of any opportunity to use a public potty. Most of the facilities will be of the portable variety, and they may not be pristine, but when in doubt, squeeze it out. There might not be a convenient opportunity at the next destination.

Drink Lots Of Water

Lots and lots of water. Haven’t had any water in the last hour? Drink some more!

And seriously, bring all the tissue y’all can carry. Now, go have fun y’all!


Featured photo: Flickr user Ralph Arvesen, creative commons licensed.