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How to survive the wild, weird weeks of SXSW

sxsw 2013We’re just days away from SXSW 2013. In preparation for this upcoming week of madness, here’s everything you need to make it out of the festival alive – or at least, functional enough to hop on that flight home.

What to pack

evolve elston solar charger messenger bagThe weather is Austin is a comfortable 70 degrees in March, but at night temperatures can drop down to below 50. It’s a cool city to rock the denim shorts you’ve stored away all winter, but remember to bring hoodies to layer up when the night falls. Sunglasses and an umbrella could be useful in case the weather gets extreme, but also bring a backpack that can store all these accessories so you can hop in and out of pedicabs, bikes, and shuttlebuses without jabbing some drunk hipster in the face.

Don’t forget extra battery packs and chargers too. Better yet, find a backpack that comes with a built-in charger so you’ll never be out of juice. We recommend Powerbag ($130), Voltaic ($150), or Evolve’s Elston ($462) or Sawyer ($407) messenger bags for something more stylish. On the go charging cases, like the MOTA Extended Battery case, is also a smart accessory to pick up.

SXSW is a crowded festival, and you will see and hear many unusual things. Unfortunately, you will also smell some terribly weird mix of un-showered partiers, cheap alcohol, and hungover bros puking behind a restaurant. For the sake of others, please bring your deodorant and use it generously. For the sake of your gag reflex, bring a bandana to cover your face when the stench nears. Bandanas are even great for soaking in water to keep you cool or holding your hair out of the way while running around town.

This. Don’t be this.

It should go without saying that you should bring comfortable shoes since you’ll be on your feet all day and night. TOMS and wedge heels are cute, but they will not last two days at SXSW; go with durable flats or those trusty Nike sneakers.

Apps to download

  • ShoutEm Austin 2013 Party Guide/Eventbrite: Because you’ll wanna know where to go and how to get in.
  • Foursquare: Because maybe there are perks when you check into a venue.
  • Shazam/Soundhound: Because you’ll hear unusual things (re: two paragraphs up) and you may want to identify them, such as a cool new tune.
  • Foodspotting: Because you have to eat something that’s not bite-sized.
  • Vine: Because it’s a hot new app and you’re gonna want to GIF all the crazy things you witness.
  • Highlight: Because this is the only time people use those apps. And ’cause that guy by the bike stand is super cute.

Pace yourself

SXSW is the mecca of free parties, so do not feel like you need to chug every neon pink margarita you can get your hands on to make the experience worthwhile. If you miss the drinks at one party, there are bound to be more at the next. Bring a refillable water bottle and hydrate every so often so you don’t end up passed out in the middle of a dance floor.


eventbrite rsvpUnless you got a press pass to attend SXSW, you obviously paid a great deal of money to be at the festival. It would be a shame to be turned away from the hottest parties in town all because you forgot to RSVP.

Apps like WillCall or even searching “SXSW” on Eventbrite can bring up hundreds of events – take a few minutes of your time to pre-register to any of the ones you want to attend to ensure you won’t be turned away at the door. Using one app to hold all your confirmation is also a good way to keep track of where to go once you’re there. Lastly, you might want to RSVP to more than one events going on at the same time. In case one reaches max capacity before you get there, you’ll have a backup plan.

Make peace with your schedule and release it

Got an idea of all the things you plan to do and see when you’re in Austin? Great. Wrap that general time sheet around your head, nod in agreement, and let it go into the wild.

Many events, including “secret” ones that get announced hours before they start or surprise celebrities showing up at places, tend to magically pop up so you may have to change plans around at a moment’s notice. SXSW is chockful of shows that realistically, you just won’t make it to all of them. Realize this now before you are disappointed at the scene.

While we’re on the subject of not getting disappointed: Don’t worry about not making it to XYZ Startup’s free taco truck. We know they’re tempting to stop by (after all, who doesn’t like free food?), you just have to let it go. We promise, there’ll be another one a couple of blocks down – it’s more important to get to the shows you paid money to be here for. Unless, of course, if you haven’t eaten anything for 12 hours, food will always be priority (but how could you let yourself get to that when there are so many free snacks at parties!?)


You’ll want to hit up all the coolest parties you can get your ass to, but seriously, get some rest. Nobody wants to dance with a zombie. If you can’t make it back to your cheap Airbnb 30 minutes outside of downtown, there are plenty of lounges with Wi-Fi and water where you can take a breather and maybe even catch a few snoozes. Circus Mashimus, for example, has an all-you-can-eat popcorn station, phone chargers, and sofas made for your much-needed break.

If you haven’t already, start working out

Taxi cabs will be extremely hard to come by during SXSW, and cars will have limited access to festival grounds. Instead, you’ll likely have to walk or bike everywhere. This takes a lot of stamina to get through especially if you’re not a particularly active person so you better start training like a marathon is coming up. ‘Cause guess what: it is! Of course, if you get tired, see lounge tips above.

Social media is the point, but don’t forget to soak in the experience

ipad at showSXSW is known for being the largest festival that integrates the social scene with technology, so it’s no surprise that you will want to tweet, Instagram, Facebook, and check in to every concert, panel discussion, party, and restaurant you go to. However, don’t forget to take in the experience of being at SXSW. You’ll miss so much by keeping your nose locked down in a smartphone when everything else is happening around you.

Find a liver donor

We can only hope you take our pace yourself advice seriously, but just in case that all goes out the window when you land in Austin, might we recommend you have a liver donor ready when you return?

Natt Garun
Former Digital Trends Contributor
An avid gadgets and Internet culture enthusiast, Natt Garun spends her days bringing you the funniest, coolest, and strangest…
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