What to Wear in Austin, TX: Austin Packing List

By Nick Hilden
People rocking out at a show in Austin.

Austin is famously weird, famously hot, and famously fun. While it retains the Texan appreciation for BBQ, beer, and loud talking, Austin is unique from the rest of its home state. In fact, it’s distinct from just about everywhere. It’s no surprise that you’re wondering what to wear in Austin.

This Austin packing list includes clothing suggestions and a few other essential items. The sun is no slouch in this city, so you need to be prepared. When considering what to pack for Austin, keep in mind heat, health, and hip style choices.

Outbreaker Backpack 45L

The Best Backpack for Austin, Texas

When packing for Austin—especially during the sweltering summertime—you’re not going to need too much clothing. You can leave coats and heavy footwear back at home. Your best option is to pack light with a carry-on-sized travel backpack, which allows you to avoid the stress, hassle, and expense of checking a bag.

From my experience, the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is unrivaled in terms of carrying capacity, organization, comfort, and durability. No other backpack allows you to pack so much into the space allowed by airline travel restrictions or to carry so much comfortably. The thick padding on the fully adjustable harness is comfortable enough to wear for hours on end, if necessary.

When to Visit Austin

Tourist season in Austin is bookended by the 10-day South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in mid-March and Austin City Limits (ACL) in October. Your trip will likely fall somewhere between these two events. If you aren’t attending SXSW or ACL, do your best to avoid visiting Austin around these times as hordes of out-of-towners invade, causing Airbnb prices to skyrocket. Locals also tend to leave town, which changes Austin’s entire vibe.

Regardless of when you visit, Austin is always pretty warm. Make your peace with that. From June to August, temperatures routinely sit in the upper 90s, and triple-digit heat isn’t front page news. Pack for humid heat and make sure you know how to get to the oasis that is Barton Springs.

Man packing a capsule wardrobe

What to Pack for Austin

A lot of people think everyone in Texas is a cowboy, but Austin is probably much hipper than wherever you’re from. The indie and live music scenes are epicenters of cool, food is off the charts, dozens of microbreweries will get you feeling adventurous, the thrift stores are hilarious, tailgating a UT game is a blast, and Austin has museums and historical sites galore. Austin truly has something for everyone.

Austin Packing List

Packing for one week in Austin:

In the summer add:

  • 1 water bottle
  • 1 sarong or quick-dry towel (for swimming)
  • 1 sunscreen stick
  • 1 hat or visor

In the winter add:

  • 1 jacket
  • Swap your hat for a wool beanie
  • Swap one t-shirt for a long sleeve shirt

For music festivals add:

Packing a Daypack for Austin

You’ll also want a daypack in Austin. If you’re biking, walking, or using one of the ubiquitous electric scooters around the city (you should), you’ll carry your water bottle, sunscreen, snack, and possibly a change of shirt with you at all times. You have to stay hydrated, and you’ll want to change your gross sweaty shirt before you dance the local honky tonk.

Things to Do in Austin

If you came to Austin to eat, dance, and romp, you’re in luck. Austin has some of the best food and entertainment in the country. So grab your bike, strap on your daypack, and get ready to explore.

Austin Food Trucks & BBQ

BBQ and brisket are practically half the reason to visit Austin in the first place. The Mexican food in town is also excellent. Everywhere is great, but here are a few of my favorite spots to grab a bite:

  • Franklin BBQ: Located on the east side, Franklin’s BBQ was ranked the #1 bbq spot in the entire country. Expect to line up early and wait forever (up to 3 hours) for a taste of the best darn BBQ around.
  • East Side Pies: I loved this little divey pizza shop. Also located in East Austin, it’s worth dropping by for a slice. They don’t have a website though… which is awesome.
  • Smokey Denmark: This place has a 50 year legacy of doing BBQ right.
  • Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ: Can’t decide between BBQ and Tex Mex? No problem.

Biking in Austin

I love biking in Austin, even in the summer heat. The freedom to get from A to B without learning the public transit system or paying for ridesharing is amazing. You can rent a bike at a number of places, including: 

Here’s an online bike route map of Austin, to keep on your phone. If you want to save your batter, you can pick up a bike map in any local bike shop. Bike Austin, a biker advocacy community, even announces local rides for you to join.

Austin Live Music & Dancing

Austin has an awesome music scene. While there’s too much to really dive into, here are a few great spots to get you started:

  • The Broken Spoke: This prototypical dive features local honky tonk bands and country legends alike.
  • The Continental Club: This Austin staple has been slinging drinks and live music for over 60 years. Bring your a-game to this hallowed dance floor and soak in some of what makes Austin truly special.
  • The White Horse: Located on Comal St., this is the place to check out if you’re looking for great live music, cheap drinks, and solid two-stepping. The White Horse is what other dive bars try to be.

Conclusion

Don’t overcomplicate packing for Austin. Pack for the heat to fit in at all sorts of offbeat cultural opportunities. Your t-shirt that’s too weird for anyplace else is probably perfect for Austin.

So embrace a bit of minimalism, pack up your backpack, and get ready for some world-class BBQ.