Mary Sledd/SXSW

Story highlights

CNN's Victor Hernandez shares his favorite devices and apps for navigating SXSW

A Powerbag can charge your phone and other gadgets while you roam the festival

GroupMe is great for shared messaging within a closed circle of your friends

CNN —  

The tech world is descending upon Austin for the South by Southwest Interactive conference – an annual gathering of tech influencers for a fast-paced week of panels, networking, and yes – parties.

Sounds like fun, and it is. But it’s also grueling. Super-long days. Huge crowds, everywhere – all of them jockeying for the same Wi-Fi networks, power outlets and seats to that killer panel.

After last year’s marathon, I swore off returning to Austin for SXSWi. However after some months of recovery, I’ve relented – this time with a renewed focus on preparedness.

Yes, the Boy Scouts had it right.

If you’re headed to central Texas for “South by,” patience is highly recommended. Extra power supplies are a must.

In the spirit of sharing, here are 8 technologies I’ll rely on to help me survive South by Southwest 2012. What do/would you bring? Please let us know in the comments.

Mophie Juice Pack Plus

When you’re on the go, it’s all about the portable juice. Having extra battery power is the most important aspect of conference preparedness. The Mophie juice pack is my first line of defense. In addition to providing a battery recharge while on the move, the Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 4/S comes with a protective, shock-resistant case. Which will likely come in handy when I’m juggling my grilled cheese sandwiches, Starbucks drinks and mobile devices.


Sticking with the theme that you’re only as productive as your remaining battery life, I’m depending on Powerbag to keep me charged and in charge during the long days of South by. It’s just what the name says: a backpack-like bag that provides power to charge all of your gadgets while you’re on the go. The bags have a battery built in, along with a complete charging system: Apple connector, Micro- and Mini-USB connectors and an on-board USB port for charging up to 4 devices at once.

Outlets to Go Powerstrip

Interested in a quick and easy way to make new friends in Austin? Bring a power strip and invite a fellow conference-goer to recharge with you. It’s a great opportunity to connect with a stranger who likely shares similar interests. Beyond the social aspects of packing an outlet charger, it will allow you to hang onto your valuable portable battery charges for when you’re on the go and in a real pinch. Like in a cab headed to Salt Lick BBQ outside of Austin.

Kogeto Dot Camera

In photos, 360-degree panoramics are the closest thing to actually being there. From the massive exhibit floor of the Austin Convention Center to the conference keynote sessions to the CNN Grill and Turner Revive Lounge hangouts, I can’t wait to capture and share 360-degree immersive videos using the Dot camera, an attachment for the iPhone 4S.


This group-messaging app is like having your own chat room amongst friends. Our team tried Group Me at last year’s conference and found it made a big difference. There are plenty of times during the week when quick logistical updates are necessary and e-mail won’t suffice. You can have up to 25 members per group but once you get 10+, the updates can get pretty unwieldy. Fortunately you can set it to mute in case you need an uninterrupted afternoon power nap.


The official mobile app from South By Southwest is particularly impressive. No surprise – it is after all, a technology-based conference. Build and manage your daily schedule, keep up with program updates and changes, discover nearby events and fire up your social connectors directly off the app. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, and Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7.

iPad 2

This year my laptop remains back home in Atlanta. In addition to shedding about four pounds from my bag, I’m looking forward to accomplishing all of my necessary functions; surf web, social nets, access e-mail, word processing, photo and video editing. And while many of the conference venues offer free Wi-Fi, they are often over-crowded and super slow. Relying on my iPad 2 to access the 3G wireless network should provide much-needed rescue.

Apple iPhone 4S

No, it’s not very original. But it’s my primary tech weapon. With it, I’m an unstoppable sponge around Austin, soaking up information, energy and relationships – without it, I might as well go back to my room and watch pay-per-view. I’m planning to use my phone to shoot and share photos and videos, record audio notes and interviews, map and guide me to my next destination, engage with other conference goers via social web and text, check traffic and weather latest, jot down notes and reminders and exchange contact information with new tech acquaintances. Oh yeah, and perhaps make a phone call or two.

For anyone interested in a more visual version of this story along with additional technology resources I’ll be packing during my South By Southwest adventure, feel free to peruse this Pinterest board. And don’t forget to include your suggestions.