Heading to Mardi Gras in New Orleans? This Mardi Gras packing list has exactly what you need to survive New Orleans’ greatest festival.
Before experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I had no idea what to bring… or wear.
Beads? Purple/yellow/green costume swag? Masks? An excess of glitter? A backpack of beer?
Then Mardi Gras happened, and my expectations were blown out of the water.
To say New Orleans goes wild during Mardi Gras is an understatement. Trust me when I say these people know how to do a holiday right. And dress to kill while they’re at it.
You’ll see people cooking on the side of the street in outfits you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams, hauling coolers full of snacks and drinks down sidewalks in full costumes, posting up on cushy lawn chairs adorned with Mardi Gras beverages while less experienced parade goers nurse sore feet.
A Mardi Gras packing list… so you can do New Orleans in style
Doing Mardi Gras as smoothly as local New Orleanians is virtually impossible, but that doesn’t mean you have to go in unprepared! So you’re not caught as off guard as I was, here’s the perfect Mardi Gras packing list for your undoubtedly hedonistic celebrations in one of the US’ greatest cities.
1. A dope fanny pack
They’re small. They hold all your essentials and aren’t easy to subtly pickpocket. They don’t smash into other people in crowds. They literally strap to your body so that no matter how stupidly intoxicated you are, you can’t lose yours. Oh, and they come in all kinds of crazy shapes, colors, and sizes. Why wouldn’t you bring a fanny pack?
Make sure you get the craziest one you can find. When it comes to Mardi Gras, the freakier the better.
2. A dependable power bank
Losing your family/friends when your phone is dead is no joke when you’re in a crowd as massive as what you’ll see during Mardi Gras. Been there, done that, never again.
Save yourself the stress and keep yourself safe—pack a power bank and charging cable for Mardi Gras in New Orleans every time you go out for the day/night. Bonus points if you’re a kind soul and let other people use yours.
3. A hydration pack or reusable bottle
Glass is a big no-no during Mardi Gras, but plastic waste is also a huge problem during the festival. In the name of saving the earth and making things easier on you, bring a drink pouch, hydration pack, or reusable bottle for your water and/or boozy beverages. They might taste a bit funky after the festival, but… erm, at least the taste will bring back memories?
Protip: Drink neat drinks or mixers. Finding somewhere to pee during Mardi Gras is a nightmare.
4. Glitter and/or body paint
Fact: glitter is a Mardi Gras staple.
Haters call it the herpes of the arts and crafts world. I say fuck it; half the population has herpes anyway. There’s even biodegradable glitter now; Gulf fishes no longer have to drown in our party waste.
If you’re really that opposed to glitter, body paint is a good alternative that you’ll be able to fully eradicate from your body before the century is over.
5. A ridiculous wig
Every girl in New Orleans has at least one crazy wig in her closet that she brings out during Mardi Gras… and many guys do, too.
Join the party! Wigs are an easy way to add a splash of color to your outfit (and save you the need to fix your normal hair). No need to restrict yourself to purple, green, or gold. Go nuts.
6. Fabulously tacky legggings
Leggings are a cheap and easy way to stay warm while still looking glam and/or justifying wearing tiny clothes in the cold. And don’t be medieval—boys totally can and should wear leggings, too.
7. A funky jacket to keep you warm
Like it or not, Mardi Gras happens early in the year. Though New Orleans is warmer than other American locales, it still gets pretty damn chilly during Mardi Gras.
You don’t want your carefully selected party attire to suffer because you have to put a normal coat on over it, do you? Pack yourself at least one fly piece of warm outerwear so you don’t have to stop when the sun drops.
8. A raincoat or poncho
When it rains in New Orleans, it pours. All is fun and good at the parades until the cats and dogs fall; don’t get caught like a glittery drenched rat in the rain.
Raincoats are the most practical and reusable, but a plastic poncho will do the trick. Use umbrellas at your own risk; try not to poke someone’s eye out in crowds.
9. An insulated beverage bag or cooler
I used to think insulated bags were unnecessary items meant for soccer moms only… then my mother gifted me one—a purple winged monster lunchbox with one eyeball, very adult—and I realized I could fit a six pack in it.
When you’re melting in the sun/battling seething masses, you’ll appreciate not having to walk to snag yourself a cold one. Even better, cooler bags come in all kinds of wacky styles and sizes. Don’t leave home without one!
Not as fun as glitter, nor as thrilling as tacky leggings, but still one of the most essential items on this packing list!
In New Orleans, when it rains it pours, and when the sun shines it scorches.
You’ll be out in the crowd for hours on end, and likely too tipsy to consider something as trivial as skin cancer. At the very least, pack some sun block to ensure you don’t come back from Mardi Gras looking like a freshly boiled crawfish.
11. Comfortable walking shoes that can die
This is one part of your costume you don’t have to worry about looking good. No matter how balls to the walls people dress, you’ll be surprised to see their footwear is usually mundane.
Why? Because shoes will be destroyed by beer/mud/humans/whatever the hell else ends up on the ground during Mardi Gras.
Don’t ruin a good pair of shoes; bring a comfortable pair of trainers that you wouldn’t mind destroying.
12. A damned comfy lawn chair
Not the stand-and-rage-for-hours type? No worries! You’re not alone. Plenty of people just park and observe the parades, and they do so in style.
If your legs can’t take a beating, pack a lawn chair. To avoid losing your spot—and make it easier to find your chair in a crowd—consider adding some decor like a flag so it’s more easily spotted.
Oh, and make sure your lawn chair has cup holders. Duh.
13. Finally: whatever other freaky adornments you can find.
In New Orleans, no get up is too garish, no costume too crazy. If you have something absurd and can find a way to wear it, it’s suitable. Throw it in your bag—it’s Mardi Gras!
So long as you remember to pack a few of these items—and drink a lot of water—your Mardi Gras is guaranteed to be a wild ride.
Catch you on the parade route?
Want more on Mardi Gras? Don’t miss my massive first timer’s guide to Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you buy something through my links, I’ll make a bit of extra change at no extra cost to you. It’s how I cover the costs of running this blog, and trust me—I packed allllll these things during Mardi Gras.