Every October, Digital Ocean ships out free Hacktoberfest shirts to thousands of people around the world.

I’ve gotten Hacktoberfest shirts the past three years, and I wear them with pride.

In this quick article, I’ll show you how you can get a Hacktoberfest shirt — even if you’re new to coding.

The bottom line is this: if you can open 4 pull requests by October 31 — and I’ll walk you through how to do this — you can get your own Hacktoberfest shirt shipped to your door for free.

Step #1: Register for Hacktoberfest

You need a GitHub account. If you don’t have one yet, you can create one for free in just a few minutes.

Then go to the sign into the Hacktoberfest registration page and follow the instructions. It only takes a moment.

Step #2: Learn how to make a pull request

Pull requests are a way of contributing your code changes to an open source project. They use a tool called Git, which runs on a social coding platform called GitHub.

GitHub is the center of the open source universe, and is home to projects like Linux and React.js.

It can take months for developers to get good enough to contribute to some of these projects. But there are also projects that are easy to contribute to - right on GitHub.

You can contribute to some projects right in your browser on GitHub. You don’t need to install anything on your computer. You don’t even need to know a programming language. You just need to choose an article you want to help improve.

Here’s a short gif showing you an example of how you can edit a file on GitHub right in your browser, then open a pull request:

A Gif showing how easy it is to make an open source contribution to an article, right in your browser.

Step #3: Make a pull request to a Hacktoberfest beginner's repository

freeCodeCamp was the most-contributed-to GitHub repo during Hacktoberfest 2017 and 2018. This year, our nonprofit has decided to step aside and make way for other organizations.

Several developers have created GitHub repos specifically to help newcomers make their first pull request.

Here's one such repository where you can get your first accepted pull request just by adding your name to its contributing.md file.

Step #4: OK — now make 3 more pull requests

You can make 3 more pull requests to other open source project. Here’s a more detailed guide to contributing to open source, if you’re feeling adventurous.

You may be wondering - can I get more than just a Hacktoberfest shirt? Why yes, many other companies are offering free swag for opening pull requests to their projects. Here's a giant list of these companies, their swag, and how you can earn it.

I also tweeted out an invitation to open source project maintainers to see who's interested in helping guide Hacktoberfest contributors.

Below are some of the open source maintainers who answered the call, with links to their GitHub repositories:

Step #5: Check and see whether you’ve qualified

Once you’ve signed up for Hacktoberfest, you can check your progress on the Hacktoberfest website. This will tell you how many valid pull requests you've made and how many more you need to make.

Step #6: Wait for your Hacktoberfest 2019 shirt to arrive in the mail

In past years, shirts have arrived in November or December, depending on how far you live from San Francisco.

The Digital Ocean team should eventually contact you asking for your shirt size and shipping address. (Keep in mind they are shipping 10,000+ shirts so this process will take a while.) And yes, they will ship internationally for free.

Frequently asked questions people ask about Hacktoberfest

What kinds of pull requests count toward earning the Hacktoberfest shirt?

Any pull request made to a public repo on GitHub will count. The pull request must contain commits you personally made yourself — not automated commits from bots.

What if my pull requests aren’t accepted?

Even if your pull requests aren’t accepted, they should still count toward your 4 pull requests necessary to earn the shirt. The only exception would be if the project maintainer chooses to mark your pull request as “invalid”. They may do this if they perceive your pull request to be low effort, or if it contains plagiarism.

What if I don’t make at least four pull requests by midnight October 31?

As long as you registered for Hacktoberfest, you’ll still get some free stickers in the mail. So it’s still worth registering, even if you’re too busy to participate.

Are there any in-person Hacktoberfest events I can attend and get help with my pull requests?

There are hundreds of Hacktoberfests planned in cities all over the world. You can browse upcoming events here.

Celebrate Hacktoberfest with the global open source community

I hope you’ll contribute to the open source community, learn a few new things, and have fun in the process!