Backpacking with a Guitar: A Fast Way to Make New Friends

Whenever you go backpacking, there’s always that one person who brings a guitar. And this person always seems to have others around them, interested in who they are and what they have to say.

Why is that? This person is nice, but not that interesting. The only difference between you and them is that they have a travel guitar. But what’s so special about backpacking with a guitar?

What’s so special is that when people go backpacking they want the whole experience, including unplugged entertainment. Someone who goes backpacking with a guitar offers it.

And they offer so much more.   

All of a sudden, with no power for electronic devices, people want to listen to the acoustic guitar. They want to sing songs from their childhood at the evening’s campfire. They want lifetime memories. So the person who brought the guitar becomes the main event. 

And that person should be you!  Why not?

Guitars are relatively inexpensive to buy and easy to play. Plus, backpacking with a guitar makes you the camp celebrity.

Let’s look at other reasons why you need a backpacker guitar, a ukulele, or even a harmonica:

Why You Should Go Backpacking with a Guitar From Now On:

  • Backpacking with a guitar is the fastest way to meet new people.
  • You will be the center of attention at the campfire.
  • Singing a song to someone you love outdoors is super-romantic.
  • You will make new lifelong friends.
  • Your music videos will be popular on social media.
  • A travel guitar is really light to carry.
  • Campfire songs are super-easy to learn.
  • You only have to know 3 or four chords for every song.

Pro Backpacking Tip

Bring the words to your best acoustic guitar songs for people to sing along. Then pick a song leader. You will get much more participation from fellow backpackers. 

Make Sure You Buy a Used Acoustic Guitar First

If you are planning on backpacking with a guitar, do not go out and buy an $800 Martin acoustic guitar. It will get ruined!

Some people write articles about backpacking with a guitar and talk about protecting it from the weather. Then they write about wrapping it securely and not letting people borrow it. They talk about damage to the guitar as it gets jostled around and how heavy it is to carry. 

A heavy, new, full size guitar is not the guitar to take backpacking. What you want is a smaller, travel guitar that is lightweight and possibly beat up already. Buy it used on eBay or somewhere really cheap.  

There are many people who buy a brand new travel guitar for backpacking and never learn to play it. Their laziness is your new cheap ticket to campfire superstardom.

Some people also write about how a cheap backpacker guitar sounds “thin” when played outdoors. Who cares? Playing an acoustic guitar at a campfire is like singing in the shower. For some unknown reason, everyone sounds good – no matter how bad they play anywhere else.   

Besides, while everyone is loudly singing “Kumbaya,” they won’t take much notice of your playing anyway. They will, however, thank you for an evening they will never forget. 

Here is a list of the top names if you want to buy a used full size acoustic guitar:

  1. Martin
  2. Taylor
  3. Gibson
  4. Guild
  5. Seagull
  6. Yamaha
  7. Ovation
  8. Washburn
  9. Fender
  10. Epiphone 

Pro Backpacking Tip 

The best place to buy a used full size acoustic guitar is at the local pawn shop. A guitar is easy to pawn, and the first thing people get rid of when they need cash. A Martin acoustic guitar from the pawnshop may be less than $100.

If you are backpacking from a base camp, or just plain camping, a used, full size acoustic guitar is perfect. Leave it at camp and you don’t have to worry about losing it or lugging it around. 

Backpacking with a Travel Guitar is Awesome

Once you learn how to play, investing in a used travel guitar is a smart choice. A travel guitar is a full size guitar that’s been scaled back in body size. However, the neck (scale-length) is more or less the same size. A travel guitar will be smaller overall than a full size acoustic guitar, but mainly in the body.

This makes a travel guitar easier to carry without sacrificing the quality of sound or changing the playing experience. Some of the best travel guitars are made by Martin, Washburn (Washburn Rover), and Yamaha. 

A Few Things to Consider When You Buy a Travel Guitar:

  • How much can you afford to throw away if you lose it?
  • How heavy is it? (No one will offer to carry it for you.)
  • How bulky is it?   
  • How does it play for an acoustic guitar?
  • How does it sound for an acoustic guitar?
  • Can you make a connection with it?

Pro Backpacking Tip

If you buy a new travel guitar, some of them will come with a “travel bag” which is fairly useless for backpacking. A separate backpacking travel case will cost more – just how much is up to you. However, many used travel guitars come with a really nice case – because the original owner overspent. And if the person doesn’t need the travel guitar, they probably don’t need the case either. 

The Right Backpacker Guitar or Acoustic Guitar for Backpacking

Now that you know what basics to look for in a travel guitar, let’s get more specific. We can do this by looking at a few backpacker guitar models. These are the Martin backpacker guitar, the Yamaha travel guitar, and the Washburn Rover. 

These acoustic guitars are fairly similar in price range and size. However, here are a few more things to consider when purchasing a backpacker guitar. It’s also helpful to read some reviews.

  • Is this acoustic guitar easy to tune? (You will be doing this a lot.)
  • Is this guitar easy to learn to play? (Have you ever played before?)
  • How weatherproof is this backpacker guitar?
  • Where are you taking it? Really?
  • How much abuse can it take?
  • Does the guitar look cool? (Trust us. This will suddenly become important when you actually go to play in front of strangers.)

Pro Backpacking Tip

Remember to take a tuning fork with you as your backpacker guitar will need constant tuning while backpacking. 

The Steel String Martin Backpacker Guitar

If you’re more serious about backpacking with a guitar, the steel string Martin Backpacker is the most suitable. Make no mistake, the steel string Martin Backpacker is not the best-sounding guitar. Although, it wasn’t made to be. It was made to be rugged, which it is. 

Because it is made for durability more than sound, the sound of it is less bold. It also isn’t as loud. However, this steel string backpacker guitar can handle the many bumps, bruises, and weather of backpacking. It’s definitely made to play outside in any conditions. 

It’s priced at $200-$300 new, and if you look around, you can find a used one cheaper. The silhouette of the steel string Martin backpacker is streamlined with a fluted body shape. The solid spruce top of the body has a hand-rubbed finish, which makes it a really cool-looking guitar. Because of the shape, you will need a neck strap to play it.

A Few Positive Features of the Steel String Martin Backpacker Guitar

  • Full Size 24” Scale Length
  • Features 15 Frets
  • Neck Shape: Backpacker Guitar Taper
  • Solid Tonewood Back & Sides 
  • Made from Sustainable Woods
  • Dimensions: 10” x 5” x 3’
  • Weight: 5lbs
  • Easy to Play and Tune
  • Fits almost anywhere
  • Comes with Travel Bag (New)

If you want a more full size sounding Martin acoustic guitar, check out the Little Martin Koa. This 23” scale length acoustic guitar has the patented Martin neck mortise and a full rich sound. Although with dimensions of approximately 6” x 18” by 38” and weighing 8 lbs., it’s better for camping. So even though it’s a bit bulky for backpacking, the sound quality is unbeatable.

Pro Backpacking Tip

If it gets too humid on a backpacking trip (where your guitar might get damaged), slack the strings. This will keep the neck from warping. You will have to retune it, but better doing that than ruining your acoustic guitar. 

 

The Washburn Rover Steel String Travel Guitar

The Washburn Rover steel string travel guitar feels like a full size acoustic guitar, but with a significantly reduced body. The body is tiny, but the Washburn Rover still features a full size 24” scale length neck. So the Washburn Rover travel guitar is very natural to play. Because of its size, it is easy to transport and store almost anywhere. 

The Washburn Rover steel string travel guitar is priced at about $200 new and comes in different colors. The face of the body is spruce and the back and sides are laminated mahogany. The body has a classic guitar-shaped body and looks perfect around a campfire.  

The sound of the Washburn Rover, though, isn’t that great. While fine for backpacking, its sound, although clear and robust, is twangy with no low-ends. It is also only an acoustic guitar, with no way to amplify the sound at other times. 

A Few Positive Features of the Washburn Rover Steel String Travel Guitar

  • Full Size 24” Scale Length
  • Features 17 Frets
  • Rosewood Fretboard 
  • Full Size Washburn Branded Headstock
  • Approx. Dimensions: 8” x 2.5” x 33.5”
  • Weight: 8lbs
  • Comfortable to Hold
  • Easy to Play and Tune
  • Fits almost anywhere
  • Comes with Foam-Lined Case (New)

The Steel String Yamaha ¾ Size Acoustic-Electric Travel Guitar

From one of the leading manufacturers of guitars, the steel string Yamaha APXT2 travel guitar will not disappoint. The best thing about this steel string Yamaha travel guitar is that you can plug it into an amp. 

Because it’s a Yamaha steel string, it’s got a full acoustic guitar sound for around the campfire. Then, when you plug it into an amp with a power source, it sounds like a full size guitar. Which means if you like to play at home, you will enjoy the acoustic guitar sound there too.

The Yamaha steel string travel guitar costs about $200 new, a little less than the Martin. This is a cool-looking guitar, with a mini Venetian cutaway on the body, and it comes in different colors. The black Yamaha steel string is especially sleek-looking.  

One thing to keep in mind though is the Yamaha steel string acoustic guitar is a travel guitar. It is not a backpacker guitar. So while the Yamaha steel string sounds better, it doesn’t travel as well as the Martin acoustic guitar.    

A Few Positive Features of the Steel String Yamaha Travel Guitar

  • Rosewood Bridge & Fingerboard
  • Full Size 21 Frets
  • System 68 Pick-Up 
  • Built-In Tuner 
  • Spruce Top
  • Dimensions: 16” x 5” X  3’
  • Weight: 5lbs
  • Easy to Play and Tune
  • Fits almost anywhere
  • Comes with Gig Bag (New)

When to Take a Ukulele Backpacking Instead

A ukulele is easier to carry and lighter-weight if backpacking with a guitar seems like too much. Just keep in mind you need a sturdy case so it doesn’t get broken on your backpacking trips. 

Also, be aware that a ukulele is not a cheap instrument or a kid’s toy. A ukulele is about $100-$200 purchased new and they are quite stylish little instruments. With only four strings, they are also easy to play and are fun for most camp songs.  

Here are a few Ukulele Brands to Check Out:

  • Luna Vintage Soprano Ukulele
  • Hola! Soprano Ukulele
  • Kala Soprano Travel Ukulele
  • Eddy Finn Travel Ukulele
  • Donner Soprano Ukulele

A Harmonica Is Your Best Bet for Light Backpacking & Live Music

The harmonica is probably the definitive musical instrument for backpacking and travel. Cheap to buy and easy to learn, the harmonica has a long-familiar sound and standing on the trail. The only thing with a harmonica, though, is you need to learn to play it before you go backpacking. 

Pro Backpacking Tip

So if you take a harmonica out of your backpack, make sure you know how to play it. Otherwise, someone will borrow it from you and show you how it’s done. Or even worse, someone will ask you to stop playing.  

Sam Brooks

Sam Brooks

Hi, my name is Sam Brooks and I'm a huge hiking, fishing and camping enthusiast. I bring my dog Max as often as I can because he also loves the great outdoors. Although I consider myself a private person, I really want to share my passion and knowledge with the readers here at outdoorcommand.com