The Best Travel Guitars - Electric & Acoustic

The Best Travel Guitars - Electric & Acoustic

First published on July. 26, 2017 and last updated on September 12, 2018.

Here we look at the best travel guitars, covering both acoustic and electric models, designed to let you enjoy the sound and playability of regular guitars, without the bulk and extra-weight. More importantly, you no longer have to risk damaging your main guitar in long trips.

To ensure that current market favorites are featured, we have updated this guide to include the latest reviews and ratings, including those reported up to early September 2018.

Contents

List Of The Best Travel Guitars

The Best Acoustic Travel Guitars

Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$169
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

The humble parlor guitar continues to be a popular portable instrument, even with so many modern alternatives. The Gretsch G9500 is a great example of its staying power in the market, with its classic design that reproduces the vibe and feel of old Gretsch Rex guitars from the '30s. More importantly, it comes with a compact form factor that makes it an ideal portable instrument, or a grab-and-go couch guitar.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Parlor
  • Top: Agathis
  • Back & Sides: Agathis
  • Neck:Nato
  • Fretboard: 12" Radius Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 24"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: None
  • Body Length: 18"
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs

Pros

One user summarized market sentiment nicely by saying that the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy is "surprisingly good". And most users share the same experience, only worded differently. Reports of it exceeding expectations in terms of build quality are rampant, while others are happy with its distinct tone, especially when compared to regular acoustics.

Cons

Some minor aesthetic flaws are reported, but even those who rate the G9500 slightly lower have mostly good things to say about it.

Overall

The Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy is not only a good acoustic guitar to carry around, it is also a great way to check out what the parlor guitar is all about.

Taylor Baby Mahogany BT2

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$349
Taylor BT2

Known for their premium acoustic guitars, Taylor has set its eyes on the entry level market with their compact "Baby" series of guitars, the BT2 being among the best rated in their line up. This guitar is essentially a smaller version of the popular dreadnought shape, albeit with Taylor's brand of build and sound quality. While it was initially designed to be a starter guitar for kids, it made its way into the hands of professionals who appreciate its balance of portability and quality. This guitar features a solid mahogany top, and layered sapele for the back and sides, a potent combination that complements the midrange'y tone expected of small body acoustics.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Dreadnought Baby
  • Top: Solid Mahogany
  • Back & Sides: Layered Sapele
  • Neck: Sapele
  • Fretboard: African Ebony
  • Scale Length: 22.75"
  • Nut Width: 1 11/16"
  • Electronics: None
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Body Length: 15.75"
  • Weight: 8.1 lbs

Pros

Sound quality and playability are the top two reasons cited by reviewers for why they love the Taylor BT2. A lot of users appreciate its warm tone, which works well with various musical styles, from folk fingerstyle to strumming. Others are equally pleased with its overall build quality. For the price, many also consider the inclusion of a solid mahogany top in conjunction with the Taylor brand to be a great deal.

Cons

There are a few who gave the Taylor BT2 lower scores because of the included gig bag, which some describe as sub-par. Some users also caution that those who are looking for a full sounding acoustic guitar will probably not like the distinctly warm tone of the Taylor BT2.

Overall

All in all, the Taylor BT2 is a travel guitar that you won't be ashamed of carrying around.

Martin LX1E Little Martin

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$439
Martin LX1E Little Martin

There's no denying the popularity of the "Little Martin" LX1E, it gives the guitarists a chance to own a proper Martin guitar that's reasonably priced and portable. But more than just a parlor/travel guitar, the LX1E is a true workhorse instrument, with its solid sitka spruce top, sturdy HPL back and sides, and stage ready Fishman Isys T electronics. So much so that it continues to be the instrument of choice for many musicians, including big name artists like Ed Sheeran who plays a Martin LX1E signature, even when he can afford other more premium alternatives.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Modified O-14 Little Martin
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Sides: HPL (High Pressure Laminate)
  • Neck: Stratabond
  • Fretboard: Richlite 20-Frets
  • Scale Length: 23"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: Fishman Isys T
  • Battery: 1 x 9V (Piezo Preamp)
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Total Length: 34"
  • Weight: 8.6 lbs

Pros

In the eyes of its users, the "Little Martin" is anything but small - rather many of them revere it as the best travel acoustic guitar on the market. It's genuine woody Martin tone continues to rake in good reviews, while others are drawn in by its practical portability, elegance and playability.

Cons

Still, there are a few experienced players who nitpicked on some workmanship/cosmetic issues, most of which are on the neck, but they are still happy with the instrument overall.

Overall

If you're looking for a workhorse travel acoustic guitar, then the Martin LX1E is perfect for you.

Journey OF660M Carbon Fiber

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1220
Journey Instruments OF660M Carbon Fiber Acoustic Guitar

As the label implies, the Journey OF660M Carbon Fiber does away with traditional wood to turn it into a super reliable travel guitar. As special as that may be, the carbon fiber body of this guitar takes a second seat to what really makes this guitar special: which is its removable neck system. While removable necks are nothing new, the Journey OF660M has pulled it off in a way that detaching and attaching the neck is convenient and very easy - without straying too far from the familiar acoustic guitar shape. It even comes with a matching gig-bag so you can safely store the neck and body separately, while keeping the strings in a position where it doesn't break or scratch the guitar.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: 00 Travel
  • Top: Unidirectional Carbon Fiber
  • Sides: Fiberglass Re-inforced Carbon Fiber
  • Neck: Carbon Fiber
  • Fretboard: Carbon Fiber
  • Scale Length: 24.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.75"
  • Electronics:Passive Piezo Pickup
  • Battery: None
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Total Length: 35.5"
  • Weight: 4.1 lbs

Pros

More and more guitarists are becoming fans of the OF660M, and it's not surprising because of its incredible reliability and portability. It has been reportedly put to work in places that would mess up wooden guitars, including beaches, boats, mountain trails and many more. It also impresses guitarists for its sound, which many describe as surprisingly full sounding.

Cons

Those who prefer wood over carbon fiber will not find this guitar appealing. There are also some comments about the guitar's lack of acoustic projection, but this is to be expect, given its use of special materials.

Overall

If you're willing to make the investment and go beyond conventional acoustic guitar builds, then the Journey OF660M will make a great traveling companion.

Composite Acoustics Cargo ELE

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1600
Composite Acoustics Cargo ELE

Since wood is easily affected by humidity and temperature, manufacturers like Composite Acoustics have moved to more robust and resilient materials like "Carbon Fiber". The use of this light and sturdy material, combined with its one piece body-and-neck design makes the Cargo ELE a truly reliable acoustic guitar that can handle extreme weather, humidity and temperature changes. But its not just about reliability because the carbon fiber material and its shape is designed to give the instrument a sound that's similar to traditional acoustics. Finally, each Composite Acoustics Cargo Ele comes with an LR Baggs Active Element system which allows for genuine acoustic tones when plugged in.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Single Cutaway with Arched Back
  • Top: Carbon Fiber with Top Bracing
  • Back and Sides: Carbon Fiber
  • Neck: Carbon Fiber
  • Fretboard: Proprietary Reinforced Polymer 21-Frets
  • Scale Length: 22.75"
  • Nut Width: 1.75"
  • Electronics: LR Baggs Active Element
  • Battery: 1 x 9V (Piezo Preamp)
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Total Length: 34.98"
  • Weight: 9.8 lbs

Pros

Even with its premium price tag, those who invested in the Composite Acoustics Cargo ELE have mostly good things to say. Most are impressed with its superb reliability, but its not just about being durable because many are just as impressed with how the instrument sounds both acoustically, and when plugged in. Build quality is also commendable according to most.

Cons

There are a few who are not too happy with some details, like the C shape neck being a bit flatter than usual. And this is not a guitar for purists, or for those who want something with traditional wood.

Overall

If you have the budget, or if you are willing to invest in a super reliable travel acoustic guitar then the Composite Acoustics Cargo ELE is for you.

Popular Option

Here is an acoustic travel guitar that's not rating as highly as the others, but we've mentioned it due to its popularity.

Martin Backpacker

83
GEARANK

83 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
Martin Steel String Backpacker

While it is not as highly rated as others, the Martin Backpacker is still very popular and relevant, so we made sure that it gets a special mention in this guide. For a company that's known for sticking with familiar designs, the Backpacker shape is easily the odd one out, but appropriately so since it is meant to provide guitarists with a compact and portable Martin quality acoustic.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Backpacker
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Sides: Tonewood
  • Neck: Tonewood
  • Fretboard: Not Specified
  • Scale Length: 24"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Electronics: None
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Total Length: 33"
  • Weight: 2.125 lbs

Pros

It's unique shape and compact profile is well appreciated by many players, while others commend its playability and build quality, which is expected of a Martin designed guitar. Many are simply happy that they can own a good quality Martin guitar at a modest price point.

Cons

Ironically, the Martin Backpacker's shape riles up a few feathers, with reports of the guitar being hard to play without a strap. There are also a few complaints about its volume, but this is more of a physical limitation than an actual problem.

Overall

The Martin Backpacker is definitely not for everyone, but we feel that it is well worth considering.

The Best Electric Travel Guitars

Fender Squier Mini Strat

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$130
Fender Squier Mini Strat

Many decades after it was first released, the Fender Stratocaster is still among the most familiar electric guitars in the market. As such, you can see various iterations of the guitar, be it in price categories, colors and sizes. Speaking of size, the Squier Mini Strat is the student-friendliest of the lot, sporting a compact 3/4 size profile that also makes it viable for musicians who like to travel a lot. Aside from the size and pickup control configuration, the Squier Mini Strat is very much like its regular sized sibling in terms of tone, playability and sonic flexibility, albeit with some cost cutting done on the parts and build.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Mini Strat
  • Body Tonewood: Laminated Hardwood
  • Neck: Bolt-in Maple Neck
  • Fretboard: Indian Laurel
  • Scale Length: 22.75"
  • Nut Width: 1.6"
  • Pickups: 3 x Standard Strat Single-coil
  • Bridge: 6-saddle Vintage-style String-thru Hardtail bridge
  • Bundled with Gigbag: No
  • Total Length: 34.5"
  • Weight: 5.8 lbs

Pros

The general consensus is that the Squier Mini Strat is a great beginners guitar, with enough depth for even experienced players to appreciate. Many also commend it for its eye candy finish and overall appearance.

Cons

There are some reports of the guitar going out of tune rather quickly, a typical problem with affordable guitars that can be remedied with some adjustments or upgrade parts.

Overall

Check out the Fender Squier Strat Mini if you're looking for a familiar yet compact instrument to take on the road.

Traveler Ultra-Light Electric

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric Travel Guitar with Gig Bag

Weighing in at just 3.125 lbs and with a total length of just 28", the Traveler Ultra-Light Electric is considered to be the lightest and shortest electric guitar that retains full-scale length playability available today. It features a 24.75" scale length, similar to many LP style guitars, and a standard nut width of 1.75" . It utilizes the company's distinct tuning system where in the tuners are located in middle of the body, removing the need for a headstock. It also features a detachable frame that allows you to sit the guitar comfortably on your legs. Finally, it features a dual rail humbucker that can handle both clean and overdriven tone much like a regular electric guitar.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Traveler Ultra-Light
  • Body Tonewood: Maple
  • Neck: Maple Thru-Neck
  • Fretboard: Rosewood 22-Frets 12" Radius
  • Scale Length: 24.75"
  • Nut Width: 1.75"
  • Pickups: 1 x Dual-Rail Humbucker
  • Bridge: Adjustable Tune-o-Matic
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Total Length: 28"
  • Weight: 3.125 lbs

Pros

The Traveler Ultra-Light Electric guitar appeals to guitarists who are looking for a portable practice axe with similar playing feel as their Les Paul style instrument. Most reviewers commend it for its incredibly light and portable design.

Cons

Ironically, there are some who are on the opposite side of the fence, complaining about the body being too light, which makes playing a bit awkward, especially when digging the strings hard in rock, metal and similar music styles. The lack of volume and tone controls also raised a few eyebrows.

Overall

Still, if portability is your top concern, the Traveler Ultra-Light Electric should be high up on your list.

Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe Travel Guitar

Steinberger is known for their streamlined and compact headless guitar designs. The guitars that they produce are considered highly innovative, which prompted iconic guitarists like David Gilmour, Allan Holdsworth, Don Felder, Eddie Van Halen and more to get one for themselves. Steinberger continues to be the poster child for compact electric guitars, with the Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe leading their lineup in popularity and ratings. This model combines full scale playability (25.5" scale length and 1.625" nut width) with portability at a very reasonable price point. Note that the headless design requires you to use double ball strings, which can be a bit harder to acquire, but it works in conjunction with the Direct Drive R-Trem bridge to give this instrument tremolo control without compromising sustain and tuning stability.

Specifications:

  • Body Profile: Steinberger Headless
  • Body Tonewood: Maple
  • Neck: Maple Thru-Neck C-Shape
  • Fretboard: Rosewood 24-Frets
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.625"
  • Pickups: 2 x Steinberger Humbuckers, 1 x Steinberger Single-Coil
  • Controls:5-way pickup selector, Volume, Tone
  • Bridge: 40:1 Direct Drive R-Trem Tremolo
  • Bundled with Gigbag: Yes
  • Total Length: 30.25"
  • Weight: 7 lbs

Pros

While some consider this iteration as substandard compared to old or more expensive models, the overall market response to the Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe is still positive - thanks to its impressive quality and value for money. Most users find themselves enjoying the guitar's sound and playability, while others get even better results by upgrading the pickups.

Cons

Being an affordable mass produced guitar, there are some who noticed minor flaws, but they are not enough to stop users from commending the guitar for its overall appeal and performance.

Overall

The Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe deserves to be a top consideration for guitarists who are looking for a workhorse travel electric guitar.

Things to Consider when Buying Travel Guitars

  • Size & Weight

    The main point of having a travel guitar is portability and convenience, and this is where size and weight factors in. With this in mind, we have included the weight and total length (where data is available) of the guitars listed, so you can decide on what you prefer. Most of the guitars in this list are expected to fit in the overhead compartment of planes, and are allowed as hand carry.

  • Playability (Scale Length & Nut Width)

    Scale length (length by which the strings are stretched from the nut to the bridge) and nut width (how wide the neck is at the nut) play a big role in playability. As such, it is recommended that you get a travel guitar with similar neck specs as you're main axe. On the flip side, guitars with shorter scale length are generally considered as easier to play. So it will be up to you, whether you prefer uniform playability, or something that's more comfortable to play with.

  • Playing Comfort

    Since travel guitars are lighter and have smaller bodies, they can be uncomfortable to play with, especially when sitting down and not using a guitar strap. Thankfully, some manufacturers provide extensions that let you rest the small body on your legs, much like a regular size guitar would. Just keep in mind that travel guitars will initially feel different, but you will get familiar with them in time.

  • Built-in Electronics

    Having the ability to plug your guitar into a portable amplifier is always a nice plus, but it is even better if the travel guitar itself have built-in headphone amplifier for quiet playing. Some even go as far as having built-in tuner and effects, along with an aux input for jamming with your favorite tracks. Just remember to always have spare batteries for your guitar or for your portable amplifier, and you'll be able to practice and jam virtually anywhere.

  • Aesthetics

    Finally, make sure to get a travel guitar that appeals to your eyes, get one that will inspire you to play more often, because that is the entire point of having a travel guitar. The ones on this list scored highly in this aspect and some of them are available in different finishes - so all you have to do is pick one that tickles your fancy.

Best Travel Guitar Selection Methodology

We first looked at top rated and popular travel guitars, focusing on ones that are rated high and can be immediately bought US retailers. To keep this guide relevant, we processed the most recent ratings and reviews data, including those written in early September of 2018. All of these were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm, which resulted in scores that we used to finalize the list. We ended up dividing the list to two sections, the best five travel acoustic guitars, and top three travel electric guitars. We also included a popular acoustic travel guitar option from a reputable brand. Finally, we sorted the list according to price so you can see which ones fit your budget. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Comments

for those interested in the

For those interested in the OF660, but not fans of carbon, Journey has collapsible wood models in steelstring and nylon for around $600 with case and pickup.

Snapdragon guitars are

Snapdragon guitars are amazing and very good value too. Converted some of my mates too.

Would think you should add

Would think you should add the Stewart Travel Guitar Line.

See the Stow-Away

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