Our Pick: The Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar perfectly sums up all the qualities a traveler’s acoustic guitar should have. It offers great portability and its size is just perfect for any travelers who are always on the go. Though it may lack some volume, the guitar’s playability with its low action perfectly compensates it. And oh, about the price? It is one of the main reasons why travelers prefer this over other travel guitars out there.
You need a smaller and more portable guitar not because you are small, but because you find the benefits of owning one.
The best travel guitars aren’t the smallest, they are the ones that have a balance between smaller profile and tonality. In this article, I’m going to reveal to you my top 10 favorite travel guitars.
It’s not that I travel with different guitars, it’s just that I find the need to make this list and to give you more choices. I don’t want to force you to like what I like, so I will give you the freedom to choose what’s best for you.
Of course, I’ll also provide a simple guide on the factors to consider before buying your next travel guitar.
Here are the Best Travel Guitars in 2023
- Martin Steel-String Backpacker
- Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light
- Yamaha APXT2
- Fender CT-60S
- Martin LXK2 Little Martin
- Taylor GS Mini Mahogany
- Composite Acoustics Cargo Carbon Fiber Acoustic Guitar
- Stewart Electric Travel Guitar
- Shredneck Travel Guitar
- Washburn RO10TB Rover
Designed to take on the rigors of camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities, the Martin Steel-String Backpacker will surely be your new travel companion. It’s a 24-inch guitar made of solid spruce top and solid mahogany for the neck, back, and sides. It has a unique contour neck shape that will help you access the upper frets without a problem.
This small and lightweight guitar offers a big projection. It comes with enclosed chrome tuners which are reliable to keep the guitar in tune even when frequently used. Stock strings are of good quality and sound great.
- Sounds phenomenal, which is perfect for fingerpicking
- Though it loses some volume, it still has great projection
- Action is perfect and low, no need for any adjustment
- Still awkward to play even with a strap
- The neck is heavier than the body, so more weight on your left hand
- High E-string is almost close to the edge of the guitar
Probably the smallest and the lightest electric travel guitar on the market, yet, Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light is still a full-scale guitar. It has a 24.75-inch scale length made of Eastern American Hard Maple neck-through-body. Though it’s small, it’s no less than a regular electric guitar because it’s equipped with a high-output dual-rail humbucker.
The detachable lap rest is a good add-on to this guitar. Although you’re playing a very tiny electric guitar, with the lap rest you can play it like a normal guitar and detach it when not in use. This guitar has an overall length of 28-inch weighing only over three pounds — not a noticeable add-on weight to your luggage.
- No setup required, the action is spot on
- The sound output is amazing, though it doesn’t have volume and tone controls
- Compact guitar, but with a standard scale length
- Might still be lacking when playing seated even with the lap rest
- Doesn’t hold the tune too well
If you have played the famous Yamaha APX500III, then your choice for the best travel guitar will surely be the Yamaha APXT2. The latter is just a ¾ version of the former, featuring an ART-based pickup system and Yamaha’s very own proprietary tuner. Hence, you’ll enjoy great sensitivity and accurate tuning, respectively.
This acoustic-electric guitar is made of spruce top, Meranti back and sides, and rosewood fretboard. As a Yamaha product, you are assured that it’s well-built. So, this compact guitar will surely be a good companion on the road and wherever you go.
- Yamaha’s pickups are just great to deliver the best results
- More modern cutaway design for easier access to upper frets
- Definitely low action for great playability
- Tuning machines are of poor quality
- Fret edges aren’t rounded and tend to be sharp
- Since the action is very low, there’s fret buzz on the low E string
Isn’t it amazing to have a guitar with you every time you are summoned by Apollo to make music? With the Fender CT-60S, you’ll be able to bring an acoustic guitar anytime, anywhere. It’s a scaled-down travel guitar with Auditorium shape and 23.5-inch scale length.
It’s made of solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fretboard. The easy-to-play neck profile and the rolled fretboard edges are the two major features I like about it. Weighing at only 11 pounds, it’s easy to carry around during your travels. Since it’s designed with X-bracing, you know you get the sound you love from Fender.
- Quality is remarkable for the affordable price tag
- Notes are rich, full and balanced
- Very easy to play with good intonation
- Slight adjustment of the truss rod is necessary
- Action is a bit high out of the box
Martin has a lot of travel guitars, and they are all good. However, I’ll just mention the second Martin that has captured a lot of guitarists all over the world, the Martin LXK2 Little Martin. This is a modified 0-14 guitar with a 23-inch scale length and Natural Stratabond modified low-oval neck.
Made with the same craftsmanship of high-end Martin, this one comes with Koa-grained HPL (high-pressure laminate) top, back, sides, and headstock. It has a rosewood fretboard and Natural colored Stratabond, which make it very easy to play. This is a perfect practice companion, and travel buddy, as well.
- Tone is balanced and more focused on mid-range
- Fretboard is flawless and no sharp fret edges
- Made with excellent material, slow to wear and tear
- Good for fingerstyle, but not so much with strumming
- Action is quite high out of the box
The best travel guitar list won’t be complete without the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany on it. It’s a Grand Symphony made of solid mahogany top, layered Sapele back and sides and Sapele neck. It’s a scaled-down guitar with only 23.5-inch scale length and has 20 frets distributed on its Genuine African Ebony fretboard.
Something is interesting in the GS Mini that made everyone fell in love, not just beginners. When you play the GS Mini, it’ll reveal an impressive powerful tone, like a full-size guitar. Hence, the combination of portability, playability, and musicality makes this guitar too hard to forget.
- Well-built and the Mahogany gives a beautiful appearance
- The rich and smooth tone for such small guitar
- Action is great and you can easily play barre chords
- The thin neck might be very vulnerable to breakage
- Due to the small scale, the first three frets are kind of tight
In need of a sturdy and durable travel guitar? You won’t surely be disappointed with the Composite Acoustics Cargo Carbon Fiber Acoustic Guitar. It’s not made of wood, but of carbon fiber, so it’s really very expensive — the priciest on the list. But, before moving into the next product, learn about this guitar first.
It boasts a 000 body shape with a single-cutaway. Probably the shortest in this list in terms of scale length as it only has 22.75-inch with 21 total number of frets on its reinforced polymer fretboard. Though its small, full-size sound and great projection are guaranteed.
- Highly resistant to climate changes and natural wear and tear
- Impressive durability with a very smooth fretboard
- Tone is good with great sustain
- If you need a loud tone, this isn’t the one for you
- Very expensive, especially for beginners
How about a full-scale guitar, but with a removable neck? If you think it’s interesting, try to take a look at the Stewart Electric Travel Guitar. It’s made of a solid Alderwood body with a 25.5-inch scale length and 22 medium frets.
The headless tuning system allows Stewart to make this guitar compact and even collapsible to meet airline policy in overhead storage restrictions. Since it’s an electric guitar, it has three single-coil pickups with the position switch, volume, and two-tone controls.
- Plays well and sounds amazing
- Easy to assemble and reassemble
- Stays in tune very well, with a smooth and fast neck
- Not all are interested in the stowaway design
- Still pricey for a travel guitar
Now, we’re down to the last guitar in this list, but the Shredneck Travel Guitar is in no way the least. It’s a ¾ scale guitar made of Nato body with Cherry burst finish over Flamed maple photo top. It has a 23.25-inch scale length with a 22-fret rosewood fretboard.
Since it’s an electric guitar, it’s equipped with two humbuckers, Master volume and tone controls, and a three-way toggle switch. Now you can play anytime with this great-sounding, stunning travel guitar.
- Has the great sound quality
- Performance is on par with regular electric guitars
- The finish is beautiful and stage-ready
- There are fret buzzes and needs truss rod adjustments
Planning to get a travel guitar that best fits the airline overhead storage? Washburn RO10TB rover is the one you need. It’s a full-scale guitar with a 24-inch scale length and has a lot of finish options. It’s made of solid spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, and rosewood fretboard.
The RO10TB features quality geared tuners for quick tuning to easily achieve sounds pleasing to the ears. This travel guitar is perfect for fingerstyle and flat-picking. With a deluxe gig bag and compact size of the guitar, it’s easy and safe to transport.
- Tiny body, but has great sound
- Narrower neck, so barre chords and bends are effortless
- Has excellent fit and color finish
- You’ll definitely need a guitar strap when playing
- Has a very high bridge out of the box
What to Consider When Buying a Travel Guitar
Of course, a travel guitar should be smaller than your regular guitar. Unless you are bringing your regular full-scale guitar when you travel, that could be your travel guitar. But, for most musicians and those who are passionate about guitars, travel guitars are handy, and portable yet has a great voice.
You already know the 10 best travel guitars on the market, but maybe you’ll ask how did I come up with the list? Very simple. I have a few considerations before jumping into the market and scavenging on what’s available. Here they are as follows:
This should be the first thing you have to consider. You know that if you are traveling, you aren’t in full control of the situation. You might bump your guitar or it’ll suddenly fall because you have a lot of baggage.
Make sure that your guitar can resist bumps and knocks. Check the wood used and the finish. Also, check the neck — very important. What’s the use of a durable body when the neck is weak?
Acoustic Guitar vs Electric Guitar
There are lots of travel acoustic guitars that are down-sized for that specific purpose. Moreover, you can also see electric guitar beginning to emerge either a scaled-down or full-sized with a detachable neck.
If you want an acoustic guitar, no problem with that. You can see a lot of small-bodied acoustics out there ready to make music anytime and anywhere. However, if you are an electric guitarist, you will always crave something an acoustic guitar can’t give you.
You can also have an electric guitar, but the first thing that you should secure after the guitar is a portable amp. An electric guitar is not as good as an acoustic guitar in the wilderness without an amp. The advantage of electric guitars is you can play it silently, using your headphones, so you won’t disturb others.
Full-Sized fretboard vs Scaled-Down Guitar
This depends on your preferences and how frequently you travel. If you want a guitar that feels like your regular guitar, have a guitar with the full-sized fretboard. However, if you often travel and don’t want to feel that extra weight in your luggage, get a scaled-down guitar, like the 3/4s.
One thing to remember, though, guitars with reduced fretboard have a different feel than your regular guitar. Not all guitarists are at home to this fretboard, some just hate it.
Don’t just pick it because it’s small and a good travel guitar. Make sure that you will be happy with the guitar that you choose. After all, what’s the use of the guitar when the neck is just awkward to play?
Small-Bodied vs Removable Neck
From the list, there are a lot of small body guitars, but there’s only one with a removable neck. Now, ask yourself whether you need to bring a full-scale guitar or a small travel guitar will do?
Having a small-bodied guitar won’t give you the kind of volume you need, but they are lightweight and very easy to carry. On the other hand, with the guitars with a removable neck, you can bring your regular guitar anywhere. The fear of having to detune and retune the guitar has now finally been given a solution.
If you aren’t ready to welcome a travel guitar in your life, it’s okay. Here’s a video that will help you make sense of the different guitars on the market and their sizes. Additionally, you can also explore more types of guitars – classical, acoustic, and electric.
The search is finally over and my ultimate choice for the best travel guitar is the Martin Steel-String Backpacker. It’s a scaled-down guitar with 23.5-inch scale length and 20 frets. It’s made of a solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides — a common tonewood combo of affordable guitars.
It’s unbelievably affordable for a Martin that offers rich, full, and balanced tone coming from a small-bodied guitar. The craftsmanship is excellent and the playability is unmatched. So, there is nothing that can beat this Fender as the best.