So what’s the best travel guitar / RV guitar / best
camping guitar / back packing guitar?
Let me first explain the primary objectives I was looking to accomplish on
my quest for a guitar that fit the above ‘discriptors’ and my reason for
Everyone will have different objectives / needs when
looking for a guitar to purchase and there are a myriad of factors that will
go into the process of shopping and hopefully, ultimate selection / purchase
of a ‘travel guitar/ camping guitar
/ pack guitar / RV guitar'.
Let me first give a bit of my background, and why I
felt the need to write this, as I’m sure there are plenty of other ‘reviews
/ opinions’ out there on the topic.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 16 and I’m 51, so
lets see, that’s 35 years. What do I mean by playing; Mostly self taught
with a few lessons here and there, including a couple of summers back in the
1980’s of private lessons once a week by Ty Tabor of ‘Kings-X’. I like most
kinds of music from ‘Hard Edged Rock’, to Blue-Grass (one of the hardest to
be good at in my opinion) to ‘Old School Country’. I worked in a ‘full line’
music store through the 1990’s doing tasks that included ‘being the guitar
guy’ for much of it (as well as the lighting and sound guy), was the
‘buyer’ on the NAMM show trips, decided what guitars / lines to pickup,
bought, sold and traded guitars on the floor and at ‘vintage guitar shows’,
and did much of the guitar tech / repair work (as well as work on violins
(fiddles), banjos, mandos, Ukes, and most electric and acoustic stringed
instruments. While at the store I sold most of the mainstream lines such as
Fender, Martin, Ibanez, Gibson, Ken Smith, Blue-Ridge,
Seagull, Peavey, Yamaha, and probably many I’ve forgotten. Over those years
I have played a few thousand guitars. While I may not have personally liked
MANY of those guitars, I’ve always had an open mind of what a manufacturer /
maker was trying to achieve at a given price point (ok, probably one of the
worst playing guitar I played was the second ‘prototype’ ( circa 1948 or
1949) of Leo Fender’s electric guitar, which mostly resembled what would
become the ‘Telecaster’). The best two ‘acoustic’ guitars I played I still
remember. The were both ‘Dreadnaught’s’ / Flat-tops. One, and the best I
remember to this point was a 1941 Martin D-28 that was in for repair. The
other was a close second and it was a ‘Collins’ version of a Martin D28,
back in the 1990’s.
Now I’m a ‘casual player’, do a bit of ‘horse trading vintage and used’
guitars on the side, and as you can see from the rest of the web site, am
immersed in audio and audio gear constantly.
While I’ve owned MANY guitars in the past, I’m pretty
satisfied with my current ‘corral’. Yeah, there’s a few I would still like
to add, but from a ‘player’ standpoint, I’m good. However we do a lot of
traveling / camping with an RV, and I’m getting tired of lugging my ‘good’
guitar in it’s full size case. Besides it’s weight and size, there’s the
risks involved with taking it out in the elements. So that’s why I’ve
embarked on this quest. I thought I may as well make a record for others of
So what am I looking for in a travel guitar / RV guitar
/ best camping guitar / back packing guitar? That’s the first question you
have to ask yourself, again, as players will vary in what they are looking
for (or start off thinking they are looking for). Here’s what I wanted. I
would be playing a lot of ‘open chords’ and strumming, so wanted ‘steel
strings’. Since there would likely be no amplification ‘out in the woods’
(thank goodness), I wanted something that would offer good volume (if I end
up in a ‘campfire sing-a-long’). Since I was playing a lot of variety (and
simply my personal tastes) I wanted the guitar to sound ‘like a big guitar’
(that’s the hard part). I wanted a small body and a shorter neck, and knew
that along with those would come lighter weight.
First guitar I had in mind was a Yamaha FG-75 from the
1970’s if I’m correct. Maybe early ‘80’s. I had about a dozen come thru the
shop over the years, and they’ve always been decent, small body, 7/8 scale
guitars, with an overall good tone, in that they were
reasonably balanced throughout their range, with fairly adequate volume,
relative to a larger body guitar.
which is a newer, current model (at least as of this writing), overall, has that typical ‘small guitar’ /
'1930’s metallic’ sound. I did find a bit of
variance in a few different versions of them. I played
one a 'Pro Sound' in Colorado Springs, that sounded better then the other 4
or 5 I tried at other stores. One fabulous perk with the FJ-Junior is the
surprisingly well constructed 'gig bag' that Pro-Sound was including (may
come with all of them, I don't know). The gig bag alone would likely cost
$70-90 if you had to go out and get one. The guitar is currently being made
(as of this writing) in Indonesia.
Another contender for the 'small
body' / entry level guitars was one by US Music, branded Jay Turser.
It was the model JJ43NA, 3/4 Acoustic Guitar, which had a retail around
$170-180. Decent build quality, played well, 'took a tuning' well and
quickly and had decently balanced tone and volume output, more so than some
of the other 'entry level' guitars. Again, this was at Pro Sound of Colorado
Springs, and they had done great job of setting it up.
I came across a pre-owned
Safari ‘Starry Night’ at a
pawn shop, that had that ‘small guitar’ tone. Built very solidly.
Maybe too solidly which I think held it back from a volume standpoint.
‘Real’ ‘Die-cast’ tuners. Nice fretwork. Great guitar for someone
starting out. I love some of their cosmetics. Had
previously checked out their web-site. Definitely making their
own way from a design standpoint, and they’re very classy.
Taylor's ‘Baby’ is built
well, light weight and a small size, but still has the ‘small guitar’ sound.
I had tried one out about 15 years ago, and remember
liking it better than the 'BackPacker' from Martin, I sold at my store (more
on that later). Again, it’s simple physics. All things being equal, a
‘small box’ will usually equal a ‘smaller sound / volume’. You can start
getting ‘nit picky’ about the subtle differences in the tone of most of the
‘small bodies’, but again, I was looking for the ‘biggest’ sound in the
‘smallest’ practical package (for me). I also
wanted to stay under $1000 (way under a $1000.)
A 'pre-owned / used' Martin 'Back
I started selling this guitar back in the mid 1990's. Definitely
'unorthodox' in it's design and shape. It's got a great 'thin' sound, almost
like a 'UKE guitar' or that South American guitar made from an armadillo
(can't remember what they're called). It's going after a market that needs a
great playing finger board (and it is), with real tuners (and they are),
with a SOLID SPRUCE top, that wants a guitar that stays in tune (and it
does) and will really fit in or on a back pack (and it does) without taking
up the rest of the space in the pack. Speaking of 'space' there's the now
famous story about the NASA astronaut that took one on a shuttle mission,
back in the '90's. I don't remember the details, but I'm sure you can find
all kinds of info out there on that 'world wide interweb' thing.
My personal favorite so far is the Taylor GS 7/8 Mahogany.