Travel Guitars Compared

From Left to Right: Martin Backpacker, Washburn Rover, Blackbird Rider
At the start of this adventure, I acquired a Martin Backpacker Travel Guitar. It was a tough decision between it and the Washburn Rover. The Martin is very oddly shaped, and it almost felt like I was holding a mandolin at first, but the sound was great, given its size.

The Rover is more traditionally shaped and comes in a variety of colors, but aesthetics aside, it just didn't play as well, in my view. Even with the silhouette of a normal acoustic's body, a strap has to be worn in order to play it properly. This was par for the course with the Martin, given its paddle shape, but there is no functionality to the Washburn's throwback design.

I've yet to fill my penny jar twice over, so I can't speak from personal experience on the new entry into this field, the Blackbird Rider. With the Backpacker and Rover priced around $250 and $200 respectively, the Rider's $1,600 price tag is a bit hard to fathom. There's a major reason for the price gap though, carbon fiber. The Rider has a sleek uni-body design and a revolutionary hollow neck which allows the entire guitar to reverberate each note. All three may have a full size neck, but this feature seems to put this Blackbird at the front of the flock. Better yet, carbon fiber is far more weatherproof than the open wood or sealed wood used by the aforementioned guitars.
Sure, you can spend $50 on a squalid throwaway guitar, but it will be more than twice the size and weight. And, possibly the biggest difference, you can carry all three of these on a plane. My personal choice is the Martin Backpacker, but if you have the spare Benjamins lying around, don't let me sway you from trying out the Rider.

Do you have or want a travel guitar? Let me know in a comment below.
Also, if you want to actually get out there and use these guitars as they were intended (ie travel), check out my book on KICKSTARTER, The Hitchhiker's Guide to: Earth.


  1. Thats cool. I hope we get to see more of the "stuff you can take with you" in the highly ancticipated upcoming volume you will be realeasing in the near future.

  2. I backpacked the 280 mile Vermont Long Trail with my one pound, three string, "McNally Strumstick".
    [The strumstick has a wonderfully open, dulcimer sound, but the possibilities are limited for guitar trained players. Easy to adapt, though. ( Bob McNally invented the Martin Backpacker too, and licensed it to Martin) ]
    Here's my Long Trail slideshow - with strumstick soundtrack.

  3. I'm off on the Appalachian Trail next week for 50 days, and I'm trading up from the 20oz Strumstick to the 44oz Martin Backpacker. If it's too heavy then i can switch back, but I'm thinking that I'll appreciate a full guitar ...... except when i'm hiking uphill :)

  4. Oh ....... I've had both the "Washburn Rover" and the "Martin Backpacker". The Backpacker is much lighter, and it sounds MUCH BETTER than the Rover.


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