[leadin]The guitar is the fundamental campfire musical instrument. Traveler makes guitars for the traveler in mind, with super light models that can go anywhere. We put a few to the test.[/leadin]
Traveler Guitar, founded in 1992, has a solid history in the music industry—making portability a focus while not sacrificing the sound quality of its instruments. It’s only in recent months that the brand pushed into what seems an obvious market niche in the outdoor industry.
Attending Outdoor Retailer’s Winter Market (ORWM) in January and securing a distribution deal with Liberty Mountain, it’s begun connecting with #VanLife-rs and #Dirtbag-s who seem to be receiving the ultra-portable guitars favorably.
I’ve had the opportunity to test three Traveler Guitar products since ORWM — the AG-105 EQ Acoustic, the Escape Mark III Electric, and the Ultra-Light Electric guitars.
AG-105 EQ Acoustic/Electric Guitar
Style-wise, this one looks the most like what you’d expect when buying a guitar but with the tuning pegs moved to hand screws below the bridge and the head removed altogether. It feels small, certainly, but has a noticeably full sound despite the size. All three guitars feature a full fret board, pickups, and this one has a built-in tuner.
While Clapton might not choose this for an unplugged show, it’ll certainly do the job for campfire sessions and coffee shop gigs.
The AG-105 EQ retails for $400 but a stripped-down non-electric version (the AG-105) can be had for $250.
Escape Mark III Electric Guitar
The Escape Mark III, like the AG-105, doesn’t depart much from the traditional look of modern guitars but, with tuning keys moved into the body—facing up and recessed alongside the strings—it requires a bit of an adjustment for those of us who lazily brace our strum hands there.
It’s also a little more difficult to tune up if you have fat fingers. While the portability benefits and the less frequent need to tune (thanks to the fact that the keys don’t get bumped as often) outweigh the hassle, it’s important to note that bigger hands might do well to invest in a manual string winder in order to get a better grip on the keys.
The Escape Mark III probably won’t be a go-to axe for backcountry campfire jams because the AG-105 and Ultra-Light guitars are too perfect for that duty, but it would be a great fit for touring musicians, festival goers, car campers, and the like who may have room for an amp amongst the coolers and camp chairs. It retails for under $500 and has a comparable sound to other, full-size guitars in that price range.
Ultra-Light Electric Guitar
This one’s just stinking cool. It looks like a cigar-box ukulele, has a full fret board, rich sound, and weighs a paltry 3 lbs. 12 oz. including the gig bag (2lbs.14oz. without the bag). It’s 28 inches long and has the same playable area as any other guitar.
In order to properly test this little guy (read: I found a cool companion toy), I bought a tiny, $30 headphone amp from Amazon and dropped it in the gig bag pocket. The whole system then slid in my backpack and I carried it out on a day hike.
Once I got out into the woods, I realized one other perk of this system—you can rock as hard as you want and never disturb anyone. Conversely, you can rock as hard as you want and never get discovered by the producer camping two sites over but that’s a risk we all take in the forest.
Retail is $300 ($350 including headphones and a pocket amp—sold separately).