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Choosing the right guitar gig bag

If you play guitar, no matter if you are a pro musician or just an amateur campfire strummer, you will certainly require a gig bag or case so you can transport your axe safely and comfortably. However, exactly how you travel with your guitar depends on where the guitar is going and how it's getting there. Here are some things to consider when choosing a guitar gig bag or case as your most important guitar accessory.

Find the right size case/bag for your guitar

You are going to want a gig bag where your guitar fits snugly, but not too snugly. Before shopping, make sure you know your guitar’s make a model, or measure its overall length, neck to end of headstock length, body depth, upper bout (widest part of body above waist) width, waist (narrowest part of body) width, and lower bout (widest part of body below waist) width. That way, you will be able to determine if a particular case you like will be an ideal fit. Remember, an ill-fitting case that allows your instrument to shift around will likely cause damage.

Types of guitar cases

General types of cases include soft (gig bags), hard, and flight cases. Moat guitars you buy often come with one case or another, depending on the model and price. However, many don’t come with a case at all, and unless you plan on never leaving home, you will certainly need to pick up one of the below to travel to gigs, recitals, the campfire or lessons.

Soft shell guitar case

Typically, the standard soft guitar bag will be made of a lightweight material, such as nylon, with a layer of light padding (around 10mm). Some more expensive models will feature protection features like neck cradles and foam impact panels. Soft guitar cases are also usually good for storage, featuring zippered pockets to store things like picks, strings, and cleaning cloths. These types of case are very light and offer the most in terms of portability, but also the least in protection, usually.

Hard shell guitar case

A hard shell guitar case is going to give you the maximum protection for your guitar. It won’t get crushed or damaged if bumped while inside, unlike the possibility with a soft bag. You can find these types of cases made from a wide variety of materials—plywood based, injection molded synthetics, fiberglass and more. As a result of being made from more protective materials, they are heavier, and can be a bit more unwieldy to transport. Some hard cases are equipped with rings for attaching shoulder straps, or you can buy backpack-style harnesses for hard shell cases, but you still won’t have the ease and portability provided by a soft shell gig bag.

Flight cases

While soft and hard cases are great for most of the time, they are not ideal for air travel. In fact, many airline companies will refuse to check-in an instrument that’s not in an approved flight case. These types of guitar cases are made from durable materials on the outside, have heavy-duty padding on the inside and feature reinforced metal corners. Look for TSA-approved latches and locks, seam gaskets for environmental protection, perhaps some glide wheels for ease of travel, and handles that are comfortable. These types of flight cases are suitable for long trips where your guitar will likely be loaded in a truck with other equipment or as baggage on a flight.

Additional guitar bag features to consider

In addition to considering the portability and protection of the type of case or bag you need for your guitar, you may also want to look for additional features like extra storage space for things like cables for electric guitars, or sheet music and picks. You also want to make sure any shoulder straps or handles are comfortable, whether there are straps to hold down the guitar inside the case, if the exterior material is waterproof or resistant, and whether the zippers or latches are sturdy enough to withstand constant use.