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So, you’re thinking about taking a ukulele with you on a trip (or multiple trips, as the case may be).
Maybe you’re a ukulele player that wants to keep their nice Hawaiian Koa wood instrument at home. Or, maybe you’re a guitarist or bassist that needs an instrument to keep their fingers busy while on their journeys.
A ukulele is generally small by design, making most ukes suitable for backpacking and travel. But you would need to pay careful attention to how you pack the instrument or buy a solid case to put it in, because you don’t want to spend several hundred dollars on an instrument only to have it break on you. That would defeat the purpose of a travel uke.
So, here are the best travel ukuleles on sale for backpackers.
Luna Vintage Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
The Luna Vintage Mahogany Soprano Ukulele is quite possibly the best instrument in its price range, with a mahogany body, top, and neck.
It comes in Baritone, Concert, Concert Cutaway, Pineapple Soprano, Soprano, and Tenor, giving you a range of options to chose from. Soprano is probably the best choice for traveling ukuleles.
You can also buy the Luna with a tuner and quick start guide, or gig bag and accessories.
Most customers have been quite happy with their purchase overall, and that’s not surprising considering the value. This uke is good bang for buck.
Hola! HM-21 Soprano Ukulele
The Hola! HM-21 a reasonably priced soprano ukulele that comes in a variety of colors – red, blue, black, green, natural, pink, purple, light blue, mahogany/blue, and orange.
This is a quality ukulele sporting maple top, back, and sides, with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
Its small stature should allow you to pack it in the tightest of spaces without too much concern.
The Hola! Music ukes are worth considering if you’re looking for a travel companion to keep you entertained.
Kala KA-SSTU Soprano Travel Ukulele
Sporting a remarkably thin body, the Kala KA-SSTU is the ideal ukulele for the road.
It comes with a solid spruce top and mahogany back, sides, binding, rosette, and neck. The fingerboard is made of rosewood.
This is a great instrument to be sure, and perfect for the road, but it will cost you more than some of the other options mentioned here.
If you can’t see yourself making too many concessions or sacrifices, you’ll enjoy the Kala.
Eddy Finn EF-TRV-C Travel Ukulele
The EF-TRV-C might be a little peculiar looking due to the unique shape of its sound hole, but it’s reasonably priced, and a good instrument overall.
This ukulele has been built with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, and has a thin body, which is always a good thing to look for in a travel uke. Customer sentiment is also good.
Many websites list the Eddy Finn has the best travel ukulele, because it fits the criteria of what most people look for in a travel instrument. You’ll have to try it for yourself to see if you like it as much as others have, but it’s worth a look regardless.
Kala Mahogany KA-15s-RLE Soprano Ukulele
Here’s another Kala instrument that is suited for travel. For one, you can’t argue with the low price of the Mahogany KA-16s-RLE. It’s also a soprano instrument, so you know it’s compact.
This uke comes in a few different forms, including Classic, Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian Tattoo, Red, Spruce Top, and Learn to Play Kit. These are all soprano ukuleles, so while the price varies slightly among the options available, it basically comes down to personal preference.
Customers have mostly had positive things to say about this uke, so if a travel instrument is what you’re looking for, you probably can’t go wrong here.
Ukulele Soprano Size Bundle From Lohanu (LU-S)
The Lohanu LU-S is low-cost, comes with all the accessories you need (strap, picks, pick holder, tuner, case, and extra strings), and has a Sapele/mahogany top, back, sides, and neck, and a rosewood fingerboard.
The body isn’t exactly the thinnest, as you would typically find with a travel uke, but this is still a highly compact and portable unit.
Customer sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, so at this price point, you can’t go wrong. The Lohanu should be a contender on your list.
Donner Soprano Ukulele Spruce DUS-3
As with a few others on this list, the DUS-3 may not be branded as a travel uke. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take it on the road. Being a soprano size ukulele, it’s quite portable and affordable to boot.
You can get the DUS-3 in three different configurations and price points: 21-inch, 23-inch, and 26-inch. Naturally, the best choice is the 21-inch if you’re going to be taking it with you on your travels.
This instrument also comes with a strap, tuner, case, and strings. The Donner would make for a great travel companion.
What Should I Look For In A Travel Ukulele?
In many ways, a travel uke isn’t that different from a standard one.
But that might leave you with more questions than answers on your search for a good travel ukulele.
So, here are a few criteria I would consider when shopping for a good travel instrument.
A Durable Instrument
Ukuleles are made of wood. As you are surely aware, wood isn’t the most durable material available. It can crush under significant weight, and break given enough force. It’s also a bit temperamental in that excessive dryness can cause cracking.
Simultaneously, instruments are built to last and stand up to the abuse of children, especially ukuleles. So, they’re not going to break if they aren’t under significant pressure.
You need to take good care of your uke. That’s always your first line of defense. If you keep your instrument in a good quality case and watch yourself as you’re carrying it around, you’ll have a better chance at keeping it in one piece.
Beyond that, it’s always worth scanning the reviews to see if anyone has had issues with the ukulele you’re thinking about purchasing. If you can’t find any negative reviews, you’ve done your due diligence.
A Thin Or Small Body
A soprano size uke is ideal for travel, because it generally has a small body.
But some ukes have a thinner body, making them easier to pack and fit into tight spaces. These instruments probably won’t sound as good as standard ukes, but they’ll still do the trick.
A thin body, however, is not a prerequisite for a travel uke. It’s a good quality to look for, but not essential.
In general, the smaller the better, and fortunately, most ukuleles are small, particularly soprano ukes.
A Reasonable Price Point
You can get a good travel uke for $50, but you can also pay upwards of $200 to $300 if you go for specialty ukuleles.
There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong here, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t immediately decide. If your budget is small, it’s okay to buy a uke in the $50 range. It shouldn’t break on you too easily (but always check reviews). If you’ve got a bigger budget, then maybe you don’t mind putting $200 to $300 into your travel instrument.
When it comes to travel instruments, I don’t generally buy the cheapest, but I don’t go for the most expensive either. I go with something that seems reasonable and has good reviews. After all, I’m only going to be using it while I’m away from home.
A Playable Instrument
Some cheaper ukes fall out of tune so easily that you end up having to retune every few minutes.
And, some ukes don’t exactly sound great because of the materials they’re made of.
That’s okay, because in the end you’re looking for an instrument you can take with you wherever you go, not an instrument to use for professional recording or live performance purposes.
That’s why I’ve put emphasis on a playable instrument. You’re not looking for (or at least you shouldn’t be looking for) a uke that plays and sounds amazing. That’s a whole other category of ukulele, as you can easily find instruments that cost $1,000 and up.
If it sounds decent, is playable, and holds its tune, you’ve got yourself a good enough travel uke. And, to me, that’s the most sensible way of looking at this purchase.
Should I Buy A Ukulele Or A Ukulele Bundle?
A ukulele is a relatively self-contained instrument.
What I mean by that is that you don’t need any extra gear to play it. You can take it out of its case and begin playing it immediately.
A strap is unnecessary, because unlike a guitar, a uke is very lightweight. Some people do prefer playing it with a strap, so it might be worth giving it a try before deciding. But if you’re going to be playing sitting down a lot of the time, you’re not going to need a strap.
You don’t need picks either, as ukes are generally played with your fingers. But it can be fun to play with a pick.
A tuner is a good thing to have, especially if you have trouble tuning by ear, or if you have no other instrument available for reference.
The only essential accessory is a case. And, the cases that come with bundles generally aren’t the best quality, though they do get the job done.
In the end, you must decide whether you want to buy a standalone instrument or a bundle. Since bundles are so affordable, there’s nothing wrong with getting the extras thrown in. You may not need all of them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t nice to have.
Is There Such A Thing As A Ukulele Travel Case Or Hard Shell Case?
You’re in luck. You can find hard shell cases for ukuleles, and they aren’t too expensive either.
It’s possible to get away with a soft case or a gig bag, even while you’re on the road, but if you want to take an extra precaution, you should look at purchasing one of these.
If you want to keep your uke in working condition, you must take some responsibility for it, and as I’ve already said, your first line of defense is you.
Is There Such A Thing As A Travel Ukulele?
The short answer is “sort of.”
There are companies that brand their instruments as travel ukes, but aside from the fact that they have thin bodies (and they don’t always), there isn’t much difference between a travel ukulele and a standard ukulele.
As you are likely aware, ukuleles are small instruments. This makes them easy to carry around. Some are bigger than others, but they’re rarely as bulky as a guitar.
So, overall, a uke is a good instrument to travel with.
If you’re looking specifically for a travel ukulele, here’s what to look for:
- A thin body. An instrument with a thinner body is easier to travel with. Naturally, you end up sacrificing tone for convenience.
- Geared tuners. Geared tuners help keep the instrument in tune. Most ukes have geared tuners.
But this isn’t to suggest any ukulele can’t be good for travel. It’s just that instruments that meet the above two criteria are going to prove easier to pack and a little more durable.
Best Travel Ukuleles For Backpackers, Final Thoughts
If you travel a lot, don’t be afraid to spend a little more on a travel instrument. Most people find travel instruments “tolerable”, but not necessarily the best to play. If you’re constantly on the road and practicing or playing a lot, a low quality uke is going to drive you nuts after a while. So, spending a little bit of extra money on a better instrument is not a bad idea.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun. As the person who sold me my first ukulele shared with me, “you’ll never find an unhappy ukulele player”. Ukuleles are meant to be fun and easy to play. As with any instrument, you can find beginner all the way to advanced players, but in the end it’s the joy of playing and making music that matters most.