Keep Your Acoustic Guitar Safe: Gig Bags vs. Hardshell Cases

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As a guitar player, choosing between a gig bag and a hardshell case for your acoustic guitar can be a daunting task. While gig bags are convenient and easy to carry, hardshell cases offer superior protection. The decision ultimately depends on several factors such as frequency of travel, distance and mode of transportation, budget, and level of protection needed. In this article, we’re going to dive deep into the pros and cons of each option, as well as explore the factors that should influence your decision. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to confidently make an informed decision as to which option is best suited for your needs.

Gig bags pros and cons

Gig Bags Pros And Cons
When it comes to traveling with your acoustic guitar, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing between a gig bag and a hardshell case. While both options have their benefits, there are also drawbacks to consider. Let’s explore the pros and cons of using a gig bag for your acoustic guitar. Whether you’re a traveling musician or simply need to transport your instrument from one place to another, understanding the benefits and limitations of gig bags will help you make an informed decision. If you’re also looking for recommendations on affordable guitar cases, check out this list of top picks.

Pros of gig bags

Gig bags have become increasingly popular among guitarists due to their convenience, portability, and easy storage. Here are some pros of gig bags:

  • Portability: Gig bags are typically lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry around. They are ideal for musicians who frequently travel short distances or don’t have a lot of space to store bulky hardshell cases.
  • Cost-effective: Gig bags are generally less expensive than hardshell cases, which makes them a popular option for beginners or musicians on a budget.
  • Accessibility: Unlike hardshell cases, gig bags often have additional pockets and storage compartments, providing easy access to accessories and music books while on the go.
  • Easy to clean: Gig bags are usually made of durable materials, such as polyester or nylon, which are easy to clean and maintain.
  • Flexibility and versatility: Gig bags come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing them to fit a wide range of guitar types and styles. They are also available in acoustic, electric or bass guitar versions, providing a versatile option for musicians who own multiple instruments.

However, gig bags also have some downsides that need to be considered before making a purchase. Let’s delve into them in the “Cons of gig bags” section.

If you’re interested in reading more about guitar cases, we have an article on “5 Best Acoustic Guitar Cases” that could help you with your decision. Additionally, if you’re looking for guidance on how to choose the right guitar case, check out “How to Choose the Right Guitar Case“. And if you’re leaning toward hardshell cases, our article on “Top Hardshell Cases for Acoustic Guitars” could be informative.

Cons of gig bags

While gig bags offer several advantages, they also have some disadvantages that need to be considered. Below are some of the cons of gig bags:

Disadvantages of Gig Bags
Limited protection
Gig bags are made of soft materials, which makes them unable to provide the kind of protection offered by hardshell cases. They are susceptible to damage from impacts and accidental drops, and are not recommended for air travel or long-distance transportation by car.
Less durable
Gig bags are prone to wear and tear, and they tend to wear out faster than hardshell cases. The zippers, handles, and straps are usually the first to go, and once they break, they become less functional and offer even less protection for the guitar.
Less storage space
Gig bags are designed to be lightweight and portable, which means they don’t have as much storage space as hardshell cases. They usually only have a few pockets for accessories, and larger items such as music books, pedals, and cables may not fit inside the bag.
Minimal climate control
Gig bags are not designed to regulate the temperature or humidity of the guitar, which can be a major issue for acoustic guitars. Extreme temperatures or dry air can cause the wood to crack or warp, which means that gig bags may not be suitable for guitars that need to be transported long distances or in different climates.
Limited style and design choices
Compared to hardshell cases, gig bags do not provide as many options for colors, patterns, and materials, which can be an issue for those who want a case that reflects their personal style. Gig bags are usually not customizable, meaning you are stuck with the design and size of the bag you buy.

While gig bags may not offer the same amount of protection and durability as hardshell cases, they are still a popular choice due to their portability and affordability. However, before making a final decision, it is important to consider your specific needs and the level of protection your guitar requires.

Hardshell cases pros and cons

Hardshell Cases Pros And Cons
When it comes to protecting your acoustic guitar, one of the most crucial decisions is choosing the right case. While gig bags offer portability and convenience, hardshell cases are known for their sturdiness and durability. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons of hardshell cases to help you determine if it’s the right choice for you. With a range of options available in the market, it’s essential to approach the decision with a clear understanding of your priorities and requirements.

Pros of hardshell cases

When it comes to safeguarding your prized acoustic guitar from damages, there’s no denying that hardshell cases provide the ultimate protection. Here are some benefits of investing in a hardshell case for your acoustic guitar:

Pros of Hardshell Cases
Durable: Hardshell cases are constructed with tough materials that can withstand harsh impacts, scratches, and other damages. Whether you’re travelling or storing your acoustic guitar at home, a hardshell case will keep your gear safe from harm.
Better Protection: Hardshell cases are designed to protect your instrument from temperature changes, humidity, and other elements that can affect the overall quality and lifespan of your acoustic guitar. This is particularly important if you reside in a place where weather changes can occur rapidly.
More Storage Space: Hardshell cases are usually roomier than gig bags, allowing you to carry other guitar accessories such as tuners, capos, and extra sets of strings.
Long-lasting: Hardshell cases are built to last a long time, even with frequent use. They can last for decades and may even outlast the instrument itself with proper handling and care.

It’s worth noting that hardshell cases may be a bit pricier than gig bags, but they pay off in terms of protecting your guitar in the long run. Investing in a good quality, durable hardshell case ensures that your acoustic guitar will remain in great condition for years to come, regardless of how frequently you use or travel with it.

Cons of hardshell cases

While hardshell cases offer a higher level of protection to your acoustic guitar, they do come with their own set of disadvantages. Below are some of the cons of hardshell cases that you should consider before making your decision:

Cons of Hardshell Cases
1. Weight: Hardshell cases are usually heavier than gig bags, making them less convenient to carry around.
2. Bulkiness: Hardshell cases take up more space than gig bags, which can be an issue if you’re short on storage space or need to travel with other gear.
3. Cost: As mentioned earlier, hardshell cases are often pricier than gig bags, which can be a factor if you’re on a tight budget.
4. Inflexibility: Hardshell cases can be inflexible in terms of their size and shape, making them unsuitable for some guitar models or sizes.
5. Less convenient access: Compared to gig bags, hardshell cases can be less convenient to access and may require you to completely open the case to retrieve your guitar.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all hardshell cases are created equal, and some may be more lightweight, compact, or flexible than others. It ultimately comes down to your personal needs and preferences, as well as the level of protection you require for your acoustic guitar.

Discover Top 3 Acoustic Guitar Bestsellers

SaleBestseller No. 1
Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster Acoustic Electric Guitar, Shadow Burst, Rosewood Fingerboard, with Gig Bag
  • Two pickup systems: Fender Acoustasonic Noiseless; Fishman Under-Saddle Transducer
  • Acoustic Engine delivers a new and unique set of acoustic and electric voices
  • Blend Knob selects and blends voices
  • Patented Stringed Instrument Resonance System (SIRS)
  • Integrated forearm and back contour, and mahogany neck
SaleBestseller No. 2
Fender Squier Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Sunburst Learn-to-Play Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Strap, Strings, String Winder, Picks, Fender Play Online Lessons, and Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD
  • The Squier SA-150 is a full-size steel-string acoustic that offers big sound at a small price.
  • It's strong enough to stand up to the everyday use (and abuse) that beginning players might throw its way thanks to its all-laminate construction with lindenwood top and mahogany back and sides.
  • This guitar also features scalloped "X"-bracing, mahogany neck and a durable dark-stained maple fingerboard to give you an instrument that looks as good as it sounds.
  • With its slim, easy-to-play neck and full-bodied dreadnought tone, the SA-150 is an ideal choice for all rookie strummers.
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED IN ONE BOX: A gig bag is included so you can keep your instrument safe when you're on the go. The included clip-on tuner is easy to use and delivers reliable performance. Included in this bundle is a guitar strap, extra strings, string winder and picks so you can start playing your instrument immediately. Our exclusive Austin Bazaar instructional DVD provides the guidance you need as you learn your new instrument.
Bestseller No. 3
Martin 2017 D-28 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Natural
  • Antique white binding Aging toner Forward shifting non-scalloped X bracing Dovetail neck joint Style 28 mother-of-pearl fingerboard inlays Solid headstock with square taper and diamond inlay. SP Acoustic 92/8 Phosphor Bronze Medium (MSP4200) strings Multi-stripe top and back inlays
  • Sometimes innovation is in the details and this is certainly true with Martin’s re-imagined 2017 D-28
  • After nearly a century at the helm, and as the quintessential workhorse of music legends like Hank Williams, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and so many more, Martin's legendary D-28 has been lovingly and artfully enhanced
  •   “The post WWII D-28 had a slightly different look than its predecessor and became the centerpiece of the folk and folk rock movements at their pinnacle in the 1950s and 1960s
  • " says Chris Martin, Chairman and CEO of Martin Guitar, "We have extracted the finest features from the D-28 of both my grandfather’s and my father’s respective eras

Factors to consider

When it comes to choosing between gig bags and hardshell cases for your acoustic guitar, there are several factors to consider. Each option has its pros and cons, and your decision should depend on your individual situation and preferences. So, before making a choice, take a moment to consider the following important aspects: the frequency of travel, the distance and transportation mode, your budget, and the level of protection needed. With a clear understanding of your specific needs, you’ll be able to select the best option that will keep your acoustic guitar safe and sound.

Frequency of travel

One important factor to consider when deciding between a gig bag and a hardshell case for your acoustic guitar is the frequency of travel. If you’re an avid musician who frequently travels to gigs, rehearsals, or recording sessions, a hardshell case may be a better option for you. The extra protection it provides will be worth the additional weight and expense.

On the other hand, if you only travel occasionally with your guitar, a gig bag may suffice. It can be more convenient and lighter to carry, and it’s usually less expensive than a hardshell case.

Here are some specific considerations to keep in mind when evaluating your travel frequency:

  • Every day: If you’re a professional musician who brings their guitar to gigs or lessons every day, a hardshell case is highly recommended. It will protect your guitar from damage caused by frequent handling and transportation.
  • A few times a week: If you’re a semi-professional musician who travels with their guitar a few times a week or less, a gig bag may be sufficient. However, if you’re transporting your guitar by car or any mode of transportation where it may be bumped around, a hardshell case is still a safer bet.
  • Once a month: If you only take your guitar out once a month or less, a gig bag may be enough to protect it from minor scratches and dings. However, if you’re traveling long distances or by plane, a hardshell case is highly recommended to ensure your guitar arrives in good condition.

Ultimately, the frequency of your travels and the level of protection you need for your guitar will play a big role in deciding between a gig bag and a hardshell case. Consider these factors carefully before making your decision.

Distance and transportation mode

When considering whether to invest in a gig bag or a hardshell case for your acoustic guitar, the distance and mode of transportation you typically use must be taken into account. The level of protection required will vary depending on whether you travel locally or across long distances, as well as the mode of transportation you use.

Local travel and short distances

If you only use your guitar for local shows or practice sessions, a gig bag might be sufficient for your needs. Gig bags are lightweight and easier to carry than hardshell cases. They also come with straps that can be slung over your shoulder or worn as a backpack for easy transportation. If you are only going to be traveling short distances, like from your home to a nearby studio, a gig bag offers enough protection.

Traveling long distances

However, if you will be traveling long distances with your guitar, such as for a tour, a hardshell case would offer better protection. While gig bags protect against minor bumps and scratches, they are not designed to withstand the damage that can occur during long journeys, especially if the guitar will be handled roughly or exposed to the elements.

Transportation mode and level of protection

You should also consider the mode of transportation you will be using. If traveling by car, a hardshell case provides the necessary protection against jolts and bumps that can occur during travel. But if your guitar will be going through various modes of transportation, such as airplane or train, a hardshell case is highly recommended as it offers better protection against the rigorous handling of baggage.

Below is a table that illustrates the level of protection offered by gig bags and hardshell cases when traveling different distances, and in various modes of transportation:

Local travel Long distances Plane travel Train travel
Gig bags ✓ (with caution) X (not recommended) X (not recommended)
Hardshell cases

As you can see from the table, while gig bags are suitable for local travel, hardshell cases offer better protection and are highly recommended for long distance travel or when using multi-modal transportation. Investing in a hardshell case might be more expensive, but it is worth the investment if you want to ensure your guitar stays safe and protected during transit.

Budget

When it comes to choosing between a gig bag and a hardshell case for your acoustic guitar, budget is an important factor to consider. Both options come with different price points and offer varying levels of protection. Let’s take a look at how your budget can impact your decision.

Gig Bags: Gig bags are generally the more affordable option compared to hardshell cases. Depending on the brand and features that come with them, gig bags can range from $20 to $200. Some high-end gig bags can offer a decent amount of protection but are still relatively cheaper than hardshell cases. However, it’s important to keep in mind that cheaper gig bags may not offer enough protection and can potentially lead to damage to your guitar.

Hardshell Cases: Hardshell cases tend to be more expensive than gig bags. They can range from $80 to $800, depending on the brand and features. The more expensive hardshell cases generally offer better protection for your guitar. The materials used in hardshell cases are typically of higher quality, making them more durable and long-lasting.

To make it easier to understand the cost difference between gig bags and hardshell cases, let’s take a look at the following table:

Gig Bags Hardshell Cases
Price Range $20 – $200 $80 – $800
Level of Protection Varies; generally less than hardshell cases Generally high; better protection for your guitar
Material and Durability Varies; quality is generally lower than hardshell cases High quality materials; more durable and long-lasting

It’s important to keep in mind that while a hardshell case may be a larger investment upfront, it can potentially save you money in the long run by preventing damage to your guitar. However, if you’re on a tight budget, a gig bag can still offer good protection if you choose a high-quality one. Ultimately, decide the budget that is comfortable for you to spend and choose the option that best fits your needs.

Level of protection needed

When it comes to choosing between gig bags and hardshell cases for your acoustic guitar, one of the most significant factors to consider is the level of protection your instrument needs. This depends on various factors such as your lifestyle, how much you travel with your guitar, and the environment you will be travelling through.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Mild Protection: If you only need mild protection for your guitar and don’t travel often, a gig bag might be a suitable option for you. Gig bags are light in weight, easy to carry and provide sufficient protection against minor bumps and scratches.
  • Medium Protection: If you travel occasionally or need more protection than what a gig bag can offer then a hardshell case could be the ideal solution. Hardshell cases provide a hard exterior that can resist knocks, drops, and bumps whilst a plush interior holds your guitar safely in place.
  • Heavy Protection: For heavy-duty travel and transportation, such as touring, flying, and shipping, investing in a hardshell case is an essential choice. Not only will it protect your guitar from damages caused by rough handling but hardshell cases offer weather-resistant features that protect the guitar from elements like moisture and humidity.

Ultimately, your choice of protection level depends on your lifestyle and transportation needs. If you’re a professional musician, it’s worth investing in a hardshell case to protect your valuable asset from any possible damage. However, if you’re a casual player and only travel occasionally, a gig bag can provide sufficient protection at an affordable price. Remember that the level of protection you need should be carefully evaluated to ensure the longevity of your guitar.

Conclusion

After weighing the pros and cons of both gig bags and hardshell cases, it’s clear that each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to protecting your beloved acoustic guitar during travel.

If you’re someone who travels frequently with your guitar and needs to easily transport it in and out of different types of vehicles, a gig bag may be the better option for you. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry around and store when not in use. However, it’s important to note that a gig bag provides minimal protection against impacts and other potential damage.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who values ultimate protection for your guitar and doesn’t mind investing more in a sturdy case, a hardshell case may be the way to go. It’s designed to withstand more extreme conditions, making it a great choice for longer trips or air travel. However, it does come with the drawback of being heavier and bulkier, which can make transportation more challenging.

When deciding between gig bags and hardshell cases, there are several factors to consider, including the frequency of your travels, the distance and transportation mode, your budget, and the level of protection needed. It’s important to weigh all of these factors and choose the option that best meets your unique needs and preferences.

In the end, whether you choose a gig bag or hardshell case for your acoustic guitar, the most important thing is to ensure that it’s well-maintained and properly protected during travel. Invest in quality products and take the necessary precautions to keep your guitar safe and sound, and it’s sure to provide years of beautiful music making.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do gig bags offer enough protection for my acoustic guitar?

It depends on the level of protection you need. If you’re traveling short distances or just need something to protect your guitar from dust and minor bumps, a gig bag should be sufficient. However, if you’re traveling long distances or need to protect your guitar from serious damage, a hardshell case may be a better option.

2. Are hardshell cases heavy to carry around?

Hardshell cases can be heavy due to their sturdy construction and added protection. However, many cases have handles or straps for easy transportation, and some are even designed to be lightweight.

3. Can I put additional items in my gig bag?

Yes, most gig bags have additional pockets and compartments where you can safely store accessories like guitar straps, tuners, and even sheet music.

4. Will a hardshell case fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane?

It depends on the size of the case and the airline’s regulations. Some hardshell cases are specifically designed to fit in overhead compartments, while others may need to be checked as baggage.

5. Can I customize the interior of my hardshell case?

Yes, many hardshell cases come with adjustable padding or foam inserts so you can customize the fit to your guitar. Some cases also have additional storage compartments that can be added or removed as needed.

6. How do I clean my gig bag?

You can typically clean your gig bag with a damp cloth or sponge. Avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents, as they may damage the material.

7. Should I choose a gig bag or hardshell case for an acoustic-electric guitar?

The type of case you choose depends on the level of protection you need and how often you travel with your guitar. However, since acoustic-electric guitars tend to be more fragile due to their electronic components, a hardshell case may offer more protection.

8. Can I carry a gig bag on a bike or motorcycle?

Yes, many gig bags have backpack-style straps that allow for easy transportation on a bike or motorcycle. However, you should ensure that the bag is securely fastened and won’t become loose or unstable during transportation.

9. Do hardshell cases come with locks?

Some hardshell cases come with built-in locks or have provisions for an external padlock, which can provide additional security while traveling.

10. How long will a gig bag or hardshell case last?

The lifespan of a gig bag or hardshell case depends on factors such as usage, environmental conditions, and the quality of construction. However, with proper care and maintenance, a case can last for many years.

References

About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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