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A guitar backpack is a soft-shelled case for manually transporting your guitar safely, hands free. With shoulder straps the guitar backpack can be carried like a traditional backpack, allowing you to carry other items or equipment. A guitar backpack is also called a gig bag, though not all gig bags have shoulder straps.
The guitar backpack comes in many dimensions and models to accommodate various types of guitars, basses, and even banjos. The outer shell is commonly made of durable nylon, which is easily cleaned, though some are made of tweed. A good guitar backpack will have a dense built-in foam padding to provide plenty of protection, and a built in neck brace to keep the instrument stabilized.
Because of the materials used, a guitar backpack is considerably lighter than a hard shell case. This alone makes it highly convenient for local gigging, carrying across campus, hitting the subway, or even carrying on a bicycle. The exterior of the bag features various pouches, pockets and compartments. These are used for sheet music, equipment such as strings, picks, tuners, small effects boxes or stomp pedals, and so on. The configuration of these pockets can be important, so choose a model that will accommodate your specific needs.
A guitar backpack is designed to protect your acoustic or electric guitar from casual bumps, knocks and swipes, however a soft bag also assumes a certain amount of caution and care. A guitar backpack is not recommended for airline travel or for other instances where the instrument will be stowed with luggage, such as in the belly of a bus. A hard shell case will provide more protection in situations where rough handling can be expected.
Be sure the guitar backpack is of the correct dimensions for your instrument. A bag that is too small will not provide maximum protection, while a bag that is too big will allow the instrument to move too freely inside.
Guitar backpacks can be found at most outlets that sell guitars, and prices range depending on quality and features. An inexpensive guitar backpack might sell for as little as 20 US dollars (USD), while some models reach 100 USD or more.
@Logifest -- also keep in mind that you may have to purchase one separately for higher dollar guitars. Good Fenders and Gibsons, for example, generally come with a hard shell case.
In fact, there are a lot of Gibson players who swear they would never toss their beloved Les Paul's into a backpack. The angled necks on Gibson electric guitars, they say, need a lot of protection as they tend to break under stress.
You do get what you pay for with those things. Some of the more expensive ones offer a good amount of protection, although not as much as a hard shell case.
I'll put it this way -- I wouldn't mind tossing my guitar in the trunk of my car if it was in an expensive backpack or gig bag, but I sure wouldn't do that with a cheap one. Keep in mind that even the more expensive backpacks generally cost less than a hard shell case.
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