The Martin Backpacker Guitar was designed to travel. It is a special construct with the idea that it could easily accompany you on a backpacking trip. Put it inside its gig bag, it also comes with a strap, and it fits neatly into the overhead compartment of an airplane.
Some people say that the guitar resembles a canoe paddle. Its ability to travel easily is in direct relation to its unique style. The guitar features a long neck, in comparison to its body. In fact, it’s almost like the guitar is all neck. The body and the neck are made of a single piece of mahogany. The chamber has been milled out. The guitar has a light coat of finish that leaves it feeling as though it were made of bare wood.
The guitar is thirty-five inches in total length, a measurement that makes it difficult to hold onto. You must wear a strap to play the Martin Backpacker guitar because it will not sit like a regular guitar. The guitar is also heavy at the top because of the tuners and guitar heads. So, it has a propensity for the neck to draw toward the ground. You have to compensate by steadying the body with your arm.
The Backpacker has a twenty-four inch neck. That is very close to a standard guitar for one so small. If you play the electric guitar, you’ll have no problem. The action is somewhat high and there is no truss rod. Changing the bridge saddle is the only option for changing the action. Martin carries blank saddles for just this purpose. The frets are rather rough edged, but they fit well.
The limitations of the guitar’s body also limit its tonal qualities. It sounds more like a banjo or maybe a resonator guitar than a full size. Some Martin Backpacker guitar models have a built-in pickup, so you can plug an amp in and give the guitar a richer tone. Of course, this beats the whole backpacker, traveling guitar thing because you would have to drag an amp around with you.
The Backpacker guitar was introduced in1991 and is manufactured in Mexico. There are two types of Martin Backpacker Guitars in production, the Classical Backpacker, and the Steel String Backpacker. Martin once made a Backpacker Mandolin and a Backpacker Ukulele. They have since discontinued the mandolin and ukulele models.
In 2002, Martin redesigned the Backpacker, but it didn’t change much. There is a shoulder at the fifteenth strut and a redesigned headstock to make it look a little more like a Martin than a canoe paddle. The body was widened and the sound hole was enlarged to give it a deeper sound. Still, it is a practice or travel guitar and it is unfair to compare the tonal quality to that of a full size.
The Martin Backpacker Guitar won’t replace your regular guitar. It was made and designed for compact travel. It is very playable, with a few adjustments in holding, as such. The tone will never get much beyond thin, but it isn’t meant to be played in front of an audience. In short, the Martin Backpacker Guitar is good at what it does, and after all, it is a Martin.