Buying The Best Guitar Case or Gig Bag For You – The Complete Guide

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When buying a guitar, especially your first six-string, the shopping never ends with just the instrument. And that’s not because you’re a shopping maniac or because guitar store guy managed to unload a bunch of useless gimmicks on you, but due to the fact that there are simply some products that cannot be separated from a guitar.

An amp and a cable is a must-have combo for electric models, a tuner is obligatory both for electric and acoustic players, and so is a quality guitar case. The latter item is what we’re about to focus on with a detailed guide on buying a good guitar case.

There’s quite a few things to consider on this pursuit, and we have taken the liberty of jotting down not only the finest models across a variety of price ranges, but also a few tips, tricks and explanations we have gathered over the years. The goods and a few brief reviews patiently await right in the section below!

Types of Guitar Cases

Depending on the value of your instrument, its construction and your traveling habits, there are several different options, but the main two groups are:

  • Soft gig bags
  • Hard-shell cases

These two are of course further divided into acoustic, electric, and bass models. Additionally, there are hybrids, which combine gig bags and hard cases, as well as flight models and other specially crafted items. We’ll mostly focus on the two main groups here, as we believe they cover the needs of the absolute majority of players out there.

Gig Bags

They are a lighter and more affordable option. Some folks tend to think that the only thing that makes them superior to hard cases is the price factor, but that’s actually not quite the truth. Yes, they offer better protection, but gig bags are lighter and more convenient. You can’t put a hard-shell onto your back, now can you? So if you don’t travel a lot with your instrument – travel as in pack your instruments in a van or a plane for a tour – then a gig bag just might be all you need.

There’s plenty of good stuff to go about, but it is also worth noting that a solid portion of cheap models out there are a bit on the crappy side. Therefore, we took extra caution when testing those out to avoid any unreliable equipment. A bag is what protects your instrument after all, and you should not resort to the cheapest option at all cost. With that out of the way, let do this!

Things to look out for when buying a guitar bag

The first thing we would like to do is offer you a rundown of things to take into consideration. A lot of the bags tend to look a bit same to the untrained eye, so here’s what to watch out for:

  • Padding that’s thick enough and waterproof. Thickness is always welcome, but the waterproof aspect is an absolute must.
  • Strong handles and holding straps. You have no idea how many times we’ve seen a good guitar severely damaged by a broken strap
  • Go for metal zippers, they’re more reliable
  • See that the instruments is as firmly snugged inside as possible. You need a perfect match; too much room wiggle room is not good, but neither is too little.
  • Make sure that there’s at least one large pocket. There’s the cable (or cables), a maintenance tool or two, picks, tuner, maybe a power supply and spare batteries, possibly a metronome, and there’s no sense in stuffing so much guitar-related gizmos into your pockets, right?

Budget Options for Electric Guitars

As far as good, but cheap gig bags for electric models go, there are two crucial moments to watch out for. On one hand, you will need sufficient padding. Some folk tend to stress that you’ll a LOT of padding, but that’s actually not the case. Sure, extra padding is great, but not essential. What we do see as essential, however, is the presence of strong handles and holding straps.

We’ve seen more than enough cases of strap malfunction resulting with the guitar hitting the concrete, and that’s simply not good. Additional extra stuff that’s nice includes a large pocket for miscellaneous stuff in the front, and maybe a small one on top if possible. Needless to say, an affordable price and good value for money are a must for this category.

And with all those factors in the equation, we believe that the top rated cheap electric guitar gig bag comes from Epiphone. This fella comes in elegant black, and while it’s technically optimized for Les Paul guitars, it very well fits any type of solid-body electric axe. There’s enough padding in there to keep your music-making tool safe, and the handles are firm and reliable. Check it out!

Epiphone Gigbag for Solidbody Electric Guitars
  • Designed with the specific dimensions to hold your LP comfortably and safely.

Budget Options for Acoustic Guitars

When it comes to acoustic models, the criteria needs to be raised a bit, because of the simple and obvious fact that these guitars are more fragile. That means a good padding is an absolute must – even with cheap bags – while the importance of reliable handles also remains. Additionally, the waterproof aspect is more important then with electric models, seeing that acoustic bodies are more susceptible to damage caused by humidity.

With all the factors laid out, we believe that the flattering title of the number 1 acoustic guitar gig bag belongs to the ChromaCast 6-pocket. This fella has a solid waterproof padding combined with metal zippers and three strong handles. It’s quite affordable and even comes with a guitar strap and a set of picks included in the price. And holy moly, six pockets!

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ChromaCast Acoustic Guitar 6-Pocket Padded Gig Bag...
  • ChromaCast Acoustic Guitar Padded Gig Bag
  • 6-Pockets
  • Exterior Dimensions: 43" Length x 13.5" (upper bout)/ 17" (lower bout) Width x 4" Height

High-Quality Gig Bags

Alright, with cheap options that fit the bill out of the way, we would like to focus your attention on the premium options that are out there. If you think it’s not worth investing into a top-level gig bag, allow us to try to convert you by saying that a high-end bag can often beat a hard-shell model with the same price tag.

The reason is simple – premium gig bags combine all the good points regarding this type of casing, and then infuse it with factors that make hard-shells great, specifically super high durability and reliability.

As an example, we’ll use the G-COM-ELEC model from Gator Cases. This puppy is packed to the gills with nifty features, but the one we need to single out first and foremost is the protection department.

We are looking at a dual-textured weather-resistant exterior accompanied by an interior defense shield crafted from military-grade polyethylene. The interior also features an ultra foam quilted cushioning with adjustable neck support, while the rest of the mix also includes a hide-away ergo-fit air cushioned padded shoulder harness straps with rear breathable vented cushion pads, a cable management system, and even a laptop storage department.

By gig bag criteria, this thing is essentially bulletproof, and actually works better than a solid share of hard-shell competitors. Think about it this way – a modern thin vest is better at stopping a bullet than a rugged suit of armor from the middle ages. Also, this is one of the few gig bags that you can take on an airplane.

Gator Cases G-COM-ELEC Electric Guitar Gig Bag...
  • Dual textured weather resistant exterior with military grade polyethylene reinforced interior defense shield
  • Storage for laptop and mobile recording peripherals
  • Cable management storage straps

Hard-Shell Guitar Cases

The second option are hard-shells. They’re sturdier, stronger and generally more reliable than gig bags, and mostly offer nothing but advantages except in one department – weight and practicality. If you’re a musician with frequent gigs which require travel, a hard-shell case is almost a must, but if you only play locally, a gig bag might even be a better option. Anyhow, these are some of the crucial factors to take into consideration:

  • NO wiggle room inside. Seriously, this is important with gig bags, but having a guitar tumbling inside a heavy case can have much worse consequences.
  • Cases that are wood-shelled should NOT flex when pressed
  • Pick fiberglass cases for acoustic guitars
  • Handle and latches must be firm and reliable

Budget Universal Guitar Case

This is a question we often see asked online, hence we figured to answer it right away. A few pointers at first, though: as noted, hard-shell cases need to have their inside wiggle room reduced to a zero; now, although that is not a difficult task for cases customized for certain types of guitars or specific models, universal models are a bit more of a tricky issue. On one hand, they need to have enough room to fit any type of guitar body, but on the other hand they also need to be as tight as possible.

With that said, we believe that another ChromaCast representative, the CC-EHC model, fits the bill perfectly here. With a price of a strong gig-bag, this item will give you all the advantages of a hard case, along with the ability to house a variety of guitars. So if you suddenly go from Les Paul style to Stratocaster style, have no worries.

We are looking at a mixture of wooden construction and a plush-lined interior with neck and bridge padding. Also included in the mix are chrome latches, strong bumpers on the bottom and sides, as well as a comfy molded handle. This item covers all the basic needs of many guitar players and will serve you well for many years as long as you don’t abuse it. For the listed price, it offers nothing short of stellar value for money.

ChromaCast CC-EHC Electric Guitar Hard Case
  • Lockable wood hard case with plush lined interior that includes extra neck and bridge padding
  • Sturdy chrome latches and bumpers on bottom and sides of case for added protection and stability
  • Comfortable molded handle

Guitar Case for Acoustic Guitar

Transporting an acoustic guitar, especially on an airplane or during extended tours, is serious business. They are much more prone to damage than their acoustic peers, and even a slightest bump can have a permanent effect on their tone. Therefore, all the factors we have listed as top-priority about heavy cases apply even more. Make sure that there is zero wiggle room, that the top does not flex if it’s wood-based, and that everything is firm and reliable.

But there’s also another suggestion we’d like to make – fiberglass cases. Fiberglass is a durable and flexible material that can really take a punch – or a stomp – and protect your acoustic guitar better than most cases out there. They are only a tad more expensive than polyethylene models, yet offer way more security.

The reason why we’re singing praises of fiberglass is the fact that a member of Guitar Fella staff once had his $2000+ Martin acoustic guitar stomped. He was silly enough to leave it on the ground and a drunk guy showed up and gave the poor six-string a few good stomps. Thankfully, it was in a fiberglass casing, and to our pleasant surprise left the ordeal unharmed – not even a scratch!

The casing in question was the Superior CF-1510W Deluxe, the white one. The essence of this item is highly durable, flexible, and lightweight exterior combined with dense foam padding and black velvet on the inside. It looks very cool, highly practical, and it will save your guitar from drunk-guy stomps – what more can a musician ask for?

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Superior CF-1510W Deluxe Fiberglass Dreadnought...
  • Arched fiberglass exterior is designed to be extremely lightweight while giving top maximum protection
  • Heavy duty case is edged with strong rubber that creates a tight, weather resistant seal when closed
  • Dense foam padding and black velvet line the interior and accessory pocket to ensure your guitar remains safe inside

Guitar Case for Your Fender Stratocaster

Another question we’ve noticed as a frequently asked one are guitar cases specialized for certain types of guitar. And while custom made models are often the strongest option, they are also by far the most expensive one. So as it expectedly turns out, manufacturers of certain types of guitar often have the best casings for their own goods, and a great example of that is Fender, who crafted a top-notch hard case that can house both their Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars. So if you’re a hardcore Fender guy, give this one a look!

Fender Stratocaster/Telecaster Electric Guitar...
  • Durable yet elegant molded shell
  • Thick pile plush-lined interior
  • Accessory compartment

Budget Guitar Case for Gibson Les Paul

Similarly to the Fender case, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of Epiphone’s Les Paul-specialized hard casing<. This fella has everything most players need and can take on any LP axe out there. It’s a plush-lined casing with an inner storage compartment for extra gear such as strings, picks, guitar straps, slides, and all that jive.

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Epiphone Case for Epiphone Les Paul Standard &...
  • Protect your Les Paul guitar from the rigors of the road

Hard case vs. Gig bag

Well, there is no definite answer here, but there are a few easy guidelines to determine whether a hard-shell case or a bag is better for your specific needs. In general, most hard casings do a better job and a cheap heavy option is always better than a cheap bag.

However, things are not that black and white, and one of the key questions you should answer is – how often do you travel with your guitar, and which way of transportation do you use?

If the answer is often and by plane, the answer is definitely a hard case. As far as bus or van tours go, hard cases win once again, although premium guitar bags such as the Gator Cases G-COM-ELEC can also do the trick.

But, if you usually play gigs and do rehearsals in your city, and you travel by public transport, then it is actually a better option. You can put it onto your back, it’s light and easy to carry around, which certainly beats a chunky hard-shell case.

Additionally, there is another aspect in which hard cases triumph, which is maintaining proper humidity. These models are far better at protecting the guitar from atmospheric elements, and keeping a guitar in a hard-shell casing will do wonders for maintaining the proper level of humidity. For more info, consult our guide on the best guitar humidifiers.

Pricing Considerations

Finally, we’ll address some specific spending figures you should have in mind. Note that these are just some rough figures and that the prices may vary, but this is essentially the spending budget for various price categories:

  • A solid cheap gig bag: $20
  • A stellar, top-quality, high-end gig bag: $200
  • A decent hard case: $100
  • A kick-ass hard case: $300

Conclusion

And this steadily brings us to the end of our journey, Mr. esteemed reader! Hopefully you enjoyed the ride and learned something new about buying a case, and maybe even found your perfect match. Speaking of which, it now just comes down to you jotting down your exact needs, personal preferences and exact spending budget in order to single out the bag or case that fits you the most.

If you want to keep track of the best latest guitar deals on the web, make sure to keep track of the site or subscribe to our newsletter. Back to the focal point of this guide, feel free to browse around some more and treat yourself with a proper guitar protector as early as today. Rock steady, roll easy!


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