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Martin Steel String Backpacker – When Space Is Scarce But Sound Still Matters

4.5 out of 5 stars

When people think Martin guitars, they usually think of some of the finest acoustic six-strings the world has ever seen. Also, they think high prices. However, despite the widespread opinion, the company has a string of more affordable guitars in their roster, and you can rest assured that they deliver the absolute best bang for the buck.

One of those best cheap Martin guitars is the Backpacker model, a travel-sized six-string with a peculiar shape, a classic sound and a pretty low price. We took it out for a ride, these are our impressions.

Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar-body

Body & Neck

The first thing most people will notice about this guitar is the oar-shaped body, which is very practical and highly ergonomic, making the Backpacker instantly stand out from other parlor instruments. The six-string's body features mahogany sides and back, along with a solid spruce top.

When it comes to practicality and ease of play, the distinctive body shape takes a few minutes to get accustomed to, but nothing too drastic. Additionally, the manufacturer managed to churn out a very resonant guitar here despite the reduced body size, but more on that in the Sound section.

Further on up the road, we are looking at a strong mahogany neck with a contour shape, along with a classic rosewood fingerboard with 15 frets, a 24-inch scale length and white dot inlays.

Build quality here is top-level, and it becomes apparent from the very first glance that this guitar was crafted with ergonomics and convenience as No. 1 priority. If you travel a lot, this is the one for you.

Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar-neck


The instrument utilizes a rosewood bridge with standard white pins with black dots, along with a pack of six tuners distributed in two groups of three across the Martin headstock.

Although it could be said that the hardware is basic and somewhat minimal, we are glad to say that each of the components does a fine job. The tuners are strong and capable of keeping the guitar in tune over expended periods of time, while the bridge delivers a top-notch intonation and action right out of the box.


When it comes to the most important aspect – the sound – the Backpacker delivers the good in style. As you could have guessed from such a compact size, the sound is similar to a banjo, but still resonant and booming thank to the mahogany body. So while all the frequencies are well covered and strong, always expect a dose of higher pitch from this fella.

Another thing we found particularly great is the absence of fret noise. Guitars of this price range often struggle with this matter, but we are talking about Martin after all, and the Backpacker delivers on all fronts!



For the listed price tag, this is one of the best travel guitars you can get on today's market. But the key question you need to ask yourself is – do you need a parlor guitar? These guitars are made for convenience and ergonomics, and of course you will get a stronger punch from a full-sized six-string. But if you do travel often and need to have a guitar close by, you can't make a mistake with this fella. Great stuff, a thumbs up from here!

For more info about the Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar, click here.
For more top travel acoustic guitars, click here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Darren says

    Why do you give a good review and link to a scathing video of a foul mouthed guy going on ad nauseum about how bad it is and how much he hates it?
    As for me, I bought one that was and remains well setup and highly playable going almost a year now. It is everything I want in a travel guitar. I have no excuse not to always have it with me and to practice. Plus I can play flat on my back in bed or in a recliner and not have to accommodate the bulk of other travelers, let alone parlors or standards. Everyone who comes in contact thinks it’s cool and that it sounds good. I have plenty other guitars, but due to convenience, this one gets more than half my play time. Nuff said.

  2. Stu says

    I cant believe anyone had anything nice to say about this toy. It’s very strange to play and it sounds like crap. Anyone that says this thing is worth anything over five dollars is obviously trying to sell the one they bought.

  3. Kurt says

    I travel a lot and wanted a guitar I could take with me to practice instead of wasting time sitting around hotels.

    I bought this little fella and was not disappointed. Yes it’s an odd shape which takes some getting used too and you need to hold the neck a little more firmly to prevent rolling. Yes the sound is no where near the depth of my takamine dreadnought.

    But this is a guitar that is very easy to play, is very well constructed and sounds pretty good all in all. Exactly what I needed in a travel guitar.

    My only criticism is I’d prefer a little hard case over the padded gigbag but that’s my personal view.

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