More and more guitarists are using gig bags, and it’s easy to see why.
They weigh less than hardshell cases and the idea of a lighter guitar load is certainly enticing.
But the main reason so many players have opted for gig bags is that, thanks to straps, they can be worn on the shoulder or back. This makes it easier to carry your guitar, whether you’re walking in the street, riding in an elevator or fleeing from the law!
The strap feature will be particularly appreciated by anyone who’s tried to tote a guitar while carrying an amp in one hand and a case full of mikes and cables in the other.
Some hard cases come with rings for attaching shoulder straps, and it’s also possible to buy backpack-style harnesses for hard cases, but neither of these options gives you the ease and accessibility provided by a gig bag.
There’s no question that a hard case offers greater protection for your instrument than does a gig bag. But you can minimize the risk by choosing a bag made with high-quality materials and equipped with a reasonable amount of padding.
Cheap, thin bags are only good for keeping the dust off your guitar. Look for a waterproof covering, padding that protects the sides of the guitar as well as the back and top, and enough padding in the neck to keep that part of the bag stiff.
But remember: No amount of padding will protect the guitar from damage if something hits it forcefully enough or at a critical angle.
Other features to look for? A zippered compartment large enough to at least carry a cable, a strap and some 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper is almost a necessity, and an extra compartment along the neck section can be useful as well. Small flaps that cover the zipper will help prevent the rain from seeping in.
A little practical vigilance will go a long way toward keeping a guitar in a gig bag safe and sound. When placing your instrument in a car trunk, for example, pack it securely so it won’t get bounced around, and make sure nothing heavy (like an amplifier) can slide into it.
When walking, be careful not to bump into things. If you’re not prepared to take extra caution, or if you’re in a situation where your guitar must travel in a van full of loose band equipment, or if you’re just clumsy, you may be better off with a hard case!