By Mike Misselwitz
You need a purpose-built guitar for traveling the outdoors. Here’s why.
For years, I searched for the perfect travel guitar to no avail. I needed an acoustic guitar compact enough for an overhead bin but resonant enough to command a crowd. It needed to be durable enough to bring on backpacking trips, but affordable enough to purchase with a modest paycheck.
As you might expect, that’s a tough combination to find. After 8 years and three retired (broken) wood-bodied guitars, I finally found the KLOS Deluxe carbon fiber electric-acoustic guitar last spring.
I spent all summer backpacking, truck camping, and traveling with it in tow. And I can finally say, without a doubt, this isn’t just an ideal travel guitar — it’s the only guitar I need.
What Makes a Great Travel Guitar?
The most important attributes of a travel guitar are portability, durability, and resonance. Unfortunately, those also tend to be conflicting qualities in guitar design, making most options that bid as “travel” instruments less playable — and thus less worth bringing along.
Time-tested manufacturers like Martin and Taylor attempted to achieve this balance with wood models like the Martin Backpacking Guitar and the Baby Taylor. But both fall short in at least one category.
The Martin version is weirdly shaped, tinny-sounding, and subpar in almost every aspect of its performance. And I found the Baby Taylor did a better job, though it’s still relatively fragile and awkwardly shaped for travel.
KLOS Deluxe Carbon Fiber Travel Guitar
- 1 KLOS Deluxe travel guitar (available in a left-handed composition)
- Fishman Sonitone onboard preamp
- Graphtech ratio tuners
- Compact screwdriver
- Hex wrench
- Gig bag with neck attachment
- Guitar strap
- 2 medium guitar picks
- Rain cover
Carbon Fiber Guitar: Nearly Bulletproof
Every KLOS guitar bears at least some aspect of carbon fiber construction, making the brand’s instruments far more durable, resonant, and lightweight than traditional wooden guitars.
Where some KLOS models carry entirely carbon fiber construction, the Deluxe — KLOS’ premium travel guitar — features a carbon fiber dreadnought body and carbon fiber stiffening rods embedded within a rosewood and mahogany neck.
The benefits of the carbon fiber body, as it pertains to traveling, are eminent straight out of the box. Not only is it extremely durable, but it’s also incredibly light (about 2.5 pounds) and remarkably resonant for a smaller-bodied guitar.
The rich, powerful, natural tone that emanates from the Deluxe is a direct effect of the carbon fiber body, placing it in a league of its own in terms of sound performance. An adjustable carbon fiber truss rod runs the length of its collapsible neck (offering added resilience) and is adjustable using a hex wrench.
This allows the player to tune the distance between the strings and the fretboard to their own preference.
A Game-Changer for Travel: The Collapsible Neck
Aside from the carbon fiber body, the most unique feature of the Deluxe is its collapsible neck. Using a combination of the included string clamp and a Phillips-head screwdriver, the neck easily disassembles without removing the strings, via four electric guitar-style bolts at its base.
Loosen and clamp the strings, unscrew the neck, slide it into the included neck protector, strap it to the travel case, and you have a fully functional electric-acoustic guitar that packs safely into the confines of a midsize backpack. It takes me 2 minutes to reassemble and tune, then I’m ready to play.
You can adjust the neck to accommodate different players’ preferences. And with a rosewood and mahogany fretboard, it feels just like playing a well-made, traditional wooden guitar.
Unlike other travel guitars on the market, the frets offer ample space to accommodate my fat fingers. And there are a total of 19 playable frets, 14 of which are not suspended over the body.
A guitar designed for traveling musicians, by traveling musicians, KLOS didn’t cut any corners in the engineering of the Deluxe’s axe handle.
KLOS offers more economic variations of its travel guitar, like the non-electric hybrid series and the nylon version. And while the Deluxe commands a price tag north of $1,200 for everything I get with it — including top-of-the-line components — I find it KLOS’ best-value guitar.
The package comes with a compact screwdriver, a hex wrench, a capo, a guitar strap, picks, and a rain cover, along with the most robust and functional soft gig bag I’ve ever owned.
Beyond the accouterments, the real upgrade with the Deluxe is in its components. Adorned with stout Graphtech ratio tuners, a walnut bridge, and an industry-premium Fishman Sonitone onboard preamp, it’s a gig-quality system that won’t go out of tune and will stand the test of time.
Plugged into an amp, I get a better response from the crowd than I do from my full-body Martin.
In terms of sound, this preamp paired with the resonance from its carbon fiber body produces a tonal quality that other travel guitars just aren’t capable of achieving. It may not be traditional, but sometimes it pays to break tradition.
Mike Misselwitz is a former digital editor for SURFING and SUP magazines, a genuine dirtbag, and a wilderness backpacking guide for Lasting Adventures, the leading backcountry tour operator in Yosemite. When he's not roaming around the Sierra high country, he can be found sailing his boat or van-lifing between surf spots along the West Coast.