Are you looking for the best travel banjo? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best options on the market and give you our verdict on which one is the best.
So, whether you’re planning a road trip or just want to be able to play around the campfire, read on for the perfect travel banjo!
8 Best Travel Banjos
The Mulucky 5 String is a great, very affordable option for anyone wanting a travel-ready banjo with a lot of flexibility. It’s only 28 inches, making it easier to store and play than a full-size banjo.
This banjo comes with a resonator, that can be easily removed if you prefer the mellower, open-back sound, or want to make it even more lightweight, giving you two options for sound style in the one instrument.
This instrument has a well-made, solid construction, is very easy to tune, even for beginners, and holds its tuning very well.
The Mulucky banjo comes with an entire starter kit for beginners, which includes an extra set of strings, tuners, picks, and everything else you may need to get this instrument set up.
However, this option does have a few faults. One is that a couple of the position markers on the frets have been placed incorrectly – in line with standard guitar positioning rather than the banjo equivalent – which may throw off your playing initially.
The Mulucky Banjo is also quite sensitive to humidity, which may disrupt its playing quality. This is quite common for smaller banjo models.
This Backwoods Mini Banjo is built by Dean Guitars, a company specializing in guitar manufacture, and the expertise they carry over from that to this banjo makes it the perfect cross-over instrument for guitar players.
It has guitar-style tuners and a guitar’s six strings but plays like a traditional banjo – with the added capacity to play it as both electric and acoustic. Its short length is perfect for travel or use by a child.
It’s also a beautiful-looking instrument, its glossy black head with white and silver detailing giving it a stylish appearance worthy of display.
Modeled on the traditional banjos from the 1930s, the Dean Backwoods Mini has the classic Remo head and is made from mahogany, giving it a mellower old-time sound.
However, this instrument is sold without a matching gig bag, which you will have to purchase separately if you are worried about protecting your banjo.
The guitar-style pick-up also makes you lose some of the banjo twang, and the overall sound tone is a little tinny and light.
The Gold Tone AC-Traveller Banjo is very lightweight at only around 4 pounds – making it perfect for travel or for children’s use. It is a scaled-down version of Gold Tone’s popular AC banjo, with the same playability and classic bright and resonant sound.
Gold Tone has a reputation for great quality control, and that shows through in this model, which is well constructed, comes well set up and is good value for money.
It also comes with a gig bag that has an over the shoulder designed for easy carrying. It features guitar-style tuners for easy set up and adjustment.
This banjo has a composite resin rim, instead of the traditional rim. This makes the banjo far more durable and lightweight.
However, it does affect the tone and quality of sound somewhat, making it harder to replicate that old-time sound. The strings fitted to this model also ‘muddy’ and dull the instrument’s sound and may need to be replaced with better quality options.
The Rogue Travel / Starter banjo is a no-frills, affordable 5-string banjo that you can take traveling without too much concern about it getting damaged.
Unlike other travel banjos, it’s a full-size model but has an open back – reducing the weight of the instrument significantly. However, this means it is well suited for clawhammer and old-time music, but won’t give you the classic bluegrass sound, if that is what you’re after.
The Rogue travel banjo is a pretty instrument, with a vintage-style head and satin finish. It’s durable and well-made with a clear, plucky banjo sound.
However, the tuning on this instrument can be difficult, as it does not hold tune particularly well, and comes with poor-quality strings. The sound can also be a little dull, without a tone ring added.
The action arrives set a little high on this model as well, which can reduce the instruments playability. The Rogue model is basic banjo, without added features, but is a low-maintenance, great starter banjo option.
The Savannah Travel Banjo is made predominantly of maple with a mahogany neck, giving it a bright, clear sound. Its small scale makes it great for travel, however it is a lot heavier than comparable travel banjos, weighing in at over 8 pounds.
This is a pretty instrument in a gorgeous redwood colour, with a nice, large face and a ‘weathered calfskin look’ head.
It has a quality, durable construction that includes a classic Remo head and a neck design that creates great responsiveness.
This banjo comes tuned in open C, which is five frets above the standard G tuning used on most 5 string banjos.
While this doesn’t really affect playability, it will make it harder to achieve the traditional, lower banjo sound. The tuning can be changed if you have a certain level of expertise.
The sound produced by this instrument is quite tinny, rather than the warm, rich tones expected of a 5-string banjo. This banjo also doesn’t hold tune very well, and the fifth string can be very difficult to tune effectively.
The Gold Tone Plucky Banjo is the ultimate travel banjo for those who need something lightweight and portable, coming in at only 2 pounds in total weight.
However, despite it being a mini size, its neck width is like that of a full-size banjo, meaning there is more distance between the strings, and allowing for far easier playability and better control.
This banjo has a mellow, plunky tone, and a low action making it easier to play. The lack of a resonator and tone ring means it is best suited for playing clawhammer style, and for the old-time style of music.
It comes with the classic Remo head and a good quality gig bag. The use of composite resin instead of the traditional wood for the rim vastly increases the model’s durability and lightness. However, it also alters it from the classic banjo sound.
The main negative with this model is doesn’t keep tune well at all, often having to de retuned eery few days.
The poor-quality tuners and shorter string length make this issue worse, as they make it harder to tune the banjo initially. The strings that come with this banjo are also not of great quality and reduce the sound quality.
The Kmise banjolele is a cross between a banjo and ukulele, with a banjo-style body, and a shorter, fretted, ukulele type neck. The banjolele was originally developed during the ‘Vaudeville Era’ in the 1930, when musicians wanted the easy playability of the ukulele combined with a banjo, sharper, distinctive sound.
This instrument provides great value for money at its price point, as it is well made, and sturdy. It also comes with all the accessories and extras you may need for the banjo included, such as a gig bag, pickup, extra strings and more.
It has the option of being played either open-backed or with a resonator, and comes in a range of colors, allowing you to choose the design you like best. It’s very portable, with back-pack style shoulder straps and an easy set up.
However, it takes a long time for the nylon strings to settle and hold their tune, meaning constant re-tuning at first.
The sound of this instrument is loud and clear, but not very resonant. It is almost rowdy, which doesn’t suit as much if you wish to use this banjolele for folk music or similar.
This banjo model also has had some issue with quality control, with some people receiving models with sharp frets, or incorrectly placed items.
The RKT-05 Dirty Thirties Tenor Banjo is a model built to resemble the sound of the classic 4-string tenor banjos of the 1930s.
Its open-back and period-correct REMO Fiberskyn head makes it perfect for Folk, Tenor, and Dixieland tunes. It has road-ready styling, with a design that weighs in at only 4.75 pounds in total.
This instrument is also a great beginner banjo, with low, smooth action, a deep pot, and easy tuning at a comparably affordable price for a full-size tenor banjo.
While the sound of this instrument is quite loud and vibrant, it doesn’t have a tone ring, which takes away from the traditional banjo sound.
It also tends to require a lot of setup on arrival, including fitting the bridge, altering tension nuts, fixing the tailpiece and more.
If you haven’t had experience at this, it could present a challenge and stop you from playing this at its full potential. It also has a comparatively plain design, with a matte finish to the wood.
Buying Guide | How To Choose a Small and Lightweight Banjo To Travel With
Travel-ready banjos come in a range of sizes. The mini size has a scale length of around 19-3/4 inches usually. This is ideal for traveling. Banjoleles also have shorter necks, that element of the instrument mimicking the stubbier design of a ukulele.
In comparison, a typical banjo is less portable, with a scale length of around 26-1/1 inches. However, if it is sufficiently lightweight, it can still be used as a travel banjo.
One of the most important things to consider when getting a travel banjo is weight. Unless you are traveling for performances, it’s probably best to get an open-backed banjo (or one with a removable resonator) as this will drastically reduce the weight.
The use of composite material (such as resins) in place of heavy wood will also lighten a banjo – though it may also impact a banjo’s tone.
The very lightest you can get a banjo is around 2 pounds, though a typical banjo built to be lightweight weighs around 4 pounds. Anything up to around 6-8 pounds, though a little on the heavy side, should be fine for traveling.
If you want to buy a travel banjo, ensure you get one built for durability, or a cheaper model you don’t mind getting a little damaged.
Banjos incorporating composite plastics and resin are usually a lot more durable than those made entirely of hardwood. Though, again that can impact sound quality.
Banjos that have a neck made from a single piece of wood are usually more durable than ones with a laminated neck made up of several pieces. However, this can up the instruments cost.
It a good idea to get a good quality gig bag or case to help protect your banjo while traveling.
Because of the shorter length, a travel banjo is usually tuned to Open C or A, rather than open G, like a normal banjo. This shouldn’t usually affect the sound very much, and you can alter a banjo’s standard tuning if required
Mini or shorter necked banjos are especially sensitive to humidity, which can affect the tuning and sound of the instrument. If your banjo is going to be in humid conditions while you travel, this is something to be wary of.
In general, a shorter necked banjo is easier to tune than a full-sized model as their won’t be the same stress level placed upon the strings.
There’s something whimsical about strapping a banjo on your back and going on a journey – you feel like a traveling musician of old or a lonesome cowboy way out west.
While the reality is usually more mundane, a banjo is still the perfect instrument to take with you when traveling. It’s a great way to set the mood, or start a party and gives you the perfect way to relax and unwind after a long journey.
Imagine yourself on your next camping trip, sitting around a roaring campfire with friends, strumming a banjo for a fireside sing-along. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
A banjo is also great for traveling because they are comparatively portable, durable, and low maintenance – though some models are better suited to travel than others. Here is a list of the best eight travel banjos.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
What is the ideal size of banjo to travel with?
You can travel with any size of banjo, if you pre-plan how to carry it, and have a good protective case. However, a mini-sized banjo or banjolele – which usually has a scale length of around 19-3/4 inches – will be far easier to travel with than a standard banjo, which has a standard scale length of around 26-1/4 inches.
Can you fly in an airplane with a banjo?
Yes, you can take a banjo on an airplane. It is recommended, however, that you take it with you on carry-on, rather than stowing it with the larger luggage, unless you have it very well protected, as it is likely to get quite knocked around otherwise.
Most smaller models (especially mini sized ones) are fine for carry-on, but even then, it would be best to take it in a sufficiently padded gig bag or, even better, a hard case. Luckily the U.S. and some other countries have legislation against charging passengers extra for taking instruments on carry-on.