Backpacking musicians! I need your help!

Posted by: Yellowmusic

Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/05/18 06:02 PM

Hello all,

Personal experiences with trying to bring my Cordoba Mini guitar backpacking has led me to try and design a product that will make it easier for musicians to get their instruments outdoors. I'd like some feedback if you all are willing to give it. I have a 5 question SurveyMonkey that if you would like the link to fill it out, I can PM you. If not, I'm also open to some anecdotal information regarding your personal experiences bringing an instrument outdoors and dealing with the limited weatherproofing options.

I strapped my cordoba mini in its soft case on my backpack and wrapped a poncho around it. This didn't work to well... Then I tried to bring it on a raft trip and completely ruined it. What are your experiences?
Posted by: BZH

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/06/18 11:13 AM

https://www.etsy.com/shop/FeatherDulcimer
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/06/18 11:39 AM

I am a trained classical guitarist. I don't take any music backpacking--not as an instrument, and not as recordings. The wilderness is music enough.

And as a musician, I rarely find a chair and footstool that works well enough for me to seriously play a guitar in the wilderness.

And as a hiker, if someone camped near me and polluted the sounds of the wilderness with his efforts to play music, I would not be pleased. I will never forget the guy at May Lake in Yosemite who was learning to play the ukulele...slowly, badly, and loudly.
Posted by: HPD

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/06/18 04:14 PM

Only instruments I've taken are a harmonica and a wooden, Native American type flute. Easy to carry, don't weigh too much, I think the flute comes in at about 12oz.
Don't own one of those mini guitars but a dry bag might work.
I'd be super careful about strapping it on the outside a pack though. I've been know to break a fishing rod by setting down my pack at the end of a long day, without giving a thought to what's strapped on to it!
Posted by: Yellowmusic

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/06/18 08:21 PM

BZH thanks for that! I've never seen one of those.

Balzaccom I totally agree with everything you've said. I'm curious, if you heard a song you really like and it was being played well if it might be more tolerable to some degree. Personally, I don't practice or play incomplete songs within ear shot of others with few exceptions. If I'm playing near people, I play well or not at all.

HPD I've tried similar things that you mentioned. I hiked 500 miles of the CDT a few years ago with a Cordoba Mini. I wrapped it in a poncho and strapped it to my bag. Very sturdy construction, but the poncho idea sucked for the amount of time spent on trail and conditions. It definitely got wet a few times. Last summer I went on a 6 day raft trip which ended up doing the guitar in. It got too soaked from my faulty DIY weatherproofing idea and warped bad. Thanks for the info.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/06/18 08:47 PM

Ahhh... But your version may not be the one I like. In fact, I really prefer classical music.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/06/18 08:58 PM

I tend to agree with Balzaccom: the point is that, for me, it doesn’t matter how good the musician is, how beautiful the music is, or what the instrument is. If I’m out there to enjoy the sounds of nature (including the silences), I won’t like you very much. Yes, you have the right to enjoy your music. You don’t have the right to inflict it on me when I’m not in the mood to hear it.

I have, when coming upon a group of campsites and finding one of them occupied by musicians with their instruments, simply kept walking up the next hill and down the other side to avoid the intrusion of the evening show. They were there first, so I don’t feel I can ask them to abstain from playing. But I can’t say I was happy about that last bit of hiking.

I have also set up my camp, to have such folks arrive later and invite me to their concert later. When I expressed my desire for silence, they made it clear that they outnumbered me, and my wishes didn’t matter. I broke camp and moved on; I may have expressed the opinion that their parents had never been married. I definitely wasn’t happy about the extra hiking, and did report the incident to the land managers the next day.

One of the LNT guidelines is “Be considerate of other visitors.” Unwanted concerts don’t really fit that.
Posted by: Yellowmusic

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/07/18 03:44 PM

Glen, very insightful! Thank you for the response.
Posted by: HPD

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/07/18 06:07 PM

You know, I've been backpacking and camping for a lot of years and I've only had 2 problems with other peoples music.
1) Mostly from people in campgrounds playing radios/boom boxes. Occasionally have run into idiots playing music loudly on their phones or whatevers on trails like in the Grand Canyon.
2)The only time I've had an issue with someones "live" music was in Yellowstone when a guy camped next to us played guitar into the night. His playing wasn't bad, in fact it was quite good. The problem was he played about every song that I play but he played them a lot better than I ever did!!

In response to your original question:
Find a way to carry your instrument safely, play it with consideration for others (if there's any around) and have fun!
Posted by: BZH

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/07/18 06:39 PM

I agree. The only music I have had problems with while camping has been electronically amplified. People strumming a guitar and singing is usually fairly quiet and only noticeable when walking close to their site. Anywhere I backpack people are spaced far enough apart to be a non-issue for me. I think if you are close enough that you can hear someone strumming a guitar then you should not be expecting that much solitude.

The only musicians I have had a problem with were at Reyes Creek Campground in Los Padres NF. I didn't realize beforehand the campground bordered a tiny vacation village that was a throw back to the 1920's when it was built. The bar there has a band on Saturday nights and the band parties all night in the campground with people who went to the show. Not a great campground to bring my 2 year old sons to.
Posted by: aimless

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/07/18 07:31 PM

I'd just like to point out that the sound of rushing water or wind in trees tend to limit the distance at which human noises will travel, but on a quiet night next to a lake every sound will travel amazingly. I've easily heard conversations and laughter from a quarter mile away across still water. When I am trying to sleep, I do not care how beautifully a guitar is played; it is unwanted noise that disturbs and annoys me.

My strongest memory of a long solo hike on the PCT, hiked mostly through lightly populated areas and never leaving the trail for resupply, was the wonderful opportunity to listen all day and night to only natural, non-human sounds for three solid weeks. When people asked me about the hike afterward, this was what I most wanted to tell them about.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/07/18 08:23 PM

Granted, I shouldn’t expect solitude if I camp near others. But I should be able to expect reasonable quiet. I’ve spent many nights camped near large Scout troops, well-led, and had no problems at all. If I walk past a campsite that is obviously going to be noisy, I have only myself to blame if I camp within earshot. But if someone sees me already camped there, and chooses not to show me some consideration, I’m justified in resenting it.
Posted by: Dryer

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/10/18 09:19 AM

I've tried "backpacker guitars" and own a Martin backpacker mando, but don't hike with them. I try to keep my pack weight to a minimum and hauling a stringed instrument is simply out of place for me. I've hiked with penny whistles, Irish flutes, and harmonicas but in the end, I find myself opting for silence. I'm either too tired, or prefer listening to the sounds around me. Rarely do companions want to hear anything but nature when hiking. I'm a working musician and typically don't even like recorded music out in the boonies.

Car camping is another story. I've jammed to the wee hours. grin

Waterproofing a small guitar/mando is easy....use a kayak dry bag just big enough to fit. There are some very light and supple ones out there. Some are shaped to stuff in the bow of a kayak and happen to be the right shape for a small stringed instrument.
Posted by: Pika

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/10/18 01:00 PM

Yeah, I'm pretty much the same. I used to take a harmonica with me but seldom played it; much to the relief of the local wildlife and other campers if they only knew. I still take recorded music with me on an iPhone but almost never listen; the music doesn't weigh much but the ear buds are about an ounce. Mostly I'd rather listen to the birds and streams and the wind in the trees. If I want silence, I just take out my hearing aids.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/10/18 02:50 PM

I go along with those who prefer natural noises or silence.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/13/18 12:21 PM

Originally Posted By Dryer
I've tried "backpacker guitars" and own a Martin backpacker mando, but don't hike with them. I try to keep my pack weight to a minimum and hauling a stringed instrument is simply out of place for me. I've hiked with penny whistles, Irish flutes, and harmonicas but in the end, I find myself opting for silence. I'm either too tired, or prefer listening to the sounds around me. Rarely do companions want to hear anything but nature when hiking. I'm a working musician and typically don't even like recorded music out in the boonies.

Car camping is another story. I've jammed to the wee hours. grin

Waterproofing a small guitar/mando is easy....use a kayak dry bag just big enough to fit. There are some very light and supple ones out there. Some are shaped to stuff in the bow of a kayak and happen to be the right shape for a small stringed instrument.


I'm fascinated by penny whistles for some reason, though I haven't played an instrument since HS band (way too long ago). I was actually thinking about taking a BP trip mostly to have time to pick it up and start playing. There's no time for it at home; the same reason I mostly don't take BP trips anymore. frown
Posted by: Dryer

Re: Backpacking musicians! I need your help! - 02/13/18 05:38 PM

Come to Midlothian, Texas in October to the O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat and learn from professionals from Ireland how to properly play the things. There is definitely a method and "sound" you'll want to develop. I've played whistle many years and work at the camp each year.

http://www.oflahertyretreat.org/