The best gig bags will not only protect your guitar, but also have some important features that make life as a gigging guitarist much easier. Today we take a look at the 5 best, and go over the features of each one.
The Best Gig Bags: Why Not A Hard Case?
Believe me when I say I have heard it all before. So let me state my case (sorry). Yes, a hard shell case is a great way to protect your guitar when you are on the go. In fact, a hard shell case is also a means of storing your guitar(s) when not in use. When I first started playing shows, I thought it was imperative to have a hard case for my guitar, especially since that’s what all of the rock stars have when they go on tour.
But then reality started to set in, and I had some pretty big realizations when it came to transporting my gear. If the band and I were going to play a string of dates spread across multiple cities, then having a hard shell case was necessary most of the time. When we would do these tours, we usually had a trailer to put all of our gear in. This trailer was like the ultimate game of Tetris, except the video game is fun. Loading a trailer after a show, exhausted… is not so fun.
But going on long tours is simply not the reality for most guitarists. The guitarists that I know are usually playing local gigs on the weekends, or they have studio gigs. These local gigs usually mean that you load your amp and two guitars into your personal vehicle and drive to the gig. This is a case of having the right tools for the job, and having a big hard shell case is actually harder to transport in a small car.
Paul Reed Smith talks a lot about why his guitars usually come with a gig bag instead of a hard shell case. He makes a pretty solid case for using gig bags over a hard shell, even with an expensive guitar. Most of us are not loading our guitars on planes, and traveling internationally. Paul says that most people just need a gig bag to transport their guitar to and from the local show. I tend to agree with him! I absolutely love how easy gig bags are to use.
There was a time when I thought that having a case for each guitar was something I just had to have. But when I stopped touring and started doing more local studio work, I noticed most session guitarists used gig bags. These were professionals, with very nice guitars. So I tried it for myself, and I bought a really nice gig bag for my main guitar. This actually changed my perspective entirely, and the gig bag had pockets for everything I needed to bring with me.
Why Should I Get A Gig Bag Over A Hard Shell Case?
Mainly because it will protect your instrument just as well as a hard case. Without it being heavy, cumbersome thing that you have to lug around all the time. Even at the gig, it is much easier to store a few gig bags backstage than it is to find room for hard shell cases. All in all, the best gig bags will provide you with an easier experience when your guitar needs to travel. Professional musicians use them all of the time!
My fellow guitarists, I implore you: Let me try to convince you that all you need for your most precious guitar, is a solid gig bag. It is really nice to have a hard shell case for storage. I won’t argue the need for storing multiple guitars. But when it comes to going back and forth on a regular basis? You don’t need that big, heavy hard case. So let’s take a look at the best gig bags, and hopefully you will find one that will fit your needs perfectly.
#5 MONO M80 Guitar Sleeve
There is no way I can talk about the best gig bags on the planet without mentioning MONO. Now, I know a lot of people will look at the price, and immediately freak out. Sticker shock is a very real thing, and MONO gig bags are not cheap. These are some of the best gig bags that you can buy, but the quality reflects this. I have a little bit of experience with MONO, and I used the company’s products for a while. I don’t recall the model that I used to own, but I remember that I paid $100 for a gig bag. I had a bit of buyer’s remorse, until I used it.
To be fair, the salesman at the guitar shop was on his “A game” that day, because he had me completely sold on the MONO bag. In retrospect I would totally buy it again, regardless of the price. My MONO gig bag carried my precious USA PRS Custom 24 all around town, and it worked great!
The MONO M80 is not only one of the best gig bags you can buy, it is also one of the compact. But don’t let the slim contours fool you. This gig bag will protect your guitar where it counts, and it might be just as good as a hard shell case. One of the best gig bags money can buy, the MONO M80 has:
- Top-loading Design
- Water-resistant Outer Shell
- Ample Exterior Storage
- Headlock Automatic Headstock Suspension
- EVA Insole
- Backpack-Style Straps
- Industrial Webbing Handles
- Metal Buckle
- Lifetime Warranty
The MONO M80 is one of the best gig bags because of the incredibly innovative design. The main zippered compartment is top-loading, so you basically slide your guitar into the gig bag. Most other gig bags have a zipper that goes all the way around, and you can slide your guitar in from multiple angles. But MONO had another idea in mind when the team designed the M80.
The MONO M80 has the Headlock patented system. The headlock is made of durable, shock absorbing EVA rubber that protects the neck and headstock of your guitar. This is the guitar’s weakest point, and I am sure you have heard horror stories about broken headstocks, especially when it comes to Gibson guitars. The headstock and neck rests securely on the EVA rubber once you zip the bag up.
The EVA insole extends to the bottom of the gig bag, and this is also a weak point for your guitar. The EVA insole at the bottom is there to keep the body off the ground and protect the strap pin from bottoming-out when the Sleeve is put down too hard. This means you guitar is sort of… suspended in the case.
The MONO M80 has plenty of padding if there is ever a fall, as well as the soft rubber insole that soaks up impacts. If I have one gripe, it’s that the outside pocket is hard to open and close. The buckle looks stylish, but isn’t very functional. MONO deserves a place among the best gig bags not only for the features, but the lifetime warranty. No questions asked, if it breaks… it gets replaced! MONO has tons of designs, but the M80 is the best “all around” model.
he M80 Series Guitar Sleeve is the latest addition to MONO's collection of professional luggage for musicians. Designed to be a minimalist solution for traveling light and simple, the new Sleeve merges MONO's innovative protection and high-quality construction standards into a super slim and stylish design.
#4 Roadrunner Avenue II
Roadrunner have been around for quite a long time. The company has been making guitar cases and accessories for decades! There are tons of guitar body shapes out there, and Roadrunner has one for just about every shape and size. The hard shell case market was once dominated by Roadrunner, and now it makes some of the best gig bags too!
The Roadrunner Avenue is designed for light travel to gigs, and it’s meant to be compact and comfortable to use/wear. The straps are fully padded and adjustable, and the side handle is solid. The Roadrunner Avenue will fit just about any Strat shaped guitar, and they even fit 7 and 8 string guitars too.
- Weather-resistant Polyester Covering
- Thick 10.5 mm Interior Padding Throughout
- Reinforced Interior Panels at Critical Areas
- Rust-proof Zipper
- Built In Hanger Hook
- Lots Of Storage
- Minimalist Design
Just like the MONO M80, the Roadrunner has a few tricks up it’s sleeve when it comes to features. One of my favorites is the huge outside compartment. You can easily fit a laptop, cables, tablet, or extra strings in the pouch. This means you’ll never get caught with your pants down at a gig. In fact, the one I tried could hold an HX Stomp. Not to mention, you can store long patch cables if you roll them properly.
But the best part of the Roadrunner Avenue gig bags, is they have a suit of armor! This is a really cool feature that can make a huge difference if you ever have an accident. The hard plastic plates are strategically positioned where impact points are likely. For instance, the one on the bottom makes sure that you don’t damage the strap button on the bottom of your axe.
The design is simple, and understated. I really like the minimalist approach to the overall aesthetics. The inside of the case is extremely soft, and it is reinforced at the bridge, and the headstock. This is to make sure the inner padding doesn’t get ripped by your strings/bridge. This is a solid bag if you’re on a budget, and one of the best gig bags at any price point.
The Avenue II Series’ rugged, weather-resistant exterior withstands local cartage from your home to rehearsals, practice, jams or lessons, while its eye-catching, all-black design with dobby highlights offers a forward, sleek look. Plus, its reinforced interior panels and thick 10.5 mm padding throughout protect wear-prone areas from bridges and machine heads.
#3 Gator GB-4G Gig Bag
Gator has been making cases for gear for quite a long time now, and it is probably the most recognized company when it comes to aftermarket products. This is a company that literally focuses on guitar gear only, and Gator makes some of the best gig bags on the market. In fact, gator has a wild variety of cases and bags for just about any shape or style of guitar.
The Gator GB-4G is an almost perfect gig bag. It has a ton of important features that will make a difference during day-to-day use. This is also a bag that sits right in the middle of being cheap, and expensive. But you get a lot for your money with this gig bag.
- GFLEX 8mm padding on all sides
- Pick-Clip to hold “emergency” pick
- Padded backpack style straps
- Contour back padding for comfort
- Large Exterior pocket
- Internal headstock and bridge reinforcement to prevent wear
The GFLEX padding is extremely solid, and it can withstand some pretty tough impacts. While the padding is super thick, this bag is still pretty slim and easy to carry. The backpack style straps are really comfortable, and the back panel of the bag is contoured so it is more comfortable on your back. This is perfect for guitarists that have to walk to practice or jam sessions. Out of all of the gig bags on this list, this may be the most comfortable to wear.
Another great feature is the bottom padding, and headstock padding. Both of these pieces are modular, so you can take the bottom part out if you have a longer guitar, like a baritone. Likewise, you can adjust the headstock foam to fit your guitar perfectly. Different guitar brands and designs may be different lengths, and this is an easy way to adjust on the fly. The inside also has vinyl pads where the headstock and bridge hit the bag, to make sure it doesn’t snag the inside of the material.
The zipper pull is absolutely adorable. The zipper pull tab holds a guitar pick for you. I don’t know how useful this actually is, but it’s a great little feature that adds some personality to the Gator GB-4G. The outer pocket is big enough to carry some pedals and cables with room to spare. All in all, this is the best mid-range option.
The GB-4G ELEC Series Gig Bag fits and protects many electric guitars. It features GFLEX 8mm padding on all sides for your guitars as well as internal headstock and bridge reinforcement to prevent wear. For your convenience it has contour back padding a webbed carry handle, and removable padded backpack-style straps. Other great features include a large exterior pocket for your extras and a Pick-Clip for an "emergency" pick.
#2 Coffin Case Agony Series
Coffin Cases is an interesting brand because they are definitely targeting metal guitarists with the shape and aesthetics. It looks like a coffin… and that’s pretty cool, but this is one of the best gig bags because of the features as well. I know it may be easy to just write this off as a goofy gimmick, but Coffin Cases really put some thought into the design of this gig bag outside of just the shape.
- Lightweight, Flat Construction
- Durable 600D exterior (Water Resistant)
- 20mm Padding
- Trademarked Diamond Tuck Interior
- Padded Straps
- Large Pockets
At first glance, you may think that the Coffin Case is too thin to really protect your guitar, but you would be dead wrong (sorry for the pun). There is actually a lot of padding and foam involved with the construction. The difference, is the padding is more compressed to make the overall design much slimmer than normal. This results in a super-lightweight design that is easy on your back when you are carrying it around. The outer shell also repels water really well, although it is not fully water-proof.
The Diamond Tuck interior is super soft, so you never have to worry about it scratching up your guitar’s finish. It feels a little bit like satin sheets for your guitar, just like a… coffin. This means it will also be good for Nitro finishes, since there is no friction between the guitar and the interior. Like most other gig bags, the Coffin Case also has special protective padding where the headstock and bridge make contact. The Diamond Tuck fabric is very prone to tears, but these pads protect the inside from metal guitar parts and errant strings.
Finally, the storage capacity is massive on this thing! The front pocket can easily hold a laptop and all of your cables. It has a flip-over messenger bag style, and it expands outward quite a bit. I imagine you could also fit a small pedalboard in this pocket, or something like a Line 6 Stomp processor.
Overall, these may seem goofy at first glance, but I actually like most of Coffin Case’s products. I am a big horror movie fan, and one of my guitars has bats for inlays. I suppose I am the target audience for this type of gig bag! The Coffin Case is one of the best gig bags in my opinion if you like good durability with a dash of campy style. It also helps that the Coffin Case won’t break the bank!
The Coffin Case Agony series has all the bells and whistles you need to transport your guitar in style. With a reinforced "Diamond Tuck" interior, it's like storing your guitar on a fancy pillow. The large front pocket accommodates laptops up to 15'', or any gear that you need for the big gig!
Before we get to the #1 choice, we have a few runner-ups that just didn’t quite make the cut, but may be exactly what you need. These were just shy from being the best gig bags that you can buy. They did not make the list because they are for specific purposes, instead being good all-around gig bags. You may be the “specific person” that would benefit from these other choices. If nothing seemed appealing to you yet, these may be up your alley! The Runner ups are:
Honorable Mention: BOSS B-EG10 Deluxe Gig Bag
The BOSS B-EG10 almost made it on the list, and to be fair… it almost made the #1 spot! This is one of the best gig bags, if you are just looking for a super-solid way to transport your guitar. The reason it did not make it on the list, is the lack of storage compartments. Storage was one of the biggest factors when I started this list, and I wanted to offer you options that have the best storage, along with other great features. The list is more for “do it all” types of gig bags.
This BOSS gig bag is very utilitarian, but that is exactly why I love it. I use this for my Schecter Hellraiser, and it fits perfectly snug. The lack of storage compartments doesn’t matter to me because I have a separate bag that holds all of my cables, strings, and other items I need for a gig. So the need for storage on the bag itself isn’t there for me, and maybe that’s your situation as well!
If you just need a case, this is the absolute best next to MONO in my opinion. The construction on this thing is insane as it’s built like a damn tank. The outside of the bag is 600D polyester, and it has a weather-proof coating. The outside is so tough, its like a molded hard case in some ways. It even has an armored bottom.
This thing is SOLID. The inside has a velvet feel to it, and of course has special padding for the headstock and bridge. The inside should be fine for any guitar finish, so you never have to worry about scratches or dings. But there is something even cooler that this bag has, and it rivals MONO…
The modular neck supports also have straps, so you can set the neck pads where you need them. After these are set, when you put your guitar inside, you can strap it down to the neck rests. This makes sure that your guitar doesn’t move around inside the gig bag. These are Velcro, and they hold everything perfectly in place once you mount them in the right places. Where you mount these will vary depending on the guitar model.
So if you need a gig bag without a lot of storage, this is definitely a great choice. But keep in mind, that the pockets really don’t offer much. The overall construction is so well designed, that I would put this at #1 if it just had a little more storage. This is a case that I would definitely travel with, and I would have no fear putting an expensive guitar in this gig bag. This is every bit as good as a MONO case, but it’s a third of the price when it comes to comparable MONO models.
One of the most solid gig bags on the market, BOSS never ceases to amaze. The exterior is hard, weather-proof polyester while the inside has a velvet lining that protects your guitar finish. The adjustable neck rests have Velcro straps to make sure your guitar stays in place. This is a slick, simple gig bag that has tons of protection for an affordable cost.
Honorable Wild Card: Gruv Gear GigBlade
Ok, so this is for a very specific type of guitarist, if you ask me. I wanted to throw this one out in the wild, because I thought it was a really cool concept. The Gruv Gear GigBlade is one hell of a gig bag! This bag has a ton of features, and it offers a lot of protection. The GigBlade definitely has a peculiar style, and… appearance. But after taking a good look at it, some of these design decisions make a lot of sense.
The GigBlade has side zipper pockets, just like any other gig bag. The inside of the bag has a velvet lining, and has the special armored pads for the bridge and headstock. It also features a neck rest, like most of the other best gig bags on this list. The outside has a sturdy handle, and extremely comfortable strap that is side mounted. It is well padded, and offers plenty of protection, both inside and outside. Construction-wise, this is definitely one of the best gig bags.
But the odd shape lends itself to some surprises, like the top pocket. Now, I know this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Like I said, this is for a very specific type of guitarist. It definitely looks really weird upon first glance. I think it looks like an alien weapon, personally. But if you think about it, the top pocket actually makes a ton of sense!
One of the neatest features, is the low center of gravity that this bag has. This means that it wont stick up above your head. So, no more knocking the headstock on door frames in tight spaces. This is a cool idea, and it makes everything easier to transport in backpack mode. All of the other best gig bags will have this problem in backpack mode.
Side pockets on a gig bag work pretty well, but it limits the width and depth of the pocket. This is because your guitar is pressing against the outside of the gig bag, making it a tight fit for items in the pockets. The GigBlade has the big pocket on top, away from your guitar. This allows for more room, and you can fit a bunch of gear in the top pocket!
This is definitely a more niche product, when it comes to the best gig bags, and this is why it didn’t make the list. The GigBlade is for the guitarist that needs to bring a lot of gear to a gig. I think this would be a great choice if you are a “one man show” that uses a looper pedal or a computer for backing tracks. You can carry all of those things in this bag, and more! But for the regular, everyday guitarist, this gig bag is just overkill in my opinion.
The GigBlade is pricey. But if you need something this versatile, then it may be worth the money. Speaking of money…
Honorable Budget Option: Gator GBE-ELECT Economy
Cheap gig bags are mostly a waste of money. You have to be careful with gig bags that seem too good to be true for the money. Some of these cheap gig bags give you little more protection than putting a garbage bag over your guitar. These are usually thin, ill-fitting, without any padding at all. To be honest, you’re better off just carrying your guitar around rather than using these cheap, flimsy bags. I hate seeing people getting ripped off by cheap gear, especially kids and beginners that are working on a strict budget.
When it comes to the best gig bags, Gator has tons of options and they already made our list once. The Gator GBE-ELECT Economy Bag is a “bare bones” gig bag, and it has a super affordable price. But don’t let the price fool you, this is a decent gig bag that will work if you’re on a budget. The handle and the straps are very basic, and not super comfortable to use. It may be missing bells and whistles, but it does it’s job!
Everything on the Gator Economy bag is just solid. The outside is durable polyester, and the inside of the bag is nice and soft to protect your guitar finish. It has enough padding to save your guitar from dings and scratches, as well as accidental falls. The pocket is big enough to carry some extra packs of strings, and some picks.
I really wanted to include this bag, because it’s one of the best gig bags for the money that you’re paying for it. Most other gig bags that are under $30 are going to be total trash. So if you were going through this list, and all of the options seemed way too expensive for you, this is a solid option. I wanted to include the Gator Economy not only people on a budget, but this is a great gig bag for a kid. If your kid needs a way to take their guitar back and forth to lessons, this is a great pick.
Right now, you can get these for only $29.00! This is a steal, and it beats all of the other “economy” gig bags. Don’t get ripped off by the cheap gig bags that are garbage.
This brings us to the #1 pick! I tried about 17 different bags while at my local Guitar Center. The store had a pretty wide selection, but I wanted something that is perfect not only in design, but also in value. If money is not an issue, then go out and get a MONO right now, because they are by far the best. But you will be paying quite a bit of money for MONO. If you want the best features for the best value, our choice is:
#1 Fender FE1225
Let me just say, that is was super hard to pick the #1, because I really wanted to put MONO in for the top spot. But MONO is crazy expensive for most players and I wanted the #1 spot to be a balance of quality and affordability. For years, Fender made some rather mediocre gig bags that usually came with the Standard Series guitars. Don’t get me wrong, these were perfectly serviceable gig bags that would work just fine for most people. But I wouldn’t have called them nice by any stretch.
Surprisingly, over the last few years Fender has really stepped up it’s game when it comes to making the best gig bags. The Fender FE1225 is a MONO case for people on a budget. It has a lot of the same features as MONO, for about half the price. But it also has some neat features that MONO doesn’t offer.
- Asymmetrical Instrument Shape (Fits most body styles)
- Durable Outer Layer Constructed of 200 Denier Polyester
- Interior Filled With 25 mm Padding
- Lined With Soft Touch Microfiber
- Two Adjustable Protective Neck Rests
- Exterior Rubber Bumpers
- Super-padded Handle
- Shock-absorbing EVA Padded Backpack Straps
- Large Front Pocket
- Zippered Backpack Strap Pocket
This is one of the best gig bags because it has literally every feature I would want for transporting my expensive guitars around. The bag isn’t too big, and it has tons of space inside and out. The exterior is a strong polyester that feels like the “rip proof” fabric that you find on camping gear. It is shaped to fit most designs, even offset guitars. The exterior also has treadplate style rubber guards where it matters most, ensuring your guitar doesn’t get dings (See Pic).
The inside is made of microfiber, so once again, your guitar finish will not create friction. This means no rubbing or scratching your guitar’s finish. It also has the armored spots for the bridge and headstock, since the microfiber could tear easily from bridge screws or sharp string ends. The neck rest is two pieces, and both are adjustable so you can place them where your guitar neck needs the most support. The bottom of the interior even has a little notch for your guitar’s strap button to sit inside.
If all of this isn’t enough for you, the outside dual pocket is absolutely amazing! You have a larger section that is perfect for carrying cables and pedals, but the smaller zippered part is where this gig bag impresses me. Inside this pocket you have:
- Name/Address Card
- Extra Pick Holders
- Pen Holders
- Note Pad Holder
- Car Key Fob Clip
- String Set Pouches
- Zippered Mesh Pouch
As you can see in the picture above, this little compartment has everything you need to take to a gig. I like to stuff business cards in my gig bag, along with note pads and pens. You never know when you may need these kinds of things. The pick holders, and string pockets are also great for holding backup products that you should be taking to every gig! The little zippered mesh pouch is good for holding batteries, or other small accessories. The larger section can carry cables, or anything else you need to haul to the gig.
Combine all of these features with the sleek, modern design. What you end up with, is one of the best gig bags on the market today. The Fender FE1225 can compete with a hard case all day, and it is one of the best products that Fender makes in my opinion. Don’t sleep on this awesome gig bag!
Featuring our iconic asymmetrical instrument shape, its durable outer layer is constructed of tough 1200 Denier polyester that protects against impacts without ripping and tearing. Its interior is filled with 25mm padding lined with soft touch microfiber that keeps your instrument secure while avoiding finish damage. It even comes with two adjustable protective neck rests and exterior bumpers to minimize any strain on the instrument while in transit.
The Best Gig Bags: Wrapping Up!
Choosing the best gig bags was no easy task. There are tons of companies out there that make gig bags and cases, but this is one area where you definitely get what you pay for. I wanted this guide to have all kinds of price points, so no matter what your budget may be, there is something here for you. The best gig bags are more about function than fashion, but I also happen to think these are all very attractive choices.
The best gig bags will not take the place of a hard case when it comes to travelling long distance. But I am willing to bet that most of us are not touring the world with out guitars. Gig bags used to have a pretty bad reputation, but I think people are starting to realize just how efficient a good gig bag is.
Unless I am playing a world tour, I will be sticking to my trusty gig bags for transporting my guitars. It’s just easier to deal with on a regular basis. I have one for my acoustic guitar as well, and I really don’t see myself changing anytime soon. So ditch that huge case that you’ve been lugging around, and get one of these great gig bags to start the year off right!
Are Gig Bags Worth It?
Even if you have a hard shell case for your guitar, a gig bag may be a better option. Gig bags are lightweight, and make it much easier to transport your guitar. Gig bags offer tons of protection!
Should I get a Hard Shell case, or a gig bag?
It really depends on what you plan on doing with your guitar. If you play locally, the getting one of the best gig bags is the easy option. You really only need a hard shell case if you are on tour, or need to store your guitar for extended periods of time.
Will gig bags protect my guitar?
Most of the best gig bags have ample padding and will provide plenty of protection for your instrument. premium gig bags also have extra pockets to store cables, picks, or your tuner.