I'm at least a little active on 2 or 3 guitar forums. The older I get the more I think I might officially be the curmudgeon that T told me I was 15 years ago. Sometimes folks on the various forums just irritate the heck out of me and make me think that I should step away and stay off the interwebs for a bit. This was one of those occasions.
We got to talking about capos. One of the other forum participants either doesn't understand how to effectively use a capo or was just ignoring everything that I was saying. I finally gave up, and bowed out of the conversation before I said something that was going to get me a warning from the mods. May the other person wallow in their ignorance (although I know they are far smarter than I and definitely a more skilled player).
There are two primary ways to use a capo. Notice I did not say that there were only 2 ways to use a capo. I said there are two primary ways. These would be the two ways that most people tend to use a capo. You can change the key that you are playing by slapping it on. Or you can change the chord shapes that you want to play by slapping it on. It's on this second point where the individual mentioned and I reached an impasse.
There's the first way. Change the key in which you're playing. This one is pretty simple and straightforward. You're playing in the key of A, but the singer (or you) decide that the key needs to be raised to B, so you slap the capo on the second fret, and you have effectively changed the key of the song to B without having to change the chords that you have learned for the song. I've learned to play the song in one key, but it's the wrong key for the singer? No problem. Bust out the capo, find a place on the fretboard they like, and capo like a champ. Key changed for them and I don't have to learn new chords for the song. Yes, you can quickly and easily change the key to a song with a capo.
The second way can be a little more confusing to folks just learning to play. And, since I know the other forum person is anything but a novice player, I still can't figure out why they couldn't seem to wrap their head around this concept. Change the chord shapes that you're playing.
In my bluegrass days, this was something I used to do a LOT. Back in those days, I played primarily in the keys of G, C, and D. Not that I couldn't play in A or E or some either "weird" chord, but all the little riffs and lines I played were much easier in one of those three primary keys. So we're doing a song in A? Cool! Capo II and I still get to play with the G chord shape. Or maybe the song was still in G, but the other guitar player wanted to play cowboy chords, so I'd capo VII and play with a C-chord shape as the I. But the key we were playing in remained G.
And that's where the person I was interacting with was wrong all day long. They said that by placing the capo on the guitar, you were changing the key that you were playing in. Specifically, we were talking about playing in the key of Bm. They said that, if you did the capo VII thing, you were playing in Em. I tried several times to make the distinction to them. No, you were not playing in Em. You were playing an Em chord shape, but you were still playing in Bm. They disagreed. Vehemently.
They were wrong. And still are. Whether you played a barre chord at II to play Bm or you stuck a capo on II and played an Am shape or put a capo on VII and played an Em shape or even stuck a capo higher on the neck and played a Dm shape, you're still playing in Bm. Yes, your chord shape turns into something else as you move around the neck, but the key remains the same. Chord shape changes. Key remains the same.
The one thing I erased several times and didn't tell them out of concern that it would come across as overly snarky is this. The band is playing in Bm, and you slap a capo on VII. You don't tell the band that you're switching to Em because the key didn't change. Your fingering and chord shapes changed. If you told them to stop playing in Bm and switch to Em, you and the band are going to be playing in different keys.
I still can't figure out how they couldn't wrap their head around that one.
Along a different vein, I only use Shubb capos. I was given my first one back in 1993. That's still the one that is in my pocket whenever I'm playing. No tuning issues. No bending issues. It works every time. I've tried some of the other brands, and always find myself back to the Shubb pretty quickly. They're the best.
This week, I'm going to tell you about the backpack that I use most often these days. It's the Teton Sports Summit 1500. It's one that I saw perusing the interwebs while just looking to see what might be out there. To me, it looked like it would be a good pack. When I initially tried to order one, they were out of stock everywhere and the Teton Sports website was backordering them. I eventually ordered one because I really liked what I was seeing. Then I made the mistake of hitting YouTube for reviews. By and large, folks on the Tube of You don't like this backpack, and they don't like it for (what I think are) stupid reasons. But I digress.
Also, once again, full disclosure. Most of the pics of this pack are ripped from the Teton Sports website. You'll know the one that I took.
I had started thinking about getting another day pack mostly because I realized that with what I usually carried, if I pulled my sweatshirt or jacket off and put it in, there was no room for anything else. So, if I was doing a long hike and carrying, say, a lunch, I didn't really have room for my jacket. If I stuffed my jacket in, the pack had no room for anything extra. So I started keeping an eye out for a pack that was a little bigger.
Enter the Teton Sports Summit 1500. It's a 25L pack. It holds a 3L water bag. It has 5 zippered pockets, including a couple that are in the lid. It's more narrow than a lot of daypacks I've seen, but it's taller. It also has a rain cover stashed in the bottom. So what are the features?
It has one big main compartment. No interior pockets or dividers except the sleeve on the back wall for the water bladder. It has a double draw-string closure that then clips closed. So, whatever you put in that compartment is going to be pretty well secured. It's not going to accidentally fall out.
On the face of the pack is a zipper that runs up almost the entire height of the pack. Inside that zipper is a shallow pocket that runs the width of the bag. I have found it perfect for trail maps, those brochure-sized ID cards, and the little notebook that I carry when I hike.
On the sides are the usual 2 mesh pockets that fit water bottles pretty well, and there are also 2 zipper pockets at the top that zip about half way down the pack. I've never tried to stuff these full, but have found that one is the perfect size for a bandana or small towel or gloves or things like that. The one on the other side is where I put my snacks.
There are 2 zipper pockets in the lid, one is on the inside of the lid, and the other is on the outside. The one on the inside seems like a good spot for all those little misc. items that I occasionally want, but (1) don't need often enough to put in an outside pocket or (2) don't want to have to dig around in the bottom of the main pocket to find. The one on the outside is where I stash my little trail first aid kit as well as wallet, keys, and stuff like that.
On the bottom it has trekking pole loops and on the top it has straps to strap something down. The loops are where my trekking poles live when I'm not using them. The straps work really well for my butt pad. As with the other pack, I have added a couple of grimlocks (plastic D-rings) and some shock cord.
The pack has those 2 cinch straps on each side, 2 cinch straps on the front for that tall zipper pocket, 2 more for the lid, and the 2 straps on top to cinch something down onto the top of the pack. In total, that's 8 straps on the pack. In fact, there was one vid that I watched after I bought the pack but before I had it in hand. The reviewer in question was complaining about "too many straps. You can't do anything on the pack without having to move straps around."
You can see in the pic above all the straps. Yes, there are lot. However, I don't think it's too many, and I don't think they get in the way all the time. Most of them have an elastic band on them to tuck the unused portion of the strap back onto itself to keep it tamed. I tuck the excess of the lid straps into the side mesh pockets, and the excess for the tie-down straps on top I have tied into a loop that keeps them up by the lid. I really like the fact that I can cinch the pack down as much as I can.
The pack has comfortable straps...once you get used to them. The first time I wore the pack, my shoulders were super tired. I couldn't figure out why. The next time I went hiking with it, I did just the opposite of what I thought I should do, and I loosened the shoulder straps up. That seemed to fix it. It's been super comfortable ever since.
The hip belt rides a little higher than I like, but it's tall enough that it does still carry some weight. Not that the pack is big enough to really need to carry weight, but it's nice that it does. On a pack as small as this one, I would expect that the hip belt is primarily to secure the pack to your back a little better. I've also added a couple of hip belt bags and hang my bear spray off the hip belt. And, yes, I know that there are no bears in my part of the country, but I carry it for hogs. The hogs down here are prolific and ill-tempered.
The back has that upside down T thing going on to help with ventilation on your back. The H2O port comes out on the right side (when you wear it) just under the lid. The sternum strap clip doubles as an emergency whistle if that is something you like your pack to have. The back does have an internal frame of some sort and is non-adjustable, but the straps adjust enough that, for a small pack, it all seems to work together to be comfortable.
There are a couple of things that I immediately changed on the pack. You can see in the pic just above that it comes with ice axe (I think is what that is) straps. I guess that makes the trekking pole loops to officially be axe loops. I've never actually even seen an ice axe, so I thought it fitting to pull those straps off and put shock cord straps on in place of them. That's how I secure my trekking poles now.
I, also, didn't like that there were no hip belt pockets. I'm still trying to find the perfect attaching pockets, and have been through several, but am still on that quest. I got some from Alps Mountaineering that I used for a while. They weren't bad, but I wanted to put a small pair of binocs in one, so I am currently using a set I bought off of Amazon. The ones I got I think are sold primarily to the survivalist crowd and probably usually attach to their bug-out bags, but they're working pretty well at the moment.
Other than those 2 things, for me, this is about the perfect day pack. It holds what I need, and it offers plenty of room to stow a jacket while still leaving a little room to carry something else if I want (like lunch or a book to sit and read along the trail). I love this little pack. It's built extremely well. It has plenty of room for short and long hikes. And in the world of backpacks, at $60, it's pretty dang economical. In my opinion, not only could you not go wrong with this bag, but it's the best one out there right now.
I like this pack enough that Teton makes an almost identical pack (the Summit 2800) that is 45L and gray instead of orange, and I got it for camping. It's pretty much the same, only bigger. It, also, on the bottom has an extra pocket for a sleeping bag. That sleeping bag pocket opens up to the main pack using a drawstring closure. So you can make the main pocket one big open pocket or one not quite so big pocket with the sleeping bag compartment underneath it. Also, the sleeping bag compartment is accessible from the outside. Other than those things, honestly, it's just a bigger version of the orange one.
Teton Sports seems to make a lot of good products that are quality without having to pay the premium associated with some of the high end brands. In addition to these two packs, my wife uses their Scout 3400 pack when we go camping or backpacking. I've also got one of their pop-up tents and their sleeping bag liners. Everything I've gotten from them seems to be good quality and built to last. In addition, I've talked to their customer service reps on several occasions, and they've all been super helpful and friendly. I'm, honestly, surprised that I don't see more reviews on Teton Sports and more people using their products. If you need quality equipment on a budget, be sure to give them a look. In my opinion, bang for the buck, you'd be hard pressed to find anything better.
This week I'm going to tell you about that Outdoor Products backpack. Over the course of the week since I typed up that last post, I actually found the name of the backpack. It's the Outdoor Products Trail Break pack. it has an 18L capacity, and came with a 3L water bag. It looks like Walmart still sells the black one online for $35, or you can get the green one on eBay for around $20. It hasn't been listed on the Outdoor Products website for probably a year, and I've been told by their customer service that they're not making it anymore.
Also, full disclosure. The professional looking pics I have below I stole off the Walmart website. I'll start it off with this one.
The back of the pack has the compartment dedicated to the water bag, and I'll get to that in a bit. The pack has 1 big main pocket in front of that one that I've always described as a school backpack pocket. You can zip it open from either side (2 zippers for this pocket). You zip it open, and it's just a big, open space. No dividers or internal pockets in it.
There's a secondary main pocket that only has one zipper to it. So it zips to and from one side. It's not as big and open as the main pocket, but it has 3 smaller pockets on the back wall. The smaller pockets are 2 different sizes, and one of them has a velcro clasp over it. I'm guessing that was intended to be a phone pocket or something...velcro it in so it doesn't accidentally fall out.
It has a much smaller zipper pocket on the face of the pack. That one is about the size of a phone, but since there's no protection in it, I always used it to throw a snack bar or small bag of trail mix. This pocket is, honestly, not really big enough for much else.
It has the pretty big mesh pocket on the face of the pack that you can clip closed. I always found that one handy for keeping a trail map or the little notebook that I carry when I hike. I'd also typically stuff my wallet and truck keys in this mesh pocket when I'd leave the ride.
Just below this mesh pocket is a zippered pocket that holds the included rain cover. I'm not a huge fan of rain covers. Sometimes they work with very dry results. Sometimes you wonder if it kept any water out at all. I used this one a couple of times in mist and drizzle, and it seemed to work well enough.
Then there are the 2 mesh pockets on the side that I imagine most folks use for water bottles. There's a cinch strap on either side of the pack just above the mesh pockets. There are no pole loops on this one, so I always carried my trekking poles in these pockets, and secured them using the cinch straps.
There are two "daisy-chains" on it just above the mesh pocket on the face. I put daisy-chains in quotes because on a pack this small, they're more like double loops. I have a couple of grimlocks (plastic D-rings) on those. That makes it handy for clipping something on the pack if needed. I strung a loop of shock cord between the two, and used one of them to clip my butt pad to the pack. I'd stuff it under the shock cord to keep it from flopping around while I was walking.
Rounding out the pack are the hip belts. There's a pocket on each of those, but they're small and tight enough that my wallet wouldn't fit, and my keys were a bit too big. I'd usually carry a small bag of trail mix in one of those.
Overall it's a great pack! At 18L, it's not so small that you're only carrying water, but it's not so big that you're carrying more than you would need. In addition to my usual load, I could stuff a sweatshirt or jacket into the main pocket, but that would fill it up. It's a relatively comfortable pack even though it's not adjustable. The only thing that bugs me occasionally (and it's more a preference and not a comfort thing) is that the hip belts are a bit high. They ride above my hips, so they help secure the pack to my body, but they're not carrying any weight at all. Then again, on a pack this small, there's not a lot of weight to be carried.
Now the water bag pocket, they used an interesting concept for it. After using the pack as much as I have, I'm still not sure whether I like it, but I know I prefer the more traditional approach better. Take a look at the two pics below, and then I'll describe it for you.
If you look on that back ridge of the pack in the pic on the left, you'll see a long zipper that appears to continue on down the right shoulder strap. If you look at the pic on the right, you'll see that zipper does, indeed, continue about half-way down the length of that shoulder strap. Rather than have the usual H2O port on the back of the pack somewhere, that zippered pocket is it. Open it up, and it's a very thin pocket where you hang the bladder. Then you run the tube the length of the zipper to where it exits on the shoulder strap.
It's an interesting way to solve that problem. It's, also, where my bag had an issue. I used it for a long time, and always had the bladder in it. Then one day I decided that I was going to use it without the bladder, and realized that they had not actually sewn in one side of the end of the zipper. So long as the water tube was run through the shoulder strap, the zipper would stop a couple of inches short of the end. When I pulled the bladder out and zipped that up, the zipper just came off the end, and, despite my best efforts, the zipper would not go back on.
The Outdoor Products warranty and customer service were both stellar even though the pack already had a lot of miles on it. I let them know I had an issue, they asked for pics, and they quickly covered it. The backpack wasn't being made at that point, so they gave me credit on their website. I already had my eye on the pack that I'll talk about next week, so I gave the credit to my wife to get one that she needed. Later on, I ended up doing some surgery on the bag to get the zipper back in place, and then sewed everything up so that it works again. Not long after I bought the bag, I replaced all the gray zipper pulls with bright yellow ones, so I used bright yellow thread on it when fixed the zipper.
I really like this daypack. I've used it enough that it's well broken in. I've personalized it by adding those grimlocks, changing the zipper pulls, and now it has the yellow stitching where I fixed it. It's relatively comfortable, and it holds enough to get you by for a day, but not so much that it's really going to get heavy. The back on it has that upside down T pattern that helps with ventilation. I've got no complaints about this pack. In fact, at the $35 that it is currently listed on the Walmart website, I don't know that you could get a better bang for your buck day pack.
I must confess. I have a thing for bags. I like them. They're extremely useful. They can be stylish. And you can personalize them and make them fun. I have a bunch of them. Notice I didn't say too many. I'm always out for a good bag. I have an armoire full of them. I've got quite the array of bags. I've got canvas bags. I've got leather bags. I've got bags for work. I've got bags for play. If I need a bag, I'm sure I have one to fill the bill. My wife says she doesn't understand why I think bags are cool. She has like 2 purses. I have at least 10 backpacks. And that's not counting the messenger backs, laptop bags, and others still.
Like I said, I have lots of bags, including all those backpacks that I claim as mine. I have also bought my wife another 3 or 4 backpacks because I think she needs them, because bags are cool. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'm going to talk about a couple of my favorite backpacks. For today, I'm going to just scratch the surface on those two and one other.
First backpack to talk about is my Saddleback Square Pocket backpack, aka The Tank. No, seriously, the company calls this backpack The Tank. It's certainly built like one. If I had to have one backpack and no other, this would be a serious contender. It's HUGE! It's built to last. You could probably fit a small car and a week's worth of luggage into this backpack. The pic below doesn't do justice to how big this pack is.
Mine is in carbon black. That just means it's a kind of a flat back color and not shiny like the one in the pic. The only downside to this pack is that it's so big and heavy. I think I weighed it once at just over 7 pounds empty. I once used it hiking through a national park in SE Utah. My back was soaking wet by the end of the trail, and my shoulders were especially sore. I decided that night that I needed a lighter backpack for the next day.
Two things I like about this bag. The leather on it is thiiiiick. Seriously, I could drag this thing behind the FJ and it'd just be scratched up. It would still be totally usable. Second is that it has no less than 8 D-rings on it. I love clipping and attaching things to my backpacks, and those D-rings come in especially useful. I don't think I could wear this bag out if I tried. Despite its weight, this is one of my favorite bags. And, at over $500, it was definitely the most expensive (but totally worth it imho).
The next backpack to talk about is my Outdoor Products backpack. I have no idea the model. They don't make this one anymore, and I've long since forgotten the name. I was on the hunt for camping gear a while back at the local Walmart, saw it, and went back the next day to buy it. It's been a trooper. Well made. Very economical at I think $30 when I got it. I've got probably 150 miles on this one. 3 liter water bladder capacity. Multiple pockets. Rain cover (that I've had to use a couple of times). This is one of the ones that I'll talk about more later.
Full disclosure. After I had it about 6 months, one of the zippers failed. I looked at it closely and realized it looked like it might be a manufacturer defect. I contacted the company, and they quickly got me fixed up with no hassle. They already weren't making it anymore, so they gave me credit towards another pack. I added some to that credit and bought my wife a pack for some stuff she was doing. Great customer service! I liked the pack so well that I ended up figuring out how to fix it on my own, and I've continued to use it.
You'll see that I swapped out the zipper pulls to add some color and added some grimlocks on it. I'm always adding stuff to my packs to personalize them and make them what I want. This has been a great pack.
Last pack to talk about today is my current daypack. It's the Teton Sports 1500 backpack, and, for me, it's about the perfect pack. When I was researching it before I bought it, a lot of folks were complaining about various aspects of it. I thought then, and think now, that those folks were just complaining. It's a great bag. Still pretty economical at $60. I've got almost 100 miles on this one so far.
Like the previous pack, it can handle a 3 liter water bladder. It's got pockets everywhere...5 zippered pockets. One on the front. One on each side. And two in the lid. Two mesh pockets on the side. The big main compartment. Straps everywhere. Loops for trekking poles. A rain cover. In my humble opinion. this is the best daypack made. In fact, I like it so well that they make an almost identical pack that's 45 liters. I got it for short backpacking and camping trips.
Since I got this pack, I've picked up several Teton Sports items, and have been impressed with all of them. From packs to tents to cots, it all looks good. I've got packs and a tent. So far, they all work as advertised, and they're economical. Not quite as inexpensive as the Outdoor Products packs, but definitely less than what you're going to get someplace like REI. I've been told that Teton makes "budget" gear. My experience has been that their gear is just as good as the REI stuff I have, it just doesn't cost as much. So, if "budget" means good-quality-low-cost I'll take it every day over good-quality-high-cost. Teton makes good stuff. And this bag is no exception.
I've got a couple of others that I really like...like the one that attaches to a gig bag...but I use these three probably more than any of the others right now. In later posts, I'll take the two day packs, and talk about them in a little more detail. So what's your favorite backpack? These are three of mine.
I bought my Epiphone 339 back when they first released them in 2011. I missed that first run that delivered in the fall of 2011, so the one that I got was made in that second run. That means that I had to wait 4 or 5 months to get mine. I ordered it in November, and got it the end of March or first of April. One change that they made between the first run and the second that I didn't see them announce anywhere was that the original 339s shipped with their Probucker pickups and the second run shipped with their Alnico Classic Pro pickups. I had actually been looking forward to getting to try the Probuckers out, but the Alnico Classics sound good to my ear, so whatever.
Never gave it a whole lot of thought after that. Like I said, I wasn't unhappy with the pickups it came with. I had always heard that the Alnico Classics were Epi's version of Gibson's 57 Classics and the Probuckers were Epi's version of Gibson's Burstbuckers. I had put a pair of Burstbuckers in an old Les Paul I had, and I really liked them. Never really bonded with the guitar, but I thought the pickups sounded good. I had a Gibson 335 for a while that had 57 Classics and I really liked them too.
In my head, I always said I preferred the 57 Classics. I'm not really sure why. Honestly, I think I liked them better because that's what it seemed that most Gibsons I liked were getting when I started paying attention to that brand, and they were advertising them as being "like PAFs." In the last few years, I've realized that they now seem to be putting Burstbuckers, 490s, MHS, and another pickup or two in guitars as much as they are the 57s. When I saw that, I realized that several of those are also said to be "like PAFs." Now, I must confess, I'm not really sure what a PAF sounds like, but being a good gear hound and sometimes cork-sniffer, I know that PAFs are the sound that everyone thinks they should have. So, if it sounds like a PAF, that's the next best thing to actually having a PAF, right?
Now I'm just confused. All these PAF-like sounding pickups, and they all seem to sound a little different to my ear. What's the real PAF sound? No clue. At that point, I realized I had been sniffing a cork or two, and figured, I wasn't unhappy with the way that 339 played or sounded. As well, from a similarity standpoint, I had the real 57 Classics in that 335, and, to my ear, they didn't really sound all that different from those Alnico Classics. If I really sat and listened to them, I thought Epi version may not have been quite as clear and articulate on the low end, and they may not have been quite as harmonically rich when driven, but they sounded good. Just playing at church on Sunday or at the local blues jam, and nobody was going to hear a difference in the two. So there was no reason to change the Epi pickups.
Then last fall, I picked up that Epi LP Standard 50s (or whatever it's called). I immediately bonded with that guitar. Loved the neck! Loved the sound! And did I mention the neck? I had been playing that 339 predominately for nearly 18 months when I got that LP, and the 339 suddenly found itself relegated to hanging on the wall. One of the things I really liked about that LP were the pickups in it. They seemed super clear and articulate, and sounded good clean or driven. Maybe it was the guitars. Maybe it was the pickups. Maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, it had the Probuckers in it, so I was once again questioning what the 339 would sound like with Probuckers instead of the Alnico Classics.
So I started looking for a set of them. You could get them direct from Epiphone, but they were (1) $150 a set, and (2) out of stock. So Reverb was my option since I don't like eBay. Someone from Thailand was selling them starting at $50 a set with a wiring harness. That's a good deal, right? Seemed super sketch to me, so I passed on them. I'd see others showing up here and there, but they were running about $50 a piece (or more). I found a pair that someone pulled out of a new Epiphone where they were asking $70 for the pair. I messaged them for pics of the back of the pickups, and, when he sent them, it turned out they were actually the Alnico Classics like I already had. I let him know what he actually had, and that I'd pass since they weren't the ones I wanted. His ad hasn't changed. So be careful if you come across that ad; they're not actually Probuckers.
The next afternoon, I noticed someone had posted a set of Probuckers for a super price. Looking at the ad, the pics all looked right, so I was convinced they were real. According to the ad, the seller had just pulled them out of a new Epi LP Modern that they had gotten. Pics looked right, and the story sounded legit. Looked at the price again, and three other folks had already made offers on them and someone had them in their cart. So, since the price was really good without asking for a deal, I pulled the trigger. I will say that they are the Probucker 2 and 3 pickups where my LP has the Probucker 1 and 2.
Finally got them swapped out, and the Alnico Classics are now sitting beside me on the desk. What's the verdict on the 339 now that it has the Probuckers in it? I like them better! I think they have a clearer low end. I'm not sure the difference in the Probucker 1 in the LP neck and the Probucker 2 that is in the LP bridge and the 339 neck, but I still like the Probucker 1 best of all. To my ear it really sounds good. Either way, again, to my ear, the Probuckers have a clearer low end and are just a bit more articulate than the Alnico Classics. They also seem to be a little bit smoother and not quite as harsh when driven. When turned up, they also don't sound as hot to me. The Probucker 1 is easily my favorite, but the 2 and 3 I also like better than the Classics. Granted, in a blindfolded side by side, the only one I think I could pick out of the mix would be the 1. That is, if I could pick it out of a crowd. But trying to be objective sitting in my quiet little music room, I believe that I hear a difference in the two types of pickups.
So, I have to say that I think the Probuckers are great pickups. They're half the price of the Gibson Burstbuckers, and, to my ear, they're not that different. Granted, I haven't A/Bed them at this point, but from what I remember of that pair I had, they're pretty close. Given the chance, if I had another Epi with those quick connect ends, if it didn't have the Probuckers in it, I'd see about finding another pair. I'm not sure that all the hype around the Probuckers isn't at least a little marketing, but, I think, they're well worth the money. Like I already said, they're not the Gibson (or Duncan or Lollars), but they're close enough that nobody but us gear hounds are going to hear the difference. Bang for your buck, especially if you get them used, I don't know that you're going to get anything better.
So I've spent the last two posts showing some of my gig bags and hybrid cases. If it's not pretty obvious or you missed me say it in one of those posts, I'd much rather use either of them than a traditional case if I feel like I have the option. When I was younger and much more of a snob in how I thought guitars should be treated and used, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting to use a gig bag because nothing beats a case, and a case should always be used. In the ensuing years, here's what I have learned.
Gig bags. No, they don't offer as much protection as a case. However, they're lighter, generally less expensive (maybe not some of the premium gig bags), and, if all I need to do is get the guitar from point A to point B, they tend to be more convenient. I still don't think I would get a low tier gig bag, but a medium tier (like that Gator Transit series) offers pretty good protection, lots of storage, and even has some add-on options that make it easy to carry extra gear if you need to. The premium tier gig bags offer a good bit more protection with those same options that you don't get with a case.
Hybrid Cases. These are still not going to offer as much protection as a good case, but they're going to give more than a gig bag. Remember, they're often just a case without the wood or molded plastic on the outside. From a weight perspective, they're not going to be that much more than a good gig bag, but they're going to be bulkier and more rigid. If you're traveling and want to carry a guitar, a gig bag will often take up slightly more space than the guitar, and you can squeeze it into whatever space is available. I can attest to being able to do that. Just shove that gig bag between the side of the car and the suitcases, and it'll fit. However, this one takes up enough space that you can't really just squeeze the guitar into your stuff. You'll have to budget space for one of these just like you would a suitcase or duffle bag. But it's a step up in protection and, with most having pockets on the outside, still gives some options that you don't have with a case.
Regular Cases. These are going to be the best protection, but they are also the heaviest of the three. They're also the most rigid when it comes to what you can do with them. No outside pockets, so, if it doesn't fit in the internal storage spot, you're carrying another bag. Bigger, heavier, (in most cases) more awkward, and, if you turn into someone's shin with a case, they're probably going to yelp in pain. However, I know someone that accidentally ran over the headstock of their guitar that was inside a case, and, while the case was crushed, they guitar survived unscathed. That's something that I'd wager isn't going to happen in a gig bag or even a hybrid case.
For me, the answer is pretty simple. Even when I am playing out on a pretty regular basis, I've never been in a position to have to do much more than carry my guitar across town (although "across town" may still be an hour and a half away). Also, I'm seldom in a situation where I'm not the one solely responsible for handling my gear. I pack it in, I pack it out, and no one is touching my gear except for me. Not that I wouldn't appreciate a good roadie sometimes, but the places I play everyone takes care of their own. All that to say, since I'm the only one handling my gear, I know that my guitar is not going to get tossed around places or roughly shoved around and other things like amps aren't going to be put on top of them. Because it's just me, the handling of my gear is going to be pretty controlled. I can get away with the lightweight and versatility of a gig bag. Even playing out, my electrics are all in gig bags.
For my acoustics that I play out, I do step up the game to a hybrid case. Still lightweight, but I've seen more bad things happen to acoustics than I have electrics, and the hybrid makes me think the vast majority of those things will be avoided. A little more bulk to the case means that it's got more padding, but it also means that those around me are going to be a little more aware that I'm carrying a guitar, and, hopefully, steer clear a bit.
Hard cases, for me, are reserved for when I fly with a guitar or am going to be in a situation where I think that extra protection might be needed. Oh, and also for that D-35 I've got that I've had for 30 years and couldn't replace if I wanted to.
That D-35 is also the guitar whose case is busted on the bottom edge because 30 years ago I was walking from work to band practice with it during the middle of winter. I decided to take a shortcut which took me through a little wooded stand where a creek ran through. I had jumped that creek a thousand times, but didn't think about the fact that it had just snowed and snow and ice were all over the ground. The creek only had a thin layer of ice on it. I got to the edge of the creek and jumped. My foot slid on the ice, and I realized mid-flight that I was only going to make it about half-way across the creek. As I went crashing through that thin ice into the freezing cold water, I instinctively held my guitar out so that it wouldn't end up in the water with me. It crashed onto the ice and bits of the roto-molded plastic (or whatever it's made from) went flying everywhere. Luckily the creek was only mid-calf deep, and I quickly jumped out. I realized then that, sometimes a case is the best option. As hard as my guitar hit that ice that day, I'm sure if I'd been using anything but a hard case, I would've had to find a luthier to repair the damage. But then a situation like I found myself that day was the exception and not the rule.
For me, gig bags whenever I can. Cases only when I have to.
Last week I talked about gig bags. This week, I'll show you a couple of polyfoam hybrid cases. When it comes to cases, I don't really need a road dog. I just need something that will keep a guitar in the closet and get it across town (or maybe across the country) without too much trouble. I prefer smaller and lighter. So, if I'm not using a gig bag, a polyfoam case will generally do.
Now, before I show you mine, I'll briefly describe some differences for you. A gig bag, is a bag, It might have some good padding, but it won't generally stand up on it's on (even on its side), and it would never be mistaken for a case. Some of them are even kind of floppy. After all, they're generally just foam padding inside a tough exterior. A case is generally molded or wooden. It's got some padding of some sort inside it to keep the instrument off the hard exterior. If you need a road dog, a case is usually the way to go. The polyfoam hybrid cases are a good in-between. They look like a case. They act like a case. But they're just the polyfoam that is often found inside a hard case, but without the case. Instead, it's put inside a tough canvas-ish cover. The exterior is pretty similar to what you would find on a backpack. Not the lightweight nylor backpacks, but rather one of those kind of old-school canvas packs. So it has the rigidity and stiff protection that a gig bag lacks, but, although it's rigid, it doesn't have the super tough exterior of a case. But that also means it's not nearly as heavy as a case. It's a nice in-between. I've got several of these cases. They work really well for acoustic guitars. Price-wise, I've found that they run around $100. That's about the price of a low-end hard case, but half the price of most premium gig bags.
Travelite Polyfoam Case. I just realized I didn't get a pic of this one, and it's far enough back in the closet I'm not digging cases back out again, so it's going to have to be pictureless. It's a beast of a case. Out of all the polyfoam cases I've got, this one is easily the most well made. It has my flamenco guitar in it. The flamenco guitar originally was in the case the dobro is in. When I got the dobro, I bought this case, and moved the flamenco over. So the guitars that go inside are the same size, but the difference in the case size is noticeable. This one is bigger all the way around. On the exterior, it has that same weird strap-handle system as the no-name case above. Like the Gator cases, it has a little cover for the zipper or to keep the case from falling open if you pick it up thinking it's close. This one is different, though, because it's an actual latch and not just a strip of velcro. It also has the same detachable backpack straps on it. Inside, it has that usual neck pocket, but this one you could park a Buick in. This is a behemoth of a case. It's huge! A classical/flamenco sized guitar is a small guitar in the overall scheme of acoustics, but this case is big enough it borders on being awkward. I would hate to see a dreadnought sized case like this one. That said, I absolutely love this case! I would trust this case in most any situation short of putting the guitar on a plane.
I'll just get this out up front. I really like gig bags. Truth is, unless there is a compelling reason to use a case, I'll grab a gig bag every time. Here are some of the ones that I've got along with a synopsis of each of them. I'll tell you which ones I use and which ones are only used as the closet keepers.
Fender Stock Gig Bags. I don't have a pic of one of these bags down below. It's the one that you used to get with some of the MIM instruments. I'm not sure they include them anymore. I'll tell you up front that, I guess you could use these as a real gig bag. They'll get your guitar to and from where you're playing so long as you're not banging it around. They offer some protection, but not a whole ton of it. There's a pocket on the front where you can stick a cable and book or something too. Clip-on back pack straps. I have (and use) several of these bags. They keep some of my Strats and Teles in the closet. If one of the guitars that I have stored in them decides to get played out, I move it to a better bag before I head out with it. From a price perspective, I'm pretty sure you could get one of these all day long for under $50.
Parker Stock Gig Bag. No pic of this one either. It's a bit more padded than the Fender stock bag. Outside of that, it's got an extra pocket on the outside that the Fender doesn't have, but feature-wise, they're pretty much the same. It keeps my Parker (P-44) in the closet, but I have also used it when I've traveled with that guitar. I trust it more than I would the Fender bags. Back when Parker was in business, they included this with all of their non-MIA guitars, and, if I remember correctly, you could buy one for around $80. Since Parker isn't making guitars anymore, I have no idea what they would cost if you went looking for one.
Read today about a company that, at the conclusion of the interview, asks the interviewee to write a haiku about the interview experience.
Now I've heard that some companies will ask you off-the-wall questions to see how you think on your feet. Or they'll ask you how to do a simple task to see how detail-oriented your thinking process is. Or they'll ask you a question that seems simple, but want to see if you think outside the box and give the usual, easy answer. I've even sat through some of these kinds of questions. And in most cases I thought they were as ridiculous as they are. Truth is, I think most companies that asked them heard about the famous (or infamous) Google interview process, and they wanted to do something that seemed just as hip and trendy so folks would want to work there. So they just came across as copy-cats.
There were a couple of technical interviews that I sat through where the weird question was beneficial. Those two interviews were with different companies and a couple of years apart. They both asked the same question. How do you make a PB&J?
The first time, I answered the question, but I kind of stumbled on myself because I hadn't really thought it through. I gave some details, but realized when I left that I had still been a bit high level in my answer. I didn't get that job. I think that was more about me telling them I was trying to cut my commute down and then them telling me the job involved a bit of driving to field offices every day. But I digress.
The second time I was asked the question, I was ready. I went into mind-numbing detail. "Get your bread out of the cabinet, and be sure that it's sandwich bread. I prefer this brand and this variety for these reasons, but as long as it's sliced, you should be fine. Gently set the loaf of bread on the counter in a way such that it won't fall off. Now you can get your utensils out of the drawer. Go to your silverware drawer and pull out a knife. Not a sharp one, but one of the full-size table knives like they set next to your plate at suppertime. Pull that out of the drawer and set it on the counter next to the bread. Now let's find the jelly. I actually prefer jam, but that's a matter of personal preference..." The guy didn't even let me finish. I was five minutes into my answer and just getting to the point of putting the peanut butter on the bread when he finally stopped me and said, "sounds like you can definitely pay attention to the details when you need to." I was prepared to go on for another five or more minutes. Don't clown me with a question like that, because, according to Mrs Enfinger back in 6th grade, I got a PHD in class clown. That job I got. Or at least got offered. They didn't offer enough, and I turned it down after a week of trying to get them to increase the offer. They did, but just barely.
Anyways, most of the time I think those kinds of interview questions and gimmicks don't really serve a purpose. When I was on the other side of the table, I refused to ask those kinds of questions. Instead I'd give an actual example they might encounter, and then I'd ask them how they would respond. Details? I could tell in their answer if they knew what they were talking about. I didn't care if they could bore me with the tedious details on how to make a sandwich.
So I was reading this morning and saw this new take on this whole "who can ask the dumbest, most off the wall thing in an interview, and I think this one wins. Hands down it wins. Apparently, some company (they didn't say who) would ask, at the end of the interview, for the applicant to write a haiku describing the interview experience. I thought about it for a couple of minutes, and here's what I penned. And those that know me know that I'm just brash enough that this is what I would give them. I present to you, my interview haiku.
This is the dumbest
Interview question I've had
You’ll hire me or won’t
I guess I made a mistake tonight. There's a piece of gear that caught my eye about a year ago that I decided to research. I keep telling myself that, if I ever spotted a screamin' deal on this piece of gear I was going to pick it up. I spotted that deal, but decided to do the research on it first. By the time I got back to it, someone else had picked it up. Not pulling the trigger quickly wasn't my mistake. My mistake was in hitting up some internet forums looking for thoughts and reviews on it. There was one person's pontificating that particularly chapped my hide.
Someone had written a short, glowing review of this piece of gear. It's a pedal that's not considered a piece of budget gear, but it uses digital modeling to copy an old analog pedal from way back. Consequently, the used/new price is usually $70/$100 vs the several hundred that the original costs. So most of the comments turned into the usual copy vs original vs cheap vs insanely expensive arguments. Most of that part of the discussion I just skipped, but this one post caught my eye.
I'm not going to copy the post here (although that would probably be easier), but this self-proclaimed authority on the subject spewed their nonsense using what appeared to be a well thought out tome of a post. However, when you take a look at what they were saying, they're nothing more than a corksniffer saying that more expensive is always better.
They said that folks that give good reviews on budget gear or copies of other, more expensive gear fall into one of a several categories. They said that they either are a young, broke player that can't afford anything nicer that really just wants to justify their purchase to avoid having buyer's remorse because they know what they got is really not that good. Or it's someone that doesn't know anything about gear and they're just repeating what they've heard or read somewhere else online. Or, and this was my favorite, they're not a pro player that has demo-ed vintage, boutique, mid-level, budget, etc gear to see which of it is really better. They even had the audacity to condescendingly mention that not everyone can afford vintage or high end gear, but "everybody has to start somewhere."
They went on like this for 8 or 9 paragraphs. Then they continued to argue with other commenters expounding on these opinions. I think that's part of what just really irritated me.
Yes, budget gear is usually not as good as more expensive gear, but saying (or at least implying) that someone is giving a favorable review of a piece of gear solely because they know it sucks and are trying to feel better about it is, as the British would say, total rubbish.
Let's use my Klon and klones as an example. At one point, I had my KTR and like 8 klones and did a shoot out with all of them to see which one I liked best. Honestly, I fully expected to the KTR to come in somewhere in the middle with some of the less expensive klones sounding better. To the corksniffer's credit, yes, the KTR edged out all the rest of the pedals, and, to my ear, it sounded better and did the Klon thing the best, and the cheapest klone I had at the time ended up at the bottom of the heap. All the rest of the pedals were basically a crap shoot with pedals that I wanted to do well (and were more expensive) not ending up as high as I would've like. The #1 pedal (the KTR) was a $300 pedal. The #2 pedal (the Tone Bakery Creme Brulee) was a $100 pedal. Was the KTR worth 200% more than the Tone Bakery? That's a highly subjective thing. I have both, and even I would say that the KTR sounded better but I'd be hard pressed to say it was worth $200 more. I'd also say that, since I'm not a pro player, the other pedals sound close enough (and are easy enough to replace) that I'm probably not going to gig out with the KTR. Heck, my EHX Soul Food came in at the #3 spot, and it was the 3rd cheapest pedal. I'd write a glowing review on that pedal for none of the reasons that poster mentioned. I'd do it for the simple fact that it's a good pedal.
They closed their nonsense by saying that folks can drive their budget car if they want, but the Ferrari is always going to be the better car. To that assertion, I would have to say that it depends on the Ferrari. A bright red Ferrari is almost always going to win the cool factor, but may not be the better car. Who wouldn't take a 1962 Ferrari 250 if given the opportunity, but it's not always the better car. I drive an FJ Cruiser. It's a very utilitarian ride. But it has aircon, a radio/cd player, power windows, power locks, can pull a trailer, is a capable off-road ride, and, according the literature, will do 0-60 in 7.8 seconds (although I'd believe that when I see it). That Ferrari 250 has none of the amenities, and has a 0-60 time at just over 8 seconds. From a purely objective viewpoint, the modern FJ cruiser is an all around better vehicle than the 60 year old Ferrari. The Ferrari would be a fun ride for an afternoon or two, but give me power windows and an a/c the rest of the time.
I don't think the modern pedals are that different. The pedal I am looking at is a fuzz pedal that digitally copies one of those late 60s/early 70s fuzzes. In the coolness factor, the huge enclosure of the old pedal totally takes it. In tonal qualities, the old pedal probably wins again. In the budget arena, the newer pedal can be had on the used market for 1/10th the price of the originals. From an audience factor, the only ones that are really going to care about the difference in sound are those of us that are "discerning" guitar players; nobody else is going to give a rat's big butt.
In the world of guitar gear reviews, it seems to be truer than ever that half of what you read is just wrong and the the other half you can't believe. I'll be the first to admit that there's bad gear out there. But, if you go into it with an open mind, there's a LOT more good gear than you think. Heck, back during the summer I started looking for a good compressor pedal. I ended up over the course of the last 6 months buying and playing on about 5 pedals...some budget and some not. Which one has ended up on my board? That red Behringer compressor that cost me $25 brand new and shipped to my door. Definitely considered to be a budget pedal. Also, a good reminder to put the cork down and breathe in the fresh air.
And in conclusion, as with all things gear related, your mileage my vary.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.