Washburn Rover vs. Martin Backpacker: A Comparative Review of the Best

It’s very important to travel with a handy guitar that produces great acoustic sound. If you’re in the quest for a guitar you can use for camping, hiking, flying or sailing, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll compare two of the most travel-friendly guitars – Washburn Rover vs Martin Backpacker.

Washburn Rover Overview 

It has small dimensions, but it’s definitely not a toy. It has many useful features, which most traveling musicians love. Made with a spruce/mahogany combination, you know exactly how it sounds. The dreadnought guitars with this tonewood tandem, usually have fuller and clearer sound. This is a reliable guitar for camping and jamming.Washburn Guitars is an American guitar manufacturer and importer, which has also made best-selling guitars like the Washburn WD10S. Aside from this dreadnought guitar, it has produced several guitars tailored for different purposes. Among which is the Washburn Rover, which is half the size of a regular guitar.

Martin Backpacker Overview

Martin guitars are among the finest in the market because they are well-made and top-notched sound quality is guaranteed. You can see different Martin guitars ranging from acoustic to acoustic-electric of different sizes and shapes. For on-the-go musicians, the most popular Martin guitar is the Martin Backpacker.

This guitar is portable and solid. Though it’s tiny, you can see and feel the Martin quality all over it — from the solid construction to the fretboard and neck, as well as the sound. Still a six-stringed guitar with 24-inch scale length, this is a very interesting guitar that you can easily bring around.

Features

For traveling musicians, it’s great to have one of these guitars. But, how to choose the ‘one’? Know your preferences and check if they feature them. I’ve tabulated the specifications and features, so you can quickly compare them, specs-wise.

Specifications

Washburn Rover

Martin Backpacker

Topwood

Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce

Back and Sides

Mahogany

Mahogany

Neck

Mahogany

Select Hardwood

Bracing

Quarter sawn scalloped 

Non-scalloped

Finish

Matte finish with satin-finished neck

Hand-rubbed

Headstock

Washburn-branded headstock

Solid

Tuners

Chrome die-cast

Chrome enclosed gear

Strings

D’Addario EXP-15 phosphor bronze light strings (Recommended)

Authentic Acoustic SP® Extra Light – 80/20 Bronze MA170

Design

Based on the overview, both of them are crafted to offer more portability and playability wherever you may be. The Rover features a distinct body style with a more pronounced lower bout, while the Backpacker is an oar-shaped guitar. Both designs are attractive and built to take on rugged activities.

These guitars have solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides. The solidwood offers the highest durability for the guitars, hence, it’s robust and can withstand varying weather conditions. However, the Backpacker is most suitable for outdoor activities because of the oar design and how it’s being constructed.

For the Rover, it has a mahogany neck featuring rosewood fretboard, which is the most common material for the guitar’s fretboard. As a hardwood, it’s reliable and can take on heavy usage.

The Backpacker, on the other hand, has ‘select hardwood’ neck with Richlite fretboard. Richlite is a compound material made from paper and resin. This kind of fretboard underwent processing, so it will become a solidwood with greater resistance to water and weather conditions. This is also a cheaper material compared to rosewood.

The two guitars have 24-inch scale length, but Rover has 17 full frets, while the Backpacker has only 15 frets. The former has offset dot inlays, while Backpacker has one white plastic inlay at the 5th fret and two inlays at the 12th fret.

They have distinct headstock with chrome die-cast tuning pegs. The Rover has a rosewood bridge, ABS nut, and light D’Addario EXP-15 phosphor bronze strings. On the Backpacker, you’ll have FSC® Certified Richlite® bridge, white Corian nut, and Authentic Acoustic SP® Extra Light — 80/20 Bronze MA170 as recommended set of strings.

The tuners on both guitars are strong and durable, keeping the instrument in tune. However, it’s worth noting that for the Backpacker, the more you play, the lesser the need to tune the guitar. The stock strings of the guitars are reliable and sound great.

Sound

Of course, you can’t expect bigger and richer sounds for either of these guitars because they are small and designed to keep you rocking on-the-go. Rover offers full and clear sound with depth, enough to accompany the silent nights when camping, hiking or outing in the wild. You may check this YouTube video to hear how the Rover actually sounds: 

The Martin Backpacker also has a clear sound with more resonance, because of the Spruce top. Since it’s small, you might often get some high-pitch sound with warmth. Both are fun to play with, especially with just the right scale length. For you to appreciate the sound of the Backpacker, here is a YouTube video: 

 

These guitars don’t have electronics to amplify the sound. And, though they aren’t the loud-sounding travel guitars, they’re just perfect to heat up the dance floor in the middle of the juggle. I mean, if you’re camping or fishing or simply traveling, either of these is a perfect companion.

Price

If I’ll just compare these two in terms of the price, Washburn Rover wins. It’s cheaper than the Backpacker, though it is packed with great features like the Backpacker. They have almost the same features with comparable tonality, yet Rover is only around half the price of the Backpacker.

So, the one that offers more value for your money is the Washburn Rover. But, the Backpacker is also very good, though quite expensive, but it has more exciting features not found in the cheaper one. In the end, however, it just simply boils down to the capacity of the guitarist the pay more.

Verdict

It’s kind of hard to decide between these two great products. Both the Washburn Rover and the Martin Backpacker have an undoubtedly great design and construction. More so, they produce guitar sounds that are unique in their body shape.

I don’t have any ill word to them because they are among the greatest travel guitars. However, if I have to choose one for my budget, I’ll choose the Rover. Yes, the playability and tonality are indeed the priority, which Martin Backpacker passed with flying colors. But, the one that has the biggest potential is the Washburn Rover.

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