Premier Guitar

Roundup: 5 High-End Gig Bags Reviewed

February 22, 2012

One of the most important tools you can take to any gig is one that doesn't improve your tone at all—the gig bag. To some, any gig bag will do. That is, until they pull out their favorite axe at the blues jam and find a crack in the headstock due to some bumps and dings on the way to the local pub. It's an even bigger consideration when you are a professional musician who spends mos┬Čt of their waking hours going in-between buses, vans, airports, hotel rooms, and cramped green rooms.

There is no shortage of different styles, sizes, and shapes of gig bags for nearly every instrument you can imagine and they offer a few distinct advantages over a hardshell case. First, how great is it to have your guitar—or guitars—on your back, combo amp in one hand and pedalboard in the other? Any time you can cut down how many trips back and forth to load in, the better. Also, let's be honest, although hardshell cases offer pretty rock-solid protection, they can get pretty heavy. The other big advantage is that you are many times able to carry much more just a guitar in the bag. In the spirit of finding the best guitar transport money can buy, PG rounded up five different gig bags that fall on the high-end of the spectrum in quality and price and put them through the paces.

Fusion F1

  • Inside padding consists of 30mm of high-density lightweight foam
  • Made of waterproof rip-stop polyester
  • Incorporates Fuse-On system for attaching laptop and accessory bags

Fusion Bags create a wide variety of bags for everything from iPads and laptops to cellos and ukuleles. We tested out the F1, which is at the top end of their line of guitar gig bags and it comes in four different sizes: Acoustic, Bass, Classical, and Electric. The F1 is a sleek-looking bag that boasts a slim profile. From the first time you pick it up you can tell that this is a rugged gig bag that can take all the bumps you can throw at it.

Ratings

Value:

Build:

Storage:

Street: $200
Fusion Bags

fusion-bags.com

The outside of the bag consists of water-resistant polyester with reflective panels for those city dwellers that need to be seen while walking home from the gig. There are four spacious pockets on the lower bout that can hold all the gig or session essentials you might need. The headstock pocket is large enough even to hold a few small pedals. If you are looking for even more storage, Fusion makes a few different accessory bags that can be connected to the F1 with their Fuse-On system.

To test it out, I packed it with a Gibson SG and headed out to the gig. It handled the angled headstock pretty well and was extremely comfortable thanks to the well-padded straps and the Flow-System, which allows for air to circulate between your back and the bag. Overall, the F1 is good choice for anyone who needs a sturdy gig bag with all the bells and whistles without breaking the bank.


Mono M80 Dual Electric

  • Waterproof Sharkskin outer shell
  • Zig-Zag design that can be used to hold one or two guitars
  • Specialized pockets with built-in cable management

Answering the call from their customers for a dual gig bag, Mono expanded on their M80 line to create the M80 Dual Electric Case. When designing this gig bag, they did simply more than just strap two M80s together. They created a system where both guitars are completely protected and threw in some specialized features as well.

Ratings

Value:

Build:

Storage:

Street: $315
Mono Cases

monocase.com

Now, even though you might be able to carry your two all-mahogany Les Pauls into the gig in one trip, a dual gig bag isn't going to make them any lighter. The M80 Dual comes in at around 7 pounds empty and once I loaded it up with a Strat and an SG it weighed in close to 23 pounds. Not a dealbreaker, but something to keep in mind if you have any back issues or live in an urban area and need to hike it to the gig. Considering it holds two electrics, it surprisingly isn't much bigger than a standard acoustic gig bag, but it would be a tight fit to squeeze it into an overhead compartment of an airplane.

Neck stability is usually the factor in any kind of horror story involving a less-than-adequate gig bag. Mono uses the Headlock system, which secures the neck to a supportive piece of foam and even has a small pouch for your emergency stash…of picks. Another possible breaking point is the strap button on the end of the guitar, which can sometimes become damaged by the lack of padding on the bottom of the gig bag. In the M80, the foam is recessed so that the strap button never hits the ground. Nice idea. Like Ford, the M80 is built tough but you will need to sacrifice some of the storage space in order to fit in another axe.



Levy's LM18

  • Plush inner lining with 1" foam
  • Zippered accessory pouch
  • Leather string and bridge protectors

When it comes to high-quality leather products, few names are as well known (in both the music and hunting worlds) as Canada's Levy's Leathers. At first glance, the LM18 looks like a no-frills, well made gig bag perfect for those gigs when you don't need to bring a lot of extra stuff. The one we looked at was for a standard electric guitar, but they also make versions for basses, acoustic guitars, classical guitars, banjos, and three types of ukuleles.

Ratings

Value:

Build:

Storage:

Street: $506
Levy's Leathers

levysleathers.com

The outside of the bag is covered in leather trim with two pockets–one on the headstock and the other on the lower bout. The zippered pouch is perfect for holding your cell phone and keys during the gig while the bottom pouch is held closed with two belt buckle-style straps. You can easily fit a few cables and maybe a pedal in the bottom pouch, but any more than that and you might need to bring an extra bag.

We have all had gig bags where the area inside near the tuning pegs and bridge gets torn up. Levy solved this by putting a leather patch over the suspect areas to keep the inside padding from fraying. The one downer about the LM18 is that the shoulder straps, although very durable, weren't padded. This was surprising considering the cost (street price is around $500) and the obvious commitment to quality Levy puts on materials and construction. For lighter guitars this might not be a huge deal, but if you need to bring a Les Paul to a gig, you might want to try it out first before shelling out the cash.


Gator Commander

  • Cable management storage
  • Built-in rain cover
  • Ergonomic cushioned harness straps

If you have something that needs a case and Gator doesn't make it, then you probably don't need it. From amps and pedalboards to keyboards and recording gear, Gator seemingly makes a case for everything. Gator's Commander series of gig bags combines storage and durability with a few twists. Even if you aren't at the helm of the Millennium Falcon, the Commander boasts tons of storage for any situation you might run into.

Ratings

Value:

Build:

Storage:

Street: $159
Gator Cases

gatorcases.com

The surprises start with the outside of the bag. As you look over all the pockets you notice there is one on the back of the bag right behind your head. I hadn't seen a pocket there before so I opened it up and out pops a poncho for your gig bag. How many times have you been packing up for a gig and noticed the weather has taken a turn for the worse? Now, thanks to this hideaway poncho, all your gear will be kept clean and dry. The pockets on the bottom can fit tons of stuff. The biggest one is large enough—and padded well enough—to fit my 15" Macbook plus a small recording interface.

Inside, the bag sports about an inch of foam along with an adjustable neck support to keep things in line. I threw in a Les Paul and the depth of the gig bag handled the angled headstock without any issues or concerns. The big bonus was how comfortable the backpack straps are. They are wide and very well padded which made the Les Paul much easier to carry. Also, it's great to stow them away in the zippered pouch when not in use. Overall, the Commander is a great gig bag with plenty of features for a good price.

Access Heritage HLLP68

  • Top grade cowhide
  • Adjustable neck support
  • Reinforced handle and shoulder straps

The HLLP68 is a cowhide-covered gig bag specifically designed to hold Les Paul-style guitars. The first thing I noticed about the bag was the thickness—it's almost the size of some acoustic gig bags. This is largely due to the fact that some thinner gig bags can be tough on Gibson's angled headstocks, so the extra girth is a welcome addition. I loaded up a Gibson Les Paul and found the extra room inside the bag perfect for a snug, yet protective fit. On the inside you can see a well padded plush interior with leather patches to cover the tuning pegs and bridge, which now seems to comes standard on most higher end gig bags. For neck support, Access has an adjustable foam insert that is nearly the length of the entire neck–another feature that is becoming more popular

The outside sports three front-side pockets. On the upper bout, the zippered pocket is just large enough to hold some picks, strings, and a capo. The large pocket on the bottom bout sports enough room for a few larger accessories, but not much else. It would be great to see an extra pocket or two, but considering the extra room given to protect the guitar, I think it's worth the trade off.

The build quality of the HLLP68 is extremely high. The tough leather outside looks like it could stand up to nearly any bump or ding you can throw at it. Even with that, the price is fairly high for what most people are willing to spend on a gig bag. If you need some style and dig the old-school cowhide look, the Access Harvest series of gig bags are worth a look.

Ratings

Value:

Build:

Storage:

Street: $499 - Access Bags & Cases - accessbagsandcases.com