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View Full Version : Good Travel Uke recommendations? Sturdy is key (and bigger than a soprano)



Preacher
10-06-2014, 11:19 AM
Hey, UUers.
I'd really like to have a solid travel uke that I can take with me everywhere, and not worry about it getting damaged. Putting it into a backpack would be nice.

I've looked at the Kala versions, but they just seem like thin versions of a regular uke, and I'd still be overly protective.

I've looked at the Outdoor Ukulele but I'd really like the tenor version and that seems to have been postponed in production. (Anyone know any more about this?)

I picked up a cheap uke thinking I wouldn't care about a few dings then, but the thing won't stay in tune and is brutal to play (especially for my newbie ears which are still trying to learn the correct sounds for notes and chords). You get what you pay for.

I put in "travel uke" in a search engine and there are some unconventional ones out there, but I'm not familiar enough with any of them to know what they're like.

Any other suggestions? Or am I asking for too much? Perhaps I'll just have to settle on the soprano version of the Outdoor Uke. The fret size may be a challenge, but the thing looks rock solid.

Thanks for any help.
Preacher

Tootler
10-06-2014, 11:28 AM
Get a Flea. I can attest to their being robust after this weekend. They are available in concert as well as soprano scale. Maybe not the cheapest but excellent quality and excellent set up out of the box.

brimmer
10-06-2014, 11:39 AM
Flea is my uke for camping trips. Flukes are the same idea, but come in concert and tenor sizes. I had a Fluke concert and liked it plenty.

Also there are Risa sticks but I haven't played one yet. They come in soprano, concert and tenor.

billten
10-06-2014, 11:44 AM
+1 on the flea or fluke. Plus they don't lose their value so you can generally sell them for a great price. Come to think of it, if you buy a used one and don't love it, you can probably sell it for the same thing you bought it for.
Bill

Preacher
10-06-2014, 11:47 AM
I've looked at the Risas, but they only come in electric versions, don't they?

post4rational
10-06-2014, 12:05 PM
fleas and flukes are fun and sturdy and would be a good choice, but you also might reconsider buying a less expensive model that would not be ruined by a couple of dings. I would look into the islander models. They are fun to play, sound nice, hold their tune, have good intonation and they are currently really inexpensive on amazon. The tenor mt-4 is only $103 and the concert mc-4 is $90. They are also pretty sturdy. I am not really concerned when my 3 year old daughter plays with my mc-4 and she is good at breaking things. The mc-4 is also my travel ukulele.

SteveZ
10-06-2014, 12:08 PM
I've looked at the Risas, but they only come in electric versions, don't they?

I had a RISA Solid Soprano. Very good instrument, but needs an amp if more than one person is to hear it. Have a Kala Pocket and a Flea Soprano, and my vote goes for the Flea. Have Aquila Reds on in for about a month or so, and it sings!

ksiegel
10-06-2014, 12:19 PM
I have a Fluke Tenor - worth every penny, and then some. I did shell out the extra money for the Gator Hard Shell Case - again, worth every penny, and then some.

And it fits in every airline overhead bin - even the commuter flights.


-Kurt

DownUpDave
10-06-2014, 12:37 PM
Korala make a plastic uke in concert size that has decent sound and is less than $100.00. Check out the reviews on youtube to give you an idea of sound and appearance. One of our uke jam leaders bought one and played it on stage, he was impressed with the sound and he owns a number of high end instruments

katysax
10-06-2014, 12:51 PM
The Outdoor uke is terrible - yes it has its adherents but there are plenty of us who really found it awful. The Islander tenor for about $100 is really a great deal and is very durable. If you ruin it or lose it, get another.

Preacher
10-06-2014, 01:16 PM
The Outdoor uke is terrible

This surprises me. I met a guy with one at the UWC this past June and he raved about it. I played on it for a couple strums and liked the feel of it. Couldn't really judge the sound though. I did like the fact that he lives in a very cold weather climate like I do and said that he left his in the car year round and it was still fine. Again, I'm looking for sturdy.

What did you find awful about it?

actadh
10-06-2014, 01:42 PM
My travel uke over the summer was a vintage Silvertone soprano that traveled in my car in a Luna foam hard case. Both were a great choice, but neither was my first choice as I was counting on the Outdoor Ukulele Tenor for summer travel. For under $125, I had a decent sounding ukulele and a versatile case to keep me company while I was away from home. And, I got sold on the soprano size at the same time, so much that I bought a really good soprano when summer was over. But, I will take the travel one this weekend when I go camping.

I realized after posting that you said bigger than a soprano - plenty of vintage Silvertones in bigger sizes, too.

pabrizzer
10-06-2014, 01:46 PM
+++ on the Flea recommendations!

It is the one that goes with me where ever I go. I suppose the plastic fret board will eventually wear but they are available with a wooden one. Got mine second hand and really love it. It arrived from USA in tune!
Great sound from a little uke IMHO - no effects and just used the computer inbuilt mic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ts--3bjSE

coolkayaker1
10-06-2014, 01:50 PM
What did you find awful about it?

Some light reading for you, preacher.
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?91326-OMG-The-Outdoor-Ukulele-Really-is-Awful!&highlight=outdoor+ukulele+katysax

Preacher
10-06-2014, 03:56 PM
Where can I find a Korala in the US?

PereBourik
10-06-2014, 04:36 PM
Get a Flea.

kwall
10-06-2014, 04:39 PM
magic fluke co is your definition of durable

Tigeralum2001
10-06-2014, 06:17 PM
I may be in the minority, but I travel with my best uke. My thought is they are built to be played and they are not as delicate as people make them out to be. Just don't put them in checked luggage!

SailingUke
10-06-2014, 07:39 PM
Blackbird Clara, super playing and durable.

dalamaricus
10-06-2014, 08:13 PM
Another plug for a Flea or Fluke. I'll also add that the soprano Flea has a slightly longer scale length (14") than many other sopranos so it might work out better for you.

bunnyf
10-06-2014, 08:29 PM
Another vote for flea or fluke. Semi-indestructible, basic model is fine w/ plastic fretboard and peg tuners, can be had for a reasonable price used (though not cheap) and do hold their value, good to go out of the box, decent sound. It's my camping/beach/leave in the car uke.

moetrout
10-07-2014, 04:28 AM
I bought a cheap $50 Makala pineapple soprano for traveling. Immediately removed the strings, lowered the action a little, leveled the frets and then put on some Aquila strings. Thing plays great! Maybe the cheap uke you bought for traveling just needs a proper setup to be playable for you?

Uncle Rod Higuchi
10-07-2014, 04:56 AM
Pahulele, soprano or tenor, detachable neck, sturdy as a plywood box... Oh wait, it is a plywood box.

read my review at the Ho'okani Music website. I got a soprano in July just before returning to Seattle,
and I've played it at several song circles.

Although the neck is detachable and storable withing the body of the Pahulele, I keep mine set up in
'play' mode (mostly since I'm not travelling around at the moment). It's advertised as being transformable
to 'storage' mode in about 90 seconds, and set up to 'play' mode in about 3 minutes.

Reid Shigemura has at least 3 YouTube videos introducing the Pahulele and demonstrating the take-down and
set-up sequences. There's also a video by a Pahulele owner in Japan, playing 'Whispering' :)

It's different. It's a plywood box. So it is STURDY, and with the detachable neck, very compact :)

keep uke'in',

SteveZ
10-07-2014, 04:57 AM
I bought a cheap $50 Makala pineapple soprano for traveling. Immediately removed the strings, lowered the action a little, leveled the frets and then put on some Aquila strings. Thing plays great! Maybe the cheap uke you bought for traveling just needs a proper setup to be playable for you?

I'm one of those misguided souls who believes just about every stringed instrument (provided it's not cracked badly or bent too far) can be made to play half decently. Usually all that's needed is some set-up work for most.

However, a "travel uke" had some additional criteria to me, mainly regarding heat/cold tolerance and structtural durability. A "travel uke" can expect a fair amount of unsupervised outside time, being left in a car for indeterminate time frames in various climates, and occasionally dropped or other handling miscue. I have different instruments for different playing conditions, simply because there is no "one size fits all conditions" instrument. If there was, the marketplace would be very choice-skimpy.

moetrout
10-07-2014, 09:11 AM
I'm one of those misguided souls who believes just about every stringed instrument (provided it's not cracked badly or bent too far) can be made to play half decently. Usually all that's needed is some set-up work for most.

However, a "travel uke" had some additional criteria to me, mainly regarding heat/cold tolerance and structtural durability. A "travel uke" can expect a fair amount of unsupervised outside time, being left in a car for indeterminate time frames in various climates, and occasionally dropped or other handling miscue. I have different instruments for different playing conditions, simply because there is no "one size fits all conditions" instrument. If there was, the marketplace would be very choice-skimpy.

The Makala I have is plywood and has seen all manners of weather. It does go out of tune moving from one extreme to the other, but once it is acclimated to the temperature and re-tuned it plays just fine. I made mention of the setup because I thought the OP mentioned buying a cheap uke, but could not stand to play it. Maybe the solution is already in their stable and just needs a little setup work. My little uke has taken a beating. In the back of my mind I know it won't last forever, so I just don't worry about it. It is nice having a uke that you just don't worry about. If the right opportunity ever presents itself I will gift it to some new player sometime down the road. It will only help make room for something different. Why do they have to be like potato chips?

greenie44
10-07-2014, 09:25 AM
Preacher, I wrestled with your issue for a while, and came up with a couple of non-Flea solutions.

Initially, I needed a uke to carry as I hiked down the Grand Canyon. I ended up getting a soprano thin line Kala used from a kind UU member. I'm a tenor guy, but I was surprised that the Kala was quite playable - I even preferred the sound for some songs. I like the curved back too.

Since then, I got an offbrand thin line tenor that is going on this year's hike. I like this one even better.

But the travel tenor is still a bit big, so I might as well take a better tenor is a solid case, like my Reunion Blues bag.

The ultimate solution is a Risa stick. I have a tenor, and you can just throw it into any old suitcase. Rugged as heck, and goes everywhere. The problem with this solution, as you pointed out, is that it is an electric uke, almost silent without amplification. I smoothed out that wrinkle with a Line6 PocketPad, a tiny amp model, and a set of headphones. (I sometimes carry a small portable speaker too.) I will admit the Risa stick has a different feel to it, and it is electric, but I like it a lot. And you could throw it in a backpack, suitcase, or anywhere.

Preacher
10-07-2014, 10:26 AM
Thank you to so many who have made so many suggestions. This is truly a community that expresses the spirit of aloha.

And what have I learned from this?
1. Lots of people like Flea/Fluke a LOT.
2. I need to learn how to apply sharp objects and instruments of pain to my ukulele so I can do my own setup.
3. The Outdoor Uke is apparently made by minions of Satan. (I mean, a lot people REALLY don't like it!)

So this is where I'm at: I'm interested in acquiring a Flea, but I'm also interested in that plastic one from the UK (whose name escapes me at the moment), but I still haven't found a place to get it in the US. And if I'm willing to spend more money, there are still more options I can look at. The Risa is an outside shot, but a very cool possibility. And I need to look at the Pahulele. So the search goes on for a bit.

Do please keep responding. You guys are a treasure of information. Thank you so much!

IamNoMan
10-07-2014, 07:30 PM
I'm interested in the sound qualities of the plywood ukes as well as their durability for camping.

I am also interested in what this community considers to be an inexpensive uke, (not cheap). Particularly vis a vis camping.

I do not pretend to know a great deal about ukuleles. I have been camping with musical instruments for close to 35 years and have some observations/opinions on this subject. I have only played a Fluke twice while camping. I like the instrument in general but don't care for the plastic neck vis a vis camping. For one thing some drunken/drugged idiot will pick it up to play a song and use it for a cigarette holder. I would consider it for rafting trips. For kayaking stick to a harmonica or plastic recorder.

When jamming the rule is "Musicians to the Front". Keep this in mind when there are campfires are involved. This is also a concern when some fire tender decides to turn a moderate campfire into a bonfire. (Musicians do this too).

Epoxy resin/Carbon fiber instruments hold up pretty well in camping situations.

At festivals by all means feel free to take your best instruments but leave them at the campsite or instrument storage facility. Thieves and mud are a fact of life. Bring a beater instrument for when you go "walk-about". I take my Bart Reiter banjo. It looks like hell but it plays great. Expect scarring and to have to make repairs. I've seen fiddle necks snapped on more than one occasion. I do not take vintage instruments to festivals or camping, I used to do this but is not worth the hassle. There is one exception to this. :) vintage banjoleles (preferably without resonators), hold up real well in camping and festival environments.

You may have different experience with festivals/camping trips than I have had. I am 60 years old and do this at least four times a year nowadays. I travel with a rough and ready crew. We are all musicians and to us "Whiskey Before Breakfast" is more then a fiddle tune.

Please excuse the rant.

I just remembered something. If you are going through the Grand Canyon usually you can arrange to have your instrument brought in by helicopter with the Porta-potties. River Guides love music and usually are very skilled at making this happen properly and at no extra cost. If you are finicky take some potpourri sewed up in cloth.

Kamanaaloha
10-09-2014, 09:35 AM
BlackBird Concert...immune to most weather/environmental things...save a hurricane/tornado/dive to 100 feet for mano/puhi clubbing...:nana:

Pueo
10-09-2014, 09:59 AM
I guess the real deciding factor is what you mean by "not worry about damage."
Does that mean you want something bomb-proof or something inexpensive enough that if it gets ruined, you just buy another one?
For me personally, I was fortunate enough to win a Kala concert in a contest. It is an inexpensive basic model. I have thrown all my ukulele-care habits out the window with this one, and one year later, it's still fine!
I live in Hawaii, and I have left this ukulele on the back seat of my truck, parked outside for days, with no problem so far. I take it to the beach. It has been traveling in a gig bag (not a case). What has this taught me? Apparently that these little instruments are far more durable than I originally believed. It does not mean I will start treating my other ukuleles this way, but it has shown me that just because it is made of wood and glue does not mean that it is fragile. It still looks brand new and plays just fine.