Backpacker Travel Ukulele

Difficulty:  Advanced

Cost:  $$

If you follow this website, you know that my Travel Ukulele plans are popular.  This ukulele is a variation of that design.


I took my travel ukulele design and cut off the back portion. I also omitted the pickup and jack. Requiring an amp definitely make a ukulele less portable. Not having the pickup also meant that I could start out with a piece of wood only .75″ instead of the normal 1″.  This uke has a concert scale length (15″) but the overall length is just 17.5″.

Because I took out the pickup, I decided to add a thin piece of wood to the back to help out with the resonance.

I stamped my last name into the back.

The main wood is maple and the back piece is basswood.

Even after applying a few coats of Tru-Oil and adding strings, this ukulele weighs just 11 ounces.

This uke even has a working compass inlayed into the neck.

This ukulele would be great to throw in a backpack, keep in a car, or stow in some luggage.

If you want to use a strap, there are strap pegs at the back and where the headstock would normally be.

This ukulele is heading on an epic trek.  Check out Her Odyssey to follow along with the journey.

Video demo time!

42 thoughts on “Backpacker Travel Ukulele

  1. Pingback: Building a Travel Ukulele | Circuits and Strings

  2. John Bushko

    noticed that the PDF is set to one page print…can you upload a full-size two page printable to use as a template?

  3. Pingback: Travel Ukulele (3D Model Files) | Circuits and Strings

  4. David Weller

    Where can I get a turnaround like this one? Di I have to manufacture the bridge? How with basic tools? Any for sale?

      1. David Weller

        Hi Here’s the backpacker uke my daughter made for me. It’s beautiful looking and I’m intrigued with it. She routed it out of one piece of oak and added a teak fingerboard. Quite quiet probably because of the density of the oak. I’m still bumbling around trying to tie off the strings at the nut. I was wondering if some kind of resonator bungeed on to it might work to crank up the volume. Any other ideas?

        Thanks again for the plans and the inspiration.

        David Weller Winnipeg

        When in Winnipeg…


      2. danielhulbert Post author

        Hi David. I’d love to see a picture of your uke. Did you put a back on it? That can boost the sound some. You could experiment with putting a removable top. You still need to be able to change strings.

  5. Kelly Witzl

    Hello, this ukulele looks perfect for the trip I am embarking on in April. I am hiking 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada via the Pacific Crest Trail and am in search of an ultra light instrument. If you are selling these I would love to purchase one for my trip. Thank you!

  6. Wyatt

    Hi there,
    I am thinking of making one of these… I am wondering what your thoughts would be on using a top soundboard in addition to the back one, and having the bridge mount to it rather than across and attached to the thicker sides? (I.e. having a more conventional acoustic design.) I would assume that this approach would give a bit more volume… I suppose the tuners would have to be adjusted to fit properly in that case; is that why you went with this design?

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      Hey Wyatt,

      Your idea should work just fine. I’ve thought about adding some kind of soundboard too. Just make sure that you either build an access door, or make the back removable. If not, changing strings will be a nightmare. That’s why I’ve ultimately opted to just have the back piece. It’s loud enough for practice, but most people are going to have their “normal uke” at home.

      Good luck with your project. I want to see it when you are done.


      1. Wyatt

        Thanks, Daniel. Good point on the string changes… I’ll have to make sure I think that through.

        I do have a home ukulele, but I want one for camping / backpacking, and something like your design looks like it would fit the bill very well. The reason I am thinking of the sound board is to give enough volume for the campfire songs.

        I’ll be sure to keep you updated with what I end up doing.


    1. danielhulbert Post author

      Awesome work Wyatt.

      I’m glad that I was able to provide the spark of inspiration. You did a great job with the rest.

      Do you have any other instrument projects planned?

      1. Wyatt


        I always am working on some project or another… whether it is a musical instrument or something else depends on my current mood. I am currently contemplating doing another ukulele, applying the things that I have learned in this one, although this time it would be a larger one (probably baritone) with a more traditional design… although I recently heard about tenor guitars (4 string guitar around the same size as a baritone uke, with steel strings) and am wondering how much more difficult that would be (the steel strings would obviously apply more tension, requiring a stronger design). I dunno… so many projects, so little time… 🙂


      2. Wyatt

        Hi Daniel,

        Just an update, I am (mostly) finished my latest instrument. Kinda-sorta a tenor guitar, but using cigar box guitar building methods but with the cigar box. 4 steel strings, tuned DGBE, 24″ scale length… check it out at for pictures and (so far) a couple short sound sample videos.


  7. Pingback: Making a home made travel ukulele

  8. Yam

    Hit jast sew yure youtube video and i want to buy a travel ukulele jast like the one here!
    Jast name thrasher price this thing is amaizing!!!

  9. Héctor Sanmanuel

    Hi! I found this really interesting and I will try to do it this summer but I’m a little bit confused with the 0 fret, is the same size of the others?

    1. danielhulbert Post author

      I like to use bigger fretwire for the 0 fret. It makes it easier to get proper string action. I used bass fretwire for the 0 fret, and guitar fretwire for the rest.
      Good luck!

    2. Wyatt

      I’ve used both larger feet wide for some builds and normal sized for others and both work fine. If you think about it, normal fretting works with the same sized wire – it is the geometry of the neck and bridge which allow it to work.

  10. CT

    First off, thanks much for the inspiration! You provided a great jumping off point for my own build. I kept the basic shape of your design, but adjusted the proportions to fit my preferences. I modeled the uke in Revit, exported to Fusion, then CNC’d the uke out of a solid piece of wenge. The bridge and turnaround were fabricated using the scrap wood. I installed Peghed tuners, and used GraphTech Tusq for the nut and saddle. I finished the wood with a linseed oil and beeswax mixture, then sanded with 2000 grit. Very happy with the end result, but we’ll see how it holds up on the Colorado Trail this summer! I’ll post again when I’m done. In the meantime, see the Instagram link for a picture:

  11. Pingback: Construction of the Travel Ukulele begins! – Matt’s Woodworking Blog

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