View Full Version : Fiddling on an AT Thru-Hike

11-19-2013, 03:31
Does anyone have experience in bringing along their fiddle while thru hiking the AT? I know there are weight issues and especially the rain and humidity would wreak havoc on the fiddle and the strings but five months is a long time for me to not be playing my fiddle. The case wouldn't exactly fit in the pack and if I hike with it I would need a large enough rain tarp to cover it while hiking. Just wondering if anyone had done this and how they managed. I would also be hiking near my hometown area where there are numerous fiddle circles, fiddler's conventions and the like. Thanks.

Gray Blazer
11-19-2013, 04:42
I carry claves in my back pocket. Well made stringed instruments tend to do well on the trail, but the first time you fall on it, it's busted. Sorry about the no-help.

11-19-2013, 05:18
I'm from St. Louis, and have a down to earth friend that is a violin maker. I would think he could make you a cigar box style fiddle out of wood or waterproof materials. maybe even a bow better suited for hiking. I play Irish style button accordion, my only option is a penny whistle. Have you seen Martin's hiker guitar? good sound quality, little sound volume, compact , a nice piece for it's purpose. Would you want an Extra heavy string bridge? Met some folks with carbon fiber guitars, full size sounded good. I think hiker fiddle is doable.
Google Geoffrey Seitz violin maker. Let me know what happens

11-19-2013, 08:58
I have not seen a fiddle on the trail in 30 years. That was great. It will make for memorable evenings for all.

11-19-2013, 10:23
How much fiddlin' do you need (minimum) to get your fix or keep your chops? You might try visiting music shops at towns along the trail and get some fiddlin in once a week or so, also a couple of the hostels have acoustic instruments--not sure about fiddles. Some towns will have local jam sessions going on a weekly basis, too. If you need to play every day or so, that will be tough on the trail. JMO

Odd Man Out
11-19-2013, 10:49
You need one of these carbon fiber violins. Just $2250. http://www.elixirviolins.com/faq.html
Here is a comment from their FAQ page:

How durable is the instrument?
Although very light in weight, the basic instrument is incredibly durable and very tough. You could probably play tennis or paddle your canoe with it. Even the wooden segments of our unique neck are permeated with epoxy resin. The vulnerably areas are the wooden sound-post, bridge, strings and to a lesser degree the ebony finger-board. However, even these items are typically not impacted by temperature variation or humidity. Imagine one of our violins dropped in the water and left there for a few days. Once rinsed off, replacing the strings, sound post, bridge and perhaps the tuning pegs would render the instrument literally as good as new.

Or make your own: http://makezine.com/2011/12/06/homemade-carbon-fiber-violin/

11-19-2013, 13:51
I have never seen anybody carry Fiddles but i have seen people carry Banjo's and Flutes, and one Ukelele, one guy told me he treated his Banjo with a water proof solvent like the stuff you would put on your deck, that way the weather didn't mess with it too bad and some how it also sounded better.

11-19-2013, 14:37
I've seen pleanty of guitars, banjos, mandalins and ukele's but no fiddles so far. I suppose the violin wouldn't any harder to carry then the other string insturments. I hope your a really, really good fiddle player.

One option would be to bounce it ahead to towns were you think you'd be most likely to use it rather then carrying it all the time. Most abandon thier musical insturments before long when they find out it is a pain to carry and gets little use. Like dogs, string insturments typically don't make it very far up the trail. Sure once in a while one might make it all the way, but it's a rare event.

11-19-2013, 19:33
I talked to my violin maker friend, he said buy a cheap Chinese fiddle, $ 100 or a bit more. send it to a violin shop,( preferably him). upgrade the strings, pegs , bridge ,etc ie. do a big tune up. says he does a lot of that. Says you'll get something worth playing in the woods. under $400 maybe close to $300 . Add a cheap light case and you are set.

11-20-2013, 11:12
You could also use the experience as an opprtunity to learn a new instrument--say harmonica or something smaller/lighter....and camp away from others for a while:D

11-20-2013, 16:05
In 2013 a thruhiker named Twigs stayed with us and gladly played his "modified" fiddle. See his photo and fiddle here:


12-25-2013, 16:10
There have been a few notable fiddlers thru hike. One was "Fiddler" back in 2008 or so. In 2010 I passed someone carrying a fiddle in VA. I helped out Fiddler by sending him rosin and strings on the trail. I think he played almost every day.

Don't count on finding any playable fiddles in lodges or stores. There weren't any in the music room in Hot Springs. Bear at the Cabin in Maine had a few but they weren't playable; a neighbor had "fixed" them and really messed them up pretty bad. Fiddles in general music stores are invariably poor Chinese junk. If you're really into playing, these will not do.

I'm a violin maker/fiddler and I would not hesitate to take one. Normal fiddles weigh about 450 g, which is reasonably light. A bow is 60 g. This can be reduced a little bit, with lighter chin rest, boxwood fittings. I got extreme with one fiddle and used a willow fingerboard and balsa top, and it weighs around 340g ready to play. I think that everyone needs a "beater" fiddle for outings, in which it might be damaged or lost. I had one that I took on long canoe trips; pretty nice playing around the fire in the evening. There are some nice options for cases now, too. I would just get the lightest possible and keep the whole package wrapped in plastic. Carbon fiber bows are very durable and should last 6 months on the trail without needing a rehair.

Humidity is not a problem with fiddles. They love it. The worst thing you can do to a fiddle is dry it out, because it will shrink and crack.

I'd be willing to be a resource for anyone wanting more info on making violins light, and carrying them on the trail.

12-25-2013, 17:18
I would welcome such a sound on the trail.

12-25-2013, 20:39
mail it to towns ahead of you and play it there.

12-25-2013, 22:41
wiplstix.com has an interesting option

12-25-2013, 22:46
In 2004 I spent a couple of nights in shelters with a hiker named Tacoma Ted. He carried a backpacking violin. That's what he called it, and said it was smaller than a standard violin. He played and sang and was very entertaining. Most of his songs he wrote himself.

Scorpion GA-Me 2004

12-26-2013, 00:34
A possible lighter/smaller option is to carry a kid's fractional violin, like a 1/2 size but carry a full size bow or else you will run out of bow in the middle of a note. Some 1/2 violins can sound fairly good.

However, the weight of a violin, bow, and case is about that of one pint of water. Be careful with your water management (don't carry water up to where water already is) and you make up for the weight.

12-26-2013, 20:56
Shoot I just watched a video on YouTube of a couple thru hiking, a recent year, she had some kind of simple fiddle type instrument she kept in a PVC tube on the side of her pack. I'll keep looking for the video!

12-27-2013, 00:28
Found it: "Sap and Vicegrip's AT Thru Hike" on YouTube! Check out the instrument she has, maybe email her about it. Sorry I can't paste a link im on my kindle.

12-27-2013, 02:55
The wiplstix is a great tip folks. Thanks. It only requires a protective case which consists of a pvc pipe. It cuts down on the cumbersome size and the weight of a regular size fiddle. Even a 1/2 fiddle, though a good idea, would still require a cumbersome case.

12-27-2013, 03:12
I recall meeting a young SOBO thru hiker in Nov 2009 around Dicks Creek Gap with 2 other sobo thrus, he was carrying a fiddle, played it along the trail from Maine. Can't be sure if his trail name was "Fiddler" or not. The ATC magazine even did a feature article on him and his 2 buddies, came out sometime after that. Had his picture and background info. Enjoyed talking with them on the trail.

Ron Haven
12-28-2013, 00:00
Shoot I just watched a video on YouTube of a couple thru hiking, a recent year, she had some kind of simple fiddle type instrument she kept in a PVC tube on the side of her pack. I'll keep looking for the video!I see anywhere from 1 to 5 hikers a year carringing a fiddle. I also have saw some with the wyplstix also..... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JZuolq4RAc) click on this link.

12-28-2013, 03:29
I mentioned the wyplstix to a friend of mine who plays and she mentioned that it was similar to a "dance master traveling fiddle". I googled it and got this image 25437, and on that page they are also called pochettes and kits. Kinda cool.

Nice playing Ron.

12-28-2013, 03:47
This one is kind of neat http://www.etsy.com/listing/98908112/custom-designed-pocket-violin-fiddle, he has a number of other pocket stringed instruments.

01-02-2014, 13:57
Hey guys!!! I'm a mandolin player (it's like a fiddle but with frets) and I just got this cool little backpacker mandolin. It's made by Stoneman Guitars in Bradford, PA. It's probably weighs about a pound but it's coming with me on my though hike. Mandolin is too big a part of my life to leave at home for my thru hike this year so I'm really glad to have this little guy!!! See you all on the trail in 60 days!!!!!!


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01-02-2014, 19:21
Called dale at flea market music.com

he is prototyping a violin similar in construction to the ukulele they make, which would be an ideal trail fiddle.

01-05-2014, 13:19
The wiplstix is a great tip folks. Thanks. It only requires a protective case which consists of a pvc pipe. It cuts down on the cumbersome size and the weight of a regular size fiddle. Even a 1/2 fiddle, though a good idea, would still require a cumbersome case.

I had the pleasure of encountering Sap and Vicegrip during my AT hike in 2012. She carried a wiplstix bow and brought pleasure to many..


01-05-2014, 13:52
I didn't encounter any fiddlers on my thru hike, but I did encounter a couple of guitar players. They couldn't play and they couldn't sing. All they did was produce bad sounding noise at inconsiderate times ... i.e., when other hikers were attempting to sleep.

Whatever instrument you bring to the trail, please be considerate of other hikers who may not share your passion.

01-08-2014, 12:53
Someone in '11 was carrying a cello.

01-11-2014, 13:17
thru hiking is super hard . worrying about a fiddle seems crazy, at least to start, if you get to damascus then maybe have it sent to u seems prudent. then have at it. give yourself every chance to be successful at hiking for a couple hundred miles . a thru hike hike without a fiddle would be seen as a success . thru hiking with it would be awesome. hiking 500 miles with it and then quitting would suck. listen to the trail. let it decide what you carry. preconceived plans can be obstacles. be a slave to the trail always . flow with the trail, and it will give u all the answers, which I know sounds weirdo but I think it's true. that said I'm the biggest guitar /fiddle/ eukele hater out there . I think it ends up bugging the crap out of some people in camp that come to the woods for quiet. guitars rank just below Cub Scout troops as my most feared woods experience.

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