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What Are The Best Portable Drum Sets?

Drummers have always had to struggle with the problem of getting their instruments back and forth between gigs, home, recording studios and practice space.

They’re heavy, large and have a lot of different pieces that force you to either make multiple trips or use more than one vehicle if you don’t have the budget for a van.

Thankfully, some drum makers are taking steps to help out drummers with this problem, and we’ve gathered up a list of some of the best portable drum sets you can buy without breaking the bank.

We know how much of a pain it can be moving your instruments about. Therefore this article on the best travel guitars can be extremely useful!​

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Portable Drum Sets On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best portable drum sets

  • If you want a more traditional set up that’s just a little lighter and fits into a smaller vehicle, then you can simply opt for drum sets that feature smaller pieces with lighter materials used for the shells
  • For a more dramatic increase in portability, there are several different methods makers of drums have developed, such as mounting racks that allow the entire drum set to be folded in on itself
  • Shell-less drums, if you’ve got a decent set of microphones for your drum set, are one of the simplest ways of reducing both weight and size
  • Consider having less pieces on your drum set. If you absolutely must have a 7-piece kit, then there’s only so much you can do to make it more portable
  • Electronic kits are much smaller and more compact than acoustic kits whilst offering a greater range of sounds to choose from, but the differences in playing technique and need to be powered might be an issue

Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...

5 Best Portable Drum Sets

1. Fat Congas String Cajon

Fat Congas String Cajon Drum

Cajon drums are some of the most portable drums you can find due to their extremely simple box design. The Fat Congas String Cajon is slightly smaller than many other cajons, making it easier to fit in a car or stash in a small room quite easily.

  • Has adjustable snares
  • Instead of having one playing surface like most Cajon’s it has two with different tones, one has a Flamenco feel whereas the other resembles the traditional Peruvian origins of the Cajon
  • There’s a very comfortable gel padded seat on the top
  • There are no cymbals included, so you will need to get your own, plus the necessary hardware
  • The sustain drops off quite quickly due to the smaller size compared to most Cajons
  • The seat, whilst adding comfort, prevents you from moving around as quickly and can restrict your playing unless removed

Let's take a look at this product...

2. Alesis DM Nitro

Alesis Nitro Kit | Electronic Drum Set with 8' Snare, 8' Toms, and 10' Cymbals

An electronic kit, giving it several advantages over acoustic kits as it can be easily packed down into a very small space. It also gives you a huge range of options for sounds without needing to actually have additional shells or cymbals plus all the hardware needed.

  • When everything is packed away it weighs no more than 40.2lbs
  • The snare pads have dual zones to more closely replicate acoustic playing
  • Comes with a training module for beginners
  • Certain useful extras aren’t included, such as headphones for silent practice
  • The sticks that are packaged along with the DM Nitro are cheap and low quality
  • Hitting pads too hard can trigger other pads for no real reason

Let's take a look at this product...

3. Pearl Rhythm Traveler Pod

Pearl Rhythm Traveler Drum Set with Cymbals & Hardware Red Wine

To try and increase the portability of their drums, Pearl have used only the smallest shell sizes. However, they didn’t do much more than that. Although it does make it easier to pack away and carry everything, it lacks some of the clever design innovations others have come up with that makes it seem more like a drum set for small, intimate gigs rather than a more travel friendly kit.

  • High quality mahogany shells
  • Comes with all hardware and cymbals
  • Can be hard to get any decent power or sustain from this kit
  • Doesn’t fold away
  • The hardware is fairly standard, and doesn’t fold away any quicker or smaller than what you would expect on a normal drum set

Let's take a look at this product...

4. Traps Drums A400 (Editor's Choice)

Traps Drums A400 Portable Acoustic Drum Set

A shell-less drum set that’s more or less the size of a table top when folded down and can be easily stored in any room and packed along the back seat of a car - if necessary each of the drum pieces can be removed and placed in canvas bags for extra protection.

  • The entire thing folds into itself making it very flat and compact for transporting
  • Very sturdy frame prevents any wobbling or loose drums
  • Can be configured for left or right handed players easily
  • No included cymbals
  • Needs to be mic’d up for any decent sized gigs
  • The heads are one of the most important pieces of a shell-less kit such as this, and the quality of the ones included is slightly disappointing

Let's take a look at this product...

5. GP Percussion GP75WR Cocktail Drum Set

GP Percussion GP75WR Cocktail Drum Set (Wine Red)

A cocktail drum set that makes itself more portable by combining the floor tom and the bass drum into one by adding a kick pedal, and all other shells and cymbals are mounted from this central piece.

  • Very small size when fully assembled, 39 Inch L x 36 Inch W x 56 Inch H and a weight of only 39lbs
  • Included drum heads sound good and don’t need to be immediately swapped out
  • Very affordable
  • Easy to mic up, you can use just one microphone if you have a very good one, although two would be better
  • No need for additional hardware as everything is mounted on the floor tom
  • Low quality cymbals
  • No single bass drum, it uses the same shell as the tom

Let's take a look at this product...

So What Are The Best Portable Drum Sets?

The best portable drum set is without a doubt the Traps Drums A400 because you can still retain the full sound of an acoustic drum set and have the tiny size of an electronic kit that’s been folded down - the only downside to this drum set is the need for high quality mics and drum heads.

The GP Percussion set also presents an interesting method of making an acoustic drum set more portable by centering the whole set around a floor tom - although the lack of a proper bass drum is a noticeable weakness.

The Pearl Rhythm Traveler Pod doesn’t really bring anything to the table apart from taking a normal drum set and making it smaller - this is fine if you play in smaller clubs or quieter jazz styles, but as far as portable drum sets are concerned it’s only mildly better than a normal drum set.

For the easiest drum set to move around, the Fat Congas String Cajon is unbeatable as it’s nothing more than a small wooden box. Adding a few cymbals makes it slightly less portable, but only a little. However, if you need a full drum set or don’t want to learn the ins and outs of a cajon drum, then it’s not going to be for you.

Finally, the Alesis DM Nitro is an excellent way of packing more sounds into one drum kit by taking advantage of digital sound production, but it does have triggering issues that can spoil a live performance easily - making it better for use in recording.

Featured image source: Niels HeidenreichCC BY-SA 2.0

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Djangology’ and when he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his Campervan.

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