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Portable drum kits have a much smaller footprint than standard drum kits. They’re ideal for when you don’t have much space on a stage or if you can’t fit a full rig in a car.
They’re a lot easier and quicker to set up, making them great secondary kits to have whenever you need to use one.
When looking to buy a portable drum kit, you’ll find that they only come in shell packs, meaning no cymbals are included. Some may include a bit of hardware, though.
In this guide, I’ll show you some of the best portable drum kits available and compare them based on their value, features, and sounds.
- In a Rush' Round-Up
- How I Tested and Selected the Best Portable Drum Kits
- Portable Drum Kits & Small Drum Sets Reviews
- Portable Drum Kit Buying Guide
- Benefits of Portable Drum Sets
- Features to Look Out For
- Portable Drum Kit FAQs
In a Rush' Round-Up
How I Tested and Selected the Best Portable Drum Kits
Like most gigging drummers, I ran into a few frustrations with lugging my full-sized kit to gigs with very small stages. So, I made it my mission to get a good compact kit many years ago.
Through that process, I was able to try and test out dozens of options from various brands, and I’ve used that experience to compile this list.
I’ve chosen kits that strike the right balance between portability and performance. These kits deliver a responsive playing experience. They’re not just compact; they also offer a solid drumming feel.
I’ve also assessed their sound quality, durability, ease of set up, and overall value for drummers looking for a reliable and compact drum kit.
Portable Drum Kits & Small Drum Sets Reviews
The Yamaha Stage Custom Hip quickly became one of my favorite compact drum set options since its release a few years ago.
I couldn’t wait to try it out, and I was incredibly impressed by its sounds and visuals.
The standout feature of this kit is the “snom” design, which gives the floor tom a deeper snare sound to counter the high-pitched crack of the main snare.
I had so much fun playing patterns between the two drums, and I could easily see how I would use this kit to its full potential when playing gigs.
With the deep snare sound being so popular in modern music, I think this particular compact kit has a bigger audience than most of the others.
When playing the kit, I also enjoyed how the bass drum had a conventional 20” size. It felt just like playing a typical kick drum, but the shallow shell kept it compact and easily moveable.
The only possible downside of this kit was that the rack tom produced rather short sounds. If you’re looking for musical resonance, you’ll need to go with a kit that has a deeper tom which rings a bit more.
That didn’t bother me at all, though. This kit is designed in a certain way to bring out particular sounds, and I get how jazz and hip-hop guys would love it. All together, the kit truly sounds fantastic.
The Yamaha Stage Custom Birch is already such a good kit, and I love how this set has widened the options within the range.
If you’re looking for a portable acoustic kit that is affordable yet looks and sounds superb, then i can’t recommend the Stage Custom Hip enough.
- 13” snare, 10” tom, 13, floor tom, 20” bass drum
- All birch shells
- Snare wires on floor tom
- Unique design compared to other compact kits, with the “snom” being a sought after feature
- Punchy sounds that are vibrant and lively
- Larger bass drum, but the shallowness still keeps it compact
- Incredible value for money
- The shallow 10” rack tom lacks a bit of tonal resonance compared to what you get from a few other compact kits
The innovative Tama Cocktail Jam Drum Set is the best portable drum kit on the market. It features an original design that allows the drum shells to nest inside one another like Russian dolls for easy transportation.
I’ve used this kit for many gigs in the past, and it’s incredible how the drum set and all of the hardware fits securely in the two protective bags you get when buying the kit.
This is especially useful if I’m parked far away or if I need to take public transport to gigs, as I am able to pack the kit up and carry the entire setup over my shoulders.
This small drum set is the perfect solution for any traveling drummer needing to transport drums easily to and from gigs and rehearsals. Not only that, but it boasts a full-size drum set sound and takes up far less space.
The Tama Cocktail drum kit sets up within minutes, and it’s incredibly fun to play! The 100% birch shells deliver bright and rich sounds with a real focused punch.
The stock heads that come included with the drum kit are very easy to tune, and despite the small sizes of these drum shells, this portable drum set produces a fantastic overall sound.
This mini drum set includes two toms, a kick drum, a snare drum, all the mounting hardware, a kick drum pedal, and two sturdy bags that are comfortable to carry. I can easily carry both the hardware bag and the bag containing the drums shells together.
The hardware is well designed and of high quality, and setting up this travel drum set is an absolute breeze. This package includes everything you need besides cymbals and a drum throne, and I believe it offers incredible value for money.
Tama has done such an excellent job designing the Cocktail Jam drum set, and it’s an incredibly versatile small drum kit that can play any style. It is ideal for any gigging drummer who doesn’t wish to compromise on sound, quality, or looks.
The Cocktail Jam also makes a wonderful practice kit if you are looking to invest in a small drum set that leaves a small footprint.
- Ultra portable - everything packs away into 2 included bags!
- Excellent value for money package!
- High quality hardware and cymbal attachment mounts
- Premium birch wood shells deliver punchy and focused sounds
- The included bass drum pedal is average quality and you can't use a conventional pedal
The DW Performance Series Low Pro Drum Set is a brand new compact drum kit that boasts beautiful sounding maple shells and tone-enhancing hardware. These drums also sport a stunning selection of FinishPly wraps.
DW produces some of the finest quality drum sets on the market, and the Low Pro mini drum kit features DW’s unmistakably high build quality.
When taking the kit out for a spin, I could feel and hear how this travel drum set produces unbelievable tones despite its small shell sizes and shallow depths.
The 100% maple shells are very shallow, making them ultra-compact. The shells then nest into each other when you pack the kit down, saving lots of storage space.
In addition to being easily transportable, I loved how these shallow shells produced a full and fast tone that was super punchy.
I was also impressed by how these drums sounded amazing when tuned up both high and low, and they are designed to complement a wide range of musical styles.
This small drum set works especially well for modern styles such as hip-hop, pop, R&B, drum and bass and many more.
This 3-piece travel kit includes a 10” rack tom, 13” floor tom, and a 20” bass drum. In my opinion, it’s the best portable drum kit available for professional drummers who want to play a more compact set of drums for smaller gigs.
Despite the shallow sizes, these drums offer plenty of punch and power. This compact drum set truly produces killer sounds, and it has the benefit of folding flat, making it incredibly easy to transport to any gig.
- Beautiful maple shells produce gorgeous tones
- Shells nest into each other for space saving functionality
- Compliment a wide range of musical styles
- Best small drum kit for professional musicians
- No snare drum included
- Expensive portable drum set
The Pearl Compact Traveler Kit is a mini drum set pairing consisting of a slim 18” kick drum and a 10” snare drum that offers space-saving functionality and impressive sounds.
The Pearl Compact Traveler kit is one of the smallest drum kits reviewed. It is designed with performance in mind, and this mini drum kit produces surprisingly full sounds.
Despite its compact sizes, the mini drum set responds well to both high and low tunings. It has a dry tone but is also highly musical.
My main takeaway after playing the kit was that these drums are responsive and have a bright attack, especially the snare drum, which sounds great when tuned up high!
This is one of the best compact drum kits on the market, and it can be set up to play and folded away in a matter of minutes into the included durable nylon bag.
The Pearl Rhythm Traveler is ultra-portable and makes the perfect companion for smaller gigs, street drumming, schools, and tight practice spaces.
This compact drum set offers fantastic value for money and, in my opinion, is the most portable drum kit on the market.
It does not include hardware or cymbals, but this fantastic compact travel kit gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
- Perfect for smaller gigs, street drumming, schools and tight practice spaces
- Folds away into durable nylon bag provided
- Sounds and plays like a standard drum set
- Great value for money overall
- Only kick and snare drums included
- No hardware included besides mounting posts
The Tama Club Jam Mini Drum Set consists of a 10″ tom, 14″ floor tom, 13″ snare drum, and 18″ bass drum. This is a retro-inspired travel drum set that offers amazing warmth and killer tones.
I have played many gigs on the standard Tama Club Jam kit, so I was very excited to try out this version that is even smaller than the original.
This simple and sweet drum set combination produces clear and punchy sounds that works exceptionally well for smaller, intimate gigs. These drums are built with mersawa/popular hybrid shells for a warm and focused sound.
The Tama Club Jam Mini is an ultra-stylish drum set that looks great on stage and sounds full and musical. It’s one of the best small drum sets on the market that looks and sounds like the real deal.
The kick drum sports gorgeous wood hoops, and the stock drum heads that come equipped as standard sound good right out of the box.
If you are looking for a versatile, musical, and high-quality compact drum kit then you should definitely look at the Tama Club Jam Mini drum set – it’s the best small drum kit that offers musical sounds on a budget, and It is very easy to transport and place on stage.
- Best compact drum kit for smaller, intimate gigs
- Attractive drum set and stylish finishes
- Portable and great sounding kit
- Good value for money
- Not as portable and compact as other kits reviewed
The Traps A400 Drum Set is quite possibly the smallest drum kit invented! It’s a portable, shell-less compact drum kit that feels and sounds like a regular drum set.
It utilizes a rack system that makes the drums and hardware stay firmly put whilst playing and permits easy folding away and transportation.
The Traps drum set is no new invention. This mini drum set has been around since 2004 and it was in fact my very first drum set.
It takes up far less space than a full 5-piece drum set, and it offers surprisingly similar sounds. It’s the most portable alternative to a conventional drum kit.
Once these drums are tuned up properly, you will be surprised by how focused and punchy they sound.
That was always why I loved this set, and I had plenty of drummer friends that loved coming over to play it.
It makes for both a great travel and practice kit, allowing you to play the drums without the hassle of setting up and packing down a conventional drum set.
This small drum kit might look rather strange, but it is a system that works. The hardware is strong and folds up completely flat, meaning you can easily transport this drum kit.
If you are looking for the best portable drum kit on the market, you should definitely add the Traps A400 to your list for consideration.
- Feels and sounds just like a full 5-piece drum set!
- Strong rack system that folds completely flat
- Focused and tight sounding drums
- Great travel and practice kit
- Not great value for money considering materials
- Some of the plastic is material is cheap and flimsy
- Bass drum pedal and hi hat stand included are not good quality
Portable Drum Kit Buying Guide
The best portable drum kits are compact enough to set up anywhere, have great drum tones, and are light enough to travel with easily.
Portable drum kits make excellent secondary drum sets. They are ideal for when you need to travel relatively light for gigs and rehearsals.
While portable drum kits are fun to play, just remember that standard-size drum sets have fuller tones and often feel better to play with their larger sizes.
If you already have a main set, it won’t matter that most portable sets only come as shell packs. You can use the hardware from your main set to set everything up.
Since there are so many options surrounding portable kits, finding one with the features and qualities you seek is vital.
Benefits of Portable Drum Sets
- Easy to transport: Portable drum kits are lightweight and easy to carry, making them perfect for gigs and rehearsals when you need to travel light. They will also fit much easier in the trunk of a car, and can often be carried by hand.
- Quick and easy setup: Portable kits are typically much quicker and easier to set up and tear down than full-sized drum sets, as they require fewer stands and utilize more streamlined mounting systems like clamps than full sized stands.
- Small footprint at home: They make an excellent option for practice at home because you can set them up in any room without taking up too much space.
- Affordable price tags: Portable drum sets are typically more affordable than standard-size drum sets because they have smaller shell sizes and the product lines are more geared towards the mid-level market.
Features to Look Out For
The shell material is one of the biggest determining factors in how a portable drum set sounds.
Most drum kits are made from particular woods that have been layered to create the shell. Some have a single wood type, while others mix them to achieve unique sounds.
Most of the kits I mentioned above are made from either maple, birch, poplar, or mersawa. Each one of those shell types brings out a specific sound quality.
The best portable drum kits are made from maple and birch. Maple is warm, while birch brings out more attack.
Poplar is a more common wood that has a balanced tone, while mersawa is less commonly seen but is quite musical. Poplar and mersawa drums are harder to tune than maple and birch, meaning you’ll need to take more time to get them to sound good.
Smaller shell sizes offer greater portability. Look at both the width and depth of all the shells. The smaller the width is, the higher-pitched the drum will be.
The bass drum is the biggest contributor to a kit being considered portable. Look for a kit with a bass drum between 14” and 18” in diameter. Tom sizes should be anywhere from 6” to 14”.
A standard 14” snare drum fits nicely into a compact set, but a smaller one will make it even more portable.
Some portable drum sets keep larger widths, but the shells have shorter depths to add to the portability. Drum kits like this will sound deeper, but they won’t resonate as long.
The build quality of a portable drum kit will determine its sound and durability. High-tier kits have immaculate shell construction, giving them amazing sounds and easy tuning.
The DW Performance Series Low Pro is a good example of this.
More economical kits won’t be as durable, and their hardware feels flimsier. The drums will move around a lot as you play them.
It’s worth investing more if you want a kit that will sound better and feel more comfortable and enjoyable to play on.
Not all portable drum kits include a snare drum.
Most pro drummers using portable drum kits at gigs swap the included snare drum out with a snare of better quality.
However, some portable drum kits come with snare drums that only work with their design.
An included snare drum with a portable drum set can still sound great with a good quality drumhead and tuning.
Included Hardware or Bags
The best portable drum kits can be carried with only one or two bags. These are often designed to perfectly fit those drum sets.
Some portable kits also come with hardware, which is an added bonus. Certain pieces of hardware are essential for setting up the kit.
For example, the Tama Cocktail Jam has a very specific kick drum pedal that you need to be able to play it.
Portable Drum Kit FAQs
Can Portable Drum Kits Be Used for Every Setting?
Technically yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Portable drum kits are smaller and don’t deliver the same sonic impact as standard drum kits. This is why they’re best used on smaller stages and in tight spaces.
If you’re playing a gig in a large venue with hundreds of people, you’ll serve the music and environment a lot better by using a full-sized kit. You also won’t struggle to have your drums heard as much as you may with a portable kit.
You can put drum mics on a compact kit to provide a bigger impact if you need to. It just won’t sound as good or feel as solid to play from your perspective.
If you’re using a portable kit for different settings, it’s important to practice on both a full kit and a small one, as the feeling of playing both can be quite different.
Are Portable Drum Sets Good for Kids?
Portable drum kits are excellent options for kids. Since they’re much smaller than standard drum sets, children will find them more comfortable to play on.
They can be positioned lower since the small shell depths won’t get in the way like they would on larger kits.
Portable kits are also a better alternative to dedicated kid’s drum sets, as their sound and build quality are generally better.