Joseph works as an editor in one of the magazines dedicated to video games. Here, at RecRoomPick, he’s given the opportunity to enjoy the reverse of the medal – the no less engaging world of offline games.
Ryan knows everything when it comes to gaming, both online and offline. Since his early years he’s been in love with arcades, air hockey, and foosball. Finally, he’s given the opportunity to share his knowledge and opinion on the hobby of his life (and even get paid for it!).
Last updated: October 04, 2023
Rec Room Pick is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Picking the best travel chess set might seem straightforward, but there is actually a lot to consider. There is a multitude of sets on the market, and it can be quite difficult to figure out which one will best suit your needs.
If you truly want to find the best chess set to travel with, then the first thing that you need to look for is whether the case is small enough to tote along on your travels – we’ve made sure to include only the most compact models out there. You also want to make sure that the pieces are made well; otherwise, they are liable to break while you are on the go. We’ve selected those made of wood, sturdy plastic, and even metal – choose whichever seems more preferable. You should also decide whether you want magnetic or traditional pieces for your set. This is just a sampling of the considerations that you need to take into account before you buy your new set. To learn everything that you need to know, read on!
If you are in the market for the best overall travel chess set, then this should be the first one that you look into. This high-quality set is made from Sheesham wood, which is noted for both its beauty and durability. Even though this set is made to travel, it certainly looks just as good as a set you would expect to find in a chess master’s home.
What really makes this such a great option for traveling is its size. This is, by far, the most compact set on the market. It measures a mere 5 x 5 inches, all while only being 1 inch thick. This small size, and the fact that it only weighs 0.7 pounds, helps to make it very easy to fit pretty much anywhere, which is why it is so good for playing on the go.
Something else that really helps to set this set apart is its innovative storage system. The pieces are hidden inside of the board, and each piece has its own individual storage spot. This helps to keep them nice and secure while you are on the go, and also makes it much easier to keep track of all of the pieces. These pieces are also magnetic, so you don’t need to worry about them falling off of your board while you play.
The only real issue that some players might find with this chess set is its size. It is, as we mentioned above, on the smaller side. This makes it highly portable, but also might make it harder for some folks to play due to the tightness of its spaces.
Even though you are looking for a great chess set, that doesn’t mean that you have to pay out a lot of money. This set, for instance, is priced to be very reasonable and should provide you hours’ worth of fun. For starters, this set has a nice sized foldable board. When it is folded, the set fits nicely into its box and should take up too much room. When opened, however, it is nearly as large as a standard chessboard, making it much easier to play.
The pieces are made out of highly durable plastic, which makes them less likely to chip or crack while you are traveling or playing. Even though they are not metal throughout, they are still magnetized. This makes them stick to the playing surface quite effectively, which makes them perfect for playing while you don’t have a perfectly level playing area.
Something else that helps to make this such a value-based set is the fact that it includes checkers. These checkers fit the board perfectly, so that you are actually getting two games in one. This only helps to make this set an even better value.
The only issue that you might find with this otherwise excellent set is that the playing board has a large crease in it when it is unfolded. While this certainly isn’t the biggest deal, it does impact the look of the board and may occasionally make moving your pieces more difficult than you would like.
If you are in the market for the nicest looking, and, quite possibly, most durable travel chess set, then we recommend that you give this one a try. The board is absolutely gorgeous. It is made out of finely stained pear wood, which has rich, dark undertones that help the set to pop off the table at you. Even when this set is folded up and latched, it is quite nice to look at.
The pieces themselves are also quite exquisite. They are made of highly durable zinc alloy. This metal helps to make the pieces look sharp and should also help to keep them looking that way for a good long time. Surprisingly, even with these metal pieces and thicker board, this is not an overly heavy board. It only weighs 2.6 pounds, which is still more than light enough to tote along with you on your travels.
You will also not have to worry about the pieces moving around on you while you are on the go with this set. It has very easy to use, yet very secure, latches that will hold the set closed tightly. The locking mechanism is made of metal as well, so you know it will last for a good long time.
One thing to bear in mind with this set is that, even though the pieces are metal, they are not magnetic. You will need to make sure that you are playing on a level surface and avoid bumping the set while you play so that the pieces stay in their spaces.
While you certainly wouldn’t want to tote along a full-sized chess board with you while you are traveling, that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a surface that is too small for you to play comfortably. If that is what you are looking for in a traveling set, then this is a great option. Its board measures 15 x15 inches when unfolded, which makes it the largest foldable model on our list. This larger surface makes playing a bit more comfortable, which is always a plus for anyone that is used to using a standard set.
This set is also designed to last. The pieces have an anti-scratch velvet pad on the bottom to keep them from marring the playing surface of the board. The pieces are also made of hand-carved wood, which should last for years of playing. You even get an extra set of Queens just in case something happens to the originals.
As is the case with many other travel sets, this model’s pieces are magnetized. This helps to keep them in place even if you are playing in a bumpy car/train or on an uneven surface. The latches also make this a great travel set, as they won’t ever open up on you unless you want them too.
It should come as no surprise for such a large set that this model is on the heavier side. While the 3.3 pounds shouldn’t be too heavy for most players to tote along with them, it might be heavier than you want in a travel chess set.
This set is a great option for anyone that doesn’t have a ton of room to store their travel chess set. Since it comes in a fabric bag and is rolled up, rather than folded, it is very easy to fit into tighter spots. The soft fabric and flexible board material make this a possibility. The carrying bag is also quite durable, even though it is made from fabric. It should hold up to years of use without any issue.
The fact that this board is rolled up also allows it to have the largest playing surface on our list. This board is about 20 x 20 inches, which is quite large for a traveling chess set. It still, however, doesn’t take up a lot of room when it is rolled, thankfully, which makes packing it in tightly very convenient.
Despite the fact that the board is very thin, it is still magnetic. This makes keeping the pieces in place very easy, even when the board is on a less than ideal surface.
One thing to keep in mind with this set is that you cannot keep it folded up for long periods of time. If you don’t get it out and lay it flat every once in a while, it has a tendency to bend up. This bend could make playing very difficult, so make sure to take the time to get it out, or to lay it under something heavy to flatten it before you play if the bend is too big to deal with.
What makes it stand out?
Rollup design for easy storage
Large playing surface
Compact when stored
Carrying bag included
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Board needs to be flattened if stored too long
Things to Consider
In this section, we will guide you through everything that you need to know to find the best travel chess set for your playing needs. We have also taken the time to answer several frequently asked questions, so be sure to read through those as well if you need any further information.
Features to consider when choosing a travel chess set
As we have mentioned before, there are a ton of things that you need to consider before you make your final decision and buy your new portable chess set. In this section, we will guide you through all of these factors in great detail so that you can make an informed purchase and get exactly what you need in a new chess set.
Dimensions when folded and unfolded
The first thing that you want to figure out is how large of a playing board you can handle. This will, of course, depend upon where you intend to play it when the board is unfolded, and where you will store it when it is folded up. While smaller boards, both folded and unfolded, are easier to travel with and set up, they can be a bit trickier to play on, simply because the pieces and spaces are so much smaller than normal.
Once you have figured out how large of a playing surface you desire, the next thing to figure out is the type of case you want to use. Some cases are relatively soft, as they are made of cardboard or cloth. Other cases are a bit harder and made of more durable materials like wood. Soft cases are easier to transport since they can fit into tighter spaces than a hard case. However, hard cases are much better at protecting the game pieces and board thanks to their durable design. Some of the more compact designs use the chessboard as the storage case for the pieces, which helps to make it both durable and conveniently compact.
For an extra layer of protection for both your board and your pieces, the Strategy 101 2-in-1 Game Set is a good buy, since it comes with a box to carry the board and pieces in. If you want a more compact solution, then the Agirlgle International Chess Set is a great option. This case folds up to store the pieces internally, making it very compact and durable at the same time.
Since you are looking to get a set that is compact and easy to travel with, it only makes sense to think about the weight of it as well. You want to make sure that you get a set that is not too heavy, since that will limit how willingly you, or anyone else, take it from place to place. Since this set is supposed to be used while you travel, you certainly don’t want it to be too terribly heavy, after all.
When it comes to getting the lightest travel chest set possible, you should most definitely check out the ChessBazaar Travel Series Wooden Magnetic Chess Set. This set weighs in at an infinitesimal 0.7 pounds. Regardless of whether you are carrying this set in your hands or in a bag, you will hardly even notice that it is there. Of course, it is on the smaller side too, so if you don’t mind a bit of extra weight for a larger playing surface, the Amerous Magnetic Wooden Chess Set is still a relatively light 3.3 pounds but has a much larger playing surface.
Chess Piece Material
Something else that you will want to consider carefully is what your pieces are made of. When it comes to travel sets, as with standard chess sets, you can choose from a wide variety of different options, though most are usually made with plastic, metal, or wood. Plastic pieces are much lighter, but not quite as durable as wood or metal ones. Models that come with plastic pieces are usually a bit cheaper, however, so that is also something to bear in mind.
One of the best innovations that you can get with a chess set that is designed for travel is magnetic pieces. Since you will probably be playing chess in a spot that is not completely flat, this magnetism can be a real lifesaver. It will allow you to keep your pieces in place even if the board gets bumped or isn’t sitting correctly. Of course, magnetic pieces will feel a bit different than standard ones, so if you prefer a more traditional game you might want to get a set without magnetic pieces.
Since these pieces also come with an anti-scratch velvet on bottom to help keep the board looking great. If you are more of a traditionalist, however, the Agirlgle International Chess Set is a good set that is not magnetic.
Since these boards are built to be portable, they are made a bit different from standard models. They come in three different forms, which include solid, foldable, and rollup. Each format offers different pros and cons. For instance, solid boards are much sturdier, but are also on the smaller side. Foldable boards are much bigger, but might not be quite as sturdy. Rollup boards are perhaps the easiest to transport thanks to their flexible design, but they are also the least traditional and don’t offer any additional storage for pieces.
If you choose to get a solid or foldable board, you want to make sure that you get one that has a secure latch feature. That way, you will not need to worry about losing any pieces once you have closed up the board. You should also look for high-quality hinges on foldable boards, since they will be put to the test over the years as you open and close the gameboard.
While you are most likely getting this travel set so that you can play chess on the go, it might not be a bad idea to get a set that also includes checkers. This is a much simpler game that is more universally played than chess, which makes it a bit easier to find other players. The boards are also identical, which makes it very easy to utilize the same set for both games.
You don’t even need to spend a lot of money to get a chess set that also includes checkers. For instance, the Strategy 101 2-in-1 Game Set is priced to sell, but includes high-quality checkers and chess pieces so that you can easily set up and play both games.
Plastic chess pieces are not as susceptible to temperature and humidity changes as wooden sets. Nevertheless, it is possible for them to chip and crack over time, especially if they are not properly stored and used too roughly. If, however, you take the time to put the pieces away carefully and don’t use them too hard, they should last for a good long time without any issue.
When it comes to cleaning a chessboard, regardless of what it is made of, the best bet is to use a mild dish soap and warm water. Then, take a gentle cloth and wipe off the surface gently but thoroughly. Finally, use a lint free drying cloth to wipe down the surface and remove excess water before storing the game away again.
Wrapping It Up
If you are looking for the best overall travel chess set, then we highly recommend you check out the ChessBazaar Travel Series Wooden Magnetic Chess Set. This set is compact, lightweight, magnetic, and has individual spaces for each piece. Plain and simple, it is the perfect chess set to take with you when you travel!
The Strategy 101 2-in-1 Game Set is a great value-based chess set for anyone on the go. Not only is it durable, lightweight, and magnetic, but it also comes with checkers in addition to the chess pieces, which means you are getting two games for the price of one.
For some folks, the best travel chess set is going to be the one that both looks and feels the best. In that case, the Agirlgle International Chess Set is a great option. This set’s pieces are made out of zinc alloy and board is crafted from durable pearwood.