This is Part 2 of my Mega Monster Review series on pocket notebooks. You can visit the main Mega Monster Review page for a listing of all the notebooks reviewed in this series. You can also open the massive Master Spreadsheet to see all the aggregated data on these notebooks. Note: This is a work in progress and will take several weeks to complete.
Field Notes Original Kraft Pocket Notebooks
When it comes to pocket notebooks, Field Notes doesn’t really need much of an introduction. They’re basically the gold standard against which other 3.5″ by 5.5″ notebooks are measured. Field Notes began as a partnership between graphic designer Aaron Draplin and advertising designer Jim Coudal back in 2007. They were inspired by the hundreds, if not thousands, of small, promotional memo books distributed to farmers by agricultural and farm equipment companies throughout American history.
Although Field Notes has their permanent production editions of pocket notebooks, they really made a name for themselves with their
quarterly limited edition runs. Unfortunately, the limited editions use a variety of paper types and don’t stay around forever, so I’m considering them out of scope for this Mega Monster Review. For this series, I’ll be looking at a couple notebooks from their general product line, the first of which is their Original Kraft Notebooks.
The Kraft edition was their original notebook, and has been in production all along. It sports a plain, “Packing Brown Wrap” cover stock with 60# Bright White Finch paper inside. One thing I really like about this edition is that they offer them in three different ruling types (ruled, graph, and plain). You can buy three-packs with any of the rulings, or buy a “mixed” three-pack with one of each. That’s an awesome perk! And I really love the color they chose for the ruling. They call it “Double Knee Duck Canvas,” and it is almost identical to the color of the cover. The ruling is easy to see, but light enough to stay out of your way when you’re writing.
Among fountain pen enthusiasts, Field Notes are hit-or-miss. Many of their notebooks have rather porous paper that causes ink to spread, bleed, and feather quite a bit. Other editions use papers that work much better with fountain pens.
Although I did have a couple small surprises along the way, the Field Notes Kraft edition pocket notebooks pretty much performed exactly how I expected. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed by the wild feathering going on with my fountain pens, but I knew full well going into this that the 60# paper wasn’t going to handle fountain pens very well. So I was well prepared for the inky tentacles reaching out from the letters as I wrote them down.
So, like, this edition of Field Notes was pretty much made with pencils in mind, so there should be no surprise that the Blackwing and Kuru Toga were absolutely splendid performers.
- Palomino Blackwing: It was very smooth and put down a dark line. You really couldn’t ask for more.
- Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil (0.5): Same as with the Blackwing: smooth and dark. Although because the graphite in the Kuru Toga (HB) is harder than the Blackwing, the result is a slightly lighter line. Still pretty much perfect performance, though.
As with the pencils, I expected flawless performance from the ballpoints, too. And…I got it what I expected.
- Uniball Jetstream (0.7): Smooth as silk, with a nice, dark line. I noticed that when I’m writing really fast, there were some breaks in the line, particularly in places where I changed direction fast. It almost reminds me of railroading with fountain pens. Writing at a normal speed didn’t yield these breaks.
- Fisher Space Pen (0.7): Flawless. Not as smooth as the Jetstream, but probably a slightly more consistent line.
Gel pens excel in the areas of fast writing and note-taking. The ink is smooth flowing, and the line is typically dark.
- Uniball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (0.38): My typical workhorse at work, the Ultra Micro puts down a beautiful, wicked-fine line. Surprisingly, though, the line it put down isn’t as dark as I’m used to. I use Rhodia paper at work, but also mess around with the cheap notepads we have laying around. I think the Signo 207’s line is lighter on this 60# Finch paper than it is on the others I use. Otherwise, it’s as awesome as usual.
- Pilot G2 (0.5): Perfect, really. Smooth. Dark line. Writes fast with no hiccups. Consistent flow. If this is your pen of choice, this notebook is perfect.
- Zebra Sarasa (0.7): My favorite sloppy-ass gel pen. It’s wet, broad, and slick as snot. The 60# Finch paper is pretty toothy stuff, but the Sarasa just glided over it like it was an oily surface. The Sarasa is really wet, and there was some minor feathering, but you have to look under a loupe to see it.
Liquid Ink Rollerball Results:
I don’t hide my disdain for ballpoint pens. But honestly, in the very short time I’ve been working with these liquid ink rollerballs, I’m starting to think that ballpoints aren’t the most evil writing utensils out there.
- Pilot Precise V5 RT (0.5): It’s smooth for sure, which surprises me given the tip is a needlepoint and the paper isn’t that smooth to begin with. The ink went down lighter than I expected, but darkened up a bit as it dried. Very minor feathering, on par with the Sarasa, and requires a loupe to see it.
- Uniball Vision Elite (0.8): Uniball should use the tagline “Sucks with everything!” to market this pen. As I’m putting the letters down, I’m watching the ink spread and feather. The ink is dark gray, not black at all. It’s a smooth writer on this paper, but the end result isn’t worth it.
Fountain Pen Results:
As I already mentioned, I knew before I started that the paper in the Kraft edition wasn’t purported to be friendly to fountain pens. And after seeing how the Uniball Vision performed, whatever remained of my hopes dissipated before I picked up the Preppy.
- (EF) Platinum Preppy with Noodler’s Midnight Blue ink: Definitely a serviceable pen with this paper. There is some spread and feathering that you can see with the naked eye, but it’s not egregious enough to make me avoid using this pen and paper together. What did surprise me was that my Preppy, which is typically smooth everywhere, kept catching on this paper. Like “digging into” the paper. I know the paper is toothy, but I didn’t expect it to bite my Preppy.
- (F) Lamy Safari with Lamy Petrol ink: This combo was also decent. Again, noticeable spread and feathering, but it’s pretty minimal. I could use this pen with this paper if I had to. Much smoother than the Preppy, but still a lot of feedback.
- (M) Platinum Cool with Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo ink: A sparrow was hanging outside my window as I was writing with the Cool. He pecked at the window, and when I looked over, he said, “You got some nice feathers there, my friend.” And then he flew away. This is a wet pen, and the ink spread all over the place as I was writing. Way too much for me to ever use. Prominent ghosting, some small points of bleedthrough, although nothing reached the next page.
- (0.6) Nemosine Singularity with KWZ Standard Turquoise ink: Not nearly as much spread/feathering as with the Platinum Cool, but still too much for my taste. Very minimal ghosting, no real bleedthrough (maybe a pinprick or two).
- (1.1) Conklin Duragraph with Robert Oster Midnight Sapphire ink: Oh my god. Does it feather? Let me put it this way: Every letter is Medusa. The pen ran dry in the middle of the page, and I had to prime the feed. This paper did NOT like that. If I was stuck on an island with only this notebook and this pen, I would use the pen to stab myself in the finger and just write in blood.
|Size||3.5 inch x 5.5 inch|
|Price||$10 for 3 notebooks|
|# of Pages||48|
|Cover Material||80# French Dur-O-Tone|
|Stiff Cover?||Not particularly|
|Paper Color||Bright White|
|Ruling Type||Ruled, Graph, or Plain|
|Rule Spacing||Ruled: 1/4-inch (6.4 mm) / Graph: 3/16-inch (4.7 mm)|
|Rule Color||Double Knee Duck Canvas (brown)|
|FP: Ghosting||Yes, but not bad with dry/fine pens|
|FP: Bleedthrough||Some, but never touched the next page|
|FP: Spread||Yes, especially with wet pens|
|FP: 10-Sec Dry?||YES, with all 5 fountain pens|
|Liquid Ink RB||Serviceable, but feathers|
If you’re specifically looking for an EDC that can handle fountain pens, I’d only recommend the Field Notes Original Kraft notebook if you use fine or extra fine pens and don’t mind a little feathering. This paper does yield great dry times and very little bleedthrough, which only appears from very wet pens.
For pencils and any other type of pen, this little notebook performed wonderfully. Well, except the Uniball Vision Elite. I have my doubts that I’ll find any paper that works well with that pen. The paper in this notebook didn’t like my extra fine Preppy, but it worked well with my fine Safari. Finding a nib that’s both fine and smooth is the trick here.