Reviews & Comparison of a TON of Pocket Notebooks!
Welcome to my first Mega Monster review and comparison, where I’ll be reviewing a whole giant pile of pocket notebooks and stacking them up against each other so you can have a good idea of which ones will suit your needs.
Pocket notebooks are wildly popular. Need proof? Just search eBay for old, out-of-print Field Notes editions and check out the prices they’re going for. Yikes! People of all walks of life use pocket notebooks: Fountain pen enthusiasts, everyday carry (EDC) devotees, teachers, moms, carpenters, stalkers, and anyone else who appreciates the ability to make a quick scrawl or scribble before their idea evaporates into the Land of the Forgotten. Why are they so popular? Well, probably because they’re small. And generally inexpensive. Oh, and they’re handy as hell.
Why Am I Doing This Massive Review?
If you’ve ever gone out looking for pocket notebooks (and who among us hasn’t?), you’ve likely noticed the huge array of options available. A ton of companies make them, and each has its own specifications and options. Pocket notebooks come in many flavors, with differences in size, shape, paper, binding, covers, and page ruling. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming. Some are good with fountain pens, while others only work well with ballpoints and pencils.
It can be daunting to find the notebook(s) that best fits your needs. Of course, you can just go out and buy one of everything and try them all, but most people don’t want to spend the time or money. That’s why I’m here! I’ve bought them all (at least all that I could find…still getting more, too) and I’m taking each one out for a test drive. I’ll let you know how each one works with different writing instruments, and I’ll assemble all the results in one spreadsheet so you can directly compare them. In other words, I’m doing the work so you don’t have to.
What’s a Pocket Notebook?
I know, stupid question. Bear with me. If I include every notebook that fits in a pocket, I’ll be here forever and I’ll never finish. There are hundreds of them. I have to keep this somewhat manageable, you know? So I want to be clear on what I am including and what I’m not.
Pocket notebooks are meant to be (1) small enough to fit in a pocket (duh); (2) large enough to be practical; and (3) inexpensive enough to throw them away when you’re done. They’re intended to be for everyday note-taking, things like jotting down ideas or other thoughts you want to remember, making quick sketches, keeping a grocery or to-do list, writing down the phone number of the hottie at the grocery store, tracking mileage, etc.
So what’s NOT included? These:
- Memo pads – Generally too small to be all that practical. I’ve often run out of space on a page (and I write small). Omitted for annoying me. This review focuses on 3.5″ x 5.5″ and A6 sizes…although a couple close-but-not-quite sizes made the cut.
- Spiral/Ring binding – If you put a spiral notebook in your back pocket and sit down, you’ll crush the spiral and make it hard to flip pages. They’re out.
- Anything too expensive – There are some great A6-size notebooks that cost like $20. Pocket notebooks are intended to be disposable, so anything over $6 or $7 per book has been omitted.
Defining “Fountain Pen Friendly”
Pocket notebooks are made for writing things down on the go. If they used coated or super tight-weave paper, the ink wouldn’t dry fast enough and they’d make a mess.
For this series, it’s all about striking a balance between fountain pen performance and practicality. My mission is to find out who achieves that balance best.
This page serves as a “Home Base” for these reviews. As I publish each review, I’ll add a link to the list below, along with a few important aspects that people care about. From here, you’ll be able to access all the reviews and the master spreadsheet of results (you’ll want to see that).
Feel free to scream at me if there is a specific notebook you want me to include or if there’s some information I should add. I’m doing this for you, dear reader, so if I’ve omitted any crucial info, let me know.
|Archie McPhee Bigfoot Pocket Journal||3.5 x 5.5|
|Clairfontaine Basics Life Unplugged||A6|
|Curnow Bookbinding Backpocket Journal||3.5 x 5.5|
|Doane Grid+Lines||3.5 x 5.5|
|Etranger di Costa Rica Transparency Memo|
|Fabriano EcoQua||3.5 x 5.5||Minimal||Yes||2 Staples||Dot Grid or Blank||Pretty Stiff|
|Field Notes Kraft||3.5 x 5.5||Yes||Some||3 Staples||Ruled, Graph, Blank||Moderate Stiffness|
|Field Notes Pitch Black||3.5 x 5.5|
|Kokuyo Systemic Refill||A6||None (except Vision Elite RB)||Yes||Glue||6 mm Lined||Not Especially Stiff|
|Moleskine Cahiers||3.5 x 5.5|
|Nock Co. DotDash||3.5 x 5.5||Minor||Very Little||2 Staples (Top)||4.25 mm DotDash||Moderate Stiffness|
|Quattro 8 X 8 Grid|
|Rosetta Notes||3.5 x 5.5|
|Scout Books||3.5 x 5.0|
|Story Supply Pocket Staple Edition 407||3.5 x 5.5||A Little||A Little||2 Staples||5 mm Dot Grid||Pretty Stiff|
|Word. Adventure Log||3.5 x 5.5|
|Word. Core Notebook||3.5 x 5.5|
|Write Pads||3.5 x 5.5|
And Finally…The Tools
I want consistent writing samples, so I’m using a dedicated group of writing instruments & inks for all the notebooks:
- Blackwing Palomino woodcase pencil
- Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil (0.5)
- Ballpoint (BP):
- Uniball Jetstream (0.7)
- Fisher Space Pen (0.7)
- Uniball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (0.38)
- Pilot G2 (0.5)
- Zebra Sarasa (0.7)
- Liquid Ink Rollerball (RB):
- Pilot Precise V5 RT (0.5)
- Uniball Vision Elite (0.8)
- Fountain Pen:
- Platinum Preppy (EF) with Noodler’s Midnight Blue
- Lamy Safari (F) with Lamy Petrol
- Platinum Cool (M) with Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo
- Nemosine Singularity (0.6 Stub) with KWZ Standard Turquoise
- Conklin Duragraph (1.1 Stub) with Robert Oster Signature Midnight Sapphire