Why use a notebook?
One of the great appeals with notebooks is their straightforward reliability. There’s no switching them on or hoping a battery isn’t flat. You just open them up and write or sketch. In a digital world, this dependable analog tool lets you step back and embrace a simpler option. And sure, you might need to sharpen a pencil occasionally or replace a pen refill but you’ll need to do this less frequently than recharging a laptop or phone battery.
Small notebooks are compact enough to slip in a front or back pant pocket, shirt pocket or a bag pocket, so they’re always there when you need them, no matter when inspiration strikes. Plus small notebooks are easy to fit on a work desk too, keeping you prepped for notes, ideas, designs, and to-do lists throughout the day.
Capture information now
Being able to quickly jot down ideas and information helps you capture them before you forget them. You can write down new contacts with added context or to-do tasks as soon as they crop up, with no need to focus on trying to remember them for later.
Many notebooks offer useful flexibility to write down or sketch a variety of notes, ideas, designs, journal entries, personal budget tracking, work or business tasks, to-do lists, or words and pictures, without being restrained by the limitations of apps and screens.
Reflective tools that help you remember
It’s easy to look back through a notebook and reflect on ideas, projects, notes, goals, thoughts, and the like. Perhaps it’s a quick five to ten-minute session with a cup of coffee and a notebook in the morning or at night. Alternatively you might reflect and look over your notes several times throughout the day, or once a week. A notebook can help keep you on track, let you see progress, and quickly grasp what needs to be done.
Using a notebook and pen or pencil helps you slow down and really focus on what you’re putting to paper. Plus writing things down helps you remember them better too, making notebooks useful tools in a range of study, work and personal settings.
Your personal style statement
The style of your notebook and stationery lets you express your personality and make a statement. For instance, a stylishly clean notebook with a quality look and feel can help you exude an air of professionalism for work. Covers with a little flair to them can work well for creatives or artistic people. Just like any other EDC item, a notebook and notebook cover can shape first impressions.
Keeping distractions at a distance
Phones and laptops offer a multitude of digital distractions, from checking email to social media and more. And while you may be tempted to venture down memory lane with some notebook entries, for the most part it’s far easier to avoid distractions by using a notebook. Handy for staying productive and saving time throughout your day.
Subtle differences between the major brands
The notebook niche is filled with an abundance of brands offering a variety of designs. And while there isn’t necessarily one brand to rule them all, subtle differences between the brands may have you favoring one over the other for your particular needs. It would be impossible to delve into all the brands in one post, but we’ll touch briefly on some of the major ones.
First up is Field Notes. Arguably one of the most well-known notebook brands in the EDC scene, Field Notes was founded in 2007 and inspired by old agricultural memo books. Made in the USA, the notebooks tend to handle pocket carry well, with covers that are sufficiently flexible for comfy carry but durable enough to withstand the daily haul for a good few months. They also have space for contact details inside the front cover and a handy ruler on the back cover.
You’ll most often find them in packs of three 48-page notebooks. The notebooks come in a range of paper and pattern options including ruled, plain, dot grid and graph. The majority of Field Notes notebooks are pocket-sized. But what really makes the brand stand out is their wide variety of cover styles, particularly limited edition options, making it easy to showcase your personality in your pocket carry. Limited editions feature a variety of different themes such as national parks, metal elements, the seasons, constellations, space travel, and much more. And if you’re after a burly all-rounder, their Expedition notebooks are tearproof, waterproof and great for go-anywhere use.
Moleskine are known for their hard cover notebooks but they also offer soft covers and cardboard covers too. Their notebooks come in a range of sizes with useful features such as an elastic closure, ribbon bookmark and inner storage pocket. The notebooks use a variety of paper types and patterns including plain, ruled, dot grid, and squared. While they work with a variety of pens, it’s worth noting you may experience ghosting and feathering with fountain and gel pens.
Moleskine notebooks don’t just come in a variety of sizes and colorways, but also a variety of designs to suit different uses, from sketches to travel notebooks, recipe journals, wellness journals and more.
As the name suggests, German brand LEUCHTTURM1917 was founded in 1917. And if you’re all about the details, this may be a fitting brand for you. Their catchphrase is “Details make all the difference” and you’ll certainly find plenty of them. LEUCHTTURM1917 notebooks tend to offer a thoughtful selection of features to enhance their user-friendly designs, from numbered pages and perforated detachable pages, to a table of contents, stickers for labeling and archiving, ribbon bookmarks, and a gusseted pocket.
The notebooks are available with soft and hard covers and come with quality acid-free paper that’s good at resisting feathering and bleeding from many inks. You can find a range of paper styles including plain, ruled, dot grid, and squared.
Founded in 1934 in France, Rhodia notebooks provide some of the best paper options for fountain pen users. Rhodia paper is acid-free, smooth, resists bleedthrough, and allows ink to dry quickly. The paper is also PEFC-certified and sourced from forests that are sustainably managed.
Rhodia notebooks are known for their black and orange covers but many different options are available. The notebooks come in a multitude of sizes and designs, with a range of bindings including stapled, ring, glue and thread bindings. Some notebooks will also offer handy features such as a ribbon bookmark, elastic closure, storage pocket, and perforated pages. You can opt for various covers including leatherette, hard covers, and soft covers.
Ultimately the best notebook is the one you’ll actually want to carry and use. Perhaps you want particular features in a notebook, a particular paper and pattern style, or have a preference for a certain binding. You might prefer bright white paper or more cream or yellow tones. You may also want a lot of pages for greater writing or sketching capacity, or alternatively fewer pages for a slimmer, more pocket-friendly notebook. How you choose to carry a notebook (in a pocket or in a bag) will also influence your choice. Rounded corners and slimmer designs will help a notebook slide more easily in and out of pockets. And you’ll probably find bag carry a more convenient option for larger and thicker notebooks, particularly if you’re pairing it with a fairly substantial notebook cover.
But now that you have a little insight into some of the major brands and might have an idea of what would work well for you, it helps to see what’s out there. So let’s flip to a selection of notebook and cover options that might be right for your needs…
Muji Double Ring Notebook Dotted Paper A6 (around US$4.50)
This A6 notebook is a good budget-friendly and eco-conscious option made from recycled paper. It has 70 dotted sheets (140 pages). Though it’s potentially better for bag carry as the double ring binding may dig into your body and adds a little bulk, the binding does allow the pages to lay nice and flat for writing ease. Additionally, the design also includes an elastic closure.
Rite In The Rain 946 Weatherproof Top Spiral Notebook (US$6.83)
As the name suggests, the Rite In The Rain 946 Weatherproof Top Spiral Notebook doesn’t have any problems with inclement weather thanks to its waterproof pages and Polydura cover. You’ll also find handy measurement and conversion information on the inside cover. The notebook has 50 sheets (100 pages) featuring a hybrid lined/dot pattern for flexibility. And the top spiral binding makes it easy to flip between individual pages and to lay the notebook flat.
Moleskine Cahier Journal, Soft Cover – 3-Pack (US$7.65)
This pack of three notebooks ticks the budget-friendly, portable and versatile boxes. The soft cardboard cover makes the notebook flexible enough to store comfortably in a pocket. The notebook has lined paper and the last 16 sheets are detachable, making them useful for separate notes or sharing information. You’ll also find an inbuilt pocket to store loose pages, receipts, business cards or other flat items.
Northbooks Eco Journal Writing Notebook (US$9.99)
The Northbooks Eco Journal Writing Notebook is available in a choice of dotted, ruled, plain and square paper patterns and can be purchased individually or in packs. It features 96 pages of acid-free, smooth 90gsm 30% recycled paper. Plus the covers also feature 50% recycled paper. Each notebook is made in the USA with paper certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Word Notebooks Blue Mountain – 3-Pack (US$10.99)
This set of three notebooks brings a little of the outdoors to your everyday living thanks to the attractive Blue Mountain cover. Each notebook is made in the USA and has 48 lined pages, with a handy note-taking guide to help keep your notebook in order.
Field Notes Pitch Black Memo Book – 3-Pack (US$12.95)
Field Notes serves up understated style with their classic Pitch Black Memo Book. This version features 48 pages with dot-graph paper, though it’s available with ruled paper too. The covers are a Field Notes-exclusive black/kraft duplex paper created in collaboration with Michigan-based French Paper Co. Tough and flexible enough for pocket carry, yet stylish enough for work settings, it’s a solid pocket notebook pick.
LEUCHTTURM1917 Soft Cover Small (A6) Slim Pocket Notebook (US$12.95)
The soft cover and stylish army green colorway of this slim notebook makes it easy to carry and use across work and play. The notebook offers 121 numbered pages with dotted, acid-free, 80gsm paper. Useful features include an elastic closure, two bookmark ribbons, a table of contents and an expandable pocket inside the back cover.
Rhodia Unlimited Pocket Notebook (US$15.66)
Rhodia’s Unlimited Pocket Notebook combines a soft coated cover with 60 sheets of smooth, acid-free, 80gsm paper that works well with fountain pens. The paper is lined, with separate sections at the top for dates or headings. This also ticks the box for a pocket notebook with perforated pages. The sheets are microperforated for easy removal if desired. And there’s an elastic closure for added convenience.
Pocket Notebook Covers
Ezra Arthur Small Notebook (US$32)
Quality and durability come together in this clean and elegant Ezra Arthur Small Notebook which combines a notebook and cover. Hand stitched and bound with beautiful full-grain Horween Chromexcel leather, you can carry your notebook in style while protecting it from wear and tear. The notebook features 128 plain pages of acid-free, 52gsm Tomoe River paper which is smooth and thin to reduce bulk, yet resists feathering and bleed-through, making it an appealing choice for fountain pens. An added feature is an included lined and gridded bookmark that can be used as an underlay to aid drawing and writing.
LOCHBY Pocket Journal (US$34)
LOCHBY’s Pocket Journal provides a nifty storage option for your notebook as well as smaller EDC or travel essentials. Made from durable and attractive waxed canvas, the Pocket Journal has a zipped closure for secure storage of valuables, as well as quick-access exterior pockets. It comes with a 72-page 3.5″ x 5.5″ Dot Grid Refill featuring acid-free, 68gsm Tomoe River paper and a lay-flat stitched binding.
Story Supply Co. Simple Plot Notebook (US$35)
Want a classy notebook and cover combo that looks equally good at work or relaxing in your downtime? The Story Supply Co. Simple Plot Notebook is an appealing option, with a durable and refillable Horween Chromexcel cover that will develop a unique patina with use. The cover comes with a blank 48-page Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple Notebook but is capable of holding up to three 3.5″ x 5.5″ notebooks using the included elastic bands.
Recycled Firefighter “The Fire Hose Inspector” Field Notes Cover (US$49)
If you want something a little different in your notebook cover, consider “The Fire Hose Inspector” Field Notes Cover from Recycled Firefighter. While it’s been designed with Field Notes in mind, it will fit any notebook measuring 3.5″ x 5.5″. It’s made from 5″ decommissioned polyester fire hose, top-grain USA steer hide 3-ounce leather, and edged with 1″ nylon webbing. It includes an elastic closure strap as well as an external pen slot, handy if you like pairing your pocket notebook with pen portability.
One Star Leather Goods Notebook Covers (from US$55)
If you’re after a timeless, functional and durable leather cover for your notebook, you might find just what you’re after through One Star Leather Goods. The brand offers a range of leather notebook covers, handcrafted in Los Angeles using premium American leather. The covers fit 3.5″ x 5.5″ notebooks and feature pared-back styles that are easy to slot into any EDC or travel setup.
Bellroy Notebook Cover & Pen (US$99)
Bellroy’s Notebook Cover & Pen is a chic double act featuring the Bellroy Notebook Cover and Bellroy Notetaker Pen. The cover fits a 3.5″ x 5.5″ notebook or 1–2 passports, with space down the spine for the pen. Also included is a Bellroy Notebook so you’re ready to capture those important ideas from the get-go. And how about a pocket notebook with card holder? No problem. This cover also includes slots to hold cards. It’s made with environmentally certified leather and features a convenient magnetic closure.
Saddleback Leather Moleskine Cover (US$49)
The Saddleback Leather Moleskine Cover is a handsome edition to your daily setup that’s built to last a lifetime of use – and look darn good as it ages too. It’s made with full-grain leather, a pigskin lining, and marine-grade thread for long-lasting durability. It’s designed to use the Moleskine journal’s elastic band as a closure but can be used with other journals similarly sized to 3.5″ x 5.5″ for the Small version or 5″ x 8.25″ for the Medium version.
Galen Leather Co. Leather Pocket Moleskine Journal Cover (around US$51)
If you like your notebook carry with added organization, consider the Galen Leather Co. Leather Pocket Moleskine Journal Cover. Made by hand in Turkey using vegetable-tanned leather, the cover fits Moleskine Classic notebooks measuring 3.5″ x 5.5″ or other similarly sized notebooks. It features three main pockets and a card slot, along with a pen holder that fits up to a Lamy Safari fountain pen size. An elastic band secures the notebook in place on the right side of the cover and wraps around the exterior to secure the cover closed.
Rhodia 85th Anniversary Limited Edition Pad (US$5.23)
This limited edition notepad celebrates Rhodia’s 85th anniversary in their signature orange style. The notepad offers 80 sheets of smooth, acid-free, 80gsm extra-white paper crafted from sustainable forests. The grid paper offers flexibility for writing and drawing, while the coated-board backing helps provide structure for on-the-go note-taking.
Delfonics Rollbahn Notepad – Grid (US$9.89)
Designed and crafted in Japan, the Delfonics Rollbahn Notepad is compact and versatile for multiple uses. It features 70gsm soft yellow paper with a grid pattern for sketching, writing and more. The notepad has a secure staple binding and an understated navy cover with a transparent film coating for added durability.
Leuchtturm1917 Address Book (US$21.80)
Want to keep all your contacts at the ready? This Leuchtturm1917 Address Book has you covered. It offers A-Z tabs, with four pages per letter. Additionally, it includes a gusseted pocket for storing cards, receipts or other flat items. A table of contents, an elastic closure, a labeling/archiving sticker, and lay-flat thread binding round out the features of this hard cover notebook.
Moleskine Blend FW19 Hard Cover Notebook – Ruled (US$26.43)
For a more textured look and feel, the Moleskine Blend FW19 Hard Cover Notebook is definitely one that stands out. The cover is wrapped in an eye-catching textured blue fabric, with a complementary blue elastic closure. The notebook features 240 ruled pages in a creamy, acid-free paper, with an expandable interior pocket and ribbon bookmark for added functionality.
LAMY Notebook – Soft Cover (US$26.43)
Clean, multifunctional and compact, this A5 notebook features a soft cover and 192 pages of 90gsm fountain pen-friendly paper. Enhancing the practical design are two ribbon bookmarks, a pen loop, an elastic closure, as well as an interior back pocket. The pages have a combined grid and lined pattern that caters to a variety of handwriting sizes and use cases, with eight detachable sheets for separate notes.
Rhodia Goal Book A5 – 5×5 Grid – Soft Cover (US$26.43)
If you want a range of features in a slim, easily portable design, the Rhodia Goal Book A5 will treat you right. The notebook has a soft leatherette cover and offers 240 grid-patterned pages, numbered for convenient reference. Extra features include an expandable back pocket, a table of contents, two ribbon bookmarks, two perpetual calendars, and an elastic closure. The 90gsm ivory vellum paper is smooth, acid-free, and well suited to fountain pens.
A5 Notebook Covers
kikki.K A5 Leather-Free Journal (US$10)
Simple, stylish and easy to add to work and weekend settings alike, the kikki.K A5 Leather-Free Journal has a PU leather cover secured with a gold button closure. It provides 240 lined pages and can be customized with monogramming for a personal touch.
LOCHBY Field Journal (US$39)
LOCHBY’s Field Journal is an EDC organizer and notebook cover in one. Crafted with durable waxed canvas, it secures with an aircraft-grade aluminum hook and offers a selection of interior and exterior pockets. The Field Journal comes with a Dot Grid Refill offering fountain pen-friendly Tomoe River 68gsm white paper. This refillable organizer fits up to six notebook refills, with ruled and plain refills also available. And the elastic pen loop provides convenient integrated carry for your note-taking needs.
Lezo Store Leather Notebook Cover (around US$42)
Durability, form and function are deftly blended together in the Lezo Store Leather Notebook Cover. A tough, attractive cover handcrafted in Ukraine and offering a selection of interior organization including a pen loop, card slot, and choice of larger pockets to store a notebook, passport, phone and other similar-sized items. The cover secures with a leather wrap strap and can be personalized with logos, initials or text for added flair.
Galen Leather Co. Leather Journal Cover for Leuchtturm1917 A5 Notebook (around US$65)
Galen Leather Co. brings suave sophistication to your EDC or travel setup courtesy of their Leather Journal Cover for Leuchtturm1917 A5 Notebook. It’s made by hand in Turkey with vegetable-tanned leather and offers two main pockets, a phone pocket, and two card slots. With space for a notebook, iPad Mini, phone, pen, frequently used cards and other similarly sized items, you can keep essentials tidy and secure yet quickly accessible throughout the day.
Saddler & Co. A5 Leather Cover (around US$89)
Beautifully minimalist in design and built for years of trusty use, the Saddler & Co. A5 Leather Cover is a piece you’ll be using not just this year but decades from now. Handcrafted in Australia using full-grain leather, the cover comes with an art paper journal but accepts a variety of A5 notebooks. Available in four colorways, it can also be customized with initials or a name.
Bellroy Work Folio A5 (US$199)
Bellroy’s Work Folio A5 exudes understated style and quality, with a multifunctional design that easily adapts to everyday or travel carry needs. Large enough for an A5 notebook, the folio also offers additional organization for the likes of cards, a phone, tickets, a passport, a small tablet, and pen. The zippered closure keeps your valuables secure on the go, while the included A5 Bellroy Notebook helps you get started with notes, sketches and more straight away.
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