Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Field Notes Notebook Review

Field Notes Notebook Review
For a very long time now I have thought it would be a good idea to carry a pocket notebook. Whenever I don’t have one, I seem to have something worthwhile jotting down, but when I do try carrying one, I suddenly have nothing to write in it. So coupled with the fact that I’ve never really found the right sized pocket notebook this means, I don’t normally have a notebook in my pocket. Recently my friend at Pencil Talk took pity on me down under and sent me four different notebooks. I immediately wanted to put Rite In The Rain to the test, and did so. Don’t worry this blog isn’t going to morph into a notebook review blog, but something about Field Notes made me decide to give the pocket notebook thing another try.

Firstly, at 5½ x 3½ inches (139 x 89mm, Note 1) Field Notes is little bigger than my ideal pocket notebook. It does actually fit in all my pockets, but often only just, and I like to feel that the notebook is right the way down and secure inside my pocket. I’ve got a 4 ½ x 3 notebook which is the ideal dimension in that respect. The 48 pages in Field Notes are graph lined on a reasonable weight paper, with a heavier weight cover. Three staples hold the pages and cover together. I was interested to see how this notebook would hold together over an extended period of time, as I suspected the cover and stapling not might stand up so well in the long term.

The inside front cover has spaces for your name, dates, etc and tick-boxes to indicate a ‘handsome reward’ (or not) for returning a lost notebook.
The inside back cover has lots of information about the materials and processes used in printing the notebook, and an excellent list of ‘Practical Applications’ for the use of the notebook. These little things really give this notebook a little something extra, a little personality if you like.
Field Notes first got shoved into my pocket on 18 July, and I decided to always take it with me when I left the house. Monday to Friday it generally lived in the front pocket of my (office) trousers, whilst on the weekend it was often in the back pocket of my jeans. I also always carried a pencil with which to write in the notebook - a small stubby remnant of a Staedtler Mars Stenofix 101, protected by a Faber-Castell Grip eraser tip. I quickly learned that sharpening a short point rather than a long point was necessary to stop the pencil lead being broken by repeated sittings-upon, despite the protection of the eraser tip.It soon became clear that a whole week of office wear and tear on the notebook was only equal to couple of hours of weekend wear and tear. Being in the back pocket of my jeans and getting sat on and scrunched around was a lot harder than life in a cushy office environment. After spending time in a rear pocket, Field Notes does become, ahhh…anatomically contoured? About 6 weeks later at the end of August my Field Notes was about half full. All sorts of genuine field notes from my part-time employment as a birdlife field observer, random rubbish and notes, plus some good stuff too. For example towards the start of the trial period our monthly household electricity bill arrived and I had a conniption over the 250% increase, so I started recording our meter reading everyday and making notes about consumption. The lady of the house was not generally pleased with this campaign of electricity consumption analysis.

Seeing I live in a country where agriculture is still the backbone of the economy, and Field Notes claims to be inspired by “agricultural memo books”, I thought I should put in a few notes about farming down this way.
The national farm animal populations, compared to humans.Sheep ratio for the biggest sheep farmers. Hmmm, mighty dodgy claim, but as you can see with a ratio at about 10 to 1, we can claim to lead the world sheep statistics.

Over the 6 weeks of use, Field Notes stood up pretty well. A bit battered and bent, but nothing major. My worries about the strength of the cover and the staples appear basically unfounded. After about 4 weeks a small split appeared in the cover above the centre staple, but it didn’t get too much worse. I didn’t start to worry about the cover detaching from the pages. So, overall I’m pleased with my little trial at carrying a notebook, maybe I’ll even continue to do so.
Of all the things I wrote in Field Notes, the most satisfying, were two little numbers. 39 and 10, in the correct order. Note: Long time readers of this blog may have noted that I have used US customary units (i.e. inches) as the primary measurements in this posting. Since Field Notes is proudly ‘Made In The USA’ it seemed appropriate.
Hmmm, according to Wikipedia, the USA, along with Myanmar(Burma) and Liberia, is one of only three countries to not have officially adopted the metric system. I was only a little fellow, but I do remember the fun times in the 70’s when us Kiwis converted to metric. Changing every roadside speed and distance sign in the country – now that was the time to own shares in a sign-making company! Maybe for the international market Field Notes could put a metric ruler down one cover edge to compliment the inches ruler on the inside back cover.


Jean-Bernard said...

What's the lead grade of your pencil? Sorry for the useless question, but your writing looks thick like a soft lead would, but it doesn't look dark at all. I probably am the only one who is intrigued about that, but I still want to know.

Kiwi-d said...

It's just ordinary Staedtler HB. Maybe Staedtler Stenofix HB is different to Lumograpgh HB? Unlikely, but still, you never know. Haven't compared it myself.

Kiwi-d said...

Thinking a little more about your question, I thought I should add that the photo of the little stubby Mars Stenofix pencil remnant is misleading. The lead looks much thicker than it is because the inside of the eraser cap gets all covered in graphite dust and it rubs off onto the wood of the pencil tip thus making the lead look about twice the diameter it really is. Make sense?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, nice review. I don't have any experience with Field Notes per se, but for years I have carried in my back pocket similarly sized and stapled craft
paper bound vade mecums (McBride's "First Editions" and "Points Of Issue") in my pursuit of collectible books. As you say, they do ASSume (damn typos :>) a certain shape the longer they are sat upon and over time the covers will abrade, split, and eventually detach at the fold, starting around the staples. But this is a process that involves months and months of hard carrying which I don't believe the dedicated user of a Field Notes would encounter in the amount of time it would take the average consumer of this product to fill up its pages. By the standards of my McBrides, your Field Notes looks gently broken in.

The mock suggested uses inside the cover do give Field Notes more personality than the average notebook, but I wonder what you think of the paper quality. Would you know how it measures up to Moleskine?

Barrel Of A Pencil

Jean-Bernard said...

It makes a lot of sense indeed, thank you, I like how you approach questions. You always give great answers and I love it. Thanks again, your blog is now my home page. Looking forward to your next post.

DD said...

Shapes to your anatomy...haha! Looks like a handy lil book though. I would use it for .05 and .06, definitely.

Kiwi-d said...

BOAP - I have not yet had the pleaseure of writing in a Moleskine so can't comment about the paper quality, and don't want to make an ASSumption.

Actually I was kind of surprised at the lack of folded dog-eared corners on my Field Notes, etc. Maybe I'm just easy?

It has been previously alluded to, but the offer of a "handsome reward waiting" is not entirely fair, that perhaps 50% of the population might prefer the offer of a "sizzling hot reward waiting".

Dan Henry said...

i jumped on the boat early and grabbed a three-pack of field notes when they first came out.

I can tell you that these notes are not jeans-worthy. Your fears about the staples are well-founded, as my field notes book began to break apart after about 3 months. That being said, I do not take the amount of notes others may, and they may very well fill the notebook before it breaks down. Also, a new set of staples and a duct tape re-binding make the book good as new.

Field Notes brand notebooks have their place (such as the inside pocket of a sport jacket), but their staples just can't stand up to the moisture and movement of your levis.

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Dan
Thanks for the comment. Still I guess many might say 3 months is a reasonable life-expectancy.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't have any idea on where to get the Field Notes in Auckland?

I want one! :D

Anonymous said...


Something for consideration for furure reviews perhaps. Interestingly enough, there is very little listed on these within the Fabder Castell web site. KMD Canada


Where we can get this?

Kiwi-d said...

The Field Notes website lists retail locations, etc.

Anonymous said...

It's like the pet rock all over again. "Look it's a paperweight. It's a weapon. It your best friend. Only $3.98 each!"

Field Notes is a $1 product backed by $9 of hipster marketing. It’s just paper! At 7 cents a page it’s a HUGE ripoff. I can’t believe people fall for this S%&*.