I’ve mentioned and reviewed Field Notes a few times on this site, but I’ve never been a big fan of their notebooks and all the hype around them. It was great to be able to try their notebooks thanks to readers who sent me some samples, but I’d never felt compelled to buy them… until about a year ago, when I suddenly dove into the deep end of the pool by buying a $97 Colors subscription! What changed? This came along:
They had me at “ledger.” I just happen to love the look of old-fashioned ledgers, with their easy-on-the-eye green paper and precise lines. But I also thought this was a brilliant extension of Field Notes’ retro-Americana inspired notebook series. From agricultural promotional notebooks, to a traveling salesman’s expense ledger– makes total sense. A lot of other people must have felt the same way, as the individual notebook packs sold out pretty quickly. Buying a full year subscription was the only purchase option they had left, and I was excited enough to go for it, despite some reluctance about spending that much money on a notebook brand I don’t particularly love. But in the end, I’m glad I did. The Traveling Salesman ledger is a great notebook, and it was followed up by some other very cool Field Notes limited editions. I think I subscribed at the perfect time.
Here’s what I got throughout my subscription (not including a couple of added items like the pencils, pens and rubber bands they throw in, and the extra packs of each kind. The $97 buys you a total of 10 3-packs.):
First, the Traveling Salesman. It’s much thicker and sturdier than a standard Field Notes, due to the heavier paper. The ledger grid may not be ideal for all uses, but they are very cool looking with the green on green and that double red line at the top. The paper is not especially smooth, but it feels good with all pens, and is one of the best I’ve tried when it comes to show-through and bleed-through, standing up pretty well to even the Super Sharpie. (My Lamy Safari fountain pen seemed to be having some trouble on this paper, but I think it was because it had gone a little dry and wasn’t quite flowing yet.) If this notebook had existed 20 years ago, I would have bought tons of them, as I’ve always liked to jot down my expenses and this format would have been perfect. It would also make a good checkbook register, but unfortunately I’ve gone all-electronic with my finances. I’ll find something to use this for, though, just because I like it so much.
The next edition is also a fantastic departure from the usual Field Notes specs. The Expedition Edition has a bright orange cover, with a barely noticeable spot-laminated map of Antarctica. The dot-gridded paper inside is said to be waterproof and tear-proof. I didn’t actually test the water resistance (Field Notes did, on video), but I did try to tear a page– it wasn’t easy, though I did eventually manage it. The cover seemed pretty indestructible, though. I was worried about what the paper would be like to write on– the only other waterproof notebook I’ve tried is a Rite in the Rain and I found that paper horrible, especially for my favorite gel ink rollerball pens, which skidded around, beaded up and smeared everywhere. On the Field Notes paper, drying times are very long, so you do have to be careful about smearing things, but it’s a pleasure to write on with every pen– the surface has a nice smooth feel, but it’s not too slippery. All my usual pens gave only the slightest shadow of show-through, and nothing bled. Not a drop, even the Super Sharpie. And pencils deserve a special mention, as they feel great on this paper, and don’t share the drying time issue. Field Notes also recommends regular ballpoints or a Fisher Space Pen. I would love to see more notebooks with this paper!
The 3rd installment was my only disappointment. The America the Beautiful series has full-color printed covers in a deliberately grainy old-fashioned look, which I might have liked better if they didn’t have the white bar at the bottom. A bonus sticker is included in each pack. The paper is again a bit more substantial than usual for Field Notes and performed pretty well on the pen tests. It’s a cool white, with blue lines, and a nice double line at the top. I would have preferred graph or dot grid pages, though– I think this is actually the first of their limited editions ever to have lined paper, in fact. There just wasn’t anything to excite me about this one.
Finally, the Night Sky edition. A black cover, printed in grey, with constellations on the back, the stars highlighted in shiny holographic foil. The paper inside is closer to the normal Field Notes weight, but offers a unique pattern of little grey crosses, sort of a hybrid of graph and dot-grid. Show-through and bleed-through aren’t great, pretty similar to what you get on a regular Field Notes, maybe even a little worse. I love the cover concept and the pattern on the paper, but wish it was a bit more substantial.
And just for reference, below is the regular Field Notes with graph paper:
So that was my year of Field Notes. It was fun, but I have not renewed my subscription. I do think the current Drink Local edition offers some very attractive colors but I’m not sure it’s special enough for me to go for it. My favorite thing about Field Notes is their experimentation with interesting papers and retro styles, so I hope they’ll continue to branch out. I think a Field Notes take on an engineer’s or surveyor’s field book would be pretty cool. Perhaps an Artist’s Edition with heavy paper for sketching and watercolors. I’d also be interested to see what they’d do with a hardcover notebook. So many possibilities! But they have to keep it interesting to keep all these Field Notes collectors coming back for their subscriptions…
Now, how about that giveaway! I can’t bring myself to part with full 3-packs of Expedition and Traveling Salesman notebooks, but I will select 3 lucky winners. One will receive an America the Beautiful 3-pack, still shrinkwrapped. One will receive a Night Sky 3-pack, shrinkwrapped. And one will receive a special prize pack of one mixed 3-pack of regular Field Notes, plus a loose single Expedition notebook and a loose single Traveling Salesman.
Winners will be randomly selected from entries received in the following ways:
On Twitter, tweet something containing “Field Notes” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow “@NotebookStories.”
On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page , and post something containing the words “Field Notes” on the Notebook Stories wall.
On your blog, post something containing the words “Field Notes” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.
The deadline for entry is Friday October 11 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.