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    Updated on Apr 10, 2020. Posted on Apr 10, 2020

    We Tested A Bunch Of Pocket Notebooks, And Here Are Our Favorites

    Anyone got a pen we can borrow?

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    You probably have a notes app on your phone that helps you keep track of all your important (and also totally inane) thoughts. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Enjoy your little pocket computer. But in the name of disconnecting and the ancient art of longhand writing, allow us to suggest a stylish and more effective alternative: the pocket notebook.

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    Pocket notebooks have become more popular than ever, thanks to the fervent fandom of the everyday carry community — folks devoted to being prepared for nearly every situation (think adult Boy and Girl Scouts) — and a growing interest in bullet journaling. Both camps see using notebooks as a way to live more efficient and effective lives, a return to an analog method of recording moments in an overstimulated digital world.

    And if that doesn’t sell you, consider this: Recent studies have shown that jotting down your thoughts actually helps you retain information better than simply typing them into a phone or computer. To that end, we rifled through over 30 different pocket notebooks to find the best ones, judging each on quality, usability, and durability. Take a look below, and get to writing already.

    Field Notes Pocket Editions

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    If you’re looking for a solid notebook at an affordable price point, there are tons of options. From ruled to dotted to blank, spiral-bound to saddle-stitched, there’s a pocket option for everyone. But for our money, the pick of the letter litter is Field Notes’ pocket editions.

    It seems like Field Notes notebooks have been around forever, but company cofounder Aaron Draplin only launched the brand in 2007, after several years of making notebooks for himself. Draplin collects vintage farm and industrial notebooks, and their influence can be felt in the Field Notes aesthetic — a little bit Wes Anderson (Field Notes employs Anderson’s favorite sans serif font, Futura) and a lot midcentury modern.

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    Draplin launched his company with a scant 200 handmade notebooks for sale. These days, we wouldn’t be surprised if Field Notes sells 200 of its notebooks an hour. The brand offers nearly half a dozen pocket-size options, but our favorite is the classic Kraft cover. You can also customize your pocket-notebook experience with limited-edition embossed covers or even choose a fully waterproof version made with Yupo Synthetic paper (though people looking for a wide variety of waterproof options may want to check out Rite in the Rain’s collection of spiral- and sewn-bound books).

    At a slim 48 pages, these Field Notes Kraft notebooks can fill up relatively quickly and be used for almost anything. As the back page of every Field Notes notebook elucidates, the notebook has a slew of practical applications, including recording “sober realizations, shady transactions, and loose promises.” And because each book is just 3.5” x 5.5”, they provide a discreet way to take notes in office meetings or about your office crush (you know, whatever applies), and can actually fit in a back pocket. Plus, you can purchase them in ruled, graph, or blank paper (and as a variety pack with all three).

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    Field Notes designer Bryan Bedell says the books are meant to be taken with you. “It’s like they say about cameras: ‘The best camera is the one you have with you,’” he told BuzzFeed Reviews. “The best notebook in the world isn’t doing anyone any good packed away in a desk. Our books are interesting and attractive, but not so precious that they won’t get used.”

    Made with 60-pound Finch Opaque paper — heavier than copy paper but lighter than stationery stock — each book is sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear, but pliable enough to allow for an elegant writing experience with minimal bleed-through. The Kraft cover is made from 80-pound French Dur-O-Tone cover paper, and while it’s certainly sturdy, it’s not tear-proof.

    Our only qualm with these books was the choice to use saddle stitching over the more elegant sewn-bound stitching. Where saddle stitched books are bound with staples (the name derives from the books being placed on a saddle-shaped device during stapling), sewn-bound books are sewn through. Each Field Notes book is bound with three staples, though, so they’re definitely sturdy.

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    We’d be remiss not to mention our runner-up to Field Notes, Public Supply. A New York–based notebook company, Public Supply was inspired by classic school composition books and offers beautiful staple-bound notebooks in more than a dozen colors. Its pocket notebooks run $14 for a set of three, which, yes, is on the high end for budget notebooks — but 25% of each purchase you make goes to educators in high-need classrooms and school art programs. And every notebook contains at least 10% post-consumer waste and is Forest Stewardship Council–certified, which means PS’s supplies come from responsibly managed forests.

    If you choose to go with Field Notes, the Kraft pocket notebook is almost like the gateway notebook to the brand’s vast array of use-specific books. You can get a Field Notes Resolution notebook just for checklists. Or a Field Notes Steno pad for jotting down quick reminders. In all, there are more than a dozen Field Notes styles, so you may want to clear up some shelf space for your impending collection.

    Get it from Amazon for $10.

    Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Pocket Notebook

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    Whether you love or hate the bullet-journaling craze, you’ve got Leuchtturm1917 to thank for it.  The German stationery company was the first to create the dotted-page journal back in 2005, as Richard Bernier, Leuchtturm’s North American sales director, told BuzzFeed Reviews. Bernier says the bullet-journaling trend helped to revitalize a struggling notebook industry: “Everybody was going digital, but they found that with this analog system, people were getting things done.”

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    Leuchtturm’s hardcover pocket notebook, our winner at this price point, comes in 21 unique shades and your choice of blank, dot, graph, or lined paper. And it’s full of bells and whistles: For one, the book offers an elastic enclosure band to make sure your notebook doesn’t flip open while you’re on the go. Its pages are sewn, rather than glue-bound, so count on added durability. Plus, as Bernier notes, the paper is specially treated “so that the ink sinks into the paper but doesn’t bleed through,” adding that “it costs more money on our side, but that’s an example of how we go one step better."

    Each book also has a fabric bookmarker and a gusseted back folder pocket to keep important (or hell, even unimportant) documents close. While the extra pocket isn’t really sturdy enough to hold your license or credit card, it would work nicely as a place to store receipts or paper scraps that might otherwise be floating around in the bottom of your bag.

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    If you’re thinking this all sounds a helluva lot like, say, a classic Moleskine, you’re not wrong. However, after testing the Leuchtturm against other hardcover notebooks from the likes of Moleskine, Best Made, and Sigel, we can attest to its superiority. But don’t just take our word for it. A survey of notebook obsessives on Reddit provides all of the answers: Time and again, Leuchtturm was voted tops. Users noted that Leuchtturm serves up “better paper quality, lots of little extras (e.g., numbered pages, index, sticker labels),” and doesn’t suffer some of the manufacturing consistency issues of its competitors. The Leuchtturm repeatedly got high marks for having the best paper quality in the category, though some users complained that fountain pens regularly bled through.

    Leuchtturm1917’s notebook is an absolute unit of a pocket notebook, however, which may be too bulky for some occasions — so if you want a notebook that’s an easier carry, we recommend the Rhodia Unlimited. While the notebooks are available in far fewer options (just black and orange cardstock covers and dot or lined pages), Rhodia’s elegant, versatile books were a standout at this price point. The books have a glued spine, and each of their 80 pages are perforated for clean tears. Measuring 3.5” x 5.5”, the Rhodia is slightly smaller than the Leuchtturm, and definitely not as durable as a hardcover book, but for $10, it’ll get the job done.

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    At 185 pages, the Leuchtturm is much thicker and has slightly larger dimensions than other options in its price range, but it’s just small enough to actually fit in your back pocket. Leuchtturm also sells its own “pen loops,” which can be affixed to any notebook and are a great way to keep your writing utensils and writing materials together. If you’re in the market for a classic-looking, quality notebook that’s durable as hell, or if you’re ready to dip your toes into the world of bullet journaling, you can’t go wrong with Leuchtturm1917’s hardcover pocket notebook.

    Get it from Amazon for $15.

    Bull & Stash Market Notebook

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    If you’re going to spend a fistful of dollars on a high-end notebook, it should be durable, attractive, and go the distance. You should be able to get multiple uses out of it. You should be able to refill it. And you should be able to drop it, bend it, and beat it up without worrying it’ll fall apart. Our $$$ pick, the Bull & Stash Market Notebook, is a stylish, leather-bound option that will stand the test of time.

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    For the uninitiated, Bull & Stash started out as the Kickstarter project of a struggling architecture student. After suddenly losing his school funding, B&S founder Cameron Huber had been looking for a way to pay for his senior year of college. “I had to make a decision whether to drop out, take out a large student loan, or figure something out,” he told BuzzFeed Reviews. “I had this idea for a refillable notebook. Architects sketch a lot.” Huber took his idea to a few friends in his university’s journalism program and they developed a Kickstarter campaign. Amazingly, their campaign raised nearly $70,000, vastly surpassing the project’s $5,000 goal.

    Huber’s experience studying architecture lent easily to notebook design. “I wanted a nice, professional notebook that I could hang on to, so I made the cover out of premium leather and made the pages refillable so I could keep using it,” he said. In researching production, Huber says he was struck by how many luxury brands sourced low-quality leather. Bull & Stash has put a premium on working with quality tanneries across France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Japan.

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    A notebook that retails for $45 can definitely cause some sticker shock, but this thing pulls out all the stops: fabric-lined pockets, a magnetic closure, and gorgeous Chicago screw-post hardware. It has four card-sized slots for storing IDs or bank cards. The screw-post binding allows you to easily refill your notebooks (refills for the pocket size run $6 each, though if you’re feeling industrious and have a hole punch you could probably create your own).

    Bull & Stash offers refills in 60-pound lined, dot, graph, and blank options. For fountain pen aficionados, you can also get heavier refills at a 110-pound weight, designed to prevent page bleed-through. One drawback of B&S notebooks, though: Pages are only printed on one side. That’s likely because the screw binding makes it difficult to write on the left side of the page (the paper won’t lie entirely flat). So you should keep that in mind as you’re planning your refill purchases.

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    Bull & Stash’s design is unlike anything else we’ve seen in the field. And if you believe that your notebooks and office accessories are supposed to help communicate who you are as a person, that’s a very good thing. This little leather pocket notebook has so many thoughtful and unique details, you’ll want it to speak on your behalf.

    Get it from Bull & Stash for $45.