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.
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).
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.
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.