Review – Field Notes Pencil

Field Notes has made a name for themselves creating (or branding) basic but well made items for note taking and such. Their notebooks balance affordability with quality, and their range of accessories attempt to do the same. The Field Notes pencil (like the pen I’ve looked at before) is on its own quite a bit more expensive than most similar pencils, but they are often included as a free pack-in item (like their pens, calendars and rubber bands), so you usually don’t have to buy them straight out. But are they any good?

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The body has basically the same dimensions as your standard round pencil. The wood is a nice, unfinished cedar, with large amount of information printed on it in black. Attached to the back end is a nicely fitted aluminum ferrule with “green” green eraser. Everything is very precisely manufactured and it feels/looks great. You get more printed information that average, like the: brand, website, lead hardness, materials, and inventory number. It’s all laid out clearly and printed cleanly.

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The performance is about what you’d expect. The HB lead is a little rougher than some, but it goes down relatively dark while not eroding the point too quickly. The eraser could be better, but it does its job and there’s quite a lot of it to use (it doesn’t disintegrate immediately like some others do). I grew up with round pencils and I prefer their feel, so I think the ergonomics are quite good: it gives one a little more to hold on to, but it will more easily roll off the table. But the most surprising thing upon picking it up is how light it is. When brand new, I can actually feel the weight of the ferrule/eraser pulling the back of the pencil down a bit, which is a very unusual feeling, but you get used to it, and the lightness is wonderful for longer “penciling” sessions.

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It’s a relatively high quality pencil that I don’t think you can get anywhere else (unlike the Field Notes pen, which is a branded Bic Clic), but I’m not sure they’re worth the nearly $1 (83¢) asking price. They’re as good as or better than the name-brand pencils you find at the store (Dixon, PaperMate) but they’re at least twice the price, crossing the border from regular writing pencils into budget sketching pencils, with which I don’t think they compete. They’re good pencils for what they are, but I’m not going to be ordering a set anytime soon. Still, they make a nice bonus when opening your Field Notes packages (as are all the little things Field Notes puts in as extras).

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Review – Field Notes Bic Pen

Field Notes is a company that makes great notebooks, and they’ve always added a bit of a more personal touch to things. One of the ways they did that was by having branded pens and rubber bands readily available (I believe at some point in their orders, single pens and rubber bands were thrown in for free, but they can be purchased in larger packs easily.) The pens aren’t very expensive and fit very well with the brand’s style just on looks, but do they perform as well as the paper?

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The pen is actually just a branded Bic Clic pen, which isn’t a bad thing really. The entire design is a pleasant taper from the middle, where a ring separates the two halves of the pen. On the top there is a chrome-ish simple clip with Bic’s information on it, and a similarly-colored thin clicking mechanism (which give a very satisfying “click” when used). On the front of the pen, the ballpoint protrudes when the mechanism is depressed and the Field Notes information is printed on the barrel. The only colors of the pen are black, silver, and white, making the whole thing quite understated but also very nice.

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The writing is standard Bic writing. It is smooth enough, black enough, and steady enough to be serviceable in the vast majority of scenarios. It is a medium point, which is usually too broad for me, but definitely is unspectacular and fits with what most people are comfortable with. The ink is, of course, essentially waterproof once dry, with minimal skipping or blotting. I’m not particularly impressed by the writing, but I’m certainly not disappointed.

I’m sure the Field Notes Company did a bunch of research to find both a good enough and inexpensive enough pen for their brand that they wouldn’t have to try to make in-house. And I think they succeeded. The pens are dependable enough, sturdy enough, and simple enough to be almost entirely unremarkable (in both a good and a bad way). They fit the utilitarian image of the company, and are worth having at least as a backup pen.

Notebook Showdown – Moleskine Cahier Vs Field Notes

So another notebook competition today, huh? This time I’ll be comparing the higher end of the pocket book spectrum. It’s time for Field Notes to go head to head with Moleskine Cahiers.

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Starting with the covers the Moleskine is a very heavy, single color, piece of cardboard with an imprinted logo on the back. It’s got a flap on the back that folds in and serves as the famous Moleskine pocket. This pocket is not very well secured by the glue and tears out easily, it also causes the back to be prone to creasing rather than flexing. The Field Notes book has a thin “packing brown wrap” cover with a logo on the front and some identifiers. It also has a little on the back, but on the inside is where it really shines. It’s got name, coordinents, date, and return to blanks right in the front, and the back contains may useful reference items, including a list of uses, and all the materials used in the book. It’s still fairly flimsy, though, and when it bends it stays bent rather than easily popping back into place.

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Size-wise, both books are almost identical, despite the Moleskine having 12 more sheets. The rounding on the corners is also a bit less on the Moleskine. The paper inside the Moleskine is the standard archival quality, but fairly weak, off-white paper the comes with all Moleskines. In the Field Notes is a smooth, bright white paper. The actual type of paper is listed both on the website and in the book for easy reference. Both books come in: blank, ruled, and squared or graphed paper. But some special edition Field Notes have all sorts of different rulings. There is little variation in the ruling size wise, the only major ones being the Field Notes have a wide top margin and slightly lighter lines for the ruling. They’re brownish compared to Moleskine’s grey. One feature of the Moleskine that the Field Notes lack is that the latter half of the pages are perforated for easy removal, meaning you can tear them out without destroying the binding.

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Speaking of the binding, that’s where the really major difference between these books kicks in. The Field Notes are saddle stitched with three staples. The Moleskines however are stitched with 21 signatures. I believe they are also hand bound though I could be wrong on that. The Moleskine binding and cover makes it (like other Moleskines) like a rock. It is much harder to bend, but bends and creases terribly when it does so. The Field notes is a bit more lenient, bending more, but the staples provide great pivot points for bending and creasing as well. The Field Notes binding, while sturdy, can have the book come apart on it, though this rarely happens because of their limited page count. The binding on the Moleskine is much more likely to come undone itself and leave the book behind, though again this rarely happens.

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Really it all depends on what you want. They’re both about the same price so do you want: a better cover, more pages, perforation, and a pocket, or: better paper, better binding, and some useful information? In the end that’s what it comes done to. Also the looks a little bit. Personally I prefer the look of the Moleskine, but the quality of the Field Notes, so I use both. Try ’em and find out for yourself, it’s only like twenty dollars for three of each (at the time of writing).