Pocket Notebook Showdown

Pocket notebook shootout

I discovered I had three very pocket-sized notebooks to review. So I decided to do one BIG pocket-sized notebook review. I’ve got the new Field Notes Drink Local, the Princeton Architectural Press Pocket Dept. Shirt Pocket notebook and a Doane Garage Series Utility notebook. As you can see, all three books are the same size but the Pocket Dept. notebook is perfect-bound while the Doane and Field Notes are staple-bound.

Pocket notebook shootout

The latest Field Notes feature “soft touch” covers and 50lb text bright white paper printed with yellow gold “Hefeweizen” grid.

Doane notebooks feature their signature paper: wide lines and grid printed in blue on 60lb text weight, bright white paper. Each notebook has 48 pages sandwiched between kraft card stock covers.

The Pocket Dept. notebook has bright green card stock covers and features 64 pages of ivory paper with green lines.

Both the Field Notes and Doane notebooks have rounded corners but the Pocket Dept. has standard square corners.

Pocket Dept. Pen Tests

In writing tests, the Pocket Dept. notebook preformed well with felt tipped, gel and hybrid pens and pencils. The cream ivory color made some of the lighter ink colors a little harder to use but not any worse than any other ivory-colored stocks (like Moleskine or Rhodia).

Pocket Dept. Pen Tests

This close-up shows that the Pocket Dept. was not at all well-suited to fountain pens though. There seems to be a coating on the paper that resists fountain pen ink. The hybrid and gel inks didn’t have any issues though.

Pocket Dept. bleed0through check

When viewed from the reverse of the paper, there is no bleed-through at all with the Pocket Dept. notebook.

Doane Paper Pen Tests
I’m always tickled at how well Doane paper works. The blue lines are light enough to work just about any color ink as well as pencil and even the finest of lines.

Doane bleed-through check

There’s a tiny bit of bleed through from the wider nibbed fountain pens but there was not even any show through with most of the gel, hybrid and felt-tip pens.

Field Notes Drink Local Pen Tests

I’m not normally a grid paper fan but the light yellow lines on the Field Notes made it easy for me to appreciate the latest Drink Local edition. It accepted all the same tools as the other two notebooks and was pleasant to use.

Field Notes bleed-through check

From the back side though, you can see that there is the most bleed through with the Field Notes. There’s some show-through with the hybrid, felt-tip and gel pens but not so badly that the reverse of the paper cannot be used.

Overall, the Field Notes are a paper nerd status symbol and the latest edition has a great feel in the hand and easy-to-use yellow grid lines. Field Notes are not great with fountain pens but for daily use with general-use pens and pencils they will serve you well.

The Pocket Dept. notebooks give a lot more sheets per notebook and you know I love the green covers. The paper is heavy enough to be able to use both sides of the paper with no issues but it is not at all fountain pen friendly.

The standout performer is the Doane Utility notebook. It works decently with fountain pens and all sorts of other writing tools. With both horizontal and grid markings, it satisfies almost all tastes.

Doane Garage Series Utility Notebooks are sold in sets of three for $9. The Princeton Architectural Shirt Pocket Notebooks are sold in packs of 3 for $12.50. Field Notes Drink Local are available in sets of 3 for $9.95 and you can choose between either Lager or Ale colors.


THE GIVEAWAY: Want to do your own notebook comparison? Tell me which notebooks you would like compare in the comments and you could win a $25 gift certificate at JetPens.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, November 4, 2013. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Gift Certificate will be sent digitally.


DISCLAIMER: These items were sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens and Clicky Post for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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0 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’d love to see a comparison of large blank notebooks suitable for a wide range of uses. One page pencil scratch the next Pilot Parallel 6.0 goodness. I use a TSWBI for this now but would love to find some others.

  2. I’m thinking I’d like to see a comparison between the new larger format Scout Books and something from PaperBackNote.

  3. I am a big fan and recent collector of Field Notes so I’m familiar with their products. I’ve had a cart full of Doane Paper Goods more than once, but never pulled the trigger. I’ve never seen the Princeton Architectural book, but would LOVE to check one out and compare it to Doane Garage Series.

  4. I’ve been on kind of a kick for “indestructible” notebooks lately. I’d love to do a compare/contrast between the Field Notes “Expedition” offering and Rite in the Rain All-Weather notebooks.

  5. I’m kinda new to the notebook comparison but I think it would be fun to compare store brand pocket notebooks from the three major “office supply” stores….Office Max, Office Depot, and Staples. I recently bought a Staples brand pocket notebook (it was $1 and came with a really cute fake leather cover…..I bought green) and have been using an olive green Le Pen (it matches the “leather” cover). While there is a little bit of bleed thru, it is not bad and I am highly impressed with the notebook. In fact I returned to Staples and bought 2 more (another green and a dark red). A friend was so impressed with the looks of my green notebook that she also bought 2 of them.

  6. I’d like to try out the Lihit Lab Aqua Drops Twist Ring Memo Notepad. The idea of adding and removing pages really appeals to the OCD in me, but how the paper performs I have no idea! And of course, I’d love to see what the famed Rhodia paper is like in a Rhodia Webbie

  7. I do a lot of research that needs to be organized, so I would like to do a comparison between Levenger Circa systems and Staples Arc.

  8. I’ve got a whole huggy bunch of Field Notes note books already, so I’d like to take a crack at those Pocket Department, and maybe those bizarro “free cut” notebooks that Kokuyo makes, where every grid square is perforated.

  9. I’d like to see a comparison of a typical Field Notes book with a similarly sized Rhodia notebook or pad, Both are classy and attractive, but which is more practical and/or economical?

  10. I am on a never-ending quest for a small, black, pocketable, soft-cover notebook that works with fountain pens! 🙂 Thanks, as per usual, for all your fun articles.

  11. I have never tried the field notes pads. There marketing has been pretty good and I do like some of the features that they offer.

  12. Doane Utility journals are awesome. They are all I’ve ever used. I would love to compare them to Field Notes, Rhodia, and some if the Japanese journals available at JetPens.

  13. I love how thorough your reviews are; including the high-quality photos definitely helps, too. I bought a few Field Notes notebooks a while back but I haven’t gotten to try them out yet. I think I’m scared to break them in, since they’re the first “real” pocket notebooks I’ve ever had. Most of my others are just random mini notepads I’ve picked up in hotels or at conferences and junk.

    Anyway, I’d love to pick up a Pocket Dept. and Doane notebook to compare to my Field Notes ones.

  14. I’d like to see a comparison of all the different dot grid notebooks available. I love the dot grid format, but it’s sometimes a bit more challenging to find notebooks with that format rather than lined or blank.

  15. Field Notes are fun to anticipate and collect, but when it comes to down-and-dirty work, I turn either to a Doane Utility or a Scout book. I know the latter is the best value, but i’d like to see how the two compare in terms of paper/performance.

  16. I’d like to see a comparison of various handmade papers. The ones I’ve used are so pulpy and porous. I’d like to see if there are any out there that are smooth like Rhoda.

  17. I would like to compare the Rhodia Rhodiarama because they just look so great. Also, the Kokuyo Campus Notebook and Tidbit Free Cut memo pad are in my wish list on Jet Pens so they would also be on the list.

  18. I’d love to see a comparison of notebooks found in the big box stores, as I always have a hard time recommending to non-geek friends who want something they could stock the office supply closet with easily. Thanks!

  19. I’d really like to put my usual moleskin notebook up against Field Notes and Doane. I haven’t tried a Doane notebook yet, but I really like them just by what I have seen.

  20. I would like to compare Rhodia, Quo Vadis Habana, and Leuchtturm pocket notebooks. I have not yet decided which factor is most important to me: paper quality, cover colour, or rule width. I suspect a combination of all three.

  21. So many fine comparisons suggested…
    Mine would be Kokuyo Campus Notebook v. Palomino Blackwing Luxury v. Metaphys.
    I know little about these products, but they seem intriguing.
    In particular, I’d like to know how they stand up to day to day use in the pocket of my jacket, and how they handle my very wet Parker and Pelikan fountain pens.

  22. I use (and love) Rhodia Unlimited. I used to carry a Field Notes notebook but the double-stable binding was just too flimsy for a back-pocket carry. The Unlimited does great. I’ve been carrying mine for over a year and a half without any issues in the binding being destroyed.

    I’m not sure if there’s a comparable notebook out there… I haven’t seen one. If one exists, I’d love to see it compared to the Unlimited!

    (I’m not sure if any of the hard cover pocket notebooks like other Rhodia or Moleskine would really be comparable because they’re hard cover… and as such they don’t flex. That’s part of what makes the Unlimited so great! That, and it’s not bulky in the pocket too!)

  23. I am just starting to use pen and paper regularly, and I’d love to compare Field Notes, the Rhodia Webnotebook, and the Kokuyo Campus Notebook/

  24. I am interested in the Diane paper notebook. I notice there is a coupon posted on The Pen Addict for a discount until November 4, I think.

  25. Not quite notebooks, but I’d like to see Alvin notepads compared to Rhodia ones. My university bookstore stocks both. They’re very similar in appearance but they write quite differently.

  26. Thanks for posting prices. So many people do a nice review (like this) and don’t list the price of the item…a bit frustrating.

  27. I’d love to see Rhodia, Midori, and Apica all compared at once (I’ve seen them reviewed individually, but never really compared head-to-head).

  28. I’d compare the 3 Doane Paper Utility Notebook variations that are currently available. Plus the Winter Session +DP cover. There isn’t much difference between the three variations out there, but the covers and paper color do differ, and I haven’t seen anyone point that out on these blogs yet.

  29. Been just getting into actual pocket notebooks lately. I’ve always been a user of Merlin Mann’s hipster PDA (note cards and binder clip) . I haven’t tried any of these brands yet, but have been super happy with the Rhodia pocket books, I can pick up locally for $2.

  30. Leuchtterm vs Doane, Apica C.D., Life Noble, Tomoe and/or Kokuyo Campus, perhaps? Would love to see the comparisons with many of the Japanese lines… Thanks!

  31. I use most of my notebooks for journaling, and find the approximately 5″ x 8″ size to be the best for me. I don’t sketch at all, so I would be interested in comparing either lined or gridded medium Palomino Blackwing Luxury, medium TWSBI or the large Leuchtturm 1917. I use mostly gel pens, but would be interested to see how they performed with my collection of fine nibbed fountain pens as well.

  32. I would compare the Green inspired brand of pocket notebooks (they are a 3/pk at target) with the Clairefontaine Staple-bound Duo.

  33. I am very interested in the Kokuyo campus dot line type. Put this up against a Doane and a Rohdia and perhaps a Moleskine because I always have one with me and I can use it as a reference.

  34. I actually prefer the ever-so-slightly-larger A6 sized notebooks (about 4 x 6). So I’d want to compare offerings from Apica and Life Vermillion. Hope I get the chance!

  35. I’d like to compare the Rhodia Webbie, the Leuchtturne 1917, and the Moleskine. I’m looking for a good notebook for the office and the Moleskine seems to be popular here.

  36. I would love to try the Doane paper notebook. Field Notes are great pocket notebooks, second only to Rhodia dot grid paper. But I keep seeing the Doane and have not yet had a chance to try it out…

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