Review: Baron Fig Vanguard

Baron Fig Vanguard

Baron Fig continues to expand their line of products. This time with a soft cover cahier-style notebook they are calling the Vanguard. They are offering it in an A5 size (Flagship) as well as their smaller passport (Pocket) size in blank, dot grid or graph paper formats. There’s also a “plus” size which is 7×10″. The Vanguard is available with a light grey or dark grey cover. Each book is actually stitched along the spine with bright yellow thread which aesthetically lovely.

The lightly textured cardstock covers are clean, simple and elegant. And the overall lack of a lot of branding is most appreciated. The books are clean and simple and ready for the user to put their stamp on them which I like.

Baron Fig Vanguard

It’s been awhile since I’d used a Baron Fig notebook so I decided to run the new notebook through its paces to see if the paper stock was the same a the previous Confidant notebooks.

Baron Fig Vanguard Colored Pencil test

My first experiment with the Vanguard was to try some colored pencils. I pulled out my trusty Prismacolor Premier (and its brethren) and draw a fig. Of course.  I quite like the Baron Fig paper for colored pencil. Really, any kind of pencil works well on Baron Fig paper. Its quite smooth with just a little tooth and the warm white color is quite conducive to pencil sketching and colored pencils. Maybe a good candidate for a red/blue pencil?

Baron Fig Vanguard writing sample

I’d recalled that there was some issues with the Baron Fig paper and liquid inks like rollerball, fountain pens and such. What I noticed most particularly was that most of my felt tip pens seemed broader on the Baron Fig paper than on other paper. As if it sort of spread a bit. It didn’t look like it feathered per se but the ink must have absorbed a bit more than I remembered.

The Sakura Ballsign 04 in black was, by far, the best performing pen on the paper. It dried super-fast, jet black and matte without any bleeding or feathering. If you haven’t tried the Ballsign and want to try the Baron Fig Vanguard, its a great combo. In general, most gel pens work well on the Vanguard paper, more so, I think, than rollerball and felt tip pens which is a bit of a disappointment for me. I tend to use a lot of felt tip pens but I like a super fine point.

The fountain pen issue with Baron Fig paper has been discussed extensively elsewhere so I won’t delve into it but, like most pocketable notebooks (and for most of the modern world), its not something that they concern themselves with. Its just our small corner of the world that gets in a tizzy when every notebook we pick up doesn’t accept our wide stub fountain pen inks with open arms, no bleed through and instantaneous dry times.

I forgot to photograph the reverse of stock this time but I noticed a bit more bleed through this time around than in my previous tests on the Confidant lined and dot grid. I don’t know if it was because the blank paper had not been run through any printing presses and therefore had no sizing of any kind and therefore was more absorbent, if there is a slight difference to this batch of paper or if its because it was warmer and more humid during my testing or if some other factors were at play.

Overall, I plan to use my Vanguard as a colored pencil sketchbook with some notes and put my massive collection of Sakura Ballsign gel pens to good use.

Baron Fig Vanguard

THE GIVEAWAY: Would you like to try out a Baron Fig Vanguard 3-pack of your own? I have THREE (3) sets to give away. I have a Flagship dot grid, Flagship ruled and a Pocket blank.

TO ENTER: All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me if you’ve ever tried a Baron Fig notebook before. If so, which one? If not, which one you like best, whether its one I’m giving away or another one. That’s it.

Baron Fig Vanguard

THE FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, June 24, 2016. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email real address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win, not some junky account you never check. 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. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents and APOs only please this time. It would cost more to mail these overseas than the notebooks cost.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Baron Fig for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.



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170 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve never had the opportunity to use these notebooks before. While they might not suit every medium they still look lovely. The A5 ruled is my favorite. ☺

  2. I am using a Baron and Fig hardback journal right now for my notes at work and I really love it. I was using good ole steno notepads for years and years but I wanted to upgrade to something a little more professional. I love the bookmark as it makes it easy to tell where I left off and the paper is perfect for my Lamy Safari. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. Thanks for the contest!

    I have yet to try any of the Baron Fig Notebooks and since the nature of my work can be quite fast-paced, having a notebook that works with Sakura Ballsigns!

    Don’t laugh, but your photo of a fig made this Greek guy’s day. Walking down a street on a Greek island and grabbing a fig on the go is one of life’s little treasures!

  4. I’ve bought every special edition confidant and I have to say I like the three-legged juggle the best because of the poem and it’s meaning. But color scheme wise, I like the Maker the most because it’s colors remind me of West Point. Glad it’s a standard rotation color now.

  5. I haven’t tried the Baron Fig…but the lined paper really interests me!

    Paper and ink…and fountain pens are like potato crisps…you can’t settle for just ONE…the next thing you know, you are a “collector” and spend the children’s inheritance on your “stash”!!

    Thanks for the give-away!

  6. Nope, I haven’t. Though, I have a feeling they’d be awesome for jotting down knitting errata on the go.

  7. Thank you for the giveaway!

    I have never tried a Baron Fig notebook, but would love to try the Flagship dot grid.

  8. Thank you for your generosity. I have also not tried a Baron Fig notebook before, but would enjoy trying a dot-grid in A5.

  9. I have used the original with the cloth cover. I liked it very much. the size was a bit different .

  10. Thanks for the chance! I have and use and love the baron fig notebooks. i have the apprentice pack, confident, maker, work and play. My system is like many others. Confident size for journal, and apprentice for my back pocket as a catch all.

  11. I’m just finishing up a Baron Fig Apprentice I three-pack, which I use in my passport-sized Traveler’s Notebook for on-the-go everything (to do lists, shopping lists, rambling thoughts). Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. Ooh, lovely notebooks. I’ve never tried a Baron Fig notebook before, but I love the look of the dark charcoal cover with the yellow stitching. The flagship blank books are calling to me! 🙂

  13. I use a baron fig pocket as a bullet journal right now. Not too shabby. I like the fact that the pages are sewn in. Somehow it seems to be more secure. The yellow color of the thread is nice. Have not tried the larger sizes though.

  14. Never tried these before but the detail on the spines is fantastic – I tend to like the dot grid when taking notes as it keeps me straight but does not get in the way of sketching.

  15. I’ve tried the confidant dotgrid, definitely miss the elastic band from Moleskine’s. I’d love to try out the Vanguard

  16. Never had the chance to try the Baron Fig notebooks, but the Confidant has been sitting on my wishlist for some time now!

  17. I have never used a Baron Fig notebook before, but I would be excited to try them! My favorite would be the dot grid, my second favorite would be lined, and last would be blank. I’m not artistic so blank pages scare me – lollol! – unless they are dotted or lined.

  18. Thank you for a great review and an opportunity to win . I have not had a chance to try a Baron Fig, but would like to. I would like either the dot or the line . Dot would probably be first choice if I had to pick a #1 and lines #2.

  19. I have never used a Baron Fig notebook, but have wanted to try the Confidant. These look very interesting.

    Thanks for your generosity.

  20. I would love to try out the larger notebook! I really like the grey colored one, but the cream one isn’t bad, either.

  21. I couldn’t support the Confidant because of its size, but this I can handle. Not that I need more notebooks, but I like how simple they look. Thanks for the review and giveaway!

  22. Love Baron Fig. I’m using the Confident and loving it! I’ve been eying the Vanguard A5. I use my Confident with FP without trouble. Love their products. Thanks for the review!

  23. I haven’t tried any Baron Fig, but I’ve heard such good things about them, it’s definitely on my to-do list. I love the 7×10 size, I feel like that’s the most versatile and perfect goldilocks size.

  24. I’ve yet to try a Baron Fig product, but have heard great things about it in the fountain pen community. The stitched spine is especially gorgeous! I’d love to try either the dot or blank as a sketch notebook.

  25. I am using a blank Seeker pocket size now for my TBR book list and like it very much. Wish it had a grid, but like the way the paper has taken pencils and fountain pens that we not very wet. Thank you for offering some larger ones to try.

  26. I’ve never tried any of Baron Fig’s products. The Flagship with Dot Grid appeals to me and would be the form factor that would likely see the most use, as it could be used equally well for quick sketches and short notes.

  27. I have been eyeing the Vanguard for awhile, looking for a nice soft cover notebook to fit inside a traveler’s notebook, but really want to know if they lie flat or need to be held open with a weighted clip. Only one way to find out, right? =)

  28. I have not tried the Baron and would like to try the blank pocket size. Thank you for all that you do on this site!

  29. They really look cool and love the colour. I have not tried Baron Fig before as I used fountain pen generally. Just started using more pencils and trying to work on my sketching skills.

  30. I have the BF Confidant in a dot grid. I really like the size and construction, but I wish the cover was a little darker than the light grey. I almost bought the Vanguard Flagship recently – would love to win those!

  31. Loved your video with Brian of Goulet Pens! I have not tried Baron Fig products but if I were to try I would go with the dot grid. However if I won, I would appreciate any style to try.

  32. I just receive my Confidant but havent use it yet!! I cant wait, I hear it’s wonderful. I’d love to try out those Vanguard too, looks promising 🙂

  33. I’ve never had a Baron Fig before, but would love to try! The dot-grid Vanguard sounds fantastic — I’ve always preferred dot grid or graph notebooks. Thanks for the giveaway!

  34. I’ve yet to try an Baron Fig products, although I’ve eyed them a fair bit… These, particularly the pocket size, look like they have potential for using as a gel pen sketchbook as well, nice to have for the work bag!

  35. confidants are my favorite notebooks! looking forward to the softcover version of confidants. thanks.

  36. I’ve never tried a Baron Fig of any variety yet, but am very interested in the Plus size. I use my notebooks for sketch and drawing so I favor the larger formats.

  37. I love my Confidant, and use it for my long form brain dumps (when I make the time, Sunday mornings) and have an Apprentice pack but don’t use them often because, well, Field Notes….

  38. I have never tried one before, but if I did it would be the dot grid, or maybe the blank. I think I would like the pocket size. They are pretty good looking.

  39. I have never tried one before, but have heard about their products on the Pen Addict. I’m particularly interested in an A5 grid format.

  40. First, thanks for doing the review! I especially appreciated the comments regarding the relationship between the paper and pens. Second, I’ve been looking at possibly getting a Vanguard dot grid for work. Thanks again!

  41. Hi! Just starting to learn all about the different papers available. So many beautiful surfaces to use! Still looking for my favorite so I would love to try a dot grid Barron Fig. I’ve heard wonderful things about them but as of yet have not had the opportunity to try one out. Thanks for having this give away.

  42. I’ve got a pair of dot-grid Confidants, but I haven’t been tempted by any of their other products. Pocket-size notebooks just don’t work for me, and I have only finished one of my two Confidants in the years (has it been so long?) since I got them. It seemed irresponsible to get the Special Editions just for aesthetics when they cost more and I wasn’t sure I’d even touch them with a pen.

  43. Never used the BF but always in the lookout for new pocket/passport size books! Thanks for the great review.

  44. I’ve tried one of their first notebooks, smaller than pocket,with a cute one with a lightbulb icon. The paper wasn’t the best for fountain pens. Would love to try the Plus!

  45. I have purchased a baron fig notebook but I haven’t tried it yet. Too many notebooks not enough time. I’m a grad student so I go through notebooks fast but I also hate spending a ton of money on notebooks because I’m a grad student who needs to eat and pay for a car and save up for a wedding. I would love some nicer notebooks like this class notes and thesis prep.

  46. I have a few packs of the old Apprentices. I use them in my passport sized TN. I also have a Confidant but miss some features of comparable notebooks with it.

  47. I’ve never used a Baron Fig notebook, but would be interested in the ruled one as I use my notebooks for writing primarily.

    As an aside, love the site. I just got my first fountain pen recently and have been trying to find everything I can on pens, notebooks, etc. That’s how I stumbled on your site and I’m glad I did.

  48. I have yet to try a Baron Fig notebook, but if I was to buy me it would be the plus or flagship in dot grid.

  49. Never tried a Baron Fig before, but I’m definitely liking that shade of dark grey. Thanks for the giveaway!

  50. Hey Ana
    love the blog, which for me is saying a lot as. … well anyway.
    The Flagship ruled would rule for me. But I would not turn down any if you were to send to me!

  51. I haven’t tried a Baron Fig notebook but like the Confidant. Thanks for the chance to try out the Vanguard.

  52. I have not tried Baron Fig yet. I’d love to try the Vanguard. I have a thing for traveler’s notebooks so I love soft covers. The grey is very sophisticated.

  53. I haven’t had a chance to try out the Baron Fig yet but the plus looks cool. I haven’t really gotten into the pocket size craze.

  54. I have never tried Baron Fig. I love the cover design, very simple. I love your fig drawing!

  55. Just starting in on this crazy fountain pen, calligraphy pen, Rhodia world and would love to try out anything if I was so lucky to win. Loved seeing you on Ink Nouveau the other day and took LOTS of notes. Hope to meet you at the SF show but probably too shy to say hey.

  56. Hi Ana – Loved the piece on GPCo Blog Friday. No, until today, I had never heard of this paper/notebook, so I have never used it.

    I write with fountain pen mostly, so I would be eager to see which pen/ink combo would work best. Cheers!

  57. I have never tried any of Baron Fig’s notebooks but if I could it would be the Confidant dot grid.

  58. I have never used a Baron Fig of any variety; I have never used dot grid paper. I’d love to give it a bash.


  59. I like the clean design and color choice with the pop of yellow stitching. Would love to try the dot grid.

  60. I lhad a Baron Fig confidant that I was saving to use as my bullet journal when I finished my Leuchtterm1917 notebook… but my mom took it! I use some of their lined pocket notebooks in my passport size traveler’s notebook, and it is a great on the go notebook.

  61. I’ve never tried a Baron Fig but it’s on my long list of notebooks to try. I love dot grid notebooks.

  62. I’ve not used any of their products before, but I’ve always wanted to! Great to see it comes in dot grid: that Flagship dot grid would be my favorite to use.

  63. Great giveaway! I have never tried one of these notebooks before. Dot Grid would be amazing to win. 🙂 (I hope Canada counts as a APO as I’m not quite sure what that stands for)

  64. I filled an Confidente very soon after they were first released and enjoyed the paper, though I found the form factor wasn’t quite right for me. I’d love to try one of these — especially the dot grid paper.

  65. I use my Baton Fig Confidant dot grid and my smaller Apprentice notebooks everyday. I really love these notebooks and use them with an assortment of pens. They make writing a joy. I have not tried the new Vanguard line yet, but they look great!

  66. I LOVE Baron Fig notebooks. The paper is awesome. Dot grid is my favorite. They are perfect. Thanks for a chance to win!

  67. I have never tried any Baron Fig products. But the Vanguard line looks nice, especially the Flagship dot grid.

  68. I used the Confidant that I received during the Kickstarter campaign and thought it was nice. I’d love to be able to use fountain pen in these, but oh, well. I live in the modern world. 😉


  69. Not familiar with it, but love the images you included elsewhere – would probably go for the A5 – dot grid, given your comments about fountain pen ink sitting on the page overlong…

  70. This looks really neat! A very simple, clean look that I try to go for in notebooks. I’ve never tried this brand before. I’d like to try the A5 size, because boy – I’m sure that Plus size would be overwhelming. Wonderful but still, haha.

  71. Hello! Having just recently discovered you through Goulet Pens video and listened to most of the first of your Art Supply Posse blogs, my first comment is, Thank You for the work that you do!

    I have never used a Baron Fig notebook. I think I would probably best like the Vanguard in blank page format partly because one of this week’s SBS homeworks involves color pencils!

    Thank you again.

  72. I love the contrast of the A5 dark grey along with the stitching. Haven’t used one yet, but it very well may be in my future!

  73. Never got my hands on one but I would prefer the Flagship dot grid. Thank you so much for the giveaway.

  74. Since I live outside of the USA, I can’t qualify for the giveaway, but that doesn’t matter 😉 I have tried Baron Fig notebook before, the pocket variant. I actually use it as my “craft pad” and list all the craft items I have in it and take it with me to avoid getting doubles when I’m shopping craft stuffs 🙂 Thanks for the review, I might try the vanguard one day!

  75. I’ve started a tradition to buy my wife a notebook for Christmas each year, and the first I bought her a couple years back was a Confidant. I bought one for myself as part of their Squire Kickstarter. But my favorite is the Apprentice we use to record my 3 year-old daughter’s journal every night at bedtime. She tells us three things she likes or is thankful for, we record them, and she gets to practice by signing her name at the bottom of the page. Wonderful family bedtime ritual!

  76. Hello!

    Well, I have never tried before since they do not sell it in Turkey but I would like to give it a shot so I am considering purchasing online.
    I liked the softcover flagship size in charcoal

  77. I have yet to try Baron Fig notebooks, but I plan to. I want to try the Confidant, but this new Vanguard has some of my interest too!

  78. I’ve never tried them, I have to find things online to try as we don’t have many great shops around. I’d probably pick up a dot grid to try out.

  79. I would love the opportunity to try a Baron Fig notebook! I have never used one. I like the Flagship dot grid. Thanks for the chance to win!

  80. I’ve not yet tried any of the Baron Fig products, but would love to try the Flagship dot grid!

  81. I have never used a Baron Fig notebook, but am excited to try one. I typically use a thicker book like their Confidant notebooks, but I recently started using the Shinola notebooks that are similar to the Vanguard and love them.

  82. Never tried a Baron Fig but always searching for the next sketchbook.I liked your podcast on this subject. Thanks you for the giveaway.

  83. I’ve never used a baron fig notebook but would love to! The flagship dot grid sounds awesome!

  84. I love the understated nature of these. And no, I have not had the pleasure of trying these notebooks yet. Cheers!

  85. I’ve never tried a Baron Fig, but I have thought about buying one. I think I would likely choose one of the hardback books in dot grid, but I bet I would like all of them.

  86. I haven’t tried a Baron Fig before, but I’ve been considering ordering a Confidant for quite some time. The cahier-style A5 books look great, too! I always have liked dot-grid or blank more than lined.

  87. I’ve heard about Baron Fig products, but never had the chance to try them.

    If I were to choose one, I like the looks of the Confidant in dot grid.

  88. I’ve never tried any Baron Fig products, but have heard a lot of good about them. I would love to try the Flagship ruled.

  89. I love the look of these. Never even heard of these before and I am interested in looking at them. Thanks for the review.

  90. I’ve never used the Baron Fig notebooks before, but I’m keen to check them out now. I am really hooked on pocket-sized notebooks…they’re super handy to throw in my purse or bag as I’m running out the door.

  91. I have not sampled the Baron Fig line before, but if I were, I would like to try the Flagship dot grid. Thanks for the chance and for the great site.

  92. I’ve never used a Baron Fig notebook before. I like the looks of the dark gray one best, but all of them look pretty good.

  93. Never used one of these notebooks before, but am willing to try any! I like the idea of grid paper! Thanks for the give away!

  94. I have never used a Baron Fig notebook, but use Moleskine cahier. I would love to try a dark gray Flagship with dot grid. They are beautiful. Thank you for the giveaway!

  95. I’ve never used a baron fig notebook before and looking at them in the past I actually thought I would want the vanguards but the confidant is something that looks great to me the more I look at it!

  96. I’ve never used Baron Fig but I’m ntrigued. I’m a sucker for dot grid. Thanks for the chance to win and the great site.

  97. I’ve never tried Baron Fig but I like the look of them. I think the Flagship dot grid looks the best.

  98. Great giveaway, thank you! I have not tried Baron Fig, but I would love to try the charcoal cover one in either blank or dot grid! I’m also going to pick up a Confidant I think..l

  99. I’ve never used the Barron Fig, but have spent lots of time contemplating getting one for sketching as I am a frequent pencil user. Also, the yellow stitch detail gets me every time. So lovely!

  100. I’ve tried the Confidant and the Apprentice (which I guess is now the passport size Vanguard). My fave is the Confidant – decent all-around paper, lay-flat binding, no external branding = <3

  101. I would love to try a Baron Fig. It looks so enticing. I personally prefer the dot grid (or grids in general), but I would be ecstatic with whatever flavor I won.

  102. Looking to try bullet journaling and to branch out on my notebooks, so I think dot grid would be a nice one to try. Never used Baron Fig before

  103. No, I haven’t tried a Baron Fig notebook, but would like to. Thank you for the opportunity. I usually just stick with Field Notes.

  104. Haven’t tried it, but looks beautiful! I’d love to try a Vanguard Softcover Ruled. I usually use hardcover notebooks/journals, and this would be a nice change for the summer. Thanks for the chance.

  105. I have a Baron Fig Confidant in dot grid that I’m using for home planning (renovation, organization, decoration, etc) and it’s been wonderful. Love the paper touch, it tolerates erasing well which is key.

  106. I’ve never tried a Baron Fig, but A5 is my notebook size for law school classes, so both of the types of A5 notebooks really appeal to me.

  107. I have not used Baron Fig, nor have I heard of them. I’ve been thinking of starting to carry a pocket notebook, maybe this would be a good place to start. I’ll go with the “pocket blank”. Thanks for the chance.

  108. I have Aparenting which I like very much, a confident I’ve not started yet and I’ve just got some explorers that look good. And I love the Squire.

    1. So sorry, don’t pick me. I’m in the UK so cannot win. Apologies for only reading after posting the competition rules.

  109. They look lovely! I’ve never tried them before, but would love to. They all look great, but I’d be most interested in the Flagship blank or grid.

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