Field Notes are the perfect pocketable memo-style notebook for anyone that needs to jot something down on-the-go.
Yes, you have a smartphone with built-in and 3rd party apps. But sometimes it’s still good to put notes, ideas, or drawings on paper.
I have found that it’s far quicker and easier for me to jot down quick shapes or diagrams on a piece of paper than in any app. Are there other ways? Absolutely, and I hope you share your methods and preferences in the comments section!
Each Field Notes notebook measures 3.5″ x 5.5″, with the most common size having 48 pages.
There are different styles – with graph paper, ruled lines, and plain paper options. You can also get a mixed pack with one of each. Although harder to find, Field Notes also offers dot grid notebooks.
The basic style has durable tan-colored Kraft paper cover.
If you’re okay spending a little more, Field Notes also offers notebooks with specialty covers, featuring unique artwork or made from other materials. They also have other notebooks in other sizes and with different bindings, such as spiral binding.
Price: $12.95 for a 3-pack
Made in USA
I use my phone these days (I have a S2 ultra, which is a large screen phone with a pen stylus – it’s reasonably precise for my use), but this looks like a handy solution for more precise work.
It’s not that I wouldn’t prefer paper and pen, but I just already have my phone with me at all times and it’s good enough.
This really reads like a paid ad. Not that I think it is, I trust you to disclose when that happens. It just sounds a lot like ad-copy.
That said, I used to use a lot of pocket notebooks, but my phone has completely replaced those. The ability to keep ideas forever and not worry about losing a particular notebook (and full text-search) has outweighed the pleasure of pencil-on-paper. When I did carry paper I always preferred the flip-top type for easier one-handed use and they laid flatter on the table.
I’ve bounced around between a few note-taking apps, and right now I’m using Standard Notes because I can natively back everything up to a cloud service (or server) of my choice. I really liked Simplenotes for awhile until they lost a bunch of my data (a “you had one job” kinda moment).
It’s not. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone at Field Notes.
I spent all weekend dealing with spam moderation for the Home Depot-Estwing post (after which I took everything down due to the sheer nonsense of the many rage digressions).
So, I figured I’d start the week with a solid recommendable product I thoroughly – and cheerfully – enjoy using.
(I don’t mind the call-out on my tone, and am always happy to address questions and concerns like this!)
I mainly use digital note-taking apps, and have for years, such as Microsoft One Note and more recently Notion.
I had a Samsung Note smartphone once, and loved the stylus, but I under-used it.
There’s simplicity in being able to slip a notebook in my pocket when I need it. Sometimes that’s every day for a few months, other times only a handful of times a year.
Thinking about it, I think the thing that makes it feel like a sponsored post is that it’s the specific brand up front, rather than being presented as “pocket notebooks are invaluable, I like Field Notes as a specific type”.
I like Notion, though find it a little fiddly on mobile so I mostly stick with it as a personal project wiki on desktop.
I used to carry index cards or folded-up printer paper, or larger notebooks when carrying a bag. I cannot offer any recommendations between scrap paper and Field Notes.
I’ve tried other good-quality brands, but they’re either pricier or harder to find.
Focusing on Field Notes made for a more straightforward topic. If there’s interest, I can follow up on other brands and styles.
Readers are always encouraged to chime in about their own preferences. I value this, and it often points me in the direction of something new to try.
That it might sound like ad copy might indicate that it is a decent product. I have a number of friends who swear by them. I have enough others that I haven’t tried the field notes yet, but people that have talk the same way about them.
For 90%, I’ll take notes on my phone over anything, but there definitely is 10% where a pen and paper are the right tools for the job.
I see they have a “left handed” version, I may order a set. Though, they don’t have it in the graph paper style.
I suppose you can turn any of them into a “left handed” version, by starting at the back 🙂
It looks to be a regular memo book but with the brand label printed on the back. Or is there more to it?
The advantage of graph paper, dot grid, and plain paper pages, if you need a left handed version, just flip them upside down. They could also just stamp the logo on the front and back covers, and boom, instant ambidextrous notebook.
Stuart, sorry to post this here, but what happened to all the comments on the “Home Depot Stopped Selling Estwing Hammers” article? They all disappeared along with any ability to comment on the article. Thanks!
I’m curious myself. I think the comments devolved into a Home Depot bash-a-thon, wondering if that’s why they all went away.
Home Depot-bashing is fine.
The comments about China, democrats, republicans, and the last presidential election led to a complete breakdown of civil discourse.
Commentors started telling each to jump off bridges.
I won’t let ToolGuyd be a host to such toxicity.
The toxic comments grew to overwhelming proportions.
There were falsities, personal attacks between commentors, and utter nonsense where it seemed some people were trolling and making things up just to fuel others’ rage.
One of the reasons I started ToolGuyd was because, around 15 years ago, my threads on a public tool-related forum were being deleted in their entirety because other members were veering off-topic into political arguments. Imagine how bad the comments were for me to do the same.
Dave in VT
Catching up on my reading Tookguyd posts, thank you, Stuart, for saving me from viewing such time and energy wasters.
I’m grateful for what happened to you 15 years ago! 😁
Thank you! Unacceptable is right. Appreciate the update. Most of us are here for your articles, the tools, and for relevant commentary.
I have been following Stuart and the comments section for a little over a year.
What really surprised me is that on a daily basis, most comments are by regulars. On this HD/Estwing, there were so many names I had never seen before.
Where did they all come from, and where do they hide the rest of the time?
In the almost 15 years that I’ve been utilizing, learning from and enjoying Toolguyd, I never think you deliberately pushed anything other than products you personally like. Some of the very knowledgeable people who have been commenting here for over a decade wouldn’t have stayed all these years if they didn’t feel as I do. You have values that we appreciate. Anyone that will sponsor you will probably have some item that you will like, and why shouldn’t you sing those specific praises. Many of us are here because we appreciate you.
I don’t want to hear anyone rant about politics, religion or other countries. I do have my opinions and beliefs, but this forum isn’t like having a friend to vent to. Is a product good or not!
I keep a notebook in my back pocket. I also use notes on my iPhone. And the voice recorder for writing jokes that upon review aren’t as funny as I thought.
Appreciate your efforts on this. Most of the time, the community here has been pretty good. Glad you took it down, I think I saw comments before it devolved. Thanks for keeping us on topic.
I agree that sometimes having a good old-fashioned paper notebook on hand for quick sketches, measurements , etc. But these wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice.
I had a subscription, but I was getting notebooks faster than I could use them. And you don’t get to choose what they send, so when the lined notebooks arrive and you really only like to use gridded or dot-gridded, oh well. They are well made, but there are other options.
^ I was 100% in the same boat few years ago as well.
I snagged an awesome Field Notes leather “sheath” from Drapin/Draplin design (I think out of Oregon), made any “field notes” style notebook last longer in my back pocket.
Solid positive post Stuart for a Monday, keep it up!
That’s brilliant, and I never gave that a thought before. I tend to use two pieces of heavy printer paper in my back pocket, because they are easily replaced when they take a beating. I’ve seen the Field Notes, but never trusted they could survive long term back there. Never wanted the big leather “covers”, either.
This concept has me ready to take the plunge and give Field Notes a run. I’m getting a bit tired of always putting them back down when I run into them at the store. Agreed that this is a great post to start out the week!
Agree on the need for a pad to capture notes and visualize the plan for more complex work. For planning larger residential/home projects, I use a combination of MS-Excel, my phone, the Veritas Workshop Design Pad and Kerry mechanical pencil which you wrote about a few years ago (https://toolguyd.com/workshop-notepads/ and https://toolguyd.com/favorite-writing-tools/). Otherwise, my phone suffices to capture key notes and to-do’s since those lists are in the cloud and available via my PC.
I’m another that uses my phone for quick notes in the ‘field’ (sometimes literal). I keep a spiral notebook in the garage if I need to sketch something or make a bigger list, which is rare. But that spiral is a repurposed kid’s notebook where they used the first 5 pages and nothing else. Rip those pages out, garage notebook cost = $0
Koko The Talking Ape
Oops, I guess I activated the automatic spam filter. I was going to say that I agree that a pocket notebook can be very handy. For a pen I like the uni-ball JetStream retractable pens, because they’re smooth, permanent and don’t fade, blot, or smear.
Those Field Notes notebooks aren’t my favorite, because they’re bound with staples, which isn’t the most durable method, in my experience. The pages in the center of the notebook can come loose relatively easily.
Moleskine and others make little notebooks that are sewn together, which I like a lot better. Moleskine’s are a little cheaper than Field Notes, and come in more colors. But they have only blank or ruled paper.
Moleskine do make notebooks with a “dotted” grid and a “squared” line grid. Comes in all sizes from 3.5 x 5 to 8.5 x 11. I always found the gridded paper much harder to find – usually found it in a bookstore – but gridded paper is all I have used for decades
I have switched to Field Book which is sewn together and I think will take more abuse than Moleskine
I was looking specifically at their pocket notebooks, which seem to come only in blank and ruled. I could be wrong though!
they are very hard to find, there were times I needed to order directly from Moleskine.
I just checked moleskine.com. Classic notebooks in pocket 3.5 x 5 size are available with hard or soft cover in squared or dotted grid layouts. They also make pocket size Cahier Journals in squared or dotted grid layouts.
I checked the site earlier, and the pocket sized ones with soft covers like the Field Notes above are offered only in lined and blank. But maybe other retailers carry other dotted or gridded?
Link to pocket-sized soft-cover availble in dot or line grid
It will come up as A4 and dotted, select Pocket Size and the layout you want.
Yes, but we’re also talking about the Cahier-style notebooks that are similar to Field Notes.
Soft cover in pocket-size is still going to be a bit too bulky for actual pocket carry.
Right, the Cahiers are the thin notebooks most similar to the Field Notes, though they have sewn binding. The Classics you link to are thicker, more expensive, and have features like an elastic band closure and a ribbon bookmark.
And as far as I can tell, the little Cahiers are offered only in blank or ruled paper. Here’s a link to what Stuart and I were referring to:
Cahiers Journal, soft cover, pocket sized, grid layout in lines or dots
A larger size is what you will see first. Select size and layout to get what you want.
Finally see what is happening- color has to be Black.
I searched Moleskine’s website for pocket size and grid layout. Never thought to switch color from Black to Kraft Brown which only has blank or lined layout.
Not at all! I couldn’t care less about the color. Good to know the black ones come in dotted or grid paper. Thanks!
I used to buy Moleskine, but not for a few years. I don’t believe they made pocket-sized Cahier notebooks at the time.
The Moleskines are a better value at $11 for 3. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07J3GTXYD/?tag=toolguyd-20
Field Notes are made in the USA, Moleskine are made in Asia.
For value, Moleskine offers a little more for less money – assuming their quality is as decent as it was. But for pocket-carry, I prefer Field Notes.
These are consumable products, one can always buy one brand and then try the other brand.
Ah, I forgot about COO. Good point!
I looked into these, and IMHO, they’re overpriced for basic notebooks. For similar money, I bought a few rite in the rain notebooks and like them a lot. I also bought some uni powertank pens; they’re basically uni’s version of “space” pens. They’re great.
If you don’t need the durability of the RITR notebooks, there’s countless sellers on amazon and etsy who make comparable notebooks to field notes for a fraction of the cost.
IMHO, field notes are a prime example of developing a good product and then coasting on the name and popularity, and are priced accordingly.
RITR notebooks are durable, but they don’t work with some pens, like my favorite disposable fountain pens. YMMV.
Mini notebooks from the dollar store. Same thing, fraction of the cost, less irritation when it’s inevitably ruined by sweat and friction.
These are made in USA and in my experience they have proven durability.
My sweaty back pocket will eventually ruin even the most overpriced paper notebooks for “EDC” consumers.
For very sweaty back pockets, those Rite In The Rain notebooks that MoogleMan3 mentioned should work. They’re also resistant to tearing. I used to keep one in the shower, because I would come up with some interesting ideas there.
Although I know many pen geeks love Field Notes, and don’t doubt they are high quality, I’ve always felt that they weren’t a good value.
Since I keep that size of notebook in my back pocket, they get beat up, so typically I’m using Daiso notebooks – although my current one is a very nice swag one from Honeywell, with cardboard cover, kraft paper inside, and a mini pen.
I’ve tried a lot of brands. Field Notes isn’t the best value, but they’re solid and consistently so. If the price is the only complaint, that’s not bad.
I’m all up for trying more new brands.
I’m a heavy OneNote user, but for quick notes or sketching I prefer a pocket notebook, and I’ve been in the Cult of Field Notes for a few years. My two go-to editions are Heavy Duty, which I accessorize with a golf pencil clipped into the spiral binding, and Expedition, which features tearproof and waterproof paper.
There are certainly many less-expensive options, but I like the variety of Field Notes designs.
“I have found that it’s far quicker and easier for me to jot down quick shapes or diagrams on a piece of paper than in any app”….me as well.
But, just like 20-30 years ago people were saying today’s (back then) kids can’t add subtract or divide without a calculator.
Today’s youth will never use a notepad is also true. They rifle through that little keyboard on their phone….me, I can’t, just to small.
Reality; my father is turning 94 in 2 months. His generation, I do not know exact stats but probably 95% had the paper delivered daily. Me, I am 64. My generation, maybe 70-80% had the paper delivered. My son is 43, his generation probably around 20 have the paper delivered. My grandkids (5 in all from my son…obviously he was much more prolific than me with one child), the oldest are 24 and 19. I am not even sure they know about having newspapers delivered.
They are of the generation that grew up in their teens with their own phone. I don’t see this generation scribbling notes on paper…they would need to have a pencil/pen handy and a piece of paper.
Meanwhile they always have their phone surgically attached to them. I would say that this generation and their kids, are so dependent on their phones, that many will never have a PC or laptop, fewer, but still not that many will forgo the need for a tablet, printer and many other office items.
More than likely, as voice activation becomes better, the phone will probably be replaced by the “smart” watch.
This set of little notebooks is something I always gravitated to and would buy. But its days are numbered.
My kids are in grade school, and one of them loves making little drawings and notes. They use a lot of post-it’s, and I got them different types of paper and pens to experiment with.
Digital mediums have replaced traditional ones, but there is still resounding interest in stationery and related products.
“Journaling,” for instance, is huge right now, with social media helping it spread.
This journaling, and social media helping it spread, I was not aware of.
Furthermore, for the past couple of days, seeing all the responses and interest in these notepads has me really surprised. I had no idea so many people used these pads.
My response was supposition on my part, the times being what they are. However, as mentioned the surprise at the high number of users, I wonder how many are 30 years old or younger.
Again, I am just guessing, even if there will always be user of these notepads, I believe that the numbers will drop substantially as the boomers and subsequent gens retire and millennials become a higher percentage of the workforce.
I think there’ll always be a market – and while the market overall might become smaller, many of the remaining customers will be more willing to pay for quality.
There’s enough interest in traditional stationery to support quite a number of new, niche companies such as Field Notes (duh!), Nanami Paper, Tactile Turn, Karas Kustoms, Edison, Spoke Design, and more – and I know that not all the interest is coming from the older crowd.
I’m a big Field Notes fan. Made in Chicago, IL, and very durable. I’ve been a subscriber to their quarterly program (I have a shoe box full of notebooks, so I’m taking a break), but they have made some creative notebooks like State Parks and US Great Lakes collections. Check their website for past releases.
There is always one in my jacket and on every workbench. They are great for a quick sketch and making a shopping list for the hardware store.
I just subscribed to the Log and Jotter subscription. Love their artwork and looking forward to making it a daily carry
Had used Moleskine for years in a 8.5 x 11 size. Decided real note taking was better done on a device so I could store in the cloud and shifted to my phone or tablet.
But, found out I missed being to jot something down quickly. Agree with you Stuart, sometimes a piece of paper is best
I went with the 3.5 x 5.5 from Field Book. Next time I am ordering I will try Field Notes
My favorite temporary notes paper are the unasked for note pads from realtors. I wouldn’t use a realtor not recommended by a trusted friend, so throw away jotting on their pads just feels right. By contrast, the Rite as Rain pads were a real boon in a very wet work site, worth every penny.
I like the Maruman notebooks
Which size? I love their paper, but for pocket carry I find A6 to be too big and A7 too small.
I make mini notebooks out of a sheet of paper and keep one in my back pocket almost all the time. Instructions here: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Booklet-from-Paper
Make one per project— recycle when done or turn it inside out and start over. It’s better than a phone because you can draw on it with dirty hands, even with gloves on. If there’s something in there you want to keep, take a picture.
I used to make 1/2-sheet-sized notebooks – stapled along the crease for the kids. I might dig out the old long-reach staplers and see if the next generation likes the idea. The only advantage was that you could use whatever paper you wanted (plain white, colored, graph or mix and match.) Lined paper didn’t work so well because the lines ended up in the vertical orientation.
I have an old Bostitch 4694 that uses regular desk staples – and a Swingline 44136 that uses heavy duty and longer leg staples. There is a limit to how many sheets you can use before the resultant book won’t fold up nicely. Amazon sells a variety of long-reach staplers starting at about $13 if you want to try this.
You might enjoy stitching those notebooks together. It takes a bit more time, but just a bit, and you can use thread with contrasting colors, etc. Nest the folded sheets together and punch holes with an awl. You just need three or four.
And then, if you bind a few of those stitched packets or “signatures” together somehow, you’re binding a book!
Sounds interesting – I might try it.
We had a class of client that wanted bound proposals in response to requests for bids. We’d prepare our materials and send it out to a third party that would make the requisite number of copies (sometimes an extraordinary number) bind the proposals into spiral bound booklets, get our final approval and ship them out for us. We looked at the needed machinery to do this inhouse – but decided it was more efficient to keep contracting it out to the local print shop that had never failed us.
Yep, this isn’t that. Hand bookbinding is more about making little art objects to give away or sell. Blank notebooks would be great, but people also select a few (out-of-copyright) poems or a short story for a little book.
I’ve only done it a little, but it’s appealing because the equipment costs are low, and there’s no noise or other health hazards. And people love handmade books. The materials can be surprisingly expensive though.
There is a huge variety of binding techniques, some going back centuries.
I concur with comments on the poor value of Field Notes and find their stapled construction underwhelming. While in the military, I used Rite in the Rain products because they were available through supply. Unfortunately, you have to have suitable writing instruments for their coated paper and, while the Rite in the Rain paper doesn’t self destruct when wet, the edges do swell. I’ve been using stone paper notebooks that I construct myself in a 5 1/2 x 8 inch format. I often find myself taking pictures of my handwritten drawings and notes with my phone as my notebooks tend to get cluttered up with bunches of miscellaneous unimportant notes and drawings that. I organize many of the pics on Google Keep since it’s free and always accessible. I did use One Note for years but never migrated to the smartphone version.
I really wanted to love the the Livescribe smartpens using the anoto grid paper. The concept of being able to write a note while simulataneously capturing audio and being able to link them together in an electronic document and have a handwritten hard copy was intriguing. I couldn’t get a good workflow that matched my scattered projects.. Plus, the OLED screens on the pens I bought crapped out quickly and the experiment was abandoned.
A friend has started using the ReMarkable electronic writing tablet recently. It’s a neat handwriting capture device but it’s one of those things that you have to develop a workflow to maximize its utility.
Pen, pencil, crayon, piece of charcoal/chalk/etc…. and paper remain a great versatile tool that will be around for while as I see more than a few young people using paper in addition to their always on smartphones.
A tablet with a “pen” is my go to these days when I need to have prints with me.
When I go to look at a job at a house or in the field where an expensive tablet won’t make sense, I bring my notebook.
I highly recommend you look into a “rocketbook”.
I use it now because it has a simple way to categorize and transfer all my notes to a tablet with a picture. Combining the benefits of analog and digital.
They’re also water resistant. You take your notes, make a digital copy later, and (when you’re done) you just take a little water and wipe the page clean. No waste, and the notebook should last for many years. I use mine several times a week and it’s been with me for 3+ years at this point. Almost no wear.
It would be cool if you did another EDC pen article. I’m curious if other people like the sharpie s-gel as much as I do. I’m particular about the pens I use, I know it’s not just me.
I’ll keep it in mind!
Sharpie S-Gel? New to me! I think.
I’ve had good experiences with their pens before – the needle-tipped ones with removable caps. I still have a partial pack, with the card saying it’s “the first Sharpie pen.” I used their retractable pens years ago, but didn’t like them as much.
I might get a pack, although I’ve mostly shied away from disposable pens.
I use Weather Maxx from the Hillman Group. Found it at a Petro truck stop. Great in the rain and holds up for years. Will order some as I am not traveling anymore.
Eager to read your pen reviews…I know what I think is the best all around pen.
Back when I was policing every day this is what I carried on my person and took notes on. I would have a beginning date and ending date on the front and keep them in a filing cabinet after I filled them up. You definitely did not want to keep notes from calls for service on your personal phone (including pictures) given that if it led to charges being made the defense *could if they wanted* subpoena the original copy in its original form for the preservation of evidence…
This in addition to the fact that my wife loves pens and paper and writing things down the old fashion way, meant that we had a yearly subscription from Field Notes for several years. She loved getting the box each quarter. I need to get that back going again….
I never thought finding the Field Notes here.
It’s common among graphic designers, and the creator of FN is a big one.