The Quest for the Perfect Pocket Notebook

September 9, 2010 | 9 Comments

I do a lot of my notetaking and capture digitally. Everything worth keeping ends up being stored digitally, so I prefer not having to capture information twice — even if it’s as simple as taking a picture of handwritten notes…


However, there are times when it is best to go with pen and paper. I keep a standard size Moleskine sketchbook in both of the bags I rotate between. It is often handy in a meeting for a quick jot to sketch out a design concept. Of course I always have my iPad with me, and it’s filled with great drawing apps, but they still aren’t as good as pen and paper for the temporal nature of a quick jot or brainstorm.

Along with that larger notebook, I like to carry a smaller notebook in my back pocket. I don’t use it all that often — maybe once or twice a week at most — but the times I want it are the times I don’t seem to have it.

In my attempts to find the perfect pocket notebook, here are a few that fell short:

Pocket Moleskine: This is the oompa loompa version of the standard moleskine. It’s lovely, but it has one problem. It’s bulky and rigid, so it doesn’t flex around the finally crafted butt of my 140 pound physique. It’s found a more permanent home in the Caselogic netbook bag I use on iPad only days.

Moleskine Pocket Cahier: This was my pocket notebook of choice for quite a while. It flexes around said butt, but it’s not durable enough. I’m sure it would be fine if I filled these up every 2-4 weeks, but I don’t, and they tend to disintegrate.

field_notes.jpgField Notes: I have a serious crush on Field Notes — I lurk on the website about once a month to admire and wonder what a relationship with Field Notes might be like. The colors subscription has some kind of narcotic effect on me, but I’ve resisted the urge of this recurring seductress. Why? Well, I fear they wouldn’t be durable enough, like the cahier, and $10 for three skinny notebooks is more than I want to spend for an occasional item like this.

Last week, though, I found a new contender in BookPeople (a great indy bookstore in Austin if you are ever in town): the Writersblok Bamboo small notebook. It was only about $6 for four thicker notebooks in four different colors. They are more durable than the cahier, though I’m not certain the binding will hold up under the strain of my finely crafted…well, you know.

I’m discovering that blank notebooks can cause as much passionate conversation as religion, politics or Evernote, so I know this is a risky topic. But what do you think? Anyone else have a favorite pocket notebook to recommend?

  • I use Rhodia № 11 for pocket notes. I’ve tried to cram Moleskine’s and the 5 ½” x 3 ½” Hand•Books into my pocket and realized they didn’t do so well with either bulk, durability, or accepting fountain pen ink.

    I find it really helps to outline your use and periodically check in with yourself to see if your needs have changed. These days I prefer paper with no lines that accepts fountain pen without bleeding through as well as paper thick enough to accept light watercolor. For my primary notebook I use the 5 ½” x 8 ¼” Hand•Book journals, as they are perfect for all of those things.

    The Rhodia №11 offers a terrific surface for fountain pen and just about anything else you throw at it. I like that I can tear away sheets – I can cram those loose sheets into the pocket on my main notebook, transfer the notes and throw them away, or give them to other people with my number or other details on them.

    As always, this is something I’ve wanted to write about but you beat me to it. Thanks for letting me comment with my thoughts on the subject!

  • Erik,
    Thanks for the (as usual) thoughtful comments.

    I’m not familiar with either of those notebooks so I’m going to hunt them down to take a look.

  • … Mind–bogglingly, the Hand•Book people don’t have a website. They sell them via
    Dick Blick, Amazon, and at my local stationer, so they aren’t hard to
    find in Boston.

    Also, I just discovered a quick review by Bob Easton and compares it to the Moleskine.

    Dick Blick and all the others also sell Rhodia pads, the smallest in the Dick Blick picture is the №11.

  • Mike Semrau

    I’m doing this exact same quest, though insulting to the superphone in the opposing pocket given its incompatibility with pens. I stumbled upon the’s Hipster PDA, and am intrigued by the fluidity of index cards; furthermore, it is super-cheap!

  • Mike

    Doane has some great notebooks too:

  • So how is everyone dealing with pens. In a dress shirt its not a problem. With jeans, I don’t know where to put my pen. Any ideas?

  • John

    Front jeans pocket for me. I tend to prefer baggier jeans (not much of a hipster) with large pockets, so that helps.


  • I’ll jump in here for Field Notes. I’ve been using them since the day they were released and absolutely love them. They are a little pricey, but they are very durable. Mine gets treated really badly and still stand up. The covers start to look a little ragged by the end, but that’s part of the charm.

  • John Chandler

    Thanks for weighing in. I do love the look of them.