Field Notes Journals or Moleskine Cahiers


Field Notes was kind enough to send several journals for review. Lots of fountain users rate them superior to Moleskine cahiers but seeing is believing so this provided a great opportunity to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

Field Notes Journal

Field Notes Journal

These babies come in a three-pack of graph, ruled, or plain paper or a mixed three-pack of one of each style. Each notebook has 48 pages of very white paper held together with three staples and bound in a stiff, brown paper cover. The overall dimensions are 3.5″ x 5.5″ with rounded corners. The lines match the cover color and add to the visual appeal. It’s all very utilitarian, made in the U.S.A., and costs $9.95 for a three-pack. All to the good for a stick in your pocket, take me anywhere, ready for anything journal.

Moleskine cahiers have cachet with their soft texture, cream-colored paper, and pale gray lines. Field Notes journals have a contemporary crispness with unique tan lines on bright white paper that enhances legibility. Moleskine’s plain brown binding offers nothing of interest save a pocket in the back. Field Notes has a printed form inside the front cover for details that are good for cataloguing as well as a place to offer “a handsome reward” should your journal take off on its own and need help returning. The inside back cover has a 5 inch printed ruler, details about the product, specs, and a long list of use suggestions. I especially liked the idea of using my journal for “shady transactions” or “escape routes”. Following “half-ass calculations” they suggest “crop predictions” which I read wrong the first time. Well, it is written in a rather small typeface. I decided the Field Notes people weren’t quite as cheeky as I had originally thought but still ought to be watched just in case.

Now for the pen to paper part of things. Gel pens, roller balls, pencils all work well. No surprise there.

However, Field Notes performance tops Moleskine when it comes to fountain pens. My tests were done on the grid versions of each brand. Field Notes showed minimal feathering and only enough to produce very mildly indistinct edges. Not offensive at all especially for the purpose. Moleskine showed enough feathering with most inks to be a distraction though less so with dry-writers.

Field Notes/Moleskine Cahier Comparison

Field Notes/Moleskine Cahier Comparison

Here is what I did not expect. Moleskine had no bleed-through and only occasionally the very mildest hint of show-through. As a test there is a little writing with J. Herbin Perle Noire behind the Moleskine title on the right. It is faint and unobtrusive which doesn’t matter since the feathering is beyond my tolerance level though it may be perfectly acceptable to some folks. Field Notes had modest show-through and a little bleed-through except with fine, dry-writers. So depending on pen and ink choice, even the back of a page may be useful with Field Notes.

So what does all this mean? If you use any writing instrument but a fountain pen, Field Notes will deliver a quality American made product that has tons of uses. For non-fountain pen writing Moleskine will do well, too. The slightly heavier Field Notes paper and cover may be more durable than Moleskine but that is beyond the scope of my testing.

However, if you are a fountain pen devotee, consider this: Field Notes journals have one very good writing surface while in most cases Moleskine cahiers have two disappointing ones. Thus Field Notes journals are actually useful – not just attractive. Wanna guess which one I’ll buy next time I need a thin, easy to carry journal?


Note that Office Supply Geek bought a Moleskine Volant yesterday that worked well with Noodler’s Blue Black ink in a Pelikan M215 with a fine nib. The Volant is smaller than the Field Notes journal and tiny for my purposes but you might find a use for it.

More on Field Notes at Brassing Adds Character and Spiritual Evolution of the Bean.

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  1. I have found the same thing – the Moleskines really bleed with certain pens, while I rarely have issues with my Filed Notes. Love ’em!


  2. […] Field Notes Journals or Moleskine Cahiers « An Inkophile’s Blog via inkophile.wordpress.com […]


  3. The whole Moleskine and fountain pen debate is always interesting. Here in the UK, I use Moleskines most of the time (at the momement) and I have no problems at all with them handling a wide variety of inks, pens and nib thicknesses. In my journal at the mo’ I am using a Waterman PSF12 with a big juicy free flowing flexible medium to broad nib (Lamy black ink) and no feathering and no bleed. I do wonder if it depends what country you buy them in.


    • Mark, that is interesting. The ones I purchased at least five years ago had no such problems. Maybe the quality has returned if your recent purchases have been good.


  4. I would love to see this comparison side by side with a Doane Utility notebook!


    • Kim, maybe someday a Doane notebook will find its way here and I will do just that. Thanks for the suggestion.


  5. I enjoy your reviews. Very cool blog.


  6. Mark, your comment is intriguing. I have several different Moleskines I bought in Italy that appear to be more suitable to fountain pens than what I hear about them in the States.

    I haven’t bought any in the US in ages but will try one to see if there is a significant difference.

    Thanks for the in depth review Inkophile.


  7. Hi all,

    its really informative, nice post and enjoyable .



  8. […] zquilts placed an observative post today on Field Notes Journals or Moleskine CahiersHere’s a quick excerptGel pens, roller balls, pencils all work well. No surprise there. However, Field Notes performance tops Moleskine when it comes to fountain pens. […]


  9. This is a very good and informative post. I look forward to see more.


  10. Definitely prefer the Field Notes for the same reasons.

    One other cool thing about the Field Notes is that they are stapled together while the Moleskine Cahiers are sewn. Doesn’t sound like much, but thanks to the staples, I can easily add pages to a Field Notes book. For example, if I find a picture that I like, I print it, and then slip it in the notebook.


    • That’s certainly a benefit I never considered. Thanks for the tip. 🙂


  11. […] Field Notes Journals or Moleskine Cahier […]


  12. […]  Field Notes Journals or Moleskine Cahiers March 2009 […]


  13. […] Field Notes Journals or Moleskine Cahiers […]


  14. […] Inkophile – Field Notes Journals or Moleskine Cahiers […]


  15. Staples do have the advantage mentioned above. EXCEPT, if you are using the tiny notebooks to take notes on your spouse’s treatment when he is CONFINED in a ‘Behavioural Health’ facility. Sewn [as Moleskine brand] is allowed, but NO STAPLES, as are used in FieldNotes. Just another of a host of ‘bummers’ when so confined. At least they let me take in a very very short pencil to write.


  16. I tested both on Lined paper the Moleskine Cahier was much better (Pass) than the Field Notes (Fail) as well as being considerably cheaper in the UK. The Squared paper they were virtually the same – Fail. I used a very inky Montblanc with a Broad nib and Montblanc ink. (Tested August 2015)


    • Thanks, Malcolm, for testing the products. Your paper may be of more recent vintage than mine so that is very useful.


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