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
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
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.