Review: Field Notes Quintessential Memo Books

FieldNotes-MainI purchased my first Field Notes memo books six years ago at the recommendation of Warren Ellis. I now have an extensive collection of various books from Field Notes, but, like most geeks, I can’t stop collecting them, and they are worth every penny.

FieldNotes-SamplePages
Notes, action items, a guy riding a rocket, and even a subterranean workshop with rooftop parking.

The standard issue Field Notes comes in three flavors–graph, ruled, and blank–to meet whatever your needs might be. I personally like the graph type most and use them for just about anything you can imagine–shopping lists, sketching out a new garage, floor plans, meeting notes and action items. They are 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ so they easily go with you anywhere plus they are durable and, in many of the limited series cases, beautiful as well.

I’m a geek who likes details and information and quite possibly my favorite thing about Field Notes, aside from how convenient and useful they are, is that you can tell that the folks who make Field Notes are total geeks about printing and really love what they do. Every item and book they sell has had a ton of detail and thought put in to it, including their witty quotes and product descriptions. Their tagline is even “I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

Field Notes sent me four different memo book packs for review purposes–a Mixed Three Pack, a Shenandoah Pack, an Expedition Pack, and a Pitch Black Dot-Graph Pack. The Shenandoah and Expedition are both from their “Colors” series.

Field Notes Colors is a limited run of a special set of memo books that Field Notes does every quarter. You can even sign up for a subscription to automatically get them each quarter (which, if you love them as much as I do is totally worth it.) They usually sell out pretty fast and being a subscriber is the only way to ensure you don’t miss out. The subscription is $97 for a year. This includes two packs of each quarterly release (a pack is typically three books though there are sometimes special exceptions like the Arts and Sciences note books I’ll dive in to below).

So what makes these memo books so special? I’ll let Field Notes do some of the talking.

Expedition

“FNC-17? marks the start of our fifth year of FIELD NOTES COLORS. In that time, we’ve explored a wide variety of papers, colors, and printing techniques, but with this new “EXPEDITION” edition, for the first time, we’ve actually expanded the basic utility of our notebooks.

Aesthetically, you’ll find an all-new design with plenty to like: a hi-visibility “Antarctic Survey Orange” front cover and “Polar Night Black” back cover, with a subtle varnish effect featuring a topographic map of Antarctica. The body pages feature our popular ‘dot grid’ graph paper, printed in light gray.

But the real innovation here is the paper. It’s maybe not even fair to call it paper. The whole book is printed on Yupo Synthetic paper, an amazing water- and tear-proof paper extruded from polypropylene pellets in Chesapeake, Virginia.

That’s right, water and tear proof paper in a beautiful hi-vis orange cover. This one really shocked me at just how cool it is.

Shenandoah

If you want paper that’s one color on one side and another color on the reverse, the simplest thing to do is to start with white paper and print a different ink on each side. We’ve done that, it’s simple, it works well. But we’re Field Notes; if there’s a more difficult, expensive, and awesome way to achieve the same result, we will find it. In this case, it’s called duplexing. Using brute force and adhesives, you take two different colored papers and fuse them together so that they become one. We’ve used duplex paper before (in our “American Tradesman” and “Raven’s Wing” editions) but this time we had specific paper and colors in mind, and an off-the-shelf solution wouldn’t work. So for the very first time, we made our own.

Our Fall limited-edition seasonal release, “The Shenandoah Edition” features three green French cover stocks that match the leaf color of three trees found at Shenandoah National Park: the Sweet Birch, the Chestnut Oak, and the Red Maple. Our new friends at Platinum Converting in Itasca, Ill. fused each of the green papers to a contrasting French text-weight paper that matches the tree’s fall foliage. These extra-sturdy duplexed covers have a classic, beefy feel to them, reminiscent of early COLORS releases like “Mackinaw Autumn” and “Just Below Zero.” Beefier, actually, since we’ve upgraded our body paper to 60#T Finch Opaque “Bright White,” with a 3/16? graph. Each features an illustration of a leaf on the back with some facts about the tree. The belly band is real birch veneer, just because it looked so darn good with all that green.

This is exactly what I was referring to when I called them print geeks. They made their own colored paper and duplexed two colors together to get two-differently colored sides on a single piece! And to top it off they created a band of beech veneer. I don’t even want to crack this one open.

 

Pitch Black

Halloween seems like as good a day as any to announce a new addition to the FIELD NOTES line-up, so please welcome “Pitch Black.”

You’ve been asking for an open-edition black notebook.

You’ve been asking for a open-edition dot-grid notebook.

Well, here are both, in one! “Pitch Black” features French 100-lb “Blacktop” covers with “Stealth Gray” text. Inside is our 50-lb Finch Opaque Smooth text paper, with a light-gray dot grid. It’s bound with shiny black staples and features an all-new list of Practical Applications. And best of all, it’s not a limited edition, we made plenty for everyone and we’ll keep it in stock until black goes out of style. (Like that’ll happen.)

Whatever they’re calling the “new black,” forget about it. Only black is black, and nothing’s blacker than black, and black goes with everything. This book will look great in a tux or a greasy leather jacket. It can record performance notes atop a grand piano, or take note of f-stops rubber banded to a thrift-store camera.

This is my favorite new product from Field Notes. The Pitch Black book is a standard edition item so it’s always available for purchase, and it is just so slick. I haven’t yet had a chance to try out the dot-graph paper, but I’m certain it will be my new favorite paper type as well.

FieldNotes-ArtScienceArts and Sciences

The 23rd edition of the Colors editions was a large format 2-pack of notebooks. These books are 4.75″ by 7.5″ and feature an Arts book and a Sciences book. Both books feature sturdy Mohawk Loop 110-lb covers with silver ink and debossed logos, with 64 pages of Finch Opaque 50-lb text paper inside.

The “Arts” book is geared towards your more creative side and features a wine-colored cover with a bunch of info for writers and fine artists (like brush types, poetic meter, and a typical story arc). Its 64 interior pages are quarter-inch ruled in “Academy Gray” for prose and poetry on the right-hand side, and blank on the left-hand side for things like sketches and brain maps.

The “Sciences” book has a dark slate gray cover loaded with sciency goodness like the scientific method, the period table of elements, and the electromagnetic spectrum. The right hand pages feature an all-new “Engineer’s Graph” subdivided into one-inch, half-inch, and tenth-inch squares in “Academy Gray.” As with “Arts,” the left side of the sheet is blank for diagrams and calculations.

If you, or someone you know, is a lover of fine paper goods and still believes in the fine art of using a pen or pencil and real paper, head over to Field Notes and check out all the wonderful things they offer.

Note: I received several sets of notebooks for review purposes but all thoughts and opinions above are my own.

Will is a geek, athlete, husband to a geek mom, and father of 4-year-old and 1-year-old geeks-in-the-making living in Seattle, Washington. He loves reading, comics, cosplay, games (tabletop and video sorts), and robots - especially Transformers. He's also the co-host of the Sunday Evening with Captain Owen podcast (available on iTunes) and custom prop builder at Billythebrick Cosplay.