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How to pick the best pocket notebook for your EDC

We are firm believers in the benefits of carrying a pocket notebook as part of your EDC, but picking one can seem a bit daunting, especially since we stock over 40 different options. Let's look at five areas of consideration (size, binding, paper type, paper print and the cover material) to help you find the one that fits your Primary or Secondary EDC best.
edc pocket notebooks

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various edc notebooks

Here at Option Gray, we believe a pocket notebook is a critical part of your EDC. We’ve already given you 5 reasons why we think it’s important to carry one, but sometimes picking a pocket notebook can be a bit overwhelming.

We’re going to address five considerations when purchasing a pocket notebook:

  1. Size
  2. Binding
  3. Paper Type
  4. Paper Print
  5. Cover Material

The great thing about a pocket notebook is that they are inexpensive enough that you can (and should) keep one as part of your Primary EDC (on your person), Secondary EDC (in a bag or organizer you have accessible) and Extended EDC (in your vehicle, at work and even at key places at your home, like next to your computer or on your counter).

The ability to write something down is an important part of everyday carry so, let’s figure out which notebook is right for you.

1. Size

rite in the rain notebook, word notebook, write notepads, and field notes.

Depending on what you plan on using your notebook for, you may need a variety of sizes. One of the easiest ways to evaluate size is to first decide what tier of EDC you want a notebook for. Within that tier, figure out where you’ll carry it and then pick the right size accordingly.  

Primary EDC

Your Primary EDC includes any pieces of gear you carry on your person. You want it easily accessible, not in a bag or purse, so you can grab it at a moment’s notice.

  • Pocket carry: Likely in your back pocket, side cargo pants pocket or shirt pocket
  • Organizer carry: A smaller pocket organizer, like the Maxpedition Mini or Micro, can help you organize your gear. They can still be comfortably part of your Primary EDC and can fit a 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket notebook or smaller

Secondary EDC

Your Secondary EDC is gear that is carried in a separate bag or container but is still with you as you go about day-to-day life.

  • Backpack, briefcase, or purse carry: A notebook in your Secondary EDC is a good supplement to a smaller notebook that you may have in your pocket. A steno notepad (like one from Write Notepads or Field Notes), a full-size notebook/notepad (available at any office supply store), a daily planner, etc., are all options
  • Organizer carry: Having a larger pocket organizer (like Maxpedition’s E.D.C.Fattyor Beefy) as part of your Secondary EDC can leave plenty of room for not just a pocket notebook, but your other gear as well

2. Binding

Shown is Rite in the Rain's Memo Book in Black (glued binding), the Field Notes Steno Pad (spiral binding) and a Field Notes Expedition Edition (stapled binding)
Shown is Rite in the Rain’s Memo Book in Black (glued binding), the Field Notes Steno Pad (spiral binding) and a Field Notes Expedition Edition (stapled binding)

There are a variety of binding options for EDC pocket notebooks, each with their own pros and cons. These include:

Spiral

Spiral binding can be an actual metal spiral, which is a continuous spiral of metal, but can also be a formed wire called “wire-o.” During the manufacturing process, it’s thread through punched holes, allowing the notebook to lay flat when open. Spiral-bound notebooks can take the wear and tear of being used many times throughout the day, and work well with thicker exterior materials, adding to their durability. 

  • Pros:
    • Durable
    • Lays flat
    • Variety of metals
    • Accepts thicker covers
  • Cons:
    • Bulkier
    • Heavier
    • Not left-handed friendly (unless it’s specific for lefties, like Write Notepads Traditional Notebook for Lefties or a top-spiral notebook, which works for left or right-handed folks)
    • Can get bent or damaged

Stapled

Just 2-3 simple staples can hold a lot of smaller EDC pocket notebooks together. Typically used for thinner exterior materials, it makes stapled notebooks lightweight and good options for a notebook that is part of your Primary EDC and carried in your pants or shirt pocket.

  • Pros:
    • Lightweight
    • Can lay flat, with a bit of smoothing/folding
    • Lefty-friendly
    • Variety of metals
    • Inexpensive to manufacturer
  • Cons:
    • Not as durable
    • Thin cover materials only

Glued or “Perfect Bound”

Glued folds of paper create a flat spine, which allows for EDC notebooks bound with the “perfect bound” solution to be able to hold more pages than a stapled notebook.

  • Pros:
    • Inexpensive to manufacturer
    • Lightweight
    • Easy to “fix” on your own if it starts to fall apart
    • Can be a higher number page book
  • Cons:
    • Doesn’t stand up well to extreme use. If handled very often, it can be more prone to damage
    • Can fail under extreme temperature conditions
    • Adds thickness and bulkiness to a notebook
    • Won’t lay flat

3. Paper type

Paper weight is measured in pounds. 500 sheets are weighed and the resulting poundage is what is used communicate the thickness, as logic tells us that the thicker the paper, the more it will weigh.

We come into contact with different weights of paper, anything from very thin tracing paper to medium weight copy paper to much thicker resume paper, but which one to choose for your EDC?

  1. Where are you carrying your notebook? The thinner the paper the more lightweight and malleable it is, which can be better if you are carrying a notebook in your back pocket. If you are looking for a larger notebook to use at work for a journal or to have in your Secondary EDC, you may not care as much about the weight but more about writing on the back of each page and you’re more concerned about bleeding. In that case, you’d want heavier paper
  2. What kind of writing utensil will you use? If you use a thick gel pen or fountain pen, you will need a heavier paper. A pencil or ballpoint pen can be used with a lighter weight paper

Let’s look at the different paper weights and which ones are better depending on your writing utensil.

4. Paper print

Shown here is a Word. Notebook in Green Terrain (specialty rule, as it uses Word. Notebook's bullet point system), a Word. Notebook Adventure Log (specialty rule to log your day-to-day or bucket list adventures), Rite in the Rain Pocket-Top 4" x 6" Spiral in Green (standard), Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Ledger (standard), Field Notes Sweet Tooth (plain) and a Field Notes Expedition (dot grid).
Shown here is a Word. Notebook in Green Terrain (specialty rule, as it uses Word. Notebook’s bullet point system), a Word. Notebook Adventure Log (specialty rule to log your day-to-day or bucket list adventures), Rite in the Rain Pocket-Top 4″ x 6″ Spiral in Green (standard), Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Ledger (standard), Field Notes Sweet Tooth (plain) and a Field Notes Expedition (dot grid).

What is printed on your paper notebook is a huge consideration. Whether you are looking to takes notes, have a journal, sketch, make lists, log life events or have the flexibility for them all, pay careful attention to the printing inside your EDC notebook. 

Let’s look at some pros and cons for each of the paper types. (Hint: If you’re not sure, the Field Notes Original Variety Pack is a good place to start, as you get a 3-pack with (1) plain (1) ruled and (1) grid.)

Plain

Plain pocket notebooks have no printing of any kind.

  • Pros:
    • Great for doodling or sketching
  • Cons:
    • For longer writing, like journaling or meeting notes, the unstructured plain pages can leave it a mess 

Standard Rule

Covering wider or thinner lines, a standard rule printed notebook is a great option for note-taking, journaling, or just for general purposes.

  • Pros:
    • Good for note-taking, journaling, general-purpose lists
  • Cons:
    • Note ideal for doodling or sketching

Specialty

Specialty printed paper can be to log your favorite beer, wine, flights you’ve taken, adventures you’ve gone on or even to support a system, like Word. Notebook’s bullet system for list makers.

  • Pros:
    • Specific focus and purpose
  • Cons:
    • Outside of Word. Notebook’s list system (which the bullet system can be easily ignored), most specialty printing leaves little use outside of it’s intended purpose

Dot Grid

A much lighter print than that of a traditional graph grid, a dot grid can give you the most flexibility while still having a highly structured page.

  • Pros:
    • Flexibility for writing, doodling or planning out items to scale
    • Lighter than the printing of graph paper
    • Vertical spacing can be kept in order
  • Cons:
    • Doodling and sketching can get lost as the page is heavy with print

Graph

Graph print is the heaviest of all but the highly structured pages offer consistent horizontal and vertical spacing.

  • Pros:
    • Flexibility for writing, doodling or planning out items to scale
    • Vertical spacing can be kept in order
  • Cons:
    • Doodling and sketching can get lost as the page is heavy with print

5. Cover

Shown here is Field Notes County Fair, Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Ledger Notebook, Word. Notebooks Polygon Mix, Rite in the Rain Pocket-Top 4" x 6" Spiral in Green, Rite in the Rain's Memo Book in Black and the Field Notes Cherry Graph.
Shown here is Field Notes County Fair, Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Ledger NotebookWord. Notebooks Polygon MixRite in the Rain Pocket-Top 4″ x 6″ Spiral in Green, Rite in the Rain’s Memo Book in Black and the Field Notes Cherry Graph.

Mostly a personal preference, while being an easy and inexpensive way to change up your EDC, notebook covers come in a variety of colors, materials, and thicknesses.

To add an extra layer of protection over your pocket notebook, considering pairing it with a notebook cover.


Picking the notebook for your EDC is a personal decision that should largely depend on where you’re going to carry your notebook, the size you need, the paper type you need, the paper printing you need, and the outside cover you need. 

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