Pocket Notebook Reviews

Field Notes, Duane Paper, Jetpen’s Kanso Sasshi, and Story Supply Co.

Head to Head

I use a lot of pocket sized notebooks. Food tracker (I write down everything I eat and when), exercise log book, recipes, books and movies to read/watch – have read/ watched, a book in the car, a stash book when I am out walking. Like I said, a lot.

Until now, I have used Field Notes? Why? Because that is what I have had on hand. I subscribed one year to the quarterly notebook shipment and ended up with a lot of high quality, interesting notebooks that did the job. But then I started to think . . . . why them as opposed to one of the other fine products out there. But which one? So, I logged on to JetPens and ordered a bunch I have either heard about of looked interesting, based on my habits. Here is what I found.

Field Notes – This is a solid, do everything notebook. I like the very basic brown paper, in part because the really nice ones (parks, marbled long notebooks, etc) seem too nice to use for every day beat up jobs.

It works. It soaked up fountain pen ink, dried reasonably well, and has a smooth feel for both fountain and gel pen. I used a fountain pen a lot, and the ink did not dry right up, as you can see from the 1 second smear test. Give it a few more second and no issues. The paper is a little stiff, high quality and a little thicker than others. Overall, I like the look of the notebook. This version was lined and I tend to prefer graph/dot but overall this is a good solid entry. There is a reason they are popular, in addition to the other cool designs they make. They run about $3 a notebook.

Very little bleed through on the slightly thicker paper

Next up was another American made, blue collar marketed product – Story Supply Co.

This looks like something you would jam in your back pocket or pick up glove box and keep there for a long time. I liked the feel of this right out of the pack, even more than Field Notes due in part to the thicker cardstock/cardboard cover. I also liked the graph design, which has some lower and edge bordering that enabled some organization or separation tools if you need them.

There is even less bleed through on the Story Supply paper than with Field Notes. Overall, I put this notebook just a tad above Field Notes. Again, from Jetpens, they will run you about the same – $10 for a three pack. Story Supply also does some limited release items if you are into that kind of thing.

Third in the review was a notebook I had not heard of before – Doane Paper. It is another American company with an interesting back story – started back in 2003 by a skateboarder.

I like the black cover and graphic. The cover stock is about the same thickness as Field Notes. But what stands out is the very funky paper design – part lined and part graph paper. It is different, and striking. You may love it. I did not. I appreciate that it might enable people to use it for either design or text, but for me it tries to be too many things at once. I would not use it for text as the graph gets in the way, and the lined break up the look and feel I like from graph paper. But that is only me. You may love it.

What is under the design, however, works. The paper is solid, soaks up ink and although it is slightly thinner than either Field Notes or Doane, had less bleed than the others. A little bit of smearing after 1 second, but very little. So the paper is very nice which is the real plus, as paper is king. They also do a bunch of designs and papers, so if the pattern does not work for you – you have some very cool options. But they will cost you – about $1 more a book at $12 for a 3 pack.

Last up was one I was most excited about – the Kanso Sasshi pocket notebook by Jetpens, imported from Japan. Why was I excited? Three words – Tomoe. River. Paper. This is the top shelf paper for fountain pens and my love of most things Japanese and my appreciation for the paper made this a must try. I took the dive even though the notebook does not seem to come in grid or dot, although the Traveler Size notebook by Jetpens does.

The cover stock is about the same as Field Notes and Doane. I like the graphic, which is silver but does not stand out too much. The notebook does come with a lined insert, which you can use on the blank paper if you want to have a cleaner line as you write. I wish they had a grid option, but I have my own so no big deal there.


Where this notebook shines is the paper. So thin and soft. Closer to tracing paper, and by far the pens flowed the smoothest over this of the four options. However, there is a price (no such thing as a free lunch). Drying time on Tomoe is longer than the other paper (thinner, etc). You can see on the 1 and 5 second tests the results. So for a run around, jot down notebook this might be an issue. For my desk top journal or planner, less so. But that is a major knock on the Kanso entry. On the other hand, no bleed through at all. The paper is amazing, but you need to be in a situation where it has time to set. The cost – expensive – 2 for $15 so over 2xs that of the others.

So, where does that leave me?

Top choice for me is the Story Supply – my new go to notebook. I will use up my healthy stock of Field Notes and save a few for special occasions, gifts, etc but for the price and with the paper, I am sold. Just below that is the Field Notes book. Third is the Kanso Sasshi, which even while expensive has the Tomoe River. I may find some home uses for it. Last was the Doane, mainly for the paper. I will keep my eye our for their other products, as the designs are sharp and may find something that is not off putting like this mixed line/grid. The paper underneath was good enough to keep an open mind.

I purchased all of these notebooks with my own funds and was not given or paid anything for this review.

Published by Jon Wolfsthal

Analog Enthusiast

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