A little while back I mentioned that I would be test driving a few different pocket notebooks to see if I can find anything better/more affordable/sexier than my usual Moleskine Cahiers books.
I had originally started with three notebooks, the Moleskine, a no-name lookalike from Target and the Rhodia No. 11 pocket notebooks. My friend John Abella put word in for Field Notes brand, and a few people mentioned Rite in the Rain. I haven't been able to find a local source for the RitR books, (although that doesn't rule out trying them in the future) but John was kind enough to send me a couple of the Field Notes books to try.
Well, the Moleskine and Field Notes are still in the running, but today let's talk about the two that I'm eliminating.
First of, the Target notebook. On the pro side, they're cheap, at less than $5 for a three pack, and, like the Moleskine, it has a rudimentary pocket in the back for reciepts/business cards. On the con side, they're cheap, as in, the binding is coming apart after the second day in a sport coat pocket. It's one thing to save some cash, but three or four dollars is not worth your to-do list getting scattered all over the floor when you pull it out of your pocket.
Also, from an aesthetic point of view, the manufacturer felt the need, for some reason, to make the cover some glossy faux pebbled-leather finish, which looks tacky next to the plain matte cardboard of the Cahiers. If you're worried about money, you're better off just getting some 3x5" notecards and sticking 'em together with a binder clip.
Next up we have the Rhodia. This is actually a wonderful little pad, and I intend to keep a couple on hand for project notes and repair work. They're super-compact and, unlike the Moleskine, which only has a handful of tear-off sheets in the back, each sheet is tear-able.
While this pad is great for a lot of uses, and can be had for less than $2 at your local Target, it doesn't quite work for me as my shirt/jacket pocket notepad for a couple of relatively minor reasons.
The biggest issue for me is the size. It's shorter and thicker than the Cahiers, as well as a bit heavier. Because of that, it creates a bigger bulge in a dress shirt or jacket pocket, and is uncomfortable to sit on in a back pants pocket. This is really a minor gripe, but that slight bit of awkwardness in toting it, bearing in mind human nature, makes me less likely to grab it while dressing to leave the house.
The other complaint, which is probably a bit more serious for my purposes, is that the readily-available ones only come in graph paper. The lines on the pages are just dark enough that they can make it hard to read a quick pencil scrawl.
If I'm hiking or doing something outdoors that involves wearing cargo shorts or a backpack, then the splash-resistant cover and convenient tear-off pages make this a great tool, but not when I'm dressed in my work clothes.
I'm going to spend a bit of time with the Field Notes books John sent. I like the look of them, which mixes a no-frills style with a few touches of humor, and will have my thoughts on them later this week, I hope.