Pocket Notebooks & Fountain Pen Comparison

All of my recent pen orders arrived, and I decided to try all of them out on the three most popular (and affordable) pocket notebooks.

Click on any photo to go to its Flickr page with alternate sizes, comments, etc. I apologize for the strange lighting; these were taken late at night and I did not have my normal light setup available.

First, the pens:


From left to right: Sharpie Pen, Pilot G6 Black, G6 Blue, Lamy Safari (Medium Nib), Pilot Varsity Black, Varsity Blue, Platinum Preppy Black, Preppy Blue, Preppy Red. All are fountain pens except for the G6s and the Sharpie.

Second, the pocket-sized notebooks:

Pocket Notebooks

Field Notes, Moleskine Cahier Pocket Red, and a Doane Paper Utility Notebook. Any of these will run around $10 for three.

Pen samples in the Field Notes notebook:

Field Notes Sample

Checking for bleedthrough:

Field Notes Bleedthrough

Only the Pilot Varsity Black has significant bleed through the paper.

Next, the Moleskine notebook:

Moleskine Sample

The Moleskine paper is a cream color and “feels” smoother than the paper in the Field Notes and Doane notebooks, but the Lamy Safari doesn’t flow as well on it. I’ve read that Moleskine uses a coated paper, which would explain it.

Checking for bleedthrough:

Moleskine Bleedthrough

Only the Pilot Varsity Black bleeds through on the Moleskine as well.

Finally, the Doane Paper Utility Notebook:

Doane Paper Sample

And a bleedthrough check:

Doane Paper Bleedthrough

No significant bleedthrough at all, even with the Pilot Varsity pen that was a problem on the other two notebooks.

My first fountain pens were the Pilot Varsity disposables that I picked up a few months ago. I got the Lamy Safari (with medium nib) about a week ago, and the Platinum Preppys arrived yesterday. I’m a little dissapointed in the performance of the Lamy cartridge ink on the coated Moleskine paper (since I have quite a few Moleskines), but will be getting a converter soon that lets me try some Noodler’s Black ink to see how that works.

The Platinum Preppy pens are really nice for the price ($3 each at JetPens), and feel/flow better than the Pilot Varsity models. I won’t be buying any more Varsitys once these are empty.

The Pilot G6s (a fatter version of the G2) were included for comparison. I have a bunch of them and like them for “general pen use”. I do not like the Sharpie Pen at all and included it because I had one on my desk.

The paper on the Field Notes and Doane Paper notebooks felt more “scratchy” than the Moleskine; I attribute this to their non-coated paper.

You really can’t go wrong with any of these notebooks; which one is best for you will depend on what you intend to use it for and your preferences about paper and paper color. Choice of pens is even more of a personal preference; use what you like!

Update: I’ll be glad to review any notebooks or writing instruments that companies want to send my way.

Second Update: Notebook Stories has named me their Notebook Addict of the Week.

8 thoughts on “Pocket Notebooks & Fountain Pen Comparison

  1. Actually, a better choice would be using a not-too-hard pencil. Pencils have the major advantage of even working on slightly wet paper, and don’t run out of ink.

  2. Bill,

    I am not, not at all, the kind of a person who will ever be organized to this degree. And I’m sure not going to spend the cash for the writing gear when, from my pov, a legal pad and mechanical pencil work fine.

    But I do admire people, like you, who organize this way. My hat is off.

  3. I, too, love Moleskines and Fountain Pens, but I have come to realize that the two should never meet. That is why I am now on a search for a good gel pen to write in my Moleskines. I picked up some Sharpie Pens and Uni-Ball Sigmo 207s yesterday and I plan on doing a review of them. I also have a set of Field Notes books and would like to get some Doane Paper pads (LOVE the concept) to test with.

    Very good and informative review. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the comparisons. I use different pens but you’ve get me considering adding a few of the Doane’s as I really like to write on both sides of each page.

  5. It may be too late, however, do not waste your money on Noodler’s Black if you intend to use it on Moleskine. The paper doesn’t absorb the ink, and will make a mess of your notebook (it dry smudges and partially erases). Try J. Herbin’s Noire or Sailor Kiwaguro.

  6. Brooklen, I’ve already got a bottle of the Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, but it was a gift from a friend. Thanks for the tip though. Haven’t yet gotten a few converters so I can try bottled ink instead of the Lamy cartridges.

  7. The reason why Moleskine books don’t perform well is due to the sizing they put on the paper. If you cared to, you could rip out, say, a page, soak in in water for about five minutes, then dry it out. The sizing melts off in the water, and the paper’s pores are no longer stuffed full of rabbit glue (“sizing”).

  8. I’ve had mixed results with ink and Moleskine paper. I use a Tombow ballpoint pen most often and there is no problem with bleed through or feathering. I have heard that Herbins combined with a fine point work pretty well.

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