Finding the Best Notebook For Writing, Sketching, Lists, and Life


Here at Wanderings we make The Wanderings Notebook and are super proud of it, but that doesn't mean weren't not, ahem, slightly addicted to every kind of notebook and journal in existence.

Roughly equivalent to 10% of my collection:

notebooks

Photo @matthutcheson 

There's a lot of options out there and finding the best notebook for yourself (or the person you're buying an awesome gift for) can be overwhelming, so I put together this guide to the different aspects that you'll see in notebooks and journals, as well as a few tips on what to look for. Onward!

 

The Basics

Here are the core characteristics of a notebook that you need to consider:

Notebook Size

One would think that there is a nice, neat, standardized system of notebook sizes, and they would be oh so terribly wrong.

Most people are passingly familiar with the classic A-Series B-Series sizing system (An A4 notebook, for example), which is a really handy as a rough guide or for more standard-sized notebooks and journals. For a summary of standard A & B Series sizing and popular brands like Moleskine, Delfonics, and Rhodia, check out this comprehensive article from Notemaker.au

For the rest of us, we've made this handy dandy graphic that reviews the most common sizes and some visual examples:

comparison of common notebook and journal sizes

 Here's a list of links to those notebooks:

Pocket / Passport Sized

Moleskine Pocket

Field Notes

Rite in the Rain

Traveler's Notebooks

Midori

The Wanderings Notebook

Standard A5 Sized Journals

 Leuchtturm 1917

 Rhodia A5

The Rebels: Non-Standard Sizes

Moleskine Classic

Rhodia Classic Notepad

Rustico Ranger

 

 

Notebook Material

I like to look at this in two overarching categories: Durable and Non-Durable. 

Non-Durable Notebooks

You would probably want to go with a non-durable notebook for something like taking notes on the fly, schoolwork, or a planner. These will have covers made out of some kind of paper product and could be damaged more easily.

Some examples of non-durable notebooks:

Rhodia Notepad

 

Moleskin Classic

 

 

Durable Notebooks

These are perfect for a cherished journal or diary, sketchbook, or keeping important notes that you would like to archive. Typically, durable notebooks are made of either leather. If you want to save what you write or draw I would also highly recommend a refillable notebook. Durability is the main reason that we made The Wanderings Notebook of top-grain leather and with refillable pages.

Here's a few examples of durable notebooks:

The Wanderings Notebook

Rustico Trek Notebook

 

Paper Type

There are two variables here: What's on the paper, and how it's made.

What's On The Paper

Lined - For writing

Blank - For writing, sketching, painting, or a combination (check out this article for inspiration on different ways to combine methods in your notebook!)

Graph - Preferred by engineers, some technical designers, and nerds everywhere (looking at you Dad)

Dotted - This option has been gaining popularity lately as an unobtrusive page-type that helps to keep the layout organized while not being too visually overwhelming. It's perfect for bullet journaling. P.S. If you haven't heard of bullet journaling before please allow me to share this introductory article and say: you're welcome.

Notebook Paper Types

And that's not even considering custom paper types for special tasks like planner inserts. 

 

How The Paper Is Made

The key metrics here are:

Paper Weight

GSM refers to the weight of the paper, but not necessarily the density. For a full explantion check this out. GSM is most important when using fountain pens, other heavy inks, or paint in your notebook. As a frame of reference, typical high-quality office documents would be 80 - 90 GSM and company letterhead is 100 GSM. A brochure or flyer might be 150 GSM. 90+ GSM is good for fountain pen users.

Paper Acidity

Most journals (except for the really cheap ones) use acid-free paper these days. The technical details of why some paper is acid free can be found in this riveting Wikipedia article, but for most of us it's enough to know that if you want to save what you are writing or drawing then the paper should be acid free! 

 

The Extra Features

 

Refillable Journals

Obviously I am a big fan of refillable notebooks, since that's how we designed The Wanderings Notebook! There are a few advantages to this layout:

  • Buy the notebook once and use it forever. Paper refills can be archived for reference once they are full of drawings, notes, or journal entries.
  • Sections can be re-ordered inside the notebook to better organize ideas.
  • Different refill types can be combined to keep everything in one place! Many people use The Wanderings Notebook or Midori Notebook as a combination journal, notebook, and planner.
  • Tons of accessories can be put into a refillable notebook like Zip Pocket or Card holder

Refillable notebook

The Wanderings Notebook with refills visible

 

Pockets and Add-Ons 

Customizing a refillable notebook is awesome, but there are some notebooks with pockets and other accessories already built in. The Moleskine Classic Notebook popularized the back-page pocket (shown below) 

Moleskine classic back pocket

A great feature of refillable notebooks is that they can be customized with all kinds of pockets and folders inside. Behold!

Travelers Notebook Pockets & Folders Inspiration

Hopefully that got you PUMPED to customize your notebooks. Here's are list of a few accessories to get you started:

Midori Craft File

Midori Card Holder

Midori Card & Note Holder

Linshi Tasks Zip Pocket

 

and that brings us to...

 

Pen Holders

Any notebook that has an elastic closure will work just fine as a pen holder. Here's how I like to keep my wooden ballpoint pen tucked into my Wanderings Notebook:

the wanderings notebook

 If your favorite notebook doesn't have an elastic closure or somewhere else safe to stash your pen, there are clip-on pen holders available like this one:

 

 

Midori has a similiar style as well. Check it out here. 

 

And so finally!

 

 Go Forth and Journal!

I hope that this article has helped you start thinking about what is important to you in a notebook, whether it be for journalling, sketching, painting, or productivity. 

 

It would be great to hear about your main considerations when buying a new notebook. What's important to you? Where do you start?

 

Leave me a comment and let me know!

 

Happy Wanderings

 



1 Response

Josie Kronberger
Josie Kronberger

December 15, 2016

Love my journal it’s wonderful thank you

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