Notes on Utility Field Notes

I’ve always thought of pocket-sized notebooks, especially Field Notes, as a utility product. They’re meant to be carried around to jot down small notes or ideas, and they are durable enough to take a bit of abuse. But now, with their 34th Quarterly Edition, Field Notes has formally made a Utility themed notebook. It has a black and safety-yellow color scheme, extra-thick cover stock, and even a pop-out ruler to make it just a little bit more useful.

With this Utility edition, I was especially happy to see that two options available for the ruling of the inner paper: engineer graph and ledger. Graph is my go-to ruling and a pretty standard options with Field Notes, and the engineer graph essentially just adds fatter lines at intervals. The ledger ruling is used less often, but it’s a favorite of mine. It’s a ruling that is meant for bookkeepers but works really well for anybody who makes a lot of lists.

img_6996

Overall, it’s bright, durable, and a great edition, but Field Notes did have a couple of quality problems along the way. First, there was some complaints online that the corners of these notebooks were arriving frayed. My notebooks definitely had this issue, but it was to a minor degree. Some other people’s notebooks were a little worse off, but I can’t say I’m bothered by it. My notebooks tend to get abused anyway, so I consider this to be – at worst – a quality hiccup.

Second, the “After Hours Utility Tool” – a key chain/bottle-opener that was given to Field Notes subscribers – is just cheaply made. The front logo decal popped off after some light use, revealing a big “CHINA” inscription. That’s not a good look for a company that prides itself on manufacturing in the U.S.A. Beyond even that, it’s still a pretty crummy bottle opener. However, it’s just a little extra goody, so I’m certainly not overly upset about it.

In fact, I’m more than willing to put these issues aside. I like these notebooks. The Utility theme is neat, the books are extra-durable (with 80# cover stock and 70# inner paper), and I love the ledger ruling. I tend to give a lot of my Field Notes notebooks away, but I’m definitely going to make sure I have a couple of these saved for myself.

img_6998

Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “02. Union Dues Owed;” “15. Good Caulk Jokes;” and “16. Riveting Stories.”
  • The only other Field Notes I’ve used with a ledger ruling was the Ambition Edition. Those, unfortunately, have become pretty difficult to find.
  • Concerning the pop-out ruler, it’s one of those “oh – cool!” features that quickly turned into a “but why?” for me. But I never use the ruler that’s usually printed in the back of Field Notes notebooks. Does anybody?
  • Check out more Utility Field Notes reviews at The Well Appointed Desk, Fountain Pen Follies, and Office Supply Geek.

Notes on Red Blooded Field Notes

img_6165

As far as I can tell, Red Blooded Field Notes were made for two reasons. First, so that a Field Notes designer could make a really adorable/cheesy/cute video for his wife on Valentine’s Day. And, second, because the Fall 2011 quarterly edition, Fire Spotter, was so well received that Field Notes wanted to have a similar edition with an open-ended production run (unlike Fire Spotter, which Field Notes limited to 4,000 3-packs).

The all-red cover, including the subtly-embossed logo, looks pretty good, so it’s not a shock that Red Blooded went through a total of three printings before it was discontinued in 2013.  I bought this pack a couple of years ago when they could be found through re-sellers, who were still hawking them for a reasonable price. But these days you’ll have to go through eBay to get them, and a 3-pack often runs $40 or $50.

That amount of money definitely isn’t worth it. Compared to recent editions like Lunacy or Black Ice, Red Blooded is fairly basic. It’s the standard pocket size with 48-pages of 50# white paper and a gray, grid ruling. You might think the books would be bound with red staples – that would make sense – but run-of-the-mill silver ones are used instead.

That’s not meant to knock the good people over at Field Notes HQ. A red edition was obviously a good idea, but I’d recommend holding onto that wallet for now. You never know – a fourth printing is still a possibility. And if it comes, hopefully it’ll have red staples.

img_6879

Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “03. Lists of Suspected Communists”; “16. Loves Me/Loves Me Not Stats”; and “30. Tape to Cut Through.”
  • According to Jinnie at Three Staples, this edition shipped out with a red “Field Notes Loves You” pencil. Blarg! I wish I had gotten one of those.
  • What about the edition size? Exactly how many Red Blooded Field Notes were made? Nobody knows!

 

Notes on Black Ice Field Notes

img_5932

It’s hard to know where to to begin with Field Notes’ 33rd quarterly edition (winter, 2016). In a snapshot, it’s the typical 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket-notebook with 48 pages of 70#, line-ruled paper. But with this notebook, which Field Notes has named the “Black Ice” edition, there’s actually a lot more going.

This notebook has a hefty 100# cover stock that is stamped with a dull, reflective foil. The cover shows cracks and scratches with wear, but somehow never seems to leave smudges or finger-prints. It ostensibly represents the shiny, gray coloring of a thin layer of ice on asphalt. It’s a clever design, though not one that’s easy to photograph.

Oddly, there’s also a lot of orange with this edition – the orange spine,  the glossy inside-cover section, and the ruling that lines the header section on each page – which is perhaps an ode to the Field Notes creator, Aaron Draplin. Not that I’ve got nothing against orange, but I don’t see how it makes much sense with the “Black Ice” theme. A dark gray would have worked better, in my opinion.

img_6713

The most unique feature of the Black Ice edition, however, is the use of PUR binding, a first for Field Notes. Instead of stapling the pages together, each leaf of paper is glued into the book, and the spine is then covered by an orange, rubbery hinge. The obvious advantage to PUR-binding is that it creates a much tougher spine for the notebook, though it also adds some bulk and prevents pages from easily laying open. As someone who typically keeps these notebooks in a back pocket, the extra bulk isn’t ideal, though I wouldn’t describe it as particularly cumbersome either.

Overall, anyone who uses Field Notes is likely to enjoy the Black Ice edition, though it doesn’t personally rank among my favorites. The bulkiness of the PUR binding can be a little annoying, and I’m not in love with the use of orange. On the other hand, the reflective covers look good, the pages are hefty, and it’s a durable little book. No doubt this edition will find a lot of fans, but I wouldn’t be surprised by the fact that it also has a few detractors.

img_6712

Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “02. Curling Rosters”; “24. Plunges Polar-Beared”; and “27. Bells on Bob Tails Rung”
  • With the Field Notes quarterly subscription, this edition came with a couple pieces of wrapping paper and gift labels. It was a smart assumption by Field Notes that these notebooks, released prior to Christmas, would be gifted. Though, I used the wrapping paper I received to wrap other gifts.
  • Check out some other good Black Ice reviews at Fountain Pen Follies, Lead Fast, and Nerd Gazette.

Notes on XOXO 2016 Field Notes

img_5912

Every year, the halls of the XOXO Festival – an art and technology conference out of Portland, Oregon –  have been complimented by an exclusive edition of Field Notes pocket-notebooks. In 2015, the conference engaged artist Brendan Monroe to create artwork that adorned the notebooks’ covers, which was a very good decision (it just so happens that the XOXO 2015 Field Notes are one of my favorite editions). So for the XOXO 2016 notebooks, I was happy to see that another artist was again involved, and the resulting designs can justly be described as an explosion of orange and pink.

This marbled/tie-dye cover-art was created by Mark Weaver, a designer and illustrator based out of New York, and from what I’ve seen on his website and Flickr account, he has an artistic style that might be described as ‘funky modern.’ For the XOXO 2016 notebooks, he created artwork that is bright, trippy, eye-catching, and generally just pretty cool. Inside the books, 60# white paper is ruled with bright-orange grid-lines, a color that I’ve found looks particularly good behind bright-blue ink.

img_6155

This edition is another win for XOXO, but I hate to talk these notebooks up too much, as they are difficult to find. Attendees of the XOXO conference were easily able to get a 3-pack, but I was able to get mine a few weeks later when extras were made available on the Field Notes website. They sold out quickly, however, and the best bet on finding a set now is through eBay where they will likely be overpriced (though it looks like they might still have some available at their Chicago home base).

So, good luck to you if you’re on the hunt for this Field Notes edition. They are, after all, probably one of the better things to come out of 2016.

img_6154

Additional Notes

Notes on Dead Print Field Notes

“Posters are delicate things,” writes Aaron Draplin. So what is a poster-maker to do when misprinted, damaged, and test prints begin to pile up in the workshop? For Draplin, the creator of Field Notes, the answer couldn’t have been too difficult: use these ‘dead prints’ to make pocket-sized memo books.

img_6026

So, in October of 2015, limited edition “Dead Print Field Notes” were made for three poster-producing companies: Draplin Design Co., Mondo, and Landland. Between all three companies, only 3,000 3-packs were made, and with images of these notebooks sporadically popping up on Instagram and Twitter, these Dead Print Field Notes became somewhat of a craze.

Although the notebooks contain basic 50# blank paper, the unique covers, made from assorted posters, spurred on the collectors. Getting my hands on all three was no easy task. I’ve seen sealed 3-packs occasionally sell for over a hundred dollars on eBay (much, much more than I’m willing to spend), but with a bit of patience, I found them all individually for reasonable prices.

img_6023

The DDC Dead Prints were initially only sold at a pop-up shop run by Aaron Draplin in Portland, but eventually a handful were sold through his website. There I was able to grab a couple 3-packs before they sold out. Similarly, the LandLand Dead Prints were briefly available on their website, but many of the shipments were lost in the mail, including mine. Fortunately,  the good folks at LandLand were able to ship out replacements a couple months later.

The Mondo Dead Prints were trickier. They were initially distributed only at MondoCon, the company’s convention, but some extras were sold online. These became sold out lightning-fast, well before I was able to add a pack to the shopping cart. But, after months of scouring eBay, I eventually found a single Mondo notebook for a relatively low price (never mind that it’s mostly just a white notebook).

img_6024

After some use, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that these Dead Print Field Notes are one of my favorite editions. Aside from the special cover-paper, there’s no difference between this and a standard Field Notes notebook. However, with their wild designs and the gold-foil used for the cover text, I’ve received more comments/compliments on these notebooks than I have while carrying around any other Field Notes edition. It’s really a shame that these notebooks are so rare, but maybe, if we’re lucky, Draplin, LandLand, and Mondo will continue to damage enough posters in order to justify another run.

Additional Notes

  • The Mondo Dead Prints have no “Practical Applications” list, but a musician/artist roster for their convention instead. Both the DDC and Landland books, however, do have “Practical Applications” lists. My favorites: “02. Thick Lines Tinkerings” (DDC) and “16. Hashtag Plans” (LandLand).
  • Even the belly-bands seem to be made of inside-out posters.
  • And speaking of Aaron Draplin, I wrote a review of his book. I liked it. It’s worth checking out if you like those DDC Dead Print designs.