Notes on Portland Field Notes

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When Field Notes released their Chicago Edition pocket notebooks in 2016, they weren’t marketed as the first in a series. Because the company is based in Chicago, it seemed more like something the Field Notes employees made as a fun little side-project. But fast forward a year, and now we have the Portland Edition, which is the second in what Field Notes is now referring to as the “Hometown Series.”

This Portland edition, like the Chicago edition before it, uses the same 80# cover stock and 50# graph-lined inner-paper as the standard Kraft edition. The only significant difference is that these notebooks have Portland’s municipal flag printed on the cover, adjusted so that the four-pointed star is centered underneath the Field Notes logo.

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Portland has a really great flag design, so I like these pocket notebooks for that reason alone. But they’d mainly be great for anyone who likes the standard Kraft Field Notes, yet wants something a little more interesting than the “packing paper” brown cover. So far, the notebooks in this Hometown Series aren’t “limited” and don’t cost any more than standard Field Notes. So even for someone with no personal connection to Portland, they still might be worth buying over the Kraft books. And for any proud Portlanders (or Portlandians?), these notebooks are literally made for you.

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Additional Notes

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Additional Notes