“Ambition” is the 25th release in the Field Notes Colors series of limited edition notebooks.
The three pack contains a datebook, ledger and memo book.
Let me say right off the bat that I do not have any use for a datebook or a ledger and I would have liked more memo books in any of the standard formats (dot grid, blank, lined, etc…). That aside, I think this is one of the very best Colors editions.
I love the subdued covers with gold embossed logos, gold colored staples, and gold leaf gilded edges. These books are nice.
The paper holds up to fountain pen ink quite well though thicker and juicer pens will bleed through.
I hope the Field Notes decides to make the Ambition memo book part of their permanent line. I would happily pay a premium for it over the standard memo book.
The mad scientists at Blackbird Ballard have taken three Field Notes Pitch Black Edition notebooks and bound them together with their “tar formula” and added a cord to keep the notebook closed. The end result is a very unusual looking 144 page notebook.
As a Seattle native and fan of the Blackbird store I decided to buy this mutant Field Notes for $28 (yes $28!!!) and see if it was any good.
The “tar” appears to be quite durable and while a bit stiff at first, the binding relaxes and the notebook becomes nice to use. Blackbird uses their tar formula on its wallets and pouches so it should hold up through to the last page of the notebook.
The Field Notes Pitch Black have Finch 50#T paper with a dot grid and while it is not the most fountain pen friendly paper, I find that it works well enough with fine nibbed pens.
The notebook also features thick tar covered page marker which is a nice addition. I have have been using the three different notebooks together such that I have 1 book for to-dos and reminders, 1 book for ideas and doodling and 1 book for the blog (with a list of reviews outstanding, ideas, pens to sell and pens to buy).
I have been enjoying this notebook immensely. The main downside (apart from the price) is that it’s less pocketable than a single Field Notes (it does fit in my pants pockets but it’s bulky.
Do I recommend it? That would depend on how you like to use your Field Notes.
If you normally carry your Field Notes around in your pants pocket, then no, I definitely do not recommend them, but if you throw them in a bag as I do and you appreciate the “design” then I say go for it.
I found out about this product back in December while listening to the Pen Addict podcast (thank you Myke Hurley).
If you don’t speak German, Roterfaden is the manufacturer and Taschenbegleiter is German for, “bag companion”. This is without doubt the coolest organizer I have ever had the pleasure of owning.
The Taschenbegleiter is a custom made-to-order organizer that utilizes a unique clip system that allows you to clip in all sorts of notebooks and loose paper.
The Taschenbegleiter comes in three standardized formats: A4, A5, and A6. For the outer cover you have two material choices (in multiple colors): dance floor and leather. Dance floor is a synthetic material that was originally used for (you guessed it) dance floors. I opted for the black leather option.
The black leather has a suede-like finish that is very soft to the touch. The Taschenbegleiter has a wonderful organic hand-made quality to it. Depending on the colors and options you choose it can be more casual look or more professional looking.
For the inside material you again get two options for materials, suede and wool felt. I chose the blue wool felt and I also chose to have my name embroidered into the felt in a light blue thread and Interstate font. You can actually send them a picture and they will embroider it on the organizer!
There are various pocket configurations that include an option designed specifically for an iPad mini. Instead of pockets on the back cover you get 4 elastics that hold the iPad Minis corners. I chose the large pocket (which also fits an iPad) because it serves a dual purpose as a pocket for smaller notebooks like Field Notes and work as an iPad holder when I travel. The downside of course is that you have to pull out the iPad every time you want to use it.
There are more options still. You can have all the pen loops you want. You can have them on the bottom the top or the side (as I have on mine). If you like to use really fat pens you can specify the size of the pen you want to use and they will make the loops bigger.
You can also specify the number clips. The standard is three but you can have none, one, two or four if you request it. This is an important consideration because it will determine how much stuff you can put in your Tachenbegleiter and how fat it will be. Mine is about 1.5″ wide with the three clips in use…but you can make it even fatter if you really stuff it.
Roterfaden makes various refills and inserts for the Tachenbegleiter. They all look beautiful and are of excellent quality. Let me show you how I normally have mine loaded up:
Here are some more pictures of the unusual diary refill which has a stave on one side and a dot grid on the other.
I love the red stitching in particular. The different booklets have different papers. The calendar has 70g paper that does show some bleed through with fountain pens. The 80g paper in the diary booklet holds up well to fountain pen ink. If you write with a fat juicy nib you might get some light bleeding but nothing serious.
I have not yet had the chance to sample the 120g drawing paper booklets. Most of the larger booklets have an optional cardboard cover and while they are not necessary they are nice to have as the booklets are otherwise protected by paper only.
Because the Taschenbegleiter comes in standard A series sizes you can put pretty much any A5 notebook in the organizer. I have also been able to put a standard Field Notes in one of the clips (top or bottom only). The new larger Field Notes Arts and Sciences notebooks work beautifully.
I have been using mine everyday for the last five months and there are some downsides. The main one being that it’s a pretty big organizer and its weight wont go unnoticed in you bag. For personal travel I tend to take my smaller Midori Travelers Notebook with me (maybe I need to get an A6 Taschenbegleiter).
The other downside is the price. It’s expensive, especially if you start adding options like a leather cover and embroidery. The basic A5 size runs 89€ or $120 USD (this includes VAT which is not applicable outside of Europe). With options mine came to $182 USD but with VAT removed (because I live in the USA) the organizer cost about $150 USD.
While expensive, I do believe you will have a hard time finding a better quality organizer for double or even triple the price. I have looked and I haven’t found anything close. The Taschenbegleiter is completely hand-made in Germany.
I love my Taschenbegleiter. It is a wonderful product and I recommend it to anyone in the market for a high-quality and highly adaptable organizer.
The Arts and Sciences editions are special because they are much larger than all past Colors editions. Instead of the normal package of three 3.5″ x 5.5″ notebooks you get two large 4.75″ x 7.5″ notebooks with 64 pages each.
The covers feature the normal Futura Bold typeface but unlike past editions “Field Notes” is debossed into the covers as are the little Arts and Sciences logos on the back cover.
The Arts notebook has a “chili” colored cover and features art related references on the inside covers:
The Sciences notebook has an “urban grey” colored cover and features science related references on the inside covers:
The pages in the Arts notebook are lined on one side and blank on the other. The Sciences notebook is a bit more interesting. It features “Engineer’s Graph Lines” on one side and blank pages on the other. The thickest grid lines are the 1″ followed by 0.5″ and 1/10″. I love these graph lines.
The paper in both of these notebooks is the same and like most Field Notes they don’t hold up well to fountain pen ink. There was a good amount of bleed.
Of the two, the Sciences notebook is my favorite. I really like what they did with this edition. I am not sold on this larger format at the moment but I need to spend more time with them. My initial reaction is that they are too big. You can’t put them in a pants or coat pocket.
Calepino appears to be the French equivalent of Field Notes. Calepino focuses on small pocket notebooks with a simple core line of 100% French-made notebooks numbered one through four. No 1 features a red striped cover with ruled paper, No 2, the version I purchased, has green stripes and grid paper, No 3 has blue stripes and blank paper and No 4 has grey stripes and a dot grid.
Notebook numbers 1-4 come in packs of 3 for $13 compared with Field Notes’ 3 for $10. The No 2 measures 3.5″ x 5.5″, though up against a Field Notes, the No 2 is a hair shorter and a hair wider. The page count is the same 48 pages. So are they better than Field Notes? Let’s find out!
The Calepino notebooks come in very nicely branded box that features the same design and same cardboard as the notebook covers. The inside of the box lists all the specs of notebooks much like on the back inside cover of a Field Notes.
The cardboard cover is much rougher than a standard Field Notes cover and is noticeably thicker. The cardboard is made by a company in the Creuse area of France that has been making cardboard since 1927. The design is quite nice but I definitely prefer the simplicity of the Field Notes covers. The Calepino has three fonts on the cover where Field Notes only has one.
Inside the cover is a place for your personal information and a place for the start and finish date.
The pages are made of a bright white recycled paper with a green grid. The 5 x 5 mm grid is a bit larger than the 4.7 mm x 4.7mm grid found on a standard Field Notes. I prefer the smaller grid and the light brown ink the Field Notes uses.
In my testing I found that the Calepino’s paper handled relatively well for a recycled paper. It does bleed and feather a bit but overall it holds ink better than the standard Field Notes paper. To my touch the Calepino paper is a bit rougher and it provides a bit more feedback when writing which I like.
The Calepino is bound with two staples vs Field Notes’ three. The back cover has a little blurb about the company (I hope you speak French) and a metric ruler.
I have been carrying around a Calepino for about a week now and I definitely like the notebook but I don’t like it better than Field Notes. I fold my covers over when I am writing on a page and the Calepino is noticeably less pliable than a Field Notes notebook. I can fold the cover over but its more difficult and the two staple binding does not do as nice a job of holding the pages in place.
The Calepino offers better paper and better packaging than Field Notes but in the end I prefer the softer cover and overall look and feel of Field Notes.
The Calepino limited editions are quite interesting and I hope to get my hands on a set. The Limited editions feature collaborations with artists and famous design houses. What I particularly like is that the limited editions I have seen come in sets that include other limited edition items like pencils, pens, buttons and bookmarks.
Here are links to some great reviews of Calepino notebooks:
The Field Notes Shelterwood Edition has the most unique cover I have seen so far. It features a cherry wood veneer on a brown kraft paper and it looks awesome. The feel of the cover was initially off putting, it felt like badly sanded wood. As I used the notebook more it felt less and less rough. I did not see quite the variation in color and grain as Field Notes shows on their website but each of the covers is noticeably different.
The cover is surprisingly strong, I have used it in my back pocket for a few days now and I have not seen any splintering.
I suspect as these covers get older, they will become more brittle.
The paper is the same lined paper as you got in the America the Beautiful Edition, which is by far the most fountain pen friendly Field Notes paper I have come across.
This is definitely one of the best limited edition Field Notes I have seen. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
Cold Horizon is the latest edition in Field Notes’ Colors series. When the covers are lined up you can see a blue gradient. The blue gradient is continued in the font on the inside of the front and back cover.
In the set each notebook features a different paper color, blue, green, and grey. Each notebook has grey grids.
Overall, I love the design; it is clear that they really put some thought into these notebooks.
On to the bad:
The covers are unpleasant to touch; they have a bit of a grainy feel which seems odd on a glossy cover. Most Field Notes are not considered fountain pen friendly and the Cold Horizon edition is no exception, in fact, the paper actually seems to resist fountain pen ink.
While I like the look of these Field Notes I don’t think I will be purchasing another set.
The Field Notes Expedition was not well received as the paper does not agree with many pens. The Expedition edition uses a synthetic plastic paper and cover which makes the pages and cover tear resistant and waterproof. The pages have a grey dot pattern. I haven’t used any other waterproof papers so I don’t have anything to compare it to but I really like these Field Notes .
As you can see below, this paper is not the most pen friendly. I have found that regular (non-gel) ballpoint pens and pencils work the best. Writing in the notebook feels like writing in cold butter; it is so smooth and pleasant that even the finest points feel great on this paper. I dipped the notebook in water after doing a smear test and the plastic pages were completely fine, however, most of the ink was not.