Review: Field Notes Notebooks and use for traveling

I consider myself a "digital guy". My life is as paperless as possible and I use several apps for planning a trip and during my travels.

However, back in 2012, roughly at the same time I ditched my DSLR for iPhone photography, I also slimmed down my wallet and began to focus on traveling light, I felt the need for good old pen and paper in various situations. Be it to leave a note with my phone number when I parked the car in a "not so ideal" spot to take photos at a lost place, be it to take notes about how I photographed certain scenes to later publish them here in the blog or as a backup for essential travel information.

So I began to look for a small paper notebook: Not to thick, not too thin, not to small and not too big.

It had to fit into all kinds of pockets, from the back pocket of my jean to a shirt pocket and, of course, into the pockets of a jacket. Because of that, the notebook I was looking for must have a soft cover. So here's a filled memo book I used for traveling in 2018.

That's when I discovered Field Notes Notebooks. They seemed just right for me and so I ordered my first 3-pack of the Pitch Black Field Notes Memo Book edition from Amazon.

A Field Notes Noebook filled with Experiences and travel notes

A Field Notes Noebook filled with Experiences and travel notes

Once I received those notebooks I used one as an everyday carry memo book and one as a travel journal, that also doubled as a kind of travel wallet for tickets, maps and so on.

Why I love Field Notes Notebooks

For me, Field Notes notebooks are just perfect. First, because they have the perfect size and despite their soft cover, are quite durable.

Second, after I've ordered my second pitch black pack edition, I checked the web-site of Field Notes Brand and saw that they're offering a quarterly subscription with new and exclusive designs delivered to my doorstep every three months. I gave it a try and subscribed. That was four years ago.

Today, Field Notes Memo Books have become an integral part of my travel gear and everyday carry.

What’s the difference between a Field Notes Memo Book and a Field Notes Note Book?

In short, it’s the size. Let’s have a look at the Pitch Black Edition, for which Field Notes sells two different sizes:

  • The Pitch Black Memo Book, which is the size I’m using that fits perfectly into any pocket. It’s 3.5” x 5.5” (8.9cm x 14 cm) and has 48 pages
  • The Pitch Black Notebook is larger. It’s 4.75” x 7.5” (12.1cm x 19cm) and has 96 pages.

For other editions, there are additional formats available, for example the Steno, which is 6x9”.

Use Cases for a Field Notes Memo Book for traveling

There are probably 100s of ways you can use those memo books for traveling. I mainly use it for the following.

Use Case #1: As a Travel information backup

Though I use a few apps for traveling to store all relevant travel information, I began to write down essential travel data in a memo book as a backup. A smartphone can run out of battery, can be stolen, lost, or damaged. This way I still have the vital travel information at hand. Here's what I write down:

  • Airport, Flight numbers and departure times
  • Airline phone number
  • Hotel address and phone number
  • Address & phone number of the Austrian embassy (just in case) on site
  • Credit Card / Fraud Hotline Number
  • One or two taxi phone numbers

Once back home, I also sum up all the travel expenses by category like flight, public transportation, hotel, eating, admission fees and souvenirs to get an idea how much the trip costed.

Use Case #2: As a Travel wallet for all that paper

I don't know about you, but I still get quite some paper when traveling; like public transportation tickets, tickets for attractions, small maps, invoices and, occasionally, a speeding ticket.

As I've slimmed down my wallet to the bare essentials, I use a Bellroy Card Sleeve, I added a few paper clips to the Field Notes Memo Book and use them to keep all those tickets in the memo book.

Use Case #3: As a Travel Journal

Each trip begins on two empty pages in my Field Notes. The left page remains empty. This is the place I attach all the paper as described the previous use case. On the right page I write down all the essential travel information from use case #1.

Then, on the subsequent pages, I take notes about the places I've been to, how the weather was, my thoughts on places I've visited, how I photographed those places and what I should try next time and the like. I usually fill 2-4 pages per day.

It's also a great way to take notes about good restaurants and other tips I get from people I meet during my travels.

Where to get Field Notes Memo Books.

I've ordered my first Field Notes Notebook from Amazon and ordered a new pack of 3 whenever I ran out. I also began to use Field Notes Notebooks for other things like a personal journal (not travel related), for other projects (like my genealogical research) and more.

So I got myself a Filed Notes quarterly subscription which delivers a new and uniquely designed pack or two to my doorstep every three months.

Well, there's not much to add to a Field Notes Notebook - except your thoughts and experiences. Nevertheless I'd like to point you to two accessories I recommend and use myself.

Field Notes Wallet

I prefer and use the Bellroy Cover Mini as my Field Notes Wallet. It's a perfect cover and wallet for Field Notes memo books that has room for a passport (European Sizes) and 2-6 credit cards plus my Fisher Space Pen.

You can check the reviews and get a Bellroy Notebook Cover Mini from Amazon.

Fisher Space Pen

Fisher Space Pens are advertised to write in almost all conditions: From -30F to +250F, underwater, at any angle, even upside down and even in out space.

I doubt that I will ever use it underwater or with Scotty in outer space. But I can confirm that those pens really write at any angle and at any temperature. The hottest area I used it so far was Death Valley at 125F.

Fisher sells one model of the Space Pen that comes with a conductive stylus that I use when retouching photos on iPhone using Touch Retouch. You can get the Fisher Space Pen with capacitive Styles at Amazon.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Field Notes Memo Books are just the perfect size of everyday use and traveling. They fit into almost any imaginable pocket - from shirts to a pair of jeans. That makes them the perfect notebook for everyday carry and for traveling.

Now, please excuse me. I've to prepare my next trip to Budapest, Hungary, and need write down the essential travel information in my Field Note Memo Book.