Choosing a Notebook

Does it matter what kind of notebook you use for your field journal?  Probably not, although there are features of some certain journals that are probably better for some uses than other journals would be.  My very first field journal was given to me by my science-teacher uncle when I flew by myself to Kansas to visit him when I was 13, during the summer after seventh grade.  That book was an Elan Level Book, orange, 4 5/8x7in (which turns out to be the standard field journal size), with 140 writable pages, and 10 pages of tables in the back.  Uncle Bill was trying to teach me scientific method, and the first pages of the book are filled with the careful notes of our experiments.  I loved that book, but didn’t know where it came from, or that I could get another one for five or six dollars, and in not knowing that, I cherished it, saving its pages for some great experiment I might someday do, and thereby ensured that I would never learn enough, never experience enough, to do that great experiment.

Many shelves full of cherished, and therefore half-filled books later, I bought a Moleskine (mol-a-skeen-a) Large Squared Journal to keep notes and ideas for a rivers class and a land-use planning class I was taking.  Having continuously failed to keep and fill a notebook, I was determined to write, regardless of mistakes, or value of the writing, and fill the book up.  I cherished my Moleskine, and so I filled it.  And it was great.  The Moleskine is a little bigger than the standard field journal with an oilskin cover, a pocket in the back, a band that keeps the cover closed, and beautiful ivory pages that are just lovely to write on.  Of all the books I’ve had, I think that the Moleskine was my favorite.

Lately I have been using a “Rite in the Rain” All-Weather Field Book, the same size as the Elan book, with 150 numbered pages.  The best thing about the RITR books is that the pages are coated with something that keeps them from getting mushy even when there are directly in the rain.  Add a pressurized all-weather pen to the mix, and you can write in almost any weather condition.  The RITR books are nice to use in the field because of the security of not losing all of your notes if it rains, but the pages can be hard to write on (you have to match you pen to the page, finding one that won’t bleed on the special paper), and they are expensive.  For about the same price, you can buy a Moleskine and have almost double the writing space.  I have been using RITR books lately though, mostly out of a mix of laziness and desire to keep my notes dry (like it ever rains here anyway).

There are all kinds of other books, whether they are hard-bound like the ones I use, or spiral bound.  I prefer the hardbound books because my spirals always get damaged, and then I lose pages.  Does it really matter what kind of book you use for your field notes?  No, not really.  Anything that gets you writing is better that nothing.  But some books just feel so much better…


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Image Credits: Creative Commons Photo uploaded to Flickr on April 26, 2008 by Dvortygirl –

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