I use a lot of pocket notebooks, and go through them fairly rapidly, so I'm always shuffling something in and out of the rotation. I started off using Field Notes many years ago when they were the only game in town, and even though the paper wasn't very fountain pen friendly, I stuck with it. One of my first reviews on this blog (and one of my personal favorites, if only for the sake of nostalgia) was my review of the original Kraft Paper Field Notes. Fast forward to 2016 (over two years later) and there are now a ridiculous number of new pocket notebooks on the market, ranging from the excellent to the gimmicky. Write Notepads, one of the newer entries to the market, are uniformly excellent.
Note: Most of this review is applicable to Write Notepads pocket notebooks in general, but the notebook pictured in this review, that I've been using for the past week or so, is one of the "Kindred Spirit" limited edition notebooks. More about the Write Notepads limited editions and subscription service towards the end.
For the first year-or so of the company's existence, Write Notepads focused on making their spiral-bound notebooks. Spiral bindings aren't really my preference, so I never pulled the trigger on ordering any. I took the opportunity to test the paper at the 2014(?) DC Pen Show, and came away a bit disappointed because I didn't feel that the full-size notebook handled fountain pen ink all that well. When they released their pocket notebooks, however, I went ahead and ordered a couple packs, because (1) paper weight and fountain pen-friendliness is far less important to me in a pocket notebook; and (2) the designs were more attractive to me than the increasingly offbeat Field Notes Colors editions.
Build and Writing Experience
For me, Write Notepads pocket notebooks offer a near-ideal pocket notebook writing experience. Chris Rothe, the founder, is a third-generation bookbinder from Baltimore, Maryland, and his experience as a bookbinder shines through in these products. One of the first things that you notice is the craftsmanship. Whether it be their standard spiral-bound notebooks or their perfect/glue-bound pocket notebooks, Write Notepad products are very well-made. These things aren't going to fall apart after a week of being carried in your pocket or your bag.
Initially, I was a little hesitant to use a notebook that wasn't staple bound, thinking that the glue binding would have trouble laying flat. While the notebook doesn't "lie flat" in the same way you can get a staple-bound Field Notes book to lie flat, it does well enough to allow me to comfortably write on both sides of each page, and I'll take the increased durability of the glue binding over a slight loss of flexibility.
I find the paper to be a step-up from Field Notes. According to the company, this is 70 lb. paper "meticulously selected to perform the best for most writing instruments." I think that's a fairly accurate summary: this is some of the most well-rounded notebook paper I've used. It's excellent with pencils, ballpoints, and gel pens, and handles fine/extra-fine point felt-tip, liquid ink, and fountain pens pretty well. Occasionally, if I'm pressing down too hard, I'll see some pinpoint show-through and/or bleeding on the reverse of a page, but I've never been unable to use both sides of the paper (which is a key consideration for me). The cover stock is sturdy. The standard Write Notepads pocket notebooks sports a 100 lb. cover stock, while the Kindred Spirit limited edition features 80 lb. "butcher orange" cover stock. (Yes, THAT butcher orange.)
The notebooks are 64 pages (another bonus over the typical 48-page staple-bound pocket notebook), and the standard edition comes in lined, graph, and plain paper. The limited editions thus far have come in graph (Lenore) and lined (Kindred Spirit) paper.
A word about the limited editions: Write Notepads turned heads a bit when they first announced that they would be launching a quarterly subscription service, similar to Field Notes colors. There was even a little bit of annoyance expressed in places, and doubts about whether a second notebook subscription service could even be successful in an area where Field Notes supposedly dominates. I initially shared some of the doubts about whether it would be successful, but when I saw the inaugural Edgar Allen Poe-themed "Lenore" edition, I immediately became a fan. They've created a product that both tips the hat to the predecessor (butcher orange covers) while remaining distinctive enough to bring something new to the table.
Overall Impressions and Takeaways
These are high-quality notebooks, and Andy Welfle got it right: the Kindred Spirit edition is one of those products that just makes you smile and want to use it. And I've been using it a lot: I've not torn through a pocket notebook this quickly in a long time. I'll probably purchase a subscription this fall once the next quarterly edition launches, in order to grab some of the "extras" available to subscribers.
Where to Buy
I purchased most of my Write Notepads products directly from Write Notepads via their website. If the product you are looking for is out of stock, they also sell via a few select retail channels, including Amazon. Unfortunately, the Kindred Spirit notebooks pictured here are now sold out. I purchased two packs from Papernery, which from what I could tell was one of the last U.S. retailers to have these notebooks in stock. You may have better luck with non-U.S. retailers: at the time of writing, Pocket Notebooks in the U.K. still had Kindred Spirit in stock.
Disclaimer: I purchased the notebooks featured in this review with my own funds for my own personal use. I was not compensated in any way for writing this post, though certain links contained in this post are affiliate links.