Most people are not like me. Meaning, they don’t own dozens of writing instruments, whether fountain pens, ballpoints, rollerballs, or even a mechanical pencil. Yes, believe it or not, the majority of people out there - so-called “normal people” - would be perfectly happy with ONE nice writing instrument. Heck, even I’ve grown a little exhausted choosing which pen to use. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road for the day job during the first half of the year, and more often than not would find myself using the same pen for an entire day without switching things up at all, which is a rarity for me. All of this got me thinking - if I had to pick one pen, what would it be? Likewise, if I had to make a recommendation to someone who only wanted to own one nice pen, what would I tell them?
For a "one pen" setup, my key considerations would be:
- Durable Construction. Can I throw this pen in a bag or pocket without worrying that it will shatter/crack/scratch?
- Unassuming Looks. Can I carry this pen into a business meeting without it being distracting to other people or getting a lot of "what the heck is that thing" questions?
- Versatility. Can the pen accept a wide variety of refills to account for all sorts of different paper types and writing conditions?
- Refill Availability. Are refills easy to get/inexpensive?
Based on these criteria, I’ve narrowed it down to five options/recommendations.
Lamy 2000 4-Color Ballpoint. If I was forced to choose one pen to use for the rest of my life, it likely would be a Lamy 2000, and probably the 4-Color Ballpoint Multipen. In fact, I would probably choose a multipen as my “one pen” over a fountain pen, if you can believe it. The Lamy 2000’s unassuming looks, durable construction, reasonable price point, and general availability makes it my top choice. It also takes universal D1 refills, which can be found basically anywhere, including most big-box office supply stores, and come in a wide range of gel, ballpoint, hybrid-ballpoint, and even highlighter variants. Check out my full review here.
Sailor Imperial Black Multipen. My second-favorite multi pen, which I use when I want a mechanical pencil option. I don’t like the aesthetics of this pen as much as the Lamy 2000 multi pen, and it’s a bit heavier, but the pencil unit adds versatility. It also takes universal D1 refills. Check out my full review here.
Ti Arto Ultimate Refill Friendly Pen. I haven’t yet published a stand-alone review of this particular pen, but if what you’re looking for is a single pen that will accept as many different refills as possible, the Ti Arto should be your choice. There’s also a “Ti Arto EDC,” which is a shorter, more compact pen that also accepts hundreds of compatible refills. I only have the full-size version, which is where my Uniball Signo DX refills live.
RIIND Pen. Another machined pen that accepts a wide variety of refills, though not as many as the Ti Arto. Unlike the Ti Arto, this pen is retractable and has a clip, so if you’re not looking to cap/uncap as part of your everyday carry, consider the RIIND. Both the big clip and the the “continuous cam” deployment mechanism are well made and highly functional. Check out my full review here.
Baron Fig Squire. Though the Baron Fig Squire is one of my favorite pens currently on the market, it sits at number five on this list. Why? Refill versatility. The pen ships with a Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill, and while that refill is excellent, it’s not particularly versatile. Liquid Ink rollerballs tend to bleed on cheap paper. While you can swap in a Parker-style refill such as the excellent Schmidt Easyflow 9000 or a Primec gel refill, there aren't many options for those who like a super-fine point on their pen. I've previously published a comparison between the Baron Fig Squire and the also popular Retro 51 Tornado, which is another great option and earns an "honorable mention" below. If you're interested in picking up a Baron Fig Squire, you can use my referral link for a discount on your order (and it also kicks a discount my way, in the interests of full disclosure.)
While I don’t use them as much as the pens on this list, I’d also highly recommend the Retro 51 Tornado, the Karas Kustoms EDK, and the Fisher Space Pen “Shuttle Pen” or “Astronaut” Pen. The Tornado and the EDK have the same refill options as the Squire, only with a clip and slightly different ergonomics. The refill limitations are the same. The Fisher Space Pen is much slimmer, and uses a proprietary pressurized cartridge that people either love or hate, but the pen will literally write anywhere and under all sorts of adverse conditions.
I hope you find this little resource helpful. I get a lot of questions about the best "one pen" setup, particularly where a reader is looking for a gift for someone who would appreciate a quality pen but wouldn't necessarily want to carry multiple options. Look for similar content in the future!
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