Notebooks for Travel, Photography and Working in the Outdoors
During a recent sort-out I found a holdall full of my various notebooks that I have been using over the last 30 odd years while working as a mountaineering and climbing instructor, photographer, photojournalist, artist and writer. Looking at the 100+ different volumes I realised that various types of notebook had been a consistent element throughout my professional life.
Early on in my instructing days and before the internet I used various random notebooks to draw diagrams of the various techniques I would be assessed on and then might use as an instructor. Amongst my collection I found some notes from the 1990’s when I was preparing for my winter ML and MIA.
When I qualified as and then worked as a photographer and photojournalist my notebook use took on a greater significance and the notebook became a serious working tool. Ideas, captions, contacts, sketches for photographs, projects, news stories were all collected. Now as an artist I sketch and make notes on ideas and inspirations.
Notebooks and journals can be essential field books, diaries, log books and companions to bird watchers, geologists, photographers and naturists. Oscar Wilde said it best in The Importance of Being Ernest; “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
This then is a review of various types of notebooks and journal I’ve consistently used and relied upon.
These were my favourites for many years. The legend goes that the original Parisian designs, called carnets moleskines, were used by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and André Breton. The writer Bruce Chatwin mentions them in his book The Songlines. The modern versions are exceedingly popular. The 9x14cm pocket versions are a good size and the elastic band and rear pocket are practical additions. There is joy to be had when long forgotten objects and artefacts are found nestling in the pocket. Unfortunately I felt that the durability suffered as the popularity increased and so I stopped using them however they are an excellent design and a good useable size.
Midori Travellers Notebook
This Japanese passport sized notebook replaced my Moleskines and has became my notebook of choice for more artistic scribblings. A well designed modular design with a leather cover with a clever band system that holds the individual notebooks in place. Different paper types are available and other accessories such as pockets and plastic folders can be added. Slightly smaller than the Moleskines and very flexible in use. It’s possible to fit two separate refills inside the cover adding to its versatility. Buy Here.
Magnum Field Notebook
Designed as a photographers and photojournalists notebook. Good solid design, slightly larger than most pocket notebooks but will fit in a camera bag. These differ from the other notebooks in that the pages are designed specifically for photographers and photojournalists. Most pages have photography relevant ruled pages for logging assignments, kit lists and projects, as well as blank boxes for note taking and sketching. Buy Here
Field Notes produce a variety of themed and special edition notebooks. These are the simplest in this review. The size is good and they are well made. The thinness and flexibility of the simple cardboard cover make them easy to carry in a pocket without too much hindrance. I’ve been using their Expedition notebook which is fantastically burly and completely waterproof. More info here.
These are British made waterproof notebooks similar in size and feel to the Field Notes Expedition. The Memo books come in four different designs and are the lightest notebooks in this review. There is also a fatter notebook with 110 pages. Thrunotes are 100% recyclable and are made with vegan compostable ink. Buy Here
Rite in the Rain
I have used a couple of these for many years for making notes when assessing on RCIs, MLs and HMLs. Strong and most importantly for working in the inevitable wet and drech days the paper is waterproof and if you use a pencil you can make notes in just about any conceivable weather. They can survive for years sitting in a rucsac and won’t turn into a soggy mush. Both mine are still writable in and all the notes are readable despite years of neglect and abuse. Buy Here.
Khadi Papers Log Books
These are larger and much thicker notebook than all the others in this review, in fact they are so thick you could write a novel in one. I’ve taken mine to Africa, India and Nepal mainly as a sketch pad and despite the simple design they have held up well to the abuse of travel. They lay flat for writing and drawing in and at 17x12cm and with 180 pages you definitely get your moneys worth. Buy Here.
I’ve seem these notebooks advertised in the Professional Mountaineer magazine for years but hadn’t paid them much attention. However a new project got me thinking about finding a small durable notebook I could have in a pocket and whip out and make notes on the hoof. I also liked the fact that they came from Glasgow. They also receive a great endorsement from Michael Palin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7AKQTgDZJ0&feature=emb_logo