The first nice surprise was that I got my Utility Edition early. I hadn’t even known it had shipped.
The Spring 2017 release is the Utility Edition, and it is very “Bob the Builder” in look and features. The attractive cover is paper in the color “safety yellow,” which is both cheery and easy to find in a bag or purse. It has black staples. I like the look of this one.
If you’re buying these separately, you can choose either “Ledger” paper or “Engineer Graph” paper. Subscribers get both, as well as a wooden pencil and this key ring with a bottle opener.
I like the ledger paper. The ledger lines are inked in an unobtrusive light gray, so if you don’t want to use it as an actual ledger, you can just use it as normal lined paper. The paper itself is rated at 70#, and it’s a cut above the paper Field Notes uses in their standard notebooks and even many of their special editions. I tested it with fountain pen ink, and was happily surprised.
It resists feathering very well, and also bleedthrough and showthrough. On the left is the back side of that page.
I didn’t give the paper a fountain pen torture test — these are mostly medium nibs — but here is a closeup of the two pen and ink combinations that have feathered for me on poor paper. But they don’t feather on this paper.
(Note that the green ink is actually Rohrer & Klingner Verdura, not nearly as nice as Verdigris. Must have been wishful thinking!)
Here is a closeup of two others.
This paper writes a tight line with fountain pen ink, which is not always true with Field Notes. I think it’s great.
I had assumed I would find the graph paper more useful, but for writing I think the ledger paper is actually the better choice for me. The engineering graph has very small squares and while it’s very cool, I wonder if it would be more useful for something more technical than my scribbles and notes. I’ll probably pass two of my three Utility Graph notebooks to my favorite engineering and math students, to see.
To compare, here is the engineering graph paper on the left, and the ledger paper on the right.
And here is a closeup of the engineering graph paper on the left and the normal Field Notes graph paper on the right. I use the normal graph paper for notetaking interchangeably with lined paper.
In a nod to the Utility theme and the color scheme, each notebook has a foldable ruler on the back cover, which is 5 inches on one side and 13 cm on the other.
The ruler folds under and inside the back cover. When the ruler is folded in, the back cover is 1⁄8 inch shorter than the standard 3 ½ inch width of the front cover and interior paper. That means you can’t fold the ruler over any of the pages to use it as a page marker. That would have been a nice touch, but I’m guessing Field Notes has to keep the width of the notebooks at the standard 3 ½ inches, to sleeve, wrap and package them.
Here are the Practical Applications.
Okay, the Utility theme evokes pursuits like power tools and building projects that my father always loved, but that don’t really ring my bell. It’s reminiscent of the theme for the Workshop Companion from 2015. Field Notes loves these nods to nostalgia — the brand’s aura is a little Wonder Years like that. That’s not my vibe, but I still really like this one.
The prior three special editions, in reverse order, were the Black Ice, Lunacy, and the reporter’s notebook called Byline. Lunacy is the most awesome, but it almost seems too fancy to use. Black Ice is a bit techno in style for me. The Byline is incredibly well done, but it’s larger than the pocket notebooks and I tend to keep it at my desk.
So of the last four special editions, the Utility is probably the one that I would grab first to carry around and use. I like that it returns to a normal paper cover — the simple paper covers are my favorites. I like the bright yellow, black and red color scheme; it’s attractive, fun and easy to find. I like the ruler. And I like writing on the paper.
True to its name, the Utility edition turns out to be a very useful Field Notes set. I would buy a second package of this one.