What is the Best Pen for the Field Notes Expedition Edition?

Field Notes Expedition Edition

The Expedition Edition is the latest release in the Field Notes Colors line and marks just the second time I've seen fit to review a Field Notes Memo Book since my original review over four years ago. I've bought the majority of the Colors releases in between, but there are only so many ink tests you can do. Since the Expedition Edition was a break from tradition I felt it deserved a review of its own, as did my Twitter followers.

What makes the Expedition Edition different from all prior releases is the use of Yupo Synthetic Paper which is known for its waterproof and tear proof properties. I have reviewed similar products in the past from Rite in the Rain and Apica so I was eager to see how the Field Notes compared.

I understood prior to ordering the Expedition Edition that the paper would be a challenge for most inks. The paper is waterproof, and most inks are water based. This means that fountain pen ink, gel ink, and rollerball ink have almost no shot at working on this paper. While I knew what to expect, I found it odd that Field Notes didn't really make this clear when they released the product. The assumption was only a certain type of ink will work, but they failed to set those expectations up front. The product page has now been updated with this:

Note: Synthetic paper is nonporous and doesn’t absorb ink like our conventional papers. Ballpoint pens and soft pencils work best. The ‘belly band’ that wraps the 3-Pack is made from the same Yupo Synthetic Paper, so test your pens on the inside of the belly band, then try to tear it!

Now that we are all on the same page, let's check some ink and lead out.

Field Notes Expedition Edition

I tested out the Fisher Space Pen first, mainly because Field Notes released their own branded Space Pen in conjunction with the Expedition Edition. That gave me a pretty good idea that they felt this was the best option for the Yupo paper, and if you are traveling to the South Pole, it likely is. I found it was a decent option, but not the best pen for us normal folks. In the image above I let the top paragraph dry for five minutes before running my finger down the middle. There was a decent amount of smearing to be found.

Field Notes Expedition Edition

Pencils should work very well on this paper, and for the most part they did. As you can imagine, softer leads smudged more than harder leads, and the erasability was decent with a good eraser.

Field Notes Expedition Edition

Where things fall apart is with the water-based inks. Fountain pen ink was bad, liquid ink was worse, and gel ink was a complete train wreck. This is not a knock on the product at all - this paper is not designed to accept this type of ink. Again, this is the expectation and I wanted to show what would happen if you attempted to use other inks.

Field Notes Expedition Edition

If you look closer at the writing samples you will see two pens that stood out - the Uni-ball Jetstream and the Bic Clic. Hybrid ballpoint ink and standard ballpoint ink work great, and trump even the Fisher Space Pen in the smear test. If you want to know what the best pen is for the Expedition Edition I would have to go with the Jetstream.

There are more pens to test - I just realized I forgot to test a permanent marker like the Sharpie - so I will update in the comments section. Feel free to make requests and I will do my best to accommodate. But realize that if you are hoping for something besides ballpoint or pencil to be usable in the Expedition Edition you're gonna have a bad time.

My friends at Pencil Revolution and Surfbits both posted their thoughts on the Expedition Edition so be sure to check them out.

Posted on December 20, 2012 and filed under Field Notes, Fisher Space Pen, Notebook Reviews.