Clairefontaine Basics Life Unplugged Clothbound Notebook Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

Clairefontaine has been a favorite paper of mine for a long time, so when JetPens started carrying the Basics Life Unplugged notebooks recently, I jumped on them. Previously, I reviewed a similar notebook by Clairefontaine — the 1951 Collection notebook — that I also loved, but the Basics notebook has a more "traditional" layout that's similar to a Leuchtturm or Moleskine notebook. Fancy elastic band or not, it's a great notebook worthy of your consideration.

Design and aesthetics

The Basics Life Unplugged Clothbound Notebook, apart from having an annoyingly long name, is a fantastic design. The covers are a soft card stock material that is strong, but flexible. It's the kind of material that would hold up reasonably well in a bag that was well-maintained and packed with care, but would quickly show wear and tear in a more reckless environment. I fit into the former group, so my book has no signs of wear thus far. The version I have is tan, but you can also get red, green, blue, or black covers.

The elastic band closure that goes around the book is a bit weak, in my opinion. It holds the book shut, but it moves around too much and is too easy to slide off. This might be different for each book depending on the quality control processes they are put through, but it's a minor quirk. Interestingly, the strap is held in place on the back cover with a couple of metal tabs on the inside of the book. This is interesting and gives the book a unique look as opposed to the hidden, glued straps you find in Leuchtturm and Moleskine.

The binding of the book is fantastic. It's clothbound on the outside, and is extremely well-done. In my use, the binding is stiff when new, but quickly breaks in to allow flat use in no time. When a page is being resistive, some medium pressure for a few seconds fixes it quickly. I'm not an expert on the book-binding process, but this seems like a high quality job. Plus, the cloth binding interacts well with the covers of the book. In my case, the tan looks great with the black cloth.

The size of the book is 6" x 8.25" — a fairly standard journal size, which is possibly my favorite size. There are 96 sheets of 90gsm paper that features a light blue lining spaced at 8mm. Personally, I really enjoy a lined notebook, but (like all Clairefontaine offerings) really wish there were some other options outside of the standard lined.

Paper quality

The main reason that Clairefontaine is one my favorite paper and notebook brands is because of the paper quality and characteristics. They make fantastic paper, and it's a real pleasure to write on.

At 90gsm, this paper can take almost anything you can throw at it. Fountain pens, brush pens, and all manner of gel, liquid, ballpoint, and hybrid pens will have no problems. Despite being a fairly thick paper, dry time is superb.

The paper has a slight tooth, but is hard to notice on smooth nibs. It's the perfect amount of feedback for my use, as slippery smooth papers can sometimes cause me accuracy issues when writing.

Show-through is minimal and bleed is non-existent, making this an ideal paper for fountain pen users.

I really adore this paper, and strongly encourage you to try it out if you've never had a Clairefontaine notebook.


The Clairefontaine Basics Life Unplugged notebook is my new favorite notebook. The simple design and wonderful paper, along with the great price of just $9, make this notebook an irresistible tool in my arsenal. If you don't mind being locked in to a lined-only paper, you owe it to yourself to give Clairefontaine a shot. Who knows — it might be your new favorite paper.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on February 3, 2016 and filed under Clairefontaine, Notebook Reviews.