Stationery

Field Notes Shenandoah: Back to Basics

I love the innovation Field Notes brings to the pocket notebook market. They constantly surprise and delight with their quarterly COLORS releases. They always seem one step ahead of us who try to outguess them, but it’s great fun to experience the build up, speculation and excitement around each of their COLORS releases.

The latest COLORS incarnation is out and unlike the more strongly themed recent issues, Shenandoah does, one might say, go back to the basics. Their much beloved early versions featured nature colors and strong connections to the natural world. And their latest release goes back to that approach, but with a few modern spins.

Field Notes Shenandoah

The three notebooks comes wrapped in a wood-laminated belly band, a first for Field Notes, although they’re old pros at bonding paper and wood via their Shelterwood and Cherry Wood notebooks. Belly bands are typically disposable, recyclable bits that get tossed, but I’m scratching my head on what to do with this one: it’s too nice to simply toss away! The notebook covers use an interesting print technique of bonding two sheets of paper together to form a multi-tone, more durable cover than the typical Field Notes notebook. The effect is a winner, as are the colors used. I love the colors/covers despite some meh-ness on the outer paper texture. Inside is their standard 3/16″ graph layout printed in a moss green, a nice complimenting color to the three cover colors.

Field Notes Shenandoah inside backs

For me, one of the best parts of this release is the back covers. Each notebook features a tree via a leaf imprint and fascinating story about the tree and its connection to the Shenandoahs. Red Maple, Chestnut Oak and Sweet Birch comprise the three featured trees, and Field Notes carried this theme into three buttons given to subscribers that also depict the leaves. And for those diehards collectors who love the inside back covers, a new set of practical applications appears for our entertainment, including one that’s a Lat/Lon coordinate leading to…well, I’ll give you the joy of Googling that one!

Field Notes Shenandoah leaves

Field Notes Shenandoah fp testThe paper is 60#, a departure from their typical 50# text, but unfortunately for fountain pen lovers it’s not enough. In my opinion, 70# remains the starting weight for decent fountain-pen-friendly paper (depending on other factors), although as with all papers, selection of nib/ink/hand pressure can vary the results dramatically.

Field Notes Shenandoah show-throughMy definition of fountain-pen-friendly paper is smooth to write on with very little feathering/bleeding, and with light-to-no show-through on the back side to prevent distraction and poor readability when writing on both sides. Shenandoah’s paper does well for the first aspect of smooth and little feathering, but not so good on the second criteria. As my tests show, using my active stable of five pens/inks and my normal writing pressure, the show-through is pretty obvious and for me, a primary fountain pen user, that means if I want to use Shenandoah for my needs, I’ll have to work at finding the right fountain pen combo. That said, the writing experience is very nice with a fountain pen and the nibs glide smoothly as I’d expect with the Finch papers. Feathering was great to good, so my single issue in using Shenandoah with a fountain pen is the show-through I experienced in testing. Still, other tests I’ve seen show far less show-through, so each person’s experience may vary. I have to say, though, that Shenandoah is not a home run for fountain pen people, although some may do okay with it.

Graphite? Writes like a dream…smooth, easy on the touch, and an ideal combo in my tests. I don’t typically test with gels or ballpoint, but have no doubt the Shenandoah paper would work great with those as well.

In the final analysis, I do like this edition and plan to use it frequently, just not with fountain pens; for that I have others that sing too well with most any nib/ink combo I throw at them, including the Field Notes fountain-pen flagships: America the Beautiful and Shelterwood.

Giveaway

Giveaway is over. Winner is Jack Mason!

Results of mini-poll: What do you like best about the Field Notes Shenandoah?

ShenGiveaway Graph

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29 thoughts on “Field Notes Shenandoah: Back to Basics

  1. Dale Thele says:

    Thank you for posting the Field Notes Shenandoah notebook review. These notebooks would be used (one at a time) in my leather FN cover/wallet for note taking, general jotting, etc.

  2. Shankar says:

    I am reading a nice little design book called ‘The Shape of Design’ currently and would like to jot down some juicy quotes from it in these sturdy field notes books. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. I love the colors, and the sturdy feel! This feels like a book you write in taking a break on a hike, or taking notes in an actual field. I would love to get some FN swag for my FN customers – which includes me!

  4. Love the review. Still waiting on my order from FNHQ so I can’t say how much I’ll like them in person, but I love the cover colours. I don’t have a subscription this time around, so would love to have the buttons from the sub. (And who doesn’t love stickers, stickers, and more stickers.)

  5. I just found your blog while looking for reviews of this Field Notes edition. So glad I did as I’m enjoying your other posts! Those buttons are adorable actually, so I hope I might get lucky!

  6. Gary, I’m surprised that you didn’t include Workshop Companion as a fountain-pen friendly issue. It’s still the best I’ve seen and many prefer its dot grid over the lines in Shelterwood and America the Beautiful.

    • Gary says:

      Good point Larry! You know, I don’t think I’ve touched an FP to a WC page! Guess I’d better check that out. It’s not an edition I’d plan to use (other than for garden planning – I swapped out the other five for Gardening ones, so have a slipcase full six Gardening WCs), but should give it drive.

      • I carry a small notebook with me all the time to use for quick sketches that I don’t want want to put in my larger sketchbooks. WC has become my go to book for that purpose and I’ve gone through four of them. Most use has been with a Platinum Carbon pen or a Namiki Falcon, both with Platinum Carbon Black ink, though occasionally I’ll use a ballpoint. Both of these pens are very fine (finer than your Lamy and TWSBI pens, though, but the heavier paper makes fountain pens feel at home. I’m wondering if I could swap covers between WC and Shenandoah ๐Ÿ™‚

        Larry

  7. Ana Lรณpez says:

    Crear review. I’d love to use a Field Notes notebook to keep my lists of songs that I am constantly writing.

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