Lefty Review: Field Notes Left-Handed Edition

At long last, after (I’m quite certain) many dozens of emphatic requests, it’s here: proof that I’ll buy just about anything that Field Notes Brand puts their name on! And also, Left Hand edition. That’s here too.

Ahh, Field Notes. The celebrated brand’s sturdy kraft-paper-bound pocket notebooks had me diving headlong (back) down the stationery rabbit hole in 2012. What started as a quick Google search for an American-made notebook was my introduction to a phenomenon. Their limited editions are the stuff of collector lore, they’ve ventured far beyond notebooks, but it all started with – and remains anchored by – their humble kraft-bound book.

The Writing Experience

As a lefty, writing in a Left-Handed edition Field Notes is about the same as writing in a regular-ol’ kraft book – except backwards. It’s meant to be written-through from right to left (in case that wasn’t obvious). The innards (Finch 60-pound “bright white”) get along with nearly every gel pen and most rollerballs, as well as many F- or EF-nib fountain pens. Bigger nibs and more-feather-y inks tend to, well, feather. A lot. A notable exception in the rollerball compatibility department – for lefties at least – is the Schmidt P8126/P8127 refill, which is private-labeled by Retro 51. As an overwriter who frequently pushes into the paper, I’ve found that these refills skip and hard-start frequently on this specific paper.

By now, we all know the drill when it comes to Field Notes paper. It’s not Rhodia, Clairefontaine or Tomoe River. Excepting some recent special editions, it’s not particularly fountain pen friendly. But it’s a workhorse paper that befits a workhorse notebook.

When it comes to lefty-friendliness, standard Field Notes paper actually does quite well! Unless my hand is particularly sweaty or oily, it tends to hang onto ink well. Palm smudges and “stamping” is a rare occurrence with this paper, and with clean hands I only see it with the gloppiest of oil-based ballpoints.


Field Notes didn’t bill Left Handed as a special or limited edition – it appears right alongside their regular products, and the back (front?) cover even mentions that June 2017’s run is a “First Printing”. Other than this little line at the bottom, the inside and outside covers are identical to “standard” Field Notes Kraft – carrying the same list of Practical Applications and the same specs (as current printings).

Personally, I think Field Notes could have had a little fun here. They switch up the “Practical Applications” list for other editions; why not at least change up a line or two? Or right-justify the text?

Then, there’s the notion of filling a notebook “in reverse”, with the binding on the right side. No, there’s no reason you can’t do this with any other notebook. I’ve only ever done it once before – in the lab notebooks I filled while I worked for General Motors. The “National Brand” books they stocked pretty much refused to lay flat, so I had to write my way through them upside-down and backwards. Fortunately, Field Notes books don’t (usually, but I’m looking at you America the Beautiful) have that problem.

Will I do it? Of course. Just for the sake of doing it. And then I’ll go back to filling in my Field Notes the other way ’round. We lefties are an adaptive sort…

The Sum-Up

Field Notes Kraft has never been classy, prestigious or pretentious. It’s not made for fountain pens, and sometimes even disagrees with wetter rollerballs. It doesn’t have an enormous marketing machine behind it; it has something far more important: Character. Personality. A story that makes you want to be a part of it. Left-handed is all of this – all the good and meh of regular kraft – with the quirky twist of being flipped around backwards.

Left-handers don’t need left-handed notebooks (we’ll unpack that someday). Field Notes doesn’t need a left-handed notebook. But not needing fun, quirky, unique or intriguing things has never kept them from making them before, and I hope they never stop.

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