Selecting the gear is always great fun. So what type of notebook is best? What do you like? What do you think you want?
My criterea for selecting BuJo paper hardware
- Will you keep your BuJo mostly stationary at home or at work on your desk?
- Do you use it in different places, locations or rooms?
- How do you prefer to carry your bujo? (bag, backpack, pocket...)
- Do you like thick notebooks or thin ones? Thick or thin paper?
- What type of pen or pencil do you prefer? Fountain pen, gel roller, ball pen, pencil, mechanical pencil?
- Do you prefer a grid (dots or squares), lines or blank paper?
Once you know the above a little better, you decide on the paper quality and other features like pre-printed tables, page numbers, pockets, straps, pen holders...
My BuJo preferences
I love A6 minus
I quickly found out that I pefer soft covers to hard covers, dot grids and a pocketable size. I tried A7 very shortly and settled on A6- (A6 minus) 9x14. It is a slightly "narrower" A6. I found out that regardles of size of paper, I didn't write more words in a line when using a bigger format like B6 (sa wider A6) or A5.
A4 is simply too big for me. Especially if the notebook contains 30 sheets (60 pages) or more, A4 is literally very heavy. Such a size notebook weighing 1 kilogramm should be a digital device only - in my humble opinion.
A5 notebooks are too large for pockets. Yet many love them as a compromise betwenn size of paper and mobility. A5 notebooks typically feature more than 200 pages and weigh about 500g. By definition A6 is about half the page size and more or less half the weight!
Ryder Carroll, the inventor of BuJos prefers hard cover A5 notebooks and has used Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks long before the company started collaborating with him.
I love dot grid
Dot grid is great for technical idea sketches with correct proportions. Dot grid works great for me to use it when I want a grid. Yet it is light enough to be able to ignore it or just use it to hold the line when writing. The classic square grid is often too prominent for my brain to ignore it, to much contrast to keep it in the background.
My recommendation for your first Bullet Journal
Leuchtturm 1917 A5 or A6, depepnding on your degree of preferred mobility. I like the soft cover versions for "A6". For A5 people seem to prefer the hard cover. If you go on a backpacking trip I always would choose the lighter weight notebooks which usually are the soft cover ones.
- Zequenz (great format, a little thick normally but they bend nicely. You need to number the pages yourself) [Update 28 Jun 2022: after finishing the really nice Jottbook, I will now switch to a Zequenz "The Color" A6- dot grid, 80g 100 sheets, 200 pages]
- Moleskine (I was never really tempted, there always seems to be some kind of trade off)
- Rhodia (great paper but none of the A6 versions seem to have a dot grid and page numbers, bizarr)
- X17 (Very modular, different approach to a notebook, you buy a cover / sleave and refill the notebooks. Great binder system with rubber bands. Simple and effective. Paper is a little thin for fountain pens. You can use other slim notebooks like the Leuchtturm 1917 Jottbooks) X47 is far more expensive and sophisticated. X47 Not recommended for your first journals, X17 is fine and a little special. I have used the yellow Lefa A6 with two dot grid notebooks downgrading from "3 notebook" cover. I also tested briefly the A7 but it was too small. I kept the double A7 as a wallet system for more than a year)
- Nuuna notebooks look great but with usage they quickly loose much of the initial wow factor. For people who like B6 (slightly wider size than A6) or A5. Too many pages for a first journal. The small version "project S" is the best form factor in my opinion but only comes with blank pages and in one colour. The other A6 versions are just a little too big for my liking. I used the oui oui for a couple of months)
My current product choices
Leuchtturm 1917 A6 "whitelines" Leuchtturm 1917 A6 Jottbooks
- ZEQUENZ "The Color" A6- 360 dot grid 80g 200 pages
- Leuchtturm 1917 A6 Jottbok Double (finishing the last couple of pages, then switching to ZEQUENZ)
- I abandoned my A6 Whitelines notebook. The more I used it, the more I liked the Jottbooks and then the ZEQUENZ. If you are constantly thinking how much better the other notebooks are, there is no more point in continuing using the one you obviously don't like.
Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines A6 dot grid
I am currently trying a Leuchtturm 1917 Whitelines A6 as a bullet journal and idea sketchbook. Love the idea of the whitelines for a quick scan with the app, yet I am a bit struggling with some inherent drawbacks.
1 The page quality seems inconsistent from top to bottom of a page. I don't know whether this is due to the interaction of fountain pen and this paper or if this is a quality issue. I did not have such issues in the normal Leuchtturm A6 soft cover notebook, nor the Jottbooks. It also feels inconsistent with my Victorinox Signature ball pen.
2 Leuchtturm only offers the Whitelines edition as a hard cover notebook with 180 pages as opposed to the 120 pages of the soft cover notebooks. They are currently selling them off as long as they are in stock. Only A6 is available as of June 2022. Looks like they are stopping the Whitelines products. Anyway, I prefer the thinner and more flexible soft cover notebooks or jottbooks. The hard cover just is a little bit too thick and lacks the flexibility of pocket "field notebooks".
3 Will you need such paper for similar scan results in the future? Not sure. Whitelines is now about 10 years old and recently they do not seem to have progressed much. Yet other camera based scan apps have innovated quite a lot. I have not yet found a scan app which easily blends out dot grid or whatever grid you are using like the Whitelines app. On the other hand, if this is my only decision criteria, the question is how many times this sceanrio is relevant and if the Whitelines drawbacks like the weird paper, less writing surface and restricted format choices are worth it. The more I think about it, the more I try, the less I like the Whitelines notebook as a full package. It is not that I dislike the Whitelines notebook, just that I prefer the Leuchttum 1917 Classic soft cover or the Jottbooks.
My impression is that I am not alone. Quite a bit of criticism by user comments, yet most love the idea and concept in principle. Searching for reviews I find a number of positive yet hesitant "initial impression" reviews and videos, many of them years old. Especially fountain pen fans are disappointed. Yet I even struggle with my ball pen. On the whitelines paper, it feels mushy, doesn't flow.
I have yet to find a long term Whitelines review. Many notebook fans like to test new products, their tastes and habits change over time. One of the few notebook types and manufacturers they come back to are Leuchtturm1917. Even when they currently try something else, the L1917 products are a reference especially for journals. Just not the "Whitelines", it seems.
--- update 28 June 2022
Leuchtturm1917 Jottbook Double A6 dot grid
Love them, they are thin 60 pages, sold in pairs. Therefore they are absolutely comparable to the soft cover A6 with 120 pages. They don't have bookmarks and a rubberband to wrap around a notebook. The pockets are smaller, but usable. Otherwise they still feature table of contents and page numbers. I prefer them over the normal Classic soft cover, because I like seperating bullet journal and idea notes and sketches into two notebooks and yet carry them together in a sleeve or cover.
The Jottbooks are comparable to the X17 notebook refills with a stiffer cover and better quality paper than X17 especially when used with fountain pens. They cost around 9.50Eur, the X17 refills are around 7EUR. With dot grid, both are sold in pairs of 2 notebooks.
For the same number of pages as a pair, they are slightly cheaper than the 120 page Classic soft cover notebooks.
Officially both the Classic and the Jottbooks feature 80 g/m² paper, but they feel different. They Jotbooks feel slightly thicker and the dot grid pattern is a bit more prominent. For now, I prefer using the Jottbooks with my fountaine pen compared to the normal Classic soft cover version.
I might end my Whitelines trial to go back to the Jottbooks. [Update : I did, love the Jottbooks. Next I will try the Zequenz]
I like the idea of using a cover for my 2 jottbooks. You could use X17 "binders". I would cut the X17 a little narrower however.
I found a number of old calendar covers with sleeves. I then inserted the jottbooks. Front cover in the front sleeve and rear cover of the second jottbook in the rear sleeve of the old calendar cover. And voilà. Slightly wider than the Jottbooks, that maybe an advantage as this allows flexing arond the edges of the notebooks.
[Update June 15: Or use small lightweight bags. I found a lightweight bag for eye glasses. Not a pouch really as the bag offers no real foam like protection layer. Works great. I can put my pens in there, and the notebooks don't open and crease accidentily. Such a bag weighs less than 10g - neglectable.]
Former Bullet Journal System choices: X17
Over the past 2 years or so, I have used my yellow X17 A6 with two dot grid notebooks60 pages . I had some additional pastic pockets by x17.
When looking back, I rarely "pocketed" the X17 A6, although I chose this format for exactly that possibility. It is just that little too large, too wide to fit easily in a pocket.
The X17 notebook paper quality is great for ball pens and pencils, it is too thin for fountain pens, especially broad ones.
What worked for me was the seperation of journal and sketchbook.
A few links