Review of Rite in the Rain Notebook No. 373.

The good folks at Rite in the Rain were kind enough to send us a notebook and pen[cil] holder to review. After the “super storm”, we are finally ready to get our review out there. My better half prevented me from braving Super Storm Sandy last week to see how Frankenstorm-proof these books are. But! Boy, are they nice for pencil. Oh, and they are waterproof!

Everything made by Rite in the Rain is made in the USA, from the books, to the pens, to the accessories. It’s no secret that USA-production is a big plus around Pencil Revolution HQ. Green credentials are also wonderful, and Rite in the Rain doesn’t disappoint. Their paper can be recycled like regular paper (the coating is water-based), and the covers contain post-consumer materials. The paper inside is not made of recycled paper, however, since RiR says that it weakens the paper, which is designed to be durable. The waterproofing process is streamlined to be low-impact, environmentally speaking.

Rite in the Rain does sell all weather pens. They are made by Fisher (of Space Pen fame) but with specially designed ink for their paper. I haven’t tried the RiR pens (though I’d certainly like to), but my trusty 2002 model Space Pen performed pretty well, albeit with a little skipping. But that’s not what this amazing paper is designed for! Erin from RiR tells me that their paper was made for pencils, literally, since there were no special pens for use on waterproof paper in the 1920s, when their paper was developed.

We’ve touched on the archival aspects of pencils before. There is little shortage of archival-safe notebooks. But how many of them are also waterproof?

Rite in the Rain 20 & 32 lb. papers meet the archival criteria laid out by ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (R2002). This means that it is an archival quality paper and will last several hundred years under normal use. So… not only will it survive the elements, it will survive the attic! All of our books and copier papers are made from these grades.

Pencil on Rite in the Rain paper might be the best way to save writing for posterity. Only fire, theft, or a nefarious individual (or Crack Team of Baddies) with an eraser would delete one’s notes.

Onto the actual review!

The notebook we tested is the No. 373, a 4 5/8 x 7 inch book with a double spiral on the side (coated for rust resistance). It includes a nice title page, with space for contact info and a few lines for  the “Project.” Flipping the page, we find a table of contents page, and then it’s on to the note pages. The lines are “encased” in a rectangle that does not allow for marginal notes but which made referencing a list of camping gear and procedures much easier for me. There are 64 pages all told (32 sheets), including the title and contents pages. For the cartographically inclined, each page features a scale at the bottom: “Scale: 1 square = ____”. The ink is a light blue, vegetable-based ink. The pages have rounded corners and are lined. Unusual to me are the dotted vertical lines running perpendicular to the “main” lines, allowing Comrades the option to use lined or graph paper. Rite in the Rain calls this their “Universal” page format. I like it a lot. The cover is a Stiffly Flexible yellow plastic. Combined with the pencil band, this book survived a camping trip in my daypack looking like I’d never used it at all.

This is a solid notebook, with thoughtful detailing and a sensible size. It’s not quite pocket-sized, but it fits well with other books and certainly into the smallest of daypacks. But my very favorite thing about this book is the paper, and not entirely because it’s waterproof.

As I mentioned above, this paper was designed for use with pencils. The coating is applied over paper that seems to have a bit of a tooth, and the coating allows this tooth to come through, possibly adding some of its own texture. What results is a paper that “drinks” up graphite the way that some papers drink liquid ink. While this paper is by no means rough, those of us who prefer a dark line will delight with the Graphite Shearing Action of this paper. Points don’t wear away very quickly, but they don’t last forever — though Lovers of Dark Lines may even delight in the pencil sharpening required by this Marriage of graphite and paper.

Mr. A from the fantastic La Vie Graphite told me a few years ago that General’s Layout is a wonderful pencil for this paper, and he was entirely correct. I tested quite a bit of graphite in this book, and the slightly chalky Layout is my current favorite, bolstered by the American Heritage it shares with the book itself. Other honorable mentions include pencils with unwaxed cores (Paper Mate Earth Write), USA stock Dixon pencils, and USA Gold. While very smooth pencils performed very well, the slightly…more textured leads produced the darkest, neatest results.

This is some of the most smear-resistant and ghosting-proof paper I have ever used. Only on a blank page can one spot graphite transfer, and a person really has to rub her or his hands on this paper to get the pencil to smear. It goes a long way toward keeping the pencil writing legible over time. Erasing is not much different than with regular paper, although I noticed that less soft and more abrasive erasers didn’t seem up to the task. Soft erasers did a nice job, and I wouldn’t use anything else, at the risk of removing some of the coating that makes the paper waterproof.

The pencil strap is very well, made, with a long, thick, elastic strap and strong velcro. It holds a pencil more tightly than you’d think and does a good job of protecting both the pencil point and the pages of the book in a backpack. Made of black Cordura, it looks like it will last for years.

Many thanks to the folks at Rite in the Rain, and stay tuned in the next few days or week for our Rite in the Rain Water Test!

15 Replies to “Review of Rite in the Rain Notebook No. 373.”

  1. Wait…what’s this about mandolin? (I am easily distracted.)

    I agree, this paper is a joy to write on. I have a mini notebook, and a larger journal waiting in the wings. The texture (I think?) seems to lock in the writing, thus all but eliminating the smearing that is the one thing that bugs me about pencil in a journal. I have had some trouble with erasing compared to some other papers, but it’s a compromise I can live with.

    1. We took some Youngins camping, and they brought their guitars. I was the “old man” sitting around the fire with the tiny mandolin. :)
      It makes sense that paper that resists smearing and ghosting would also resist erasing. I should qualify that while the soft erasers worked well, they required more pressure (and more eaten eraser) than usual. To be honest, I usually just cross out on the run anyway.

  2. I have used Rite in the Rain many times before, but I much prefer Duksbak waterproof paper I work in geology, and sturdy, waterproof notebooks are a necessity. I also love pens, pencils, and stationary in general. Duksbak looks and feels nicer than Rite in the Rain, and I think it has better durability and weatherproofing. Also, pens work on it just fine!

  3. Thanks for this review. I wish these were more easily available on my side of the pond. There are few online shops that stock these, but I’ve never seen them in a bricks and mortar shop.
    The pencil case is really cool, too!

  4. My husband has owned his Rite in the Rain notebook for YEARS. It’s in the back of his trunk and it looks the same, as day one.
    They are wonderful items…..and the yellow color is perfect.
    Great review…makes me want to buy more and line shelves with them!

  5. The pencil holder looks like a great idea. I wonder though, do you have it wrapped all the way around the notebook (as to keep it closed) or just the cover? I’m asking because if it were just around the cover, I wonder whether a notebook could still lie flat.

    1. I have it around the whole book to hold it closed, but it would work around just the cover, to have somewhere to put it while writing in the notebook. If you’re holding the book up, it works fine. But on a table, it is definitely a big lump. : )

      I put the strap around my left wrist (I’m right handed) while I was writing, so that I didn’t lose it. It’s stiff enough to slide back on without disengaging the velcro.

  6. I work for a school district and am putting information kits together for our maintenance crew to do a Rapid Assessment in case of an earthquake. I have waterproof paper but no pens or pencils. We live in British Columbia, Canada and I would like to have your closest supplier of such pens and pencils. Thanks.

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