Review of AquaNotes®: When Inspiration Strikes in the Shower.

[Today’s review comes from Comrade Gary Varner, long-time friend and contributor to Pencil Revolution.]
Where and when do your ideas come? And do you always remember them later when you want to use them? If you’re like me, it’s usually when I’m wet and about to get soapy. And that’s why I started using AquaNotes®.


AquaNotes® is 40 waterproof 3-1/2 x 5-1/4 inch pages bound in a pad with rear suction cups to adhere to your shower or tub walls, along with a water-resistant pencil with it’s own special suction cup holder. Not only are AquaNotes® made and assembled in the USA, they’re eco-friendly as well. From their Web site:

“…waterproof paper that is totally recyclable, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic. Each pencil is water resistant and is made with Incense Cedar wood, a responsibly harvested renewable resource meeting stringent environmental requirements. Even the ink used to print the logo and company information on the notepad is soy based.”

In the past I’ve tried Rite in the Rain and other waterproof pads, Fisher pens, and even waterproof pencils. But invariably when the idea comes I can’t find the pen or the pencil or the pad. With AquaNotes, it’s on the wall at the ready when your next great idea strikes you during lather or rinse (and sometimes both!).
There’s definitely a lot of science behind why ideas come more easily to us when in the shower. This great article from the blog gives some details on brain science and creativity and why showers are a great incubation place for ideas. And as the video below shows, its common for the relaxing effects of water on the body to open up the flow of ideas, and I for one don’t like relying on my memory to capture those gems! With AquaNotes® I’m ready when the ideas decide to show up.

You can buy the pads or parts, and even bulk packs straight from the manufacturer’s site, but places like,, and carry the basic pad kits as well.

Gary Varner writes about communication, productivity, and core skills at, and on Twitter @GaryLVarner.

Field Notes Expedition Edition: Smeary?

(Sorry for the lack of photos; my camera is in the shop. Literally.)

My subscription came today: the Field Notes Expedition. They are, as usual, much prettier in person. Opening it, I found them a little smelly, like last winter’s glossy edition. But the paper is smooth and flexible and feels wonderful. Check out the link if you haven’t already; the videos are pretty cool.

I immediately put both pencil and Space Pen to paper, after tearing open my packet. My Field Notes get filled and filed, not collected, though I certainly understand the impulse. Pencil feels like a magic marker on glass on this paper, with duller sides of the point feeling almost like a paintbrush. Writing on very wet paper with an indelible pencil produces a less smooth version of the same sensation. I was aghast. But then I noticed something….

Lots of stuff smears on this paper. Space Pen (and even the “fine” refill in my AG-7) smeared after nearly 1/2 hour to dry. Pencil smears more than regular paper, even somewhat smear-resistant pencils like the General’s Layout and Staedtler Wopex. Certainly, Comrades are not unfamiliar with graphite smearing, and it’s something that tests the Perfectionist in all of us. And, if you’re a heavy user of Fisher ink, you know that Space Pen’s write-anywhere ink comes at the price of severe ghosting and smearing from glacial drying times. Pigma Micron wouldn’t really adhere to the paper at all (it repels water). The Pigma Micron “Microperm” did write very well and actually dried. Still, I’d hate to be stuck with permanent markers for all six notebooks, even if I’ll have them filled before February most likely. I assume that Field Notes knows that regular pens will be powerless on this paper, since they gave out pencils this time around (I usually get a pen with my shipments theses days) and since they came out with their own Space Pen just in time for this release.

EDIT: I have found some pencils that are excellent, and even some surprises.

Pencils I have found to work pretty well:Faber-Castell “Castell 9000″ HB and B
Staedtler Wopex HB
General’s Layout
Faber-Castell Grip 2001 HB
General’s Draughting
New USA-Made Golden Bear HB
Field Notes Pencil

Things which smeared more than I’d like:
Blackwing (dark one, but this is always a little smeary)
General’s Semi-Hex HB
Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 HB
Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB
Faber-Castell Goldfaber HB

Verithins! If, like me, you’ve always wished they were better to write with, this paper works very very well. They feel like a regular pencil on this paper, and it’s very very difficult to smear them.

Someone asked if we were going to review this paper. But I think this might take more than what free time, energy and pencils we have on hand at HQ. Have other folks found the perfect graphite (or even pen?) for the new Field Notes? I will put what successful pencils I discover in the comments and will hope Comrades will do the same.