Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Classiest My Work Notes Have Ever Looked - A Review of Galen Leather's No. 44 Personalized Leather Field Notes Cover

A few months ago, Galen Leather reached out to me with an offer that spoke to the depths of my Field Notes-loving heart. They had crafted some Field Notes covers from leather and wondered, if I might be interested in testing some of the models to review here on Built from Ink and Tea. Of course, I said yes, because if there is anything notebook-related I love more than Field Notes, it would be covers for Field Notes!

For my work notes, I carry a single Field Notes notebook. Of course, like a true Field Notes fanatic, I carry far more than one Field Notes notebook at a time, but only one of them gets used for work. Thus, it seemed ideal that I use that notebook for my test of the No. 44 from Galen Leather. No doubt, I would be looking super classy, walking into meetings with my leather cover in hand - or so I imagined of myself. While I am mostly joking, my first impression upon seeing the No. 44 on the Galen Leather website was that it looked very professional, clean, and quality. There are a few similar models, most of which differ in the style and number of the interior pockets, but they are all meant to carry a single Field Notes notebook and pen. The number 44 bears a good amount of large stitching, which I felt stood out nicely and contrasted well with the slick-looking leather.

While I could have chosen a more rustic-looking leather, like the No. 44 in Rustic Dark Brown (which would have looked great with the stitching, too), I opted for the plain Brown, which in the pictures appears to have a slicker/shinier leather finish. Those pictures are very accurate to what I now hold in my hands.

When it arrived, the presentation of the cover was beyond what I might have imagined. The box in which it came was no thin, throw-away container. This was truly a presentation box, hard-sided and sturdy, a decorative Galen Leather design on the front, protecting the contents within. And what contents they were. The leather cover sat gleaming in the box. A Galen Leather-branded bellyband kept it from banging against the sides of the box too much (or so I imagine). A card with the Galen Leather story, an evil eye charm, and the tale of the evil eye was tucked into the package. And finally, a nicely printed note with information about the product, its care, and the history of my specific cover (the color, when it was made, and who at Galen Leather made it)!

The myriad contents held a lot to absorb! I read through all the documentation with interest; that they provide such details as the history was quite impressive, and the inclusion of care instructions was much appreciated. (One fascinating tip that I learned from those instructions and have since used on other leather goods is "for small scuffs or wear marks, simply rub your thumb or finger along the cleft between your nose and nostril for a bit of oil. With light pressure rub the spot on your cover in a circular motion. The scuff should darken and become less obvious.")

To the actual use! Foremost, as to the interior design of the No. 44, it is stitched with two card slots on the left-hand side and a larger pocket behind them. At the top of the left-hand side sits a pen loop, attached to the flap that forms the rear pocket. (This does mean that the rear pocket on the left side cannot be used for holding a notebook like the right side can.) The entirety of the right side is a pocket that holds a Field Notes notebook by sliding the back cover of the notebook into the pocket.

In my daily use of the No. 44, I had items in every pocket. The two card slots held business cards of mine and those of clients. I found that each card slot comfortably holds around five cards. (The leather does stretch slightly.) The rear pocket on the left side held varying items from loose notes to receipts or, once, a customs form. Worth mentioning here is that this leather cover is meant to be slim - these pockets are not for stuffing with a lot of paper. (In some respects, I found this to be very beneficial, as it limited me from going overboard with what I was carrying in the cover.) The pen loop of course was used to hold a pen, while the pocket on the right-hand side held a Field Notes notebook for my work notes.

Before I even started considering what I might write in a review, I spent probably two months using only this cover for one of my Field Notes notebooks. Foremost are my most obvious thoughts. The cover looks great, it smells great (if you like the smell of leather), and it does exactly what it is advertised to do in holding the field Notes notebook. Even when I got to the second to last page of my notebook, I did not find that the cover was negatively affecting my writing. I got numerous compliments on the look, and even with the increased size from a Field Notes notebook, the cover and contents never felt bulky. Over the period of use, the cover itself did get shinier from being rubbed and worn, as it was inserted and removed in a bag or backpack on a daily basis. The number of creases in the leather also increased, due to use, especially when a corner of the cover would get caught on something and pulled back a bit. The leather did "stain" the paper cover of the Field Notes that I held in it, a result (I assume) of the treatment to the leather itself.

The number of business cards that could be held by the No. 44 cover seemed ideal for me. I rarely carry more than ten cards at a time, and the size of the card holders felt ideal for going into a work meeting or networking event. The part of this case with which I took the most issue is the pen loop. Due to its placement so far to the top of the case, almost any pen is going to stick out the top of the cover, even just a bit. Looking at the way the loop is integrated with the card pocket stitching, though, I can see why it has been placed in that location. With the pen holder there, it also prevents the user from inserting a second notebook into the left flap of the cover. Certainly, this was never the intention of the creators, yet some of their cases with the loop in the middle of the inside would allow for a second notebook to be held, despite that not being part of the original design. A minor point, but worth mention, is that the pen almost certainly has to be removed from the cover in order to write on the left side of the notebook being held (due to the pen otherwise being behind the sheet on which you are writing). This only poses an issue, if you tend to use multiple pens and therefore might not be removing the pen from the loop prior to writing. Users will also find that the loop is limiting in how big of a pen it allows (a Pilot G2 will fit with ease, though a Pilot Metropolitan fits snugly, and the cap of the TWSBI Diamond 580 would not fit into the loop). However, the loop is also thick, so tight pen clips may have some issue fitting.

Aside from the nuances that I mentioned, I had nothing but a good experience with the Galen Leather No. 44 cover. Reasons that might keep me from using it as frequently in the future include carrying more than one notebook, wanting to carry more than one pen with my notebook, and carrying pens that do not fit the loop. I recommend the No. 44 cover for a fancy, affordable, single-notebook cover with options for personalization.

Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Galen Leather's No. 44 Personalized Leather Field Notes Cover is available from their website, here.
This product was provided in exchange for an unbiased review.

Text is copyright 2017, Built from Ink and Tea.

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