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The Perfect Little Non-Black Book: The Rite in the Rain Notebooks

November 4th, 2008 · 16 Comments · black book

Hello there.

I’ve said in a number of our reviews that the notebooks that impress me most are those that show ingenuity in simplicity.  I’m pretty utilitarian in my notebook usage – I don’t write with a special pen, or generally treat them with any sort of respect. I don’t need a fancy cover or classy paper. I like something simple, durable, and effective, but that still shows some originality.

Over the past two years, a number of fantastic notebooks have been recommended to us that fit nearly every single criteria we have for a great little black notebook except for one thing: they’re not black. I’ve resisted going down this road for quite a while – I mean, we’re Black Cover, right? We only review little black notebooks? The more I think about, the more I realize we’re cutting off a huge amount of great notebooks simply because of the color. Our focus will always be on black notebooks when we can find them, but so long as the notebooks generally fit our “perfection in simplicity” mantra, we’re going to broaden our horizons a little.

And I’m extremely happy with this decision, as the Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book is probably one of my favorite notebooks of all time.

Yep, green and beige. They don’t offer black (though a banana yellow is also an option). Rite in the Rain, as many of you know, are manufacturers of a patented paper coating technology that renders their products impervious to rain. Yes, you can literally “write in the rain.” According to the brochure, their goal is to produce products that serve professionals “from the top of Mt. Everest to the deepest caves on the planet,” and judging from the letters sent in to their Cool Stories page, it looks like users are finding such uses all across the world.

Rite in the Rain was started in the 1920s when Jerry Siller developed a water-proof paper for the Pacific Northwest logging industry.  Today, they make about a million different products in all shapes and sizes, and sell some pretty cool weather-proof notebook pouches and covers to boot, so I’d recommend spending some time on their site to find the one you like most. As always, we’re focusing on their pocket version, the Tactical Memo Book, which comes in green and tan. A slightly different version comes in yellow.

On the cover is the company logo and writing. Though I can be iffy on cover writing, I don’t mind this at all. Rather than detract from the notebooks, I think it gives them a sense of character like the Alwych, and I think they’d actually lose something if it were taken away (sadly, it sort of renders the Alwych’s claim to All-Weather status a bit outdated).

Size-wise, these measure in at approximately 3.4″x5″ – a hair skinnier and a full half inch shorter than a standard Moleskine.

I love this size. I’m so bored by 3.5″x5.5″ notebooks, which are apparently the world standard for pocket notebooks as set by Moleskine. I’m always thrilled when someone does something totally new with it, and the size here is perfect for writing handheld.

The notebook is a soft cover and is very flexible. But there’s some body to it, and while it will certainly bend in your back pocket, it still has a necessary firmness.

The tan and green notebooks have a military theme, and the back cover and inner front cover have some helpful reference material, including a 5″ ruler, an English System of Measurements Chart, a Metric to English conversion table, and map scaling tables and rulers.

I didn’t order the Yellow “Universal” option, so I’m not sure if this is included, as it seems more general-purpose.

Now for the pages.

As you can see, the pages of these notebooks reflect a lighter version of their cover colors. The Yellow Universal notebook offers basic white, with blue lines. The pages all feature solid horizontal lines with dotted vertical lines for gridding purposes.

I absolutely love this concept. While I agree with many of you that gridded paper is fantastic to write on, there are times when I wish the vertical lines weren’t so prominent. Rite in the Rain has found a perfect solution to this problem. And yes, I hate the “Rite in the Rain” logo on the bottom of each page. But I can overlook it.

Yep, this is me “riting in the rain.” It absolutely, 100% works (I wrote through the water), and when it dries, the pages show zero signs of ever having been wet. Incredible. The pages are thick and show no visible ink through. The reverse:

In terms of flexibility these notebooks do not open totally flat.

Frankly, I don’t think you could if you tried – the binding is intentionally firm, and I think it would extremely difficult to forcibly break the spine, let alone do so in every day wear and tear. The notebook opens plenty wide for my purposes, though, and I love how durable this makes them.

No pocket, no elastic band, and no bookmark, but this notebook needs none of those amenities. In what it is aiming to achieve, it succeeds to the fullest. They’re certainly not for those of you looking for a fine stationery product, but for those that enjoy utilitarian notebooks, you cannot – I REPEAT! – cannot go wrong.

Among other things, these little notebooks cost only $3.45 each. OK, it’s not that perfect – my bill broke down as follows: ordering two notebooks came to $6.90. Then there was a mysterious $4.00 “miscellaneous charge” (a handling fee, probably for buying too few notebooks), and $8 for shipping to New York from Washington state. All told, I paid $19 for the two notebooks. Still cheaper than a Moleskine, but I now wish I had purchased a few more to get the overall price per notebook down, knowing that I’m definitely going to be using these quite frequently. Black Cover reader WyldWoods points out that you can get them at a discount for only $3.20 each with significantly cheaper shipping at Trail Explorers. Finally, you can avoid the whole  online thing entirely by going to the Rite in the Rain site and using the Dealer Finder to the right of the page to find a local vendor.

If this review interests you, I’d definitely spend some time on their site to find the notebook that suits your purposes. Click here for the Green Memo 954, the Tan Memo 954T, or the Universal Yellow 974. They offer some of their larger notebooks in poydura, made from 100% consumer waste and are “virtually indestructible.”

For some reason, I put off trying this company out for a long time, and am kicking myself for checking them out earlier. Highly recommended!