For me, a good leather product is like a good wood product; one you can fully experience. Don’t you just love the smell of leather? If not, this article isn’t for you. I love the smell of leather, the sight of it, and of course the feel. So many products today are cheaply made, so when I run across something that is thoughtfully and well-made, I take note.
When I first stumbled upon a leather notebook cover (it was a Midori traveler’s notebook), I thought “that’s pretty cool, I wonder if they come in pocket notebook size”. A quick search revealed that they absolutely do, and there are myriad styles from which to choose.
Pocket notebook covers generally come in two types. The first type is commonly known as a traveler’s notebook. This type utilizes elastic straps to contain the notebooks. The second type typically uses an interior pocket system in which the notebook covers are placed to keep the notebooks from moving around.
Get ready to feast your eyes on some great pocket notebook covers from:
- Colsen Keane
- Mountain Face Leather Goods
- Red Pen Travelers
- Saddleback Leather
- Sojourner by retrowtures
Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Colsen Keane manufactures a wide variety of leather goods. From satchels to dufflebags, Moleskine covers to Field Notes Covers. I received the Field Notes Cover in Brown Crazy Horse to test out. Brown Crazy Horse refers to the type of leather used to manufacture the cover. The first thing you have to know is that this leather will begin aging and showing wear immediately (just compare the picture of the front cover above – the day I received it – to the back cover below, taken today). I think this is awesome because the product is instantly marked as your own, but for those who do not like this distressed style, go for another type of leather. To see an example of how this type of leather wears, check out this YouTube video from Colsen Keane.
The cover arrived to me via USPS, wrapped in plastic inside of a padded envelope, and experienced no issues in transit. As you can see, it is slightly larger than a standard 3.5 x 5.5 pocket notebook. The cover also came with two Field Notes stamped with the Colsen Keane logo. A cover ($65) with three Field Notes ($10) and three additional elastic strings ($5 – more on that below) totals $80.00, plus shipping. You can also add up to three initials for $15.00.
The cover falls into the traveler’s notebook type and holds the two pocket notebooks in place with an elastic strap that is threaded through the leather twice to give you two notebook enclosures. The cover also features another piece of elastic string, threaded through two holes at the top, creating two bookmarks and the string that holds the book closed is secured on the back cover of the notebook. While the cover initially holds two notebooks, you can use the additional string mentioned above to hold two notebooks together to allow you to carry more. I never carried this one with more than three but it would easily, and comfortably, fit four.
I would recommend this cover for someone who routinely carries more than one pocket notebook, but who often finds that two is enough. The leather used in this cover was the softest out of the box of any of the covers featured here, and this cover had the smallest overall size profile. When carried with only two notebooks, it is still easily light enough to fit into a pocket as part of one’s everyday carry. I can’t stress enough that I have really enjoyed watching this cover wear, even in the short time I’ve had it, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in a year.
Mountain Face Leather Goods
Coming out of Arkansas, Mountain Face Leather Goods manufactures a number of leather goods such as wallets, card holders, and pocket notebook covers, to name a few. All of the products are made with materials sourced entirely from the United States and everything is done by hand, from the cutting to the stitching. I came across Mountain Face on Instagram, and exchanged some emails with the company owner, Cody. I received the Field Notes Cover pictured here to feature in the series and review. The cover sells for $75.00 (plus shipping)
It arrived to me via USPS and the cover was wrapped in brown parcel paper and tied with twine inside of a padded envelope and experienced no issues in transit. Cody also wrote a short note on the paper – a great personal touch.
The leather used by Mountain Face will show wear with use, but much more slowly than other types of leather. I have carried this on multiple occasions and it has yet to show any serious marks. The cover came with one Field Notes, but will easily fit two (see photo above). The interior of the cover features a pocket system. Simply slide the back cover of your pocket notebook of choice into the pocket on the right side and you’re good to go.
Not only is this a rugged and styling pocket notebook cover, but there are three pockets on the left side of the interior which could serve to make this an excellent (larger) wallet. A larger pocket for cash, cards, or receipts, and two smaller pockets that could fit credit cards (see two photos below). Personally, I prefer a slim / front pocket wallet, so I simply doubled up on the pocket notebooks.
This cover also had an extremely small profile, making it great for everyday carry in a back pocket or cargo pocket, and of course it would fit well in any purse or other bag. Currently, Mountain Face Leather Goods are only sold off of Instagram, but you can also email Cody at firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering and pricing information. I would obviously recommend this to people looking for a good handmade pocket notebook cover, but especially to those looking to have more of a one stop shop when it comes to their wallet as you could fit a pocket notebook, cash, cards, even some individual keys or other smaller items – this would be the perfect item for that purpose. Definitely connect with Mountain Face on Instagram to see the other versions of the cover he has available, including the newly released Lively Notes cover that includes a pen holder.
Red Pen Travelers
Coming to you out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Red Pen Travelers offers a wide variety of custom options with their traveler’s notebooks. Start with the outline (should you desire one) – I picked Kentucky, my home state. Then pick a dye color for the leather – I chose butterscotch; and an elastic color – I chose mocha. You can also choose an additional marking for the state – I chose a star over my hometown and initials in the bottom right corner. RPT even offers metal eyelets to encompass the holes where the elastic is threaded through. Red Pen Travelers also makes traveler’s notebooks in the “Midori” size, which is larger than a pocket notebook size.
My Kentucky State Lines traveler’s notebook arrived to me in a USPS Priority Mail box. The notebok was wrapped in tissue paper and there was an air bubble insert inside of the notebook to help it keep its shape – a great idea. It also came with a note about use and some instructions on leather care and a red Pilot G2 pen. If you happened to read the Everyday Considerations: Pens article, you know I am a huge fan of the Pilot G2, so this scored some bonus points. Toni, the RPT founder, was kind enough to not only send me some extra elastic, so I could really load up the notebook, but also pointed out a handy video that gives some tips on how to load a traveler’s notebook.
The leather used by Red Pen Travelers was the stiffest out of the box, but not in a way that made the notebook hard to work with. Additionally, it has already begun to soften, and that’s through regular use only, I’ve not taken any steps to condition it. The leather will continue to soften and wear over time and is slowly developing a nice patina.
The notebook has four vertical straps (a two strap version is also available) on the interior to allow for up to four items to be placed inside. However, RPT also offers additional elastic for sale to join your pocket notebooks or other items together to fit more inside. As you can see in the photo below, I loaded mine up with 3 Word Notebooks, 2 small Flex notebooks from Palomino, and a moustache themed folder that a friend made for me.
The strap that encloses the notebook is attached in the center of the spine, but RPT also allows users the choice of having it anchored in the center of the back cover.
The RPT Notebook had one of the two largest profiles of all of the notebook covers, but its carrying capacity is only rivaled by the Sojourner by retrowtures, so unless you’re sporting some particularly big pockets, this is going to be one you need to throw in a bag or carry in your hand. I would highly recommend this notebook not only to those who want to carry a wide range of pocket notebooks (or items similar to my moustache folder) but also to those who want to customize their notebook far beyond just the wear that the leather will show. RPT offers the widest variety of options of all of the notebook covers that I samples, and each notebook is handmade as it’s ordered. Additionally, at $35.00 (plus $4.00 for the initials and star), the RPT notebook is the most cost effective of the notebook covers featured here. Be sure to follow @redpentravelers on Instagram as Toni has started offering flash sales on Thursday nights.
If you’ve visited TitleBeard before, you know that I am a fan (and affiliate) of Saddleback Leather. I’ve enjoyed the products that I’ve received from them to this point and I knew their Leather Moleskine Cover would be no different. The Moleskine cover is different than the other entries in this series as it was designed for a pocket sized Moleskine notebook and not the standard pocket notebook, but as you can see below, the cover is diverse enough to fit both. I chose the Dark Coffee Brown color for this one as I did not yet have a Saddleback product in that color. The small Moleskine version sells for $45.00 (plus shipping).
It arrived to me via UPS, and the cover was wrapped in plastic inside of a padded envelope. It experienced no issues in transit.
As mentioned, it was designed for the a pocket-sized Moleskine variant; the front cover slides into one flap, the back cover slides into another, and the strap on the Moleskine can be threaded around to keep the book closed and keep a pen in place. It functions perfectly for the purpose for which it was designed, but how would it do with some softcover pocket notebooks? I grabbed a couple of my Word notebooks and inserted one cover into the front flap and one cover of the second notebook into the back flap and the two notebooks fit great. The only potential issue with carrying it this way is that the back flap was not designed to accommodate a pocket notebook without a strap, so this notebook could slide out a little bit. It is not in danger of falling out, it just protrudes a bit. However, this is easily remedied with a quick tap on the notebook to put it back in place.
The leather that Saddleback uses will show wear after a long period of time. I’ve carried mine on multiple occasions and it has yet to show a single mark. Saddleback offers a 100 year warranty on all of their products alongside their motto, “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead”. Saddleback also offers a larger version of the cover along with the rest of their (very wide) product range that includes briefcases, suitcases, messenger bags, et cetera. At $45.00, this was the second most cost effective of all the options presented here, and a definitively solid product.
Sojourner by retrowtures
Youtube: @retrow tures
Like virtually all of the other manufacturers on this list, I discovered retrowtures on Instagram. I came across her page and liked the look of her Sojourner Traveler’s Notebooks, watched this video, and I was sold. I contacted Rowena (the founder, and owner of the hands you see in the YouTube videos) and shortly thereafter received the Sojourner pictured here (The Designer variant, in honey and ibex) to test out. Each of The Designers are a one-off – the front pockets utilize natural edges of leather, so no two are alike. As shown here, The Designer sells for $75.00 (plus shipping). Larger sizes of The Designer are available in addition to the Sojourner Traveler and the Classic Sojourner.
The Designer arrived to me in a USPS Priority Mail box, and was wrapped in craft paper and tied with twine. It came with a Field Notes and small binder clip, and a note from Rowena which stated that a portion of the proceeds from the sales of all Sojourners are dedicated towards assisting individuals and organizations serving in missions.
All Sojourners utilize the interior strap enclosure for the notebooks; the Designer has four; two larger and two smaller. There is also a piece of twine tied inside that forms two bookmarks. The elastic enclosure on the outside is located on the spine. The leather used on the Designer is extremely soft and pliable and is showing some slight signs of wear since I have been using it. One particularly cool feature about my Sojourner is that 512 is lightly scratched into the back cover (see photo below). I asked Rowena about this and she said it was a marking that was on the leather when it came from the manufacturer. I like things like that – makes my one off Designer even more unique.
Thanks to the addition of some extra elastic, I was able to fill my Designer with all of the items you see below. From left to right and top to bottom: A folder that a friend made for me, a pocket notebook from Scout Books, Field Notes, two pocket notebooks from Baron Fig (one covered with moustaches), two Doane Paper books, and a Word Notebook. I placed all of the items (easily) inside the Designer, with the exception of one of the Baron Fig notebooks that I had in the front pocket. The front pocket is a truly unique feature that adds a great layer to the Designer. It can work great in a travel situation for a boarding pass and ID or passport, for having another pocket notebook or similar item handy but still secure, or with a top-fold pocket notebook (see photo above), you can use the elastic enclosure like a bookmark and have the notebook even more easily accessible for quick note-taking.
Obviously, the extreme loading does increase the overall size profile of the Designer, but it can still easily be carried in a bag or in hand. I would highly recommend the Designer to those looking for a one of a kind pocket notebook cover. While the Designer is tied for the most expensive out of the covers featured here, it is well worth the money due to the one-off aspect, the quality, and storage capacity. It certainly has the size to accomplish the retrowtures motto – “Documenting life as it happens”.
With this sixth entry in the series, we’re building ourselves quite the nice everyday carry assortment. Be sure to connect with these craftsmen and craftswomen and check out everything they have to offer – Pro tip: do NOT do a YouTube search for traveler’s notebooks unless you want to go down the rabbit hole of internet videos. However, if you do have an extra ten or twelve hours to burn, feel free to do that search and have a look at the thousands of videos of people customizing their notebook covers – you won’t believe some of the great ideas that these enthusiasts have come up with.