This past couple of months, I’ve been route checking for a Dartmoor guidebook. I quickly realised that I needed a waterproof notebook – or risk having all my notes washed away into a soggy oblivion. A scrap of paper in a plastic ziplock did okay, but it was very slow.
Waterproof notebooks can be very mixed I’ve used several during my time in Mountain Rescue. Let me tell you, there is no place for paper notebooks when you’re trying to take notes for radio comms when it’s wet in all directions. But equally, I’ve carried full on hardbound A5 notebooks across countries and high into the mountains.
This review is based off about one and a half months of use on Dartmoor in January and February. That gave me plenty of opportunity for thorough testing over many walks.
What you get
I was sent four little notebooks from Thrunotes to review. They are 13cm by 9cm in size and 32 pages long. You can also write on the inside front and back covers. Mine were attached down the middle with 3 staples, but I see the official Thrunotes website says saddle stitch binding. I can only assume this is a recent upgrade since mine were made. The books come in dots, lines or blank.
The other specs are as follows:
- 200gsm YUPOBlue cover, 116gsm YUPOBlue pages
- 24g (0.8oz) overall weight
- Vegan inks
- Rounded corners
- Rulers on inside covers (inches on back, centimetres on front)
And the main claims to test: waterproof, tearproof and lightweight. Thrunotes recommend using a ballpoint pen, but say crayons and pencils will work on wet or dry pages. Permanent markers and Sharpies will only work when the page is dry.
Also, I can’t go without talking about the packaging. For some reason, I was expecting gear brand packaging (functional, minimal) and what I got was stationery company (aesthetic, arty). It was a pleasant surprise.
Right then, the test. I was using these notebooks to take notes on routes on Dartmoor. I’d be walking along, following provisional guidebook instructions, then want to quickly stop and record a few points. It was a good size to fit in a pocket or a rucksack pouch for easy access. Since usually I’m writing in wet situations, I chose a pencil.
I took these notepads on several walks on Dartmoor during January and February. I was route checking for a guidebook, so I couldn’t simply wait for good weather days. Particularly on Dartmoor, when you basically expect it to rain at some point most days of those months. So yes, it rained quite a lot and I got to give the waterproofness a good test.
I was really surprised that I could write on the pages while it was actually raining. Although the paper does feel plasticy/satin – for want of a better word – it didn’t become slick and shiny when wet. The rain would almost bead on it and in pencil you could write through the raindrops. Amazing.
And then, I thought I’d just take it to the max and dunk it in an overflowing river bog. Yes, full on dunk.
After a dip in the bog, I pulled it out and left it to drip dry, then shook it a bit…
But it still wasn’t dry enough to put away, so I rubbed it dry with the back of my glove and my trousers…
As you can see from the pictures, I did lose some of the pencil. But you can still read it and if I hadn’t been so impatient with my scrubbing dry, it would have been fine. I highly doubt you’d lose anything if it was a permanent marker. Still, if your notes did accidentally end up going for a swim, they wouldn’t all be lost. And I guess that’s the point really. It’s a waterproof notebook for hikers not bog snorkelers.
The notepads felt very sturdy and durable. Even though mine was stapled together, it didn’t feel flimsy in the slightest. I was bending and folding the pages back on themselves in order to write. It didn’t show any signs of breaking or ripping or falling apart. Great.
There was also no way those pages were going to tear. I thought that if I tried to rip a page it might make the laminate separate from paper, but it didn’t. Another tick there.
What went well
I really liked these notebooks. They’re the right sort of size for note taking on a hill, small enough to fit in a pocket or pouch. The rounded edges mean it doesn’t catch on anything. It basically feels like the design has been really well thought out – and made by someone who’s used them.
I would instinctively wipe water off the page with the back of my hand, without even thinking. This would often smudge what I’d just written in the pencil. Not to the extent that you’d lose the writing, but enough to make it faint. You can get around this by simply not drying the pages, but then the wet pages stick together making it hard to open up again.
Overall, Thrunotes are good little waterproof notebooks. Great for short notes but not big enough for memoirs. When I go on even a two week trip, I would take a notebook double the side in both number of pages and size – usually A5 at least.
At first I thought this was a massive oversight for a notebook designed for thru-hiking. But then, I realised that we’re talking about trips that last months and months, with good infrastructure that allow you to post things home and pick things up. Then I understand why you might want lots of little notebooks, to keep things light. I do feel a bit silly carrying big notepads on cycle tour, but I get over it pretty quickly!
On a side note, if Thrunotes did ever make a notebook with printed numbered pages, they might find themselves appealing to the Mountain Rescue market. It’s hard to find small waterproof notebooks with printed page numbers, which we’re often advised to use. I’ll definitely be using it for making notes on training exercises though – it’s the perfect size and doesn’t roll up or lose pages like some ringbound waterproof notebooks.
That’s quite a long overall verdict, but to TLDR; yes they deliver on all the spec and I’ll definitely keep using them for note taking.