The Maruman Spiral Note Basic has been recommended as the best fountain pen friendly spiral notebook for students. I mostly agree! However, there are some caveats that make it hard for me to use it with fountain pens. Warning: I am a side-writing leftie, so what bothered me about this notebook may not apply to you! I just wanted to show a left-handed perspective in my review, especially for students who take notes quickly.
I am on a neverending quest to find fountain pen friendly notebooks for taking notes in lecture! The triumvirate of cheap, light and fountain pen friendly has defeated many contenders. Brad from the Pen Addict suggested the Spiral Note Basic was good for students. So I waited for them to restock on Jetpens and ordered five for the spring semester. After several months, I have finally collected my thoughts.
The cover looks rather plain, a brown cardboard cover with space to write down your class. It’s B5 size, which is 6.9 x 9.8 inches. For those who haven’t seen that size before, it’s like a taller, slimmer composition book. The cover has held up for months in my cavernous backpack. Only the edges are rumpled, but no pages have ripped. It is spiral bound with strong metal rings that haven’t bent out of place yet. The Spiral Note lays completely flat and folds back, essential for students who are forced to use tiny desks. The pages are all perforated. None of them became loose but they could be removed cleanly without any damage.
Back of pen test
The paper is the star of the show. It is 70 gsm and an off-white color. Its light gray lines are 6.5mm, which fits more writing. It has 32 lines on each page. There are margins at the top and a space to number your notes and write the date! The paper is the smoothest I have ever felt, even more so than Tomoe River! It’s relaxing to run my hand over a blank page. The paper is thin but has less show through than the Kokuyo Campus. Once I write on the back, the show through doesn’t bother me.
Sheen with Kyo no Oto Adzukiiro!
Sheen with Robert Oster Frankly Blue!
For my purposes, the paper is too smooth. Softer pencils like the Blackwing 602 feel slippery on the paper. My Papermate Flairs, especially the Black, looked faded and washed out. I liked my gel pens, like the Uniball Signo 207, on this paper the most. The tip is slightly scratchy, so it slides on the paper less. Papermate Ink Joys were bright and vibrant but did take some time to dry. Fountain pens feel amazing on the paper! It was pleasant to write on, with no feedback or fibers catching the nib. I saw hidden sheen on this paper I couldn’t see on Tomoe River! Robert Oster Frankly Blue had a reddish halo, while Kyo no Oto Adzukiiro gained golden sheen. Monteverde Ruby looked vivid and the shading was beautiful. This can easily compete with Tomoe River as the smoothest, highest-quality paper I’ve used.
However, there were some problems for me. When I could slow down, like to write this review, my Pelikan M605 felt pleasant. But usually, I write fast, using a Lamy Safari M nib or Pilot Metropolitan M nib. I write 5-8 pages per lecture, and quickly! I felt my nib was out of control when I wrote at my normal speed like it might fly off the page. I want to keep on using fountain pens and see if I get used to the slickness.
It took longer than I hoped to dry. As a student who takes copious amounts of notes, this is a downside for me. I’m a left-handed side writer so my hand drags across newly written words. I try to avoid smearing the ink, but on this paper it’s inevitable. Fountain pens, Uniball Signos and Papermate Ink Joys were more likely to smear. However, if you’re right-handed the long dry times may not bother you. This is another leftie thing, but the spiral binding annoys me. The metal digs into my hand when I write, making note-taking a somewhat painful experience. I forgot how much I loved the sturdy glue binding of the Kokuyo Campus.
Spiral Note Basic vs. Kokuyo Campus:
Now how do they compare to my favorite, the glue bound Kokuyo Campus B5? Kokuyo Campus paper absorbs ink quickly, but it doesn’t show off the qualities of the ink as well. They are much lighter, with only 30 pages. I can carry 3 of them without my backpack feeling heavy. I go through 2-3 of them for my more intensive classes, which is both nice and annoying. Nice in that I feel accomplished for finishing a notebook and annoying because I have to search for my other notebooks when I’m studying for exams! I’ve been using the same Spiral Notes the whole semester, instead of going through 2-3 thinner notebooks. But carrying 2-3 Spiral Notes is heavy! My campus is huge and getting from my dorm to class takes 15+ minutes. I pack lightly to avoid back pain, but Spiral Notes always add too much weight to my bag.
Using Spiral Notes is a better deal for me because it has 80 pages, so 160 pages front and back. They are heavier but quite compact. I bought five Spiral Notes for $28.50 and free shipping. On Amazon, 5-packs of Kokuyo Campus fluctuate from $10-12. I bought three packs. So I guess Spiral Notes are the better deal?
The Maruman Spiral Note Basic is great for high school and college students who want to use their fountain pens for taking notes! However, for lefties and people who are particular about paper, be more cautious. I’m going to keep using them because they’re the best student-friendly notebooks out there.