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Thread: Field Journal Notebook Review

  1. #1
    nsh
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    Field Journal Notebook Review

    I purchased the purple field journal notebook in early Spring 2012 in preparation for my fifth field research trip to refugee camps in the Middle East. My research requires me to interview refugees in Arabic. Customer service was fantastic in contacting me about early shipment for some paper that was out of stock. They were very kind.

    The field journal was an incredibly useful tool in assisting me during my work travels. Here is why:

    1) I administer interviews in Arabic and write from right to left instead of left to right. The field notebook makes it easy to write in either direction.
    2) The straps on the bag create enough tension when worn around the neck and leaned against the abdomen that it creates a table when you stand up. I am rarely able to sit down and administer interviews so having a sturdy surface to write responses was a lifesaver for me.
    3) As a small-framed woman, carrying a heavy backpack on my shoulders for several hours in the hot sun while administering interviews can be very taxing. For many years I hauled my GPS phone, writing tools, and cards in a backpack and carried around a clipboard. I was fumbling with all my items while trying to write down interview responses. The field journal notebook changed all this for the better. My shoulders are no longer sore at the end of the work day because the bag is light. The zippered exterior pockets held my passport and a small wallet (from Tom Bihn) and the interior pockets held my pens and phone. I used a small clip to attach my water bottle to the strap so that I could operate hands free when walking around the camps.
    4) The binder aspect of the field journal permits the user to remove pages and return them. I loved this feature over a traditional spiral notebook or looseleaf paper. It kept papers organized and in place (especially on blustery days) but also allowed me to easily remove pages for scanning when I returned back to the US and then transfer them to another small notebook for safekeeping.
    5) Finally, the field journal notebook has been incredibly useful in my daily life, not just for research trips. When I attend college or department meetings or teach my lecture seminars I take meeting notes in the field journal and then place them in folders when I get back to my office. It has reduced the number of items I lug around campus. Also, I have turned it in to my everyday purse. I write my grocery list on the pages and then can easily check off items on my list while pushing my cart. The key fob in the front pocket holds my keys and i hook my Tom Bihn wallter in the interior of the bag.
    As a professor, I am pretty frugal and think carefully about how I spend my money but I think that the Field Journal Notebook should be standard issue before research trips.
    This is my first review for a product so I hope I was helpful. Have a great day.

  2. #2
    Registered User bunchgrass's Avatar
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    Great review, especially the description of how you used it in the field. Thank you.

  3. #3
    nsh
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    Thank you! I will upload some images over the weekend with how I have organized the bag. I am still learning how to post pictures etc.

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    Registered User lonestar6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsh View Post
    Thank you! I will upload some images over the weekend with how I have organized the bag. I am still learning how to post pictures etc.
    @nsh Thank you for an excellent review of the field notebook. I had looked at this product several times myself but did not see how it would be useful to me. Now you have me taking a second look. I would be very interested in seeing your photos so I hope you are able to find time to post them.

    ls6
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    Registered User TavaPeak's Avatar
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    nhs - I loved hearing about your trip to the Middle East. Thanks for sharing.

    My 7th-grade artist son takes his field journal to church -- he "draws" the sermons. It's a great size! We love that all the pens and pencils etc can be contained. Tyler likes the strap, too.

    I am waiting for a Field Journal of my own, in Aubergine. [hint, hint Darcy ;-) ]

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    I really enjoyed your review of the Field Journal Notebook. But I was concerned about your comments about having to carry heavy backpacks (item 3) in the field. Have you considered the Synapse backpack? It works really well for smaller-framed women, and carries a surprising amount. Take a look at Franco's pictures in the post Tom Bihn and the Nabateans and the later posts showing shots of this bag in Jordan.

    The reviews of the Synapse are quite correct in saying you can manage to fit in all the contents that you used to pack in a larger backpack, because this bag is so well designed. Here are a couple of the reviews that call this out:
    • Review at Practical Hacks with side-by-side comparison of a more standard sized backpack
    • Review at the WireCutter -- click on the link to the 25-liter Maxpedition backpack in the opening sentence whose contents can nearly all fit in the 19-liter Synapse for a visual comparison.

    You can also check any of the other reviews in the pinned list in the Bag Reviews forum or the Links to the customer photos or videos on the Synapse product page.

    HTH. moriond
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  7. #7
    nsh
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    I tried to post these earlier but was unsuccessful. I have attached one photo of me with the bag (feeling exhausted) after a day of interviews in a camp located right on the Syrian border near the town of Homs. Lots of gunfighting at night so I look 100 years older than normal (I felt I had to include my excuse). The rest of the photos represent how I organize the bag today. Incidentally, I am a minimalist packer (2 regular packing cubes, small toiletry bag, iPad) and am trying to decide between the Synapse in the new light fabric and a Smart Alec. Do you think the Synapse will do? Thank you!
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    Registered User Eire's Avatar
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    Excellent, real world review. I loved reading how the field journal works for you. I have been sitting on the fence trying to decide whether I should get one but you have pushed me over. I work for the government and spend most of my day in meetings. This would be perfect for keeping up with everything as I can see from your photos the Iphone fits too.
    Last edited by Eire; 10-28-2012 at 05:34 AM.
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  9. #9
    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsh View Post
    ....Lots of gunfighting at night so I look 100 years older than normal (I felt I had to include my excuse). The rest of the photos represent how I organize the bag today. Incidentally, I am a minimalist packer (2 regular packing cubes, small toiletry bag, iPad) and am trying to decide between the Synapse in the new light fabric and a Smart Alec. Do you think the Synapse will do? Thank you!
    ]
    moriond might be able to give you a better answer about which backpack will serve you best, but from what you wrote, I think the Synapse might work well for you. I have one, and if you are a light packer and are concerned about weight and comfort whilst carrying the bag over the course of a long day, I think the Synapse would be a good choice.

    Also, count me in as another person who is grateful for your review. Though intrigued by the FJN design, I've never thought it was something that I'd really need. Your review—especially the part about how you can write on it whilst standing, and also how you can make it serve double duty as a kind of purse–may have changed my mind about the FJN's utility for me.

    And I just wanted to add that I don't think you look a hundred years old at all! You are doing important work, under exhausting, stressful, and even dangerous conditions. From your lovely photo, you seem to be managing that with real grace.

    ~Nancy
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    Registered User yohopee's Avatar
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    What a great thread. I sometimes draw and take days off from work to walk around my city, take photographs and draw. I will be saving for the Field Journal.

    I agree with Nancy, grace under pressure. This is my favourite review so far.
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    An ancestor of the FJN, from an Harvard exhibit about note taking. Fascinating!

    44. Field notebooks of André and Yedda Godard | Take Note
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  12. #12
    Registered User PGJohnson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsh View Post
    I tried to post these earlier but was unsuccessful. I have attached one photo of me with the bag (feeling exhausted) after a day of interviews in a camp located right on the Syrian border near the town of Homs. Lots of gunfighting at night so I look 100 years older than normal (I felt I had to include my excuse). The rest of the photos represent how I organize the bag today. Incidentally, I am a minimalist packer (2 regular packing cubes, small toiletry bag, iPad) and am trying to decide between the Synapse in the new light fabric and a Smart Alec. Do you think the Synapse will do? Thank you!
    [/ATTACH]
    Thanks for sharing you story. I really appreciate what you do.

    I only just recently purchased the Synapse. It is a smaller backpack but I amazed at what I can fit in there. Furthermore, it distributes the weight in the pack very evenly and thus is quite comfortable to wear for long stretches. I'm a small guy and I use it daily to carry my gear all day. It works really well for my needs (see my two threads "Why I Like My Synapse!" in this forum topic for more info). It is quickly becoming my favorite bag of all time. For the items you mention, I think it would suffice (especially if in the Dynema fabric).

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by PGJohnson; 11-07-2012 at 08:01 PM.
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  13. #13
    nsh
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    I still love my FJN (and my passport holder). This summer I couldn't travel to the refugee camps for research but I am writing my manuscript at home. I often write (with pen and FJN) on the dock at my house for several hours in the afternoon. I have been known to jump off the dock and swim when writer's block hits Here are some pics of the FJN in action!
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  14. #14
    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    Wish I had a dock to jump off to cure writer's block!

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    Registered User Moose's Avatar
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    I'd take up writing and hope for writer's block. Great review. Not sure how it got past me back in October but I am glad I found it. Great pictures too.
    Moose
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    List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!

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