Start Bay Notebook Cover Review and Giveaway

Start Bay notebook review

Start Bay is a little bay on the south Devon coast here in England. It’s also home to Start Bay Notebooks, makers of these simple leather notebook covers.

Thank you to Start Bay Notebooks for sending me these covers to review (and to give away, see below). These are my own honest opinions.

These are available in two sizes, the Pioneer, which is pocket notebook sized (A6ish); and the Navigator, which is A5. It’s available with either two or four vertical cords, for holding two or four notebooks; or with a pair of horizontal cords with which to hold a top-stapled notepad. I’m reviewing a Navigator with four cords. I also have a Pioneer and everything I’m saying here applies to that, too. The Pioneer has four cords and costs £35; the four-cord Navigator costs £45.

The Navigator can hold a lot of notebook. There’s plenty of space inside for more than I have here in mine. It will even hold hardbound notebooks such as a Rhodia Webnotebook or a Leuchtturm. I have in mine, in these pictures, a Mnemosyne Light Notebook and a Midori MD notebook. Since taking these photos I’ve added a Kokuyo Campus notebook and swapped the Midori MD notebook for a Paper-Oh one. (The Midori MD has beautifully smooth paper but I was finding that far too many of my fountain pens were skipping on it when they were always perfectly fine on other paper.)

Start Bay notebook open

The elastic cords that hold the notebooks in place are threaded through holes on the spine of the cover and hold the notebooks in place fairly strongly. They do move around a little but not as much as in a Traveler’s Notebook, even when using heavier notebooks.

Start Bay notebook closed

The elastic closure band, available in black, brown or yellow, is strong and flexible enough to deal with a wide variation in thickness. It does its job well but is tied with a knot on the inside of the centre of the back cover. This is a poor decision as it interferes with your writing; it presses up into the paper. It would be better if the knot was along the spine, as with Traveler’s Notebooks the Paper Republic Grand Voyageur or Davis Leatherwork covers. (The Traveler’s Notebook also has the knot on the back.)

Start Bay notebook empty

This is a simple cover so it stands or falls on the quality of the leather. Fortunately the leather is wonderful. It’s thick full grain vegetable tanned leather which means it should last pretty much forever, developing its own character as it goes along. It’s unadorned except for a bold Start Bay Notebooks stamp on the back cover.

Start Bay notebook branding

I like simple products that are proud of what they’re made from so these covers are right up my alley. Since I received my first two covers I’ve been using them every day. The Pioneer sits in my back pocket with three pocket notebooks in it and the Navigator has replaced my Traveler’s Notebook as my day-to-day sketch and journal setup. (The Traveler’s Notebook I’m using for what it was named for: recording trips and holidays. I could never not use it.) I enjoy the flexibility of being able to use whichever A5 notebook I want. (This has led to the discovery of the loveliness that is the Paper-Oh notebook but that’s a tale for another day.)

Only you can decide if it’s worth the money. It’s simple but the leather is very good and it’s been well put together. They are about the going rate for this kind of thing and it’s a one-off purchase: unless you’re me, you only really need one or two covers like this. (I only need one or two but I seem to have an awful lot more.)

Start Bay notebook edge

Start Bay Notebooks have taken off quickly here and in order to keep up with demand they had to change their leather supplier. They were kind enough to send me two additional covers with this new leather. The photos in this review are of the newer leather and that’s what I’ve been talking about here. However, the covers I’ve been using day to day are made from the original leather. This means I have two covers, a Pioneer and a Navigator, that have been barely used and are therefore available to give to you, dear readers.

I’m trying out Rafflecopter for this giveaway. I’ve not used it before so it’s very much an experiment. Good luck! The giveaway finishes at the end of Saturday 25th June 2016 (UK time) and the winner will be announced soon after.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thank you for the great hints. I make my own covers and always have a similar notebook with me. I especially like to use them with a Kaweco Skyline Sport pen (also always with me) because it will clip to a pocket and if you have no shirt pocket I can drop it in my pants pocket. further more it always starts when it comes in contact with the paper.

  2. These are really great quality leather, very well made and I love mine. To hold notebooks I cannot recommend them enough. And I love that the bigger one can hold a staple top Rhodia.

  3. Thank you for the review and the giveaway. And thanks to all my friends who put up with my pen and paper obsession!

  4. I’ve been contemplating these for a while after seeing them mentioned on the FPUK facebook group…. even more tempted now! 🙂

  5. I’ve been really interested in the A5 size as I’ve already got a Midori Passport notebook – it’s on my wish list for Christmas next year. My passport has the knot in the middle of the back cover and I’ve never found that an issue for writing – maybe it wears in to be less noticeable with time?

  6. Beautiful covers. They look well made and more ‘classy’ than the rustic Midori traveler’s notebooks. Is this your impression as well, Ian? Thanks for the raffle.

    1. To my eyes the two covers are very similar, there’s quite a rustic ‘back to basics’ feel to the Start Bay cover. (Which is something I like.)

  7. Thanks to Start Bay Notebooks for the giveaway, and thanks for such a detailed review. You can’t beat proper leather products like this – they develop over time into something unique to each lucky owner

  8. Thank you for the review and giveaway, and thanks to my sister for sharing my pen, ink & paper enthusiasm with me 🙂

  9. A very good review of an excellent product. Mine travels everywhere with me and I love the flexibility of use and the superb quality of the leather.

  10. The covers look seductive…..and the Pioneer seems to be the cover of my choice as I use lot of A6 size pocketbooks. Thanks to Pens Paper Pencils for bringing this up.

  11. Great review! I’d love to handle and try out this leather. It definitely looks much more sturdy than the Midori brand!

  12. Thanks to Andy, for putting up with my pen chatter 😉

    And thanks to you for this giveaway, this looks like a pretty wonderful notebook holder!

    1. They are just about identical in thickness. Funnily enough the Travelers Notebook feels a little thicker, I think because it’s a bit stiffer, but when I put the two covers side by side I couldn’t see a difference.

  13. Great review. Always looking for a good way to carry my notebooks. Thanks for the chance to win.

  14. Thank you for reviewing these! The A5 size looks nice, and I like the multiple elastics on the inside.

  15. Wow, what an awesome giveaway. I’ve been oogling these for a while so it’s good to get to find out a little bit more about them, thanks for reviewing!

  16. Thanks to my mother for birthing me 41 years ago. Today is my birthday. Hope I could win the bigger cover as a present for myself. :p

  17. Hello, I would like to thank you for the detailed review and the giveaway. I am in India and hope this is a Intl giveaway. I am still mulling over buying a TN cover or making one myself, hope I make a decision soon. Thanks.

  18. Thank you to my colleague who just gave me chocolate to cheer me up haha! And thanks to you for this blog. I have an A3 sketchbook and an A5 notebook 🙂

  19. Thank you to my best friend who taught me to drive and came back off her holiday to be with me whilst I took my driving test

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