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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.