Review: Lochby Pocket Journal

The Lochby Pocket Journal, pictured here with my trusty Parker 51.

Does it make any sense that – after purchasing this domain weeks ago and not having done a damn thing with it since – my first entry of any substance would be about a pocket journal? Probably not, but allow me to explain.

I like this cover. A lot. I think 1) that it is extremely well made; 2) that a lot of good thought went into its design; and 3) that for a lot of people, who, like me, have a near compulsive need to keep a notebook close at hand at all times, this cover is going to serve them well.

But (because you knew there was a but) – it just isn’t quite for me.

So before I wrap this up to give as a Christmas present to someone who I think would enjoy it a lot more than me, I thought it would still be appropriate to give it a write-up.

The Basics

The Lochby Pocket Journal ($39 USD) is a product of Chris Elfering, whose name I suspect might ring a bell with those who remember Bond Travel Company. Bond made a number of excellent travel gear ranging from dopp kits to tool rolls to sundries bags, but Elfering’s new company, Lochby, focuses (so far, at least) exclusively on (also excellent) writing-related gear.

The Pocket Journal is the smaller sibling to what I’d deem Lochby’s flagship product – the A5-sized Field Journal ($49 USD) – and fits the company’s own 3.5″ x 5.5″ notebooks, or any number of identically-sized pocket journals from companies like Field Notes and Moleskine. According to Lochby, the cover measure 4.2″ x 6.6″ x 0.75″.

The exterior is made out of either brown or black waxed canvas which, from having owned everything from coats to rucksacks made of nearly identical material, is going to take a beating and age beautifully while doing it.

Meanwhile, the brown features an interior lined with honey-colored ripstop nylon, while the black variant has khaki. Both look good, but I went with the brown because it reminded me of the duck canvas on a good Carhartt jacket.

Both also feature two credit-card sized slots and full-length pouch on the inside; and one pen slot and Velcro (sorry – “hook-and-loop fastener”) pocket on the back.

The pocket journal comes loaded with one of Lochby’s dot grid notebooks. The company also sells blank and ruled refills.

Things I Like

As mentioned before, the quality on this thing is top-notch. Absolutely no complaints there. But, for reasons I’ll discuss later, it’s almost too good. Setting my nitpicks aside for now, however, this thing feels like it’s built like a tank and would stand up to hard use.

I particularly like that it has a zippered shell, which is the one thing that first drew me to it. I had intended to use this as a replacement for the bifold wallet I normally carry in my back pocket, given that the same pocket is usually also occupied by at least one notebook and a mess of receipts, scrap paper and other junk I might accumulate throughout the day. So, that ability to consolidate all of that into a secure package was very appealing.

And since I wanted to use it as a wallet replacement, I really like the two interior slots, which can each accommodate a pair of credit cards comfortably and three with some force. The internal pouch doesn’t have elastic sewn in or even a closure, but there’s plenty of room for some folded bills or other paper.

Last, if you’re the type who likes to carry multiple notebooks at once, the cover is only designed to hold one – but I had no problem getting the zipper to close with four. It definitely makes it a chonky boi when filled to the brim like that, but it’s doable.

The back cover has a Velcro-secured pocket, while the front has a slip for a pen and another slot for whatever.

Things I Don’t Like

I fear I’m getting into some criticisms that might not be applicable to everyone, but given that I intended this Pocket Journal to be a full-on replacement for my wallet, I feel like they’re still valid.

My biggest complaint is that this cover is just too rigid. Which, to be fair, is a quality that in any other use case I think I would be perfectly happy with – but it means that it doesn’t sit very comfortably in a back pocket. Lochby sandwiches a plastic liner between the material used for both front and back covers, so the Pocket Journal is going to feel big, even when not stuffed to bursting.

Adding to this is an overhang that adds about half an inch to each of the zippered sides. This might sound insignificant on paper, but in my back pocket, it was definitely noticeable.

The “lip” extends on three sides of the Lochby and adds quite a bit to its overall size.

Lochby also says the thickness is .75″, but I’m measuring it – with only a single notebook inside – at a full inch. I imagine that might decrease some as the canvas gets worn in, but again, this cover is going to be a pretty stout little guy regardless of how much you feed it.

With just a single notebook in each, the Lochby Pocket Journal (right) is nearly twice the thickness of Bellroy’s Notebook Cover Mini.

Last, let’s talk about the pen slip.

My assumption is that it was made tight so there wasn’t an excess of loose fabric flapping around to get caught on something. However, I find this design choice to be sort of baffling since Elfering says Lochby came about largely due to his love for fountain pens, and that pen slip is tight. And not “tight” in the mid-2000s context of “good”.

My daily carry pen is a Parker 51, which, for those not down with fountain pen talk, is a pen sized fairly comparably to a standard Sharpie marker (not the super fine ones, not the enormous ones that’ll get you high within seconds of uncapping them – the one that Goldilocks would call “just right”). In other words, the pen is larger than a regular wooden No. 2 pencil, but not as large as many more modern, more common fountain pens.

I mention that to say that even with a slim-ish pen like the Parker 51, it was a squeeze. And sure, I was able to make a number of other pens work (my list included a Sailor Pro Gear, Sailor 1911, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari, Platinum 3776 and even a TWSBI 580) – but it took so much effort to get them in and out that I finally found myself ditching the pen slip altogether and just using the wider section beside it instead.

So moral of the story – if you’re into oversized pens, this may not be the notebook cover for you.

Oh – one last gripe. The zipper is a genuine YKK zipper, but it’s nylon. I kind of feel like Lochby missed a bit of an opportunity here by not using metal, both for the sake of aesthetics and longer-term durability. Granted, it’s rare that I’ve ever had the teeth on a nylon zipper get so mangled as to render them unusable, but it has happened and just seems like if this product has a weak point, the zipper is it.

Final Thoughts

If I intended to carry the Lochby Pocket Journal in a bag, I think I’d love it for its durability and what seems to be better-than-average crush protection. But, unfortunately, it just didn’t quite do what I wanted it to do – which was to replace my wallet.

So, I’m sure this seems like a whole lot of negative about a product that I think is still exceptional – but I’m excited to pass it along to someone who I think will get a lot more use out of it than I would.

tl/dr: This is an excellent product and I would thoroughly recommend it, depending on how you want to carry it. Even though this one wasn’t for me, the quality has gotten me pretty interested in some of the company’s other offerings – particularly the “Quattro” pen case and tool roll – both of which I may have to pick up after my bank account stops screaming at me from Christmas shopping.

The Lochby Pocket Journal (left), beside the Bellroy Notebook Cover Mini. Though slightly wider, the Bellroy is about half the thickness and felt better in my pocket.

Where To Buy

Purchase directly from Lochby here.

Disclaimer: I receive no compensation for providing links to retailers or companies, nor was this product received as a review sample.

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