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Published Sep. 29, 2021

Gadgets certainly have their place, but using an old-school writing pad may well be the best way to quickly, efficiently record and organize your thoughts, tasks, reminders, and more. Their accessible design makes them easy to tote, access, and jot into, making them ideal for to-do lists, ideas, doodles, and other casual concepts that come to mind yet may not necessarily deserve a place in a proper journal. There’s something uniquely satisfying about putting pen to paper, and if you happen to misplace your pad, it will likely cause a lot less havoc than losing your phone.

The best writing pads excel in terms of style and quality and come in sizes to suit the user’s needs. Read on to learn what features to look for in a writing pad and check out our picks for the best products on the market now. 

How We Picked These Products

Methodology

As writers, we’re predisposed to taking our stationery and office supplies seriously, so we’re naturally inclined to pick notepads that truly perform. We considered dozens of products and specifically evaluated style, quality, size, and standout features to make our recommendations. 

  • Style: We investigated the binding, aesthetic and organization of the writing pad—features that determine both initial appeal and functionality. 
  • Quality: The thickness of the pages, and their ability to withstand a wide variety of writing utensils, was an important consideration. The sturdiness of the cover, too, was key, to ensure that if you toss the notebook into a bag, it will remain intact, not leave you with a heap of crumpled pages. 
  • Size: One size writing pad does not fit all. Larger pads are best to use while writing at a desk while others are more suited for stowing in a pocket and using in the field.

The Best Writing Pads: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Field Notes Steno Pad

Rugged and Reliable

This writing pad from an established brand has sturdy covers and comes in a popular size. Field Notes

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Why It Made The Cut: Though designed for traditional stenographers’ shorthand, the Field Notes Steno Pad is a sturdy, well-sized choice for everyday writers. 

Specs:

  • Pages: 80 pages 
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches 
  • Binding: Spiral bound 

Pros: 

  • Minimal bleedthrough 
  • Lined paper
  • Heavy cardboard covers

Cons:

  • Relatively higher price for a single pad 
  • Center line potentially distracting

Field Notes is a popular stationery brand and its Steno Pad delivers on its reputation for thoughtful design and quality. Front and back covers are impressively thick so you can feel confident tossing the pad into your bag and writing on it when a desk or other surface isn’t available. The matte-finished paper can handle all sorts of writing implements with negligible bleedthrough, and the ⅜-inch-wide lines mean your notes won’t be scrunched together. 

This flip-top pad retains the old-school design of a stenographer’s pad, in that the pages have a line down the center for those who take Gregg shorthand. But some folks find that this allows them to maximize usage and organize thoughts, which is why it’s a favorite for journalists, medical professionals, and others who need to make notes quickly in the field.

Best Value: TOPS Spiral Writing Pads

Affordable and Functional

Sold in a four-pack, these no-frill pads are budget friendly. TOPS

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Why It Made The Cut: These affordable, utilitarian pads are perfect for office workers, students and others  who want an easily accessible log. 

Specs:

  • Pages: Four, 80-sheet books per pack
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches
  • Binding: No-snag coil binding

Pros: 

  • Easily detachable sheets
  • Different colored covers 
  • Great deal

Cons: 

  • Poor perforations
  • Cardboard back cover could be sturdier 

An affordable price is just part of the appeal of this TOPS four-pack. The 6-by-9-inch size is universally popular, as it fits well in most bags and won’t crowd writing surfaces. The paper is thick enough for most basic ballpoint pens, though some users report that it doesn’t hold up as well to gel, fine-point and felt-tip pens 

These Gregg-ruled pads have the dividing middle line, which some users like for lists and see as an opportunity to maximize the space on every page. The different-colored covers are convenient for dedicating to four different subjects. However, many reviewers reported that the sheets are not perforated well, so did not produce a clean tear. Some also noted that the back cover wasn’t sturdy enough for jotting notes on the fly.

Best Dotted Paper: Rhodia Head Stapled Pad

Great for Graphics

It’s time to break out your fancy pens for this premium pad. Rhodia

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Why It Made The Cut: This sleek black dotpad is ideal for creative types like architects and graphic designers who need to develop precise ideas.

Specs:

  • Pages: 80 pages 
  • Dimensions: 8.25 by 11.75 inches
  • Binding: Reinforced stapled binding 

Pros: 

  • Dot grid matrix for easy customization
  • Slim, lightweight design 
  • Strong stapled binding

Cons: 

  • Cardboard back cover could be sturdier 

While dot-matrix pages offer a convenient way for architects and designers to make precise drawings, this sleek, black, staple-bound pad from Rhodia—which has been in business since the 1930s—can bring pleasure to anyone. Its luxe, smooth paper can handle a host of different pen nibs and is micro-perforated for clean page removal. Its larger size connotes “book” more than “pad,” so users can give their drawings some space. It’s best to use this product on a writing surface, as the back cover isn’t quite stiff enough to support use in the field.

Best Waterproof: Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook

All-Weather Wonder

This waterproof pad can keep your ideas intact in all kinds of weather. Rite in the Rain

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Why It Made The Cut: Rite in the Rain, a leader in weather-resistant notebooks, developed this notebook for use on the go—and in the rain. 

Specs:

  • Pages: 50 sheets 
  • Dimensions: 4 x 6 inches 
  • Binding: Wire-O binding

Pros 

  • Three-pack
  • Fully recyclable paper 
  • Withstands water, sweat, grease and mud 

Cons 

  • Occasional smudging can occur

Made of polydura, a durable material designed for outdoor use, this three-pack of pads from Rite in the Rain boasts both waterproof covers and pages to keep your ideas intact, whatever the weather. The pages and covers are also resistant to grease, sweat, and mud. No wonder that they’re popular with those in the military and law enforcement, as well as hobbyists like hikers, campers, and bird-watchers. 

The sheets are compatible with standard pencils and waterproof pens (but not standard water-based inks). Most users report that the pads are indeed waterproof; one who accidentally put it through a cycle in the washing machine claimed that it came out intact.

Best Digital: XP-PEN StarG640 Ultrathin Tablet Drawing Tablet Digital

Tough and Techy

If an analog pad just won’t cut it, try this top-notch tablet. XP-PEN

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Why It Made The Cut: This affordable tablet wins raves for its intuitive and approachable technology and compact design.

Specs:

  • Weight: About half a pound 
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 6.5 x 0.1 inches
  • Compatible with major operating systems Mac, Windows and Chrome

Pros:

  • Affordable 
  • Portable
  • Digital

Cons: 

  • Some users find the pen clunky

In today’s digital world, it would be a sin of omission not to include a top-notch tablet in this notepad guide. The XP-PEN offers the convenience of a note-taking mobile app with the tactile satisfaction of hands-on drawing and writing. It’s compatible with devices including the Chromebook and common software such as Zoom, Microsoft Office, and Adobe. It includes a battery-free pen and its delightfully slim body and lightweight make it an excellent travel companion.

Things to Consider Before Buying A Writing Pad

Where you’ll use the writing pad

The best writing pad for you will suit your activities and most-frequented environment. People who frequently work indoors at a desk or in an office setting ought to be satisfied with any quality standard pad. Those who are often without a solid writing surface should look for a notebook with a strong, sturdy back cover. If you’ll be out in all kinds of weather, there are waterproof options available.

What writing utensils you like

Irritating bleedthrough can occur if the paper doesn’t support certain types of pen nibs or ink. If you frequently use fountain pens, search for paper that can support it. Those who prefer pencil may find thinner paper a more suitable option.

Your organizational preferences

Notepad sheets may be lined, gridded, dotted or blank, and these options will influence how you organize your writing and drawing. Some people prefer the flexibility of dots to make precise designs while others like a Gregg-ruled sheet for lists.

FAQs

Q: Which writing pad is best?

The best writing pad for you fits your needs and expectations. Consider where you’ll most frequently use the pad, which utensils you prefer, and whether you want an analog or digital product.

Q: What is the use of a writing pad?

A writing pad for most people functions as a space to record ideas, notes from meetings or conversations, directions, research, to-do or shopping lists, and other information. Some people use a writing pad simply for stray thoughts and reminders, while others rely on it as an important tool in their professional and/or creative pursuits.

Q: What is the cost of a writing pad?

The price of writing pads varies, but they tend to be less expensive than notebooks. Our selections are affordably priced, and our best value pick offers four pads.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who ever let a great idea slip away or neglected to write down important instructions knows the importance of keeping a notebook handy—in your bag, by your bed, wherever. The best writing pad should be the right size and sturdy enough to support your specific tasks and hobbies. Quality paper with minimal bleed-through is a must. We found the Field Notes Steno Pad to be an excellent all-around choice for most people, yet those who tend to take notes outdoors in all kinds of weather may really appreciate the waterproof Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook.

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