- Buyer's Guide
How to Choose the Right EDC Pen :: Buying Tips
As connected and paperless as companies want you to believe the world is, we are truly not there yet. There’s something natural and fast about reaching for a pen when you need to jot down a quick note or draw a sketch for reference. With that said, here are some key things to keep in mind when choosing your EDC pen.
3 Things to Look For:
We’ve all been there, you reach for a pen to sign a check or contract and it doesn’t work. The ink’s dried out or the rollerball end isn’t budging. Then you do that awkward shake and scribble on scratch paper dance. A pen needs to be reliable and work each time. For mission critical situations (i.e. the pen I leave in my car), I prefer a pressurized cartridge, like the ones Fisher made famous with their Space Pens. They are not the only player in town though! Check out the Tombow AirPress for a cheaper alternative. If fancy cartridges are not your thing, just make sure you pick a reliable pen and ink system. I am fond of more “flowy” inks (like what Pilot Japan use) compared to the ones you traditionally find in American “Bic” style pens which I found easily clogged and dried out.
The Right Type of Ink
Speaking of reliability, the right type of ink is key. The ever-popular gel pens from all the famous Japanese brands have always been popular. And why not? They offer a huge variety of colors and they are so smooth to write with. They are made by suspending pigments in water. Motionless gel inks are thick like ballpoint ink but once you start writing, they flow smoothly while delivering crisp lines.
Make sure your ink is high in viscosity and matches your paper too; it’s terrible when you have to wait for ink to dry, or worse yet, if your ink bleeds through your notebook sheets. This is a notable con of rollerball ink – they soak through the paper really quickly. Try to avoid ink that is (too) water soluble; you don’t want a little sprinkle to wash away your class notes.
If you have to carry something on your person or in a bag, every day, it might as well serve double duty. It’s not the end of the world if your pen is just a pen, but if it could double as a tool or personal protection weapon, even better. I am fond of the Embassy Pen from CountyComm. It’s made of solid aluminum, takes a Fisher Space Pen Refill, and essentially is a kubaton.
If self-defense isn’t your thing, multi-pens are also a favorite category of mine. Check out the innovative stuff the Japanese (I am fond of the Zebra Sharbo X series) are doing with their modular multi-pen setups. You can choose from a variety of pencil leads and pen inserts, offering different colors and widths.
3 Things to Avoid:
Proprietary or Hard-To-Find Refills
Unless you are really serious about pens and have a lot of supplies, avoid pens that use proprietary or really hard-to-find refills. I know I mention Space Pens a lot above and I agree that is counter-intuitive but I find them pretty easy to find at any office supply store. If you go for a disposable pen, then it doesn’t really matter which pen you use. However, in the interest of not polluting our world, and staying classy, I think a refillable pen would be a good investment.
Too Fine a Tip
All through school I used a 0.5mm mechanical pencil so in my mind that was a good/normal width to write in. Writing with pens is different though and while you may be the type to write very sharp and tiny text, I would suggest you give a thicker pen width a try. Too thin and you end up having very sharp points that scratch the paper (and possibly rip), rather than write. I am reaching for 0.7mm and even 1.0mm these days and couldn’t be happier.
Markers or Sharpies
I am a big fan of Sharpies and markers, especially the fine-tipped ones, but I think they do not belong in the same space as an EDC pen. Marker ink tends to bleed and is very unforgiving if you pause on the page to gather your thoughts. They also are rarely elegant (though that Stainless Steel Sharpie is pretty dope) and carrying one as your primary pen is a little too hipster for me. There are plenty of choices out there for good-looking, reliable pens, so find what works for you.
*If you found this useful, check out our 13 favorite pens for EDC.