Field Tests! How to keep writing, even in the rain...

by Amanda Fleet

I’m not long back from a couple of weeks of holiday, in the north-west of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides. Unlike Stu, who has been experiencing wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the high thirties, Ullapool and Harris were not so blessed! We generally scraped into double figures for the temperature, but we also got into double figures for mm of rain some days.

Holidays are always a mixed blessing for me as a writer. In many ways, time away from writing or editing is a bonus as my brain gets to switch off. That sounds exactly what a holiday should do, right? So, what’s the downside? The downside is that once my brain gets to relax in such amazing scenery, it also gets creative. Too creative, usually, as nine times out of ten I’ll come up with a plot for another book! As a consequence, I need a notebook on me at all times! And, given the weather we had, one that will withstand the rain. And since my husband and I spend most of our holidays walking miles, one that will cope with being chucked around in a backpack.

Enter the Rite in the Rain notebook, and The Alwych, both of which I road-tested (almost to death, but not destruction!) on holiday.

The Rite in the Rain notebook does what is says on the tin. You can write in it in the rain. You can also write in it in the dry, and then read what you wrote when it’s raining and the writing won’t smudge. Obviously, you can’t write in the book with a fountain pen, but waterproof pens, or pencils are just great.

The size of the Rite in the Rain notebook (83 x 119 mm or ~3.25 x 4.5") is just perfect for the external pocket on my walking trousers. The cover is bright yellow (so if you drop it, there’s no guesswork finding it again) and made of very sturdy card with a waterproof coating. The inside back cover gives you information about which writing implements will or won’t work in the book. I used pencil (B or 2B) throughout. The pages are lined, with vertical dotted lines to make squares. I used it as a lined notebook. There are page numbers and enough of a top margin to label the page. There’s a contents list at the front.

It got used for two main things, while we were away. 1) I copied out a guide for a walk (from Ullapool to Loch Achall) into it for reference, to supplement the OS map; 2) hubby (keen photographer. Check out his website here: wrote out a list of pictures he wanted to take. In fact, hubby essentially nabbed the book, as it was the perfect size for the pocket in his walking trousers too.

I can safely say that you can easily write in pencil in the notebook while it’s raining and if the pages get wet you can still read the notes you’ve made! (It was a generally wet holiday!). You can see we had the best of the day in the picture below (taken above Ullapool).

What about The Alwych? This is a larger notebook and it has a weatherproof cover, though the pages inside are not weatherproof. This largely lived in my backpack and I recorded information about the walks we did in it. I also wrote 60 pages of notes for a new novel in it! You can see it just peeking out in the picture above (the blue edges of the book are the giveaway).

The pages aren’t numbered and there’s no contents page, though that doesn’t bother me. I haven’t used pen in it – just pencil (again, B or 2B) but Stu told me that it copes with a fountain pen as long as it’s not too wet a nib. The edges of the pages are blue (nice touch) and the paper is pretty smooth to write on with pencil. The cover survived being tossed about in my backpack, and the notebook took quite a beating and came out (mostly) unscathed. Half the time, it had a pencil jammed in between the pages and the book closed around it (though despite that, it still has an intact spine! But also hence the ding in the corner you can see in the picture below), but the cover was robust and shed mud and rain admirably.

Actually writing in it in the rain wasn’t great – the paper got a bit soft – but this book isn’t really designed for that. At 113 mm by 178 mm (4.5 x 7") it’s the perfect size – not so small that you fill a page in ten seconds flat, but not so big or heavy that it’s into the realms of ‘cargo’ in the backpack. Trust me, when you’re also carrying everything else needed for a long hike in Scotland, the last thing you need is a heavy notebook in there too. For comparison, a B6 (ish) Leuchtturm with 123 pages weighs 170g, A Poach My Lobster notebook is 183g (123 pages) and The Alwych, with 192 pages is 190g.

All in all, these were brilliant books to take away with me. The Rite in the Rain was perfect for notes out and about, whatever the weather, and The Alwych was a decent size for longer notes, with a robust enough cover and construction that it took quite a beating in my backpack and survived admirably.