Travel Pens: Backpacking Edition

Summer is the season of travel and while some vacations are for rest and relaxation, others are for exploration and discovery. If you are headed off on an expedition, especially of a vast region like Europe or Asia, you will be covering large distances and will want to travel light. A great pen and travel notebook are a fantastic way to record your thoughts, do some doodles, and record all those addresses and train schedules while on the move. We’ve got a selection of perfect portable pens, notebooks, and ink that will fit into your backpack and budget. 

When living out of a backpack you’ll want items that have the following qualities: 

  • durable
  • lightweight
  • easy to refill (cartridges)
  • affordable 
  • reliable
  • simple

Kaweco Pen

Monteverde Poquito
***UPDATE*** As of October 2016, the Monteverde Poquito has been discontinued by our distributor. 

  • Small
  • Metal (durable yet light)
  • Standard International cartridge
  • Medium nib only (bummer)
  • Reliable
  • $24
Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen in Pink

Pilot Varsity 

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Disposable
  • Writes well
  • Variety of color options
  • $3 each or comes in a pack of 7 for $21
Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens


Midori Traveler’s Notebook – Brown (Passport Size) 

  • Made to fit an actual passport, hence the name!
  • Can serve as a passport cover
  • Keep all the info you need in your pocket, name and address of next hostel, train schedule, etc
  • Keep your money in the zippered pocket- it doesn’t look like a wallet so less likely to be stolen
  • Leather is very durable
  • Very respectable paper quality
  • $50.20
Carry your pen with you! No rummaging through that jumbled bottom of that backpack for a pen.

  • Keeps your pen right with your notebook
  • Matches the rest of the notebook
  • Fits Kaweco okay, Varsity and Poquito fit better 
  • $14.40
  • Tickets, train passes, hotel keys (the plastic kind) can all go into this one place. 
  • Made to fit the passport
  • $6.40
  • Strap in any number of accessories you need
  • Put different types of notebooks in there (blank, lined, graph)
  • Skip the bands and just use the elastic on the notebook
  • $4.20

  • Dot grid
  • Great for quick notes, non-permanent things
  • Small, durable cover
  • Paper quality is awesome
  • $3
Rhodia No. 12 Dot Pad

Clairefontaine Basic Notebooks

  • Alternative to full-on Midori Traveler’s Notebook
  • Clairefontaine paper is fantastic, durable craft covers
  • $7 for a 2 pack


Standard International Cartridges

  • durable
  • lightweight
  • easy to find locally
  • variety of colors/brands
  • standard size across brands
  • easy to use
Brands that have Standard International cartridges:

Ziplock bags

  • Snack bags for pens & ink cartridges
  • Bigger ones are good for notebooks 

We hope you enjoyed the video and our selection! Are you taking a backpacking trip this summer? What will you be taking with you?

Write on,
The Goulet Pen Company Team 

2017-10-06T18:44:34+00:00 June 25th, 2015|Shopping Guides|6 Comments
  • Anonymous

    Funny thing, I think all my stationary items that I have brought on my european backpacking trip have been acquired from GouletPens at some point. Currently supplied with a bottle of R&K Salix, a Noodler's pen (blessed be the ease of refilling those pens), and a Clairefontaine journal.

  • Mitchell Weinberg

    I've used bot the Kaweco Sport and Monteverde Poquito. While I like the look of the Poquito better, I've had a far better writing experience with my Kaweco – it's my everyday pocket pen with a fine nib. Just writes really nicely. The Monteverde I find more finicky with stop-start and skipping issues. I also strongly agree with Brian regarding the Clairefontaine pocket notebooks – absolutely outstanding value and great paper.

  • Jonathan Befort

    as far as backpacking goes, I'd skip the fountain pens… either that or get one that just holds a lot of ink. the pilot varsity would be perfect for it.

    but if you really want to use a fountain pen in backpacking, then its got to be something that takes the elements, gets molded by it. I have a Pilot metropolitan I got bored with and started scraping the paint off during phone meetings, exposing the brass and thus having a nice patina on it develop over time. I highly recommend that, as then you get a brass pen with an amazing finish, altered by your travels as you are altered by your experiences also. Just bring a spare cartridge and you're good to go.

  • Tom Johnson

    The Kaweco Sport pens worked great for me for several years of daily use at work. Easy to remove the nib and feed for cleaning and on-the-spot maintenance. Even though cartridges are really the best way to go, being a "pen geek" I would include ink vials of my favorite inks, a couple of pipettes, an ink syringe, all easily stowed away. Also a bulb syringe (I'd make room for this!). I would also use waterproof ink cartridges (easily found using your search features – ink/cartridges/waterproof. Never know when you will get in a downpour or be soaked by mist in a rain forest all day! Love the Midori and the Clairfontaine notebooks. Great video Brian, you saw half the world in a few minutes, gave me a good laugh.

  • DrPenfection

    Great choices all!

    I do travel alot with my business and personally. I have the Midori Traveler in the larger version and love it. It isn't that much larger than the passport, but gives me the extra space I need for all of my notes, journaling, etc. And, yes, I always take one or two, and sometimes three fountain pens with me. I usually take my Lamy Al-Star as my primary pen. It is lightweight and quite durable, yet not terribly expensive if I lose it or leave it – which, by the way, is something I have never done in all my years of traveling. I also take the Faber Castell Loom with me (thank you Caitlyn for your recommendation) . It weights just a bit more, but is also a very durable pen. Finally, I have my old standby – a Rotring Core fountain pen that is almost indestructible. It kind of looks like a cross between a athletic shoe and a ski pole, but it is very durable and a consistent writer. When I travel, I generally leave the "pretty" or expensive pens at home. They get lonely, but the endure.

    Where I am traveling and how long I am staying will determine whether I take bottled ink or cartridges. Honestly, I am not wild about cartridges, so my preference is to take bottled ink. But if I am going to a major city or area where I know I can get ink if I have to, or if I am only going for a short time, I will take cartridges. But, if I am going to a more remote location or staying for a longer period, I will take bottled ink. I put the bottled ink in small Nalgene bottles available online – generally 1/2 oz. – or I also love the Goulet sample vials. The cap fits tight, I can fill the 2-3 vials with 4-5 ml of ink, crank down the cap, throw it in a snack size Ziploc bag together with a Goulet syringe, and off I go.

  • Otter

    I'm about to head to Japan in a couple of months, so these tips are really handy! I'm going to pick up a couple of those Clairefontaine notebooks on your recommendation, and check out which of my pens have standard international cartridges. The Poquito is a great idea — will definitely take that one along. 🙂