What if you bought one more pen…and that was it?
What if, from now until the day you die, you had a pen that could go on every adventure with you, never got lost, never had to be left behind, and was ready in 10 seconds?
Even when you’re sketching what you’re looking at during a deep ocean dive (on waterproof paper, of course).
Even when you happen to be writing your latest journal entry beside a flowing river of lava.
Even when jotting down a haiku while on the International Space Station.
Designed and developed for “reliable performance in the harshest environments” by military, NATO, de-mining, & oceanography engineer Greg Adelman, the Nite Ize Inka Pen claims to able to write under water, at any altitude (yeah, that means space), any angle, and in temperatures between -30 °C (Siberia’s coldest average monthly temperature is -25 °C in January) and 300 °C (according to NASA, the hottest temperature ever recorded on the surface of the Earth, without an event like a volcano, was aprox 70.7 °C in Iran’s Lut Desert).
It’s crafted out of stainless steel and carbon fiber, backed by a lifetime warranty against mechanical failure.
What the Nite Ize Inka Pen Is Made To Do:
On the homepage for the Inka Pen (that’s a Wayback Machine link, as the page has since been taken down), Nite Ize Claims that it is…
- Writes under water.
- Writes at any altitude.
- Writes in temperature extremes between -30°C and 300°C
- Writes at any angle.
- Is able to be drawn and ready very quickly.
- Feels good in the hand (they don’t actually claim this, but any good pen had better feel good to write with).
- Comes with a touch screen stylus.
Does The Inka Pen Do What It’s Made To Do?
Note: I’ve either personally tested, or have seen others test, everything I’ve written below. But I didn’t test them all with a camera on hand. I’ll come back to update this post a few times with experiments and evidence.
Writes under water
In all cases, either fully submerged in water or being rained down upon, the Inka had no trouble at all. It wrote just as wonderfully as it does when surrounded by air, has never showed any structural damage or rust in the 2.5 years I’ve had it, and continues to work excellently.
Whether you’re pulling a party tricks to impress a nerdy cutie, taking notes on shark habits during a dive, or just jotting down a poem in the rain, the Inka pen (and perhaps a waterproof notebook) will do everything you need it to.
Writes at any altitude
Verdict: needs further testing
I’ve used my Inka pen to take extensive notes on planes and on mountains…but that doesn’t prove much as almost any pen can do these things.
Can this pen write in deep valleys, like in a 600 meter ocean dive? I don’t yet know.
Can it write in the highest heights, like on the International Space Station? I don’t yet know.
Can it write in zero gravity, like on the vomit comet or in space? I don’t yet know.
I’ll test all of these and report back…though it may be a while before I’m writing in space or on a 600 meter dive.
Writes in temperature extremes between -30°C and 300°C
Just as with the ‘any altitude’ claim, I haven’t really tested this one at all. So far, anywhere that I’ve written with my Inka is at a temperature in which any pen can write.
That said, the guys over at Office Supply Geek cooked their s in the oven at 300°C and froze it in their freezer. It wrote fine both times, and not even the little blue plastic plug had any damage.
Writes at any angle.
I’ve written with this pen while swinging upside down from a tree and floating upside down under water. At any angle I write with this pen, for any length of time, it still makes a mark. The mark decreases after a while, but never fully fades.
Normal pens will only write for about 30 seconds while upside down..then the ink succumbs to gravity and the mark goes from blue to blank.
Very quick access.
I liken this pen to a futuristic cowboy weapon.
When it’s hanging from your belt loop or backpack strap, it can be drawn from the hip & ready like a old western pistol in less than 1 second, and assembled into a full-sized pen like a field stripped rifle in less than 10 seconds.
Kind of like a butterfly knife, you don’t ever really need to have it ready immediately and in the flashiest manner possible. It looks damn cool when you can though, and you really notice those few saved seconds of rifling through your bag when you’re in front of 100 impatient people at airport check in, and when someone impressive or cute asks if anyone has a pen, and yours is not only the first, but the coolest one ready. Great conversation starter.
An interesting phenomenon amongst Inka pen owners is an obsession with speed. If ever you see someone furiously assembling and disassembling a pen like they’re a soldier fieldstripping their gun…that’s an Inka pen owner. You end up competing with yourself and others to see just how smoothly and quickly you can assemble it, perfecting every movement and step.
I’ve used this pen’s quick draw and assembly to…
- Move through airports a lot quicker, never having to search for, borrow, or always hold in my hand a pen throughout the repetitive and annoying series of immigration and legal forms.
- Play pranks, like unexpectedly popping a balloon right after a girl playfully puts it in her dress.
- Help me roll a joint more densely, grabbing it off my belt and using it’s tip to pack the weed in and scoop some more up. Repeat until full.
- Get dates and friends, by showing off the Inka pen, from quick draw to assembly, all with a little skit we play together that ended with her using it to write her number in my notebook.
- Lower a police bribe, when I got pulled over by Bali cops, and befriending them in no small part from my quick draw of a pen when a cop needed one and their fascination of the interesting Inka.
- Amuse myself and others while waiting for a bus, by seeing how fast I and they could assemble and disassemble it. I did this with an amazing girl on our first date, and now we’re married…I think the pen is what did it for her
If you wanna get really nerdy with it, I’ve broken down the step-by-step process on how to assemble and dissemble your Nite Ize Inka Pen in >10 seconds.
Feels good in the hand
Kind of like an apple product, the Nite Ize Inka just feels nice. Whenever I have it in my hands and I’m thinking or chatting between bursts of writing, I’ll be unconsciously playing with it and spinning it between my fingers.
In small form, the Inka is just long enough to rest against my upper pointer finger like a normal sized pen does, which means that I can use it to write without my hand feeling awkward.
It’s simple grip, fashioned out of four inward-grooved rings above the tip, feels better than the those sticky grips some pens have, and is less slippery than the grooved plastic grips that the others have. It’s got enough friction that the pen isn’t slippery, and not so much that you can’t easily adjust your fingers. It’s perfect and simple.
When fully assembled, the weighting of the pen is amazing. Most of the weight is in the upper half, the part assembled out of the stainless steel casing. It seems to make the pen a bit more responsive to the guidance of your fingers and, once again, with the distribution of the weight, it just feels nice. Well balanced, light, and yet substantial.
Touch screen stylus
This is one of the only two problems I have with the Nite Ize Inka Pen. On their site, they write that this pen has a “built-in touch screen stylus”.
They’re lying. Or, at the least, deliberately misleading us.
One of the first things I did when I got my Inka is test it on touchscreens. Androids, iPhones and iPads, graphics tablets…nothing worked.
So I emailed Inka to see if maybe I’d gotten a defective stylus. The response:
“Just to clarify, we do have two types of Inka Pens. One is our older pen that has a yellow stylus that was designed for PDAs…The other one is the new Inka Mobile Pen, with the stylus for touchscreens.”
So the pen I bought, the pen with the yellow tip that said it had a “built-in touch screen stylus”, only worked with PDAs. What’s a PDA, you ask? It’s the technology used on things like 2003 palm pilots. It’s completely outdated.
Being a growth hacker and copywriter, and having gone down this road myself, I’m pretty sure this lie was a decision made by a marketer who cares more about getting more immediate sales than he does about the quality of what he’s selling or the enjoyment of his customers. In other words, a scumbag.
As for their new models, called Nite Ize Inka Mobile Pens…they are horrendous. They’ve big bulky things that don’t expand to full-pen length. They’re made of some cheap plastic, both thicker and longer than the original. The first I had, owned by my wife, broke in a few months of use. The female end of the screw that attaches the body of the pen to the rest of it cracked. Making the pen prone to falling out. They still claim it can write at temperature extremes, but are vague about exactly what temperatures they consider to be extreme. I’ll test it out for RadNomad in the future, but you can expect a scathing review and a pointed rant on how they dare name such an inferior product after what may be the best pen for adventurers ever created.
Not cool Nite Ize. Not cool.
I’ve had this pen attached to my belt loops and exposed to the world through surfing sessions, parkour runs, snow drifts, endless squeezing through tight spaces, swimming in pools, and even a scooter crash.
The stainless steel casing has a million tiny scratches, and the carbon fiber cap has a bunch of tiny dents along it’s edge…yet besides these aesthetic marks (which, in my opinion, make it look good and give it a story), the pen is no worse for wear.
It works 100% as well as it did when I unboxed it, there is no water damage, no prohibitive denting damage, nothing.
From their warranty:
“All Inka products are guaranteed against mechanical failure, regardless of age. If there is a problem, send the product to us and we will repair or replace the product at no charge…excluded are any parts damaged from excessive impact, unreasonable use or obvious abuse.”.
Now we don’t know what constitutes excessive impact or unreasonable use or abuse, but that’s still a lifetime guarantee against the pen simply breaking down due to wear or old age.
Knowing that they’ve got at least one sleeze ball in the company willing to screw over customers (see my touchscreen style comments above, and this whole Mobile problem), I’m a bit skeptical that they will actually uphold this when a customer invokes it. Now that the original has been replaced with the shitty Inka Mobile, they’ll send you that as your replacement. So…yeah. Don’t break it.
That said, I’d actually be a bit surprised if anyone ever has a good reason to invoke it. The Inka pen seems like it can outlast most of it’s owners.
The ink cartridge is another story however. I’ve damaged a few by dropping them on their tips and having the ball point simply stop rotating, requiring a buy a new ink cartridge earlier than I’d usually have to. This sucks, but if you’re not flipping it around your fingers all the time like I was, it shouldn’t be a big problem.
Compared to every other pen I’ve ever encountered, especially the cheaper ones, the Nite Ize Inka pen is wonderfully low maintenance.
It never needs to be replaced, and is quite hard to lose since it’s attached via keyring and screw thread to your belt or bag.
The only issue when it comes to maintenance is the pressurized ink cartridge. This is the second of my two problems with the Nite Ize Inka pen: The rare make of the cartridge, which means you can’t find it in most stores, even a lot of the specialty writing ones.
Interesting note on this: The cartridge for the Zebra SL-F1 Mini Ballpoint Pen fits the Nite Ize Inka Pen perfectly…and the whole pen costs less than one Nite Ize ink cartridge. This cartridge won’t write underwater or in space though, but it does write a bit smoother.
And, while friends of mine like Chris Dame have had their ink has last for years without needing a replacement, my first cartridge lasted about 5 months.
To be fair, I was literally writing pages and pages with it every single day, and fiddling with it by popping the cartridge in and out of the pen (requiring a bit of pressure that, I imagine, can damage it). So this is either my fault for playing with it too much and too violently, or to be expected when you’re writing by hand as much as I did.
The problem, then, is in getting a replacement cartridge. Since we’re nomads, it can often be months before we’re anywhere long enough to have a solid shipping address and wait for up to 8 weeks to get the ink. And, since most stores don’t carry it, this can mean that the pen will be out of ink for months on end between us being able to refill.
The options here: either be okay with buying a temporary replacement while waiting (which violates the environmental and cool-sounding idea of having only one pen till you die), or carry around an extra cartridge at all times (which, even though it’s small and weights nothing, still goes against our minimalist tenants).
Weight, Size, & Noticability: 5/5
The pen weights 18.2 (they claim 16 grams, but I also included the keyring) grams, which is a lot compared to a cheap plastic pen. But ‘a lot’ is a relative term, and 16 grams is so light that there is no problem here for any but the most extreme of the minimalists.
Talking size, this wondrous pen is half the size of any other pen when stored or in quick use, and the comfortable full-size of a regular pen when you assemble it.
And you only notice your Nite Ize Inka pen when you need it. And then, thanks to it’s tiny size, fast draw, light weight, ability to be attached almost anywhere, and versatility, you only notice how useful and fast it is.
Otherwise, it’s discreetly hanging from your pack or belt loops.
Simply put, this pen won’t really cost you money.
It costs $20 plus shipping, and each refill costs $9.5 plus shipping.
Depending on how often you write with it, you’ll either need a refill between every 5–10 months (if you’re literally writing pages and pages by hand every day), or every few years (if you’re using it much more normally, like Chris Dame).
I don’t know about you, but at the rate I used to buy, lose, and replace my pens was about $9.5 every few months. So, within a few years, you’ll probably be saving money. And, assuming you do have this pen for most of the rest of your life, you may save a fair amount by the time you write the last word in your life story 😉
The Nite Ize Inka Pen is the perfect nomadic pen. It’s the only one you’ll ever need in almost any adventure you ever have.
You could, in theory, go to a swimming pool on the peak of Olympus Mons on Mars and take notes about the experience with your Inka pen…while upside down.
It’s nigh indestructible, beautifully & minimalistically designed, always easy to access, a great conversation starter, compact, long lasting, fully functioning in extreme environments, and just feels good.
In my opinion, this is the single best pen ever created by humans. Especially if you’re a minimalistic nomad.
Sadly, as of publishing this for it’s second time (the first was on my original blog that I almost completely lost due to a DNS crash and bad backups), they’ve been discontinued. There used to be a few for sale at $90+ prices up on Amazon or eBay, but even those seem gone now. It’s worth a shot to check here on Amazon and here on eBay while you’re reading this, as you might get lucky.
If you really want one…perhaps sending a tweet to Nite Ize asking why they’d kill the best pen in the world for nomads and replace it with cheaply made piece of junk might help.
I wouldn’t count on it though.
Damn it Nite Ize.