Rite in the Rain Notebooks – RadNomad Gear Review

There’s something to be said about the temerity of man in the enterprise of creating nigh-indestructible paper.

I mean it’s paper. One of the most flimsy and delicate things we use on a daily basis. To over-engineer it until it’ll withstand everything from the washing machine to monsoons to the ravages of time with nary a mark to show for it… that’s some #humanityfuckyeah right there.

About 101 years ago a logger by the name of Jerry Darling made this his mission, and gave birth the the Rite in the Rain company and their “Defying Mother Nature” slogan.

One of their products is a little pocket notebook called the Memo that I’ve carried around with me for the past few years, completely filling up a few & subjecting them to unreasonable abuse and testing against every condition I could think up (including fire, the washing machine, blood, endless condiments & spills, & underwater writing).

After all that, here is my item by item breakdown of how the RITR Memo stands up beside every claim its creators make for it (and some they don’t).

Disclaimer: This review is not paid for or related to Rite in the Rain as a company in any way. Everything here is 100% my opinion, and I am under no obligation or expectation whatsoever to give a favourable review (and have given unfavourable reviews to crappy products in the past). The following is my unfiltered and honest opinion, and nothing else.

What the Rite in the Rain Notebooks Are Made To Do:

On the homepage for the Memo Book & company product and about pages, Rite in the Rain claims that they…

  • can withstand rain, sweat, oil & grease, mud & grime, time, and the dreaded laundry machine. “it is an archival quality paper and will last several hundred years under normal use. So… not only will it survive the elements, it will survive the attic!”
  • are super durable and will never fall apart. “Our percafect bound books use only the most durable glues to ensure your Rite in the Rain book won’t fall apart in the field.”
  • look & feel like real paper. “The paper-based stock is tough enough to withstand the harshest and wettest conditions yet can be torn like heavy paper. As it’s paper-based, it can be recycled with other papers.”
  • are environmentally responsible. “it’s as recyclable as standard office paper, which is untrue of synthetic, or poly coated papers.”

TL;DR? Skip to the “The Results” section at the bottom.

Do the RITR Notebooks Do What They Are Made To Do?

Super durable, can withstand nearly anything

Verdict: TRUE & TRUE

Before we get into the abuse I’ve subjected my RITR notebooks to, let’s take a look at testimonials: According to their site, their paper has been used on Mt Everest, (#263), in Antarctica (#235), in tropical rain forests (#176), the Australian outback (#274), swampy wetlands (#316), and on a rowboat across the Atlantic ocean. There’s even a story of a WWII veteran who kept a diary in a Rite in the Rain notebook (#212), which is still intact to this day.

I believe it all.

I’ve used my RITR in through the snow drifts of harshest winter on record (-25°C) in Toronto, Canada. Through and into waterfall treks in Bali and Thailand. I’ve carried it around in my unnecessarily sweaty pockets in 30°C degree weather for months. I’ve spilled beer (no mark), red wine (slight mark), hemp oil (slight mark), ketchup (no mark), nail varnish (slight mark, mostly just spreading of ink that got dissolved), worcestershire sauce (no mark), lipstick (full mark), beer (no mark), hot chocolate (no mark), string cheese (no mark), blood (left I mark, I think), and who knows what else on it.

I even lit it on fire, and it burned just as if it was normal paper. Ah well, you can’t have everything. 

There’s a page to spill, each allowed to sit for at least 5 minutes.

There’s something poetic in love & fire being the only things able to leave a mark.

I’m pretty sure that unidentified mark is blood. Still poetic.

Put through the washing machine (loose, for maximum damage) the only thing that didn’t make it back out intact was the sticker. The notebook, a bit swollen and beat up looking when I pulled it out, nonetheless sustained no lasting damage.

It stayed a little puffy and beat up looking even after drying, but still functions just fine. There was also some slight bleeding of the ink from what I’d written in the notebook before. All in all, nothing was damaged or lost, including the ability to keep using the notebook & reading past notes.

And, of course, I’ve written on it underwater without any problems at all.

RITR Underwater Writing Test

RITR Underwater Writing Test

Over the course of about three years, the only degrading I’ve seen in the printing on the notebook covers rub off. Not a big deal, though I did miss the rulers they print on the back page.

Looks & feels like real paper

Verdict: TRUE

That’s what really makes RITR stand out against other waterproof notebooks like Field Notes: its paper feels and works like regular paper.

Any normal pen or pencil can write on it, it tears easily when you want it to (so easily that it didn’t occur to me that this was special until I tried ripping the paper of other waterproof notebooks), and feels like paper to the touch.

To contrast, as an example, the waterproof Field Notes notebook is so difficult to tear I literally couldn’t do it with my hands, can only be written on with waterproof ink if you don’t want it to bleed and rub off.

The only way you’d realize RITR isn’t just a normal paper notebook is when you got it wet.

They’ve also got this cool line & dot squares pattern on their paper, which is excellent for drawing and sketching on.

Environmentally Friendly

Verdict: TRUE (probably)

I didn’t exactly execute a full audit of RITR’s manufacturing processes, so I can’t know for sure, but based on the info from their page dedicated to sustainable practices and this factory tour

  • The lumber for their paper is sustainably sourced from Forestry Stewardship Council & Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified suppliers.
  • The notebooks themselves are 100% recyclable, which is saying something as making a recyclable waterproof coating is no small feat. This includes 100& soy-based inks, a patented water-based water-proof coating (wut), and fully recyclable cover materials & metal bindings.
  • As of 2000, their factory follows a zero-emissions policy, determined by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to have “a de minimus impact on air quality and does not pose a threat to humans or the environment… The water based coating process emits only steam and all mill off-cuts are recycled back into the paper-manufacturing stream. All printing plates and processing liquids are recycled.”
  • Their whole biz is environmentally leaning: every desk has a recycling bin, all excess production materials are recycled, they re-use boxes and packing materials, they hire local people to reduce commute emissions, use the latest energy efficient equipment.

All in all, these guys seem to have come as close as possible to creating a factory & product that has zero net environmental impact as possible. The only improvement I could wish for is for them to take the idea even further and equip their facility with solar panels and whatnot, perhaps even becoming a net positive for the environment.


Nomadic Info

Durability: 4.5/5

After years of use, through the washing machine and countless spills and sweaty pockets and everything, the only damage these notebooks have taken is to lose the printing on their covers.

That’s straight up astounding.

Maintenance: 5/5

No maintenance required at all, except maybe leaving it out to dry if you manage to get it completely soaked, and even this is optional.

Weight, Size, & Noticeability: 5/5

It weights more or less the same as a regular notebook, and conforms to your body so that its as unnoticeable as possible in your pocket.

The Results

Rite in the Rain Cafe Pic

If you want a paper notebook that will never degrade in the face of just about any adventure you can imagine, the Rite in the Rain Memo (and probably everything else they make) is up to the task. From Father Time to wash cycles to spills prolonged wear and tear, this notebook shrugged everything off with next to no noticeable damage whatsoever.

You can get your RITR Memo book here.

P.S. If you’re looking for the perfect pen to go with the perfect notebook, I heavily recommend the Nite Ize Inka Pen 1.0, if you can find it.

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