As technology pushes us towards a paperless world, the pen has become somewhat of an endangered species. For many, it’s still an invaluable tool, and one that’s worthwhile to carry. If you’ve ever had to borrow a pen and are considering adding one to your daily kit, we’ve got you covered in this installment of Carry Smarter. After consulting with fellow EDCer friends and resident pen experts, Ed Jelley and the Pen Addict himself, Brad Dowdy, we present our top ten pens that are truly mightier than the sword.
These solid pens from BigIDesign combine a pen and a touch-screen stylus into one sleek tool. Constructed from a durable, lightweight aluminum with a super deep-riding pocket clip, the pens are easy to carry. Adding to utility and durability in desirable features for an EDC pen, they also show versatility by taking just about every refill you can throw at it. One common issue is that the pen becomes long and unwieldy when the cap is posted on the end of the pen, however. If don’t need a clicky mechanism, are particular with your pen refills, and often use touchscreens, this pen is for you.
Turning heads among pen addicts are the Mover and its smaller variation, the Shaker—newcomers fresh from their successful Kickstarter campaign. Tactile Turn’s precise machining and attention to detail give these aluminum pens a solid, pristine fit and finish. Its retractable tip deploys a variety of compatible refills via a silent metal knock clicky mechanism, which, combined with a deep clip and aluminum body, makes for a great pocket carry. Even better is its feel in hand: a satisfying heft and innovative micro-groove grip pattern put the Tactile Turn pens in a league of their own.
Inexpensive and unassuming, the Signo UM-151 will surely impress. Despite having a plastic body, it’s surprisingly sturdy, especially with its metal tip. Its rubber grip feels great in hand and Uniball’s excellent ink flows smoothly and consistently for a pleasantly comfortable writing experience. Unfortunately, it’s not as quick to access as it lacks a retractable tip, but at least its cap’s clip lets it ride deeply and snugly in the pocket. Available in almost every color of the spectrum, in various widths, and at an attractive pricepoint, it’s worth picking one up.
Famous for its pressurized ink cartridge that writes in zero gravity, underwater, and in other extreme conditions, the Fisher Bullet Space Pen unsurprisingly finds its way into the pockets of many adventurous EDCers. Its compact body and smooth finish let it play nicely with other gadgets, or it can be clipped with a decent friction-grip style pocketclip. It writes adequately well, but its real value lies in reliability to work on practically any surface in any situation.
A longtime favorite among EDCers, the F-701 is another great value for a durable everyday pen. Its stainless steel body and non-threatening, industrial design ensure it can take some abuse and still go to work. A knurled grip keeps it secure in hand while its clip and retractable tip keep it pocket-friendly. The F-701 really excels, however, after a few DIY modifications — swapping out plastic parts for metal ones and some tinkering here and there gives you an all-metal pen with added Fisher refill compatibility. Admittedly, its writing performance could be smoother and its clip could be a bit beefier. But for the price and some effort, a modded F-701 makes for a great entry-level EDC pen.
All too often I see permanent markers in pocket dumps with scratched up bodies, faded logos, and worst of all, broken pocket clips. With the Stainless Steel Sharpie, you’ll have an attractive, sturdy marker to withstand daily use. Its solid pocket clip won’t be so prone to snapping, meaning you can always keep it ready in your shirt or pants pocket. Unfortunately for those looking for other colors, this shiny-armored Sharpie marker only accepts black, fine tip refills.
Zebra’s Sharbo X line of multipens is a multi-tasker’s dream and an excellent option for the student or minimalist EDCer. Its slimmest configuration, the LT3, manages to cram any combination and permutation of up to three components—ballpoint, gel ink, stylus, and mechanical pencil—into a solid brass barrel. The brass’s heft helps make the pen a smooth writer. Unfortunately, its refills are small and expensive for how often they need to be replaced.
For one of the very best pocket-friendly mechanical pencils on the market, look no further than Rotring’s flagship model, the 800. It’s truly a top-notch writing instrument, with a sophisticated, industrial design and solid, all-metal construction. The 800 stands out in particular for its retractable tip—a must-have protective measure on a mechanical pencil for pocket carry. Few pencils feel as luxurious, commanding, and capable as the Rotring. This writing experience comes at a premium, however, so pencil pushers on a budget might need to look elsewhere.
Tucked away in the scales of one of Victorinox’s best keychain offerings is a tiny, pressurized ballpoint pen. It sits idly on the sidelines, warming the bench for the other fantastic tools in the Manager’s arguably perfect arsenal, waiting for its time to shine. Humble and patient, the pen implement slides out, only when needed, to jot down a number or to sign a receipt, and stays out of your way otherwise thanks to a clever locking mechanism. The Manager lives up to its name, handling most everyday tasks. It’s my both my favorite keychain SAK and the only keychain pen I’ve found that does its job, even if it does write a bit awkwardly.
Fountain pens are usually less than ideal for everyday carry by design: their fragile nibs are often protected by a loose cap, which is easily lost and a hassle to remove when needing to write quickly on the go. But if a smooth, comfortable writing experience is more of a priority than accessibility and reliability in extreme conditions, the Kaweco AL Sport makes for an extra fine EDC fountain pen. Its ability to post the cap both balances the pen when in use and helps prevent it from being lost. An aluminum body helps it stand up to wear and a compact design ensures it doesn’t take up precious real estate in the pocket, which might be the way to go with a pen that only uses a friction grip pocket clip.
We know how it goes. You’ve used up those student loans on ridiculously overpriced textbooks and now you're left with next to nothing for your actual school supplies. But to really excel in class, nothing beats tried-and-true pen and paper. Studies show handwritten notes help you remember things better, after all.
So if you’re serious about starting this school year strong, pick up your next favorite pen from this guide—even if you’re on an instant ramen budget. You’ll find a pen that easily pulls double duty whether you're in class or out and about. If you’re left handed, tough on your pens, or simply just like that feeling of pen to paper, we've got you covered.
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