Everyday Carry

Is the Zebra F-701 Worth It in 2020?

Authored by:
Ed Jelley
Is the Zebra F-701 Worth It in 2020?

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The best pen is the one with you, but if it's the one you accidentally walked out of the doctor’s office with, you might want to up your game. You know the one: the cheapie, plastic ballpoint pen that's uncomfortable to write with and disposable by design, doomed to the garbage bin once it's out of ink. You could opt for a machined metal pen with that buy-it-for-life durability for EDC duty, but those can get spendy real fast. There is, however, one all-metal, tried-and-true clicky pen that doesn't break the bank: the Zebra F-701. It's been a crowd favorite for years, and after some more recent updates, it begs the question: should you still buy one in 2020?

What Is It? Why Was It Popular?


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Zebra’s F-701 is an all-metal clicky pen with a knurled grip, rigid steel body, and strong pocket clip. The click mechanism is nice and quiet to operate and demands a firm press - excellent if you don’t want it opening accidentally in your pocket. The stepped tip of the pen is designed to stay out of the way while you’re writing so you can get a clear view of what’s going onto the page. Inside, there’s a Zebra ballpoint refill that lays down a 0.8mm line with ease. The best part? It will only cost you a hair over five bucks. In the past, the F-701 was not made entirely of metal, so people would mod their pens with the click mechanism and hardware from the F-401 model. On our site, the F-701 is extremely popular and is carried by students, businessmen, EMTs, and more. It has universal appeal, and for good reason.

Is It Worth Buying One Today?


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We can can say the Zebra F-701 is definitely still worth buying today. With the updated design, it's the best it's ever been. Zebra clearly took notice of their fans who would take the time and spend extra money to buy two pens and mod them into one. As a result, they now include the hardware from the F-401 on the F-701 as stock. For just over $5, an all-metal pen with a knurled grip section is an incredible bargain. You can even use Fisher Space Pen refills in the F-701 for the write-anywhere experience. If you don’t want to drop serious cash on a pen, but want something more substantial than a disposable, the F-701 is still the best option.

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Other Options to Consider

Since the F-701 is a great bargain at an entry-level price point, your other options will likely run you more money. With that said, you get what you pay for, from different design language or materials all the way up to enthusiast-level features. Here are a few at some different price points to consider:

  • Up your game (just a little) - rOtring Rapidpro Ballpoint: rOtring is a German brand known for making rock-solid writing instruments. The all metal body adds some extra heft over the Zebra too. Another bonus is that it comes in a coated and slightly textured black finish - a perfect match for stealthy EDCs. (~$23)

  • A more robust option - The James Brand Benton Click Pen: The James Brand is a trusted name in EDC gear, and they’ve recently designed a pen. At $60, it falls somewhere in the middle of the premium EDC pen price range. It features a laser-etched grip, 304 stainless steel barrel, and a lanyard loop integrated into the click mechanism. You can snag one in raw stainless, black, or a pleasing shade of grey. ($60)

  • Pen nerds, rejoice - BigiDesign Ti Click EDC: If you’re looking for the ultimate custom writing experience, BigiDesign has you covered. Their pen is designed to seamlessly accept hundreds of different refills. The body extends to fit them, while the proprietary collet grip ensures that each refill will write without “tip wiggle”. On top of that, it’s machined from solid grade-5 titanium. ($100)

Have you carried the F-701? Did you feel the need to upgrade at all? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this EDC classic in the comments below.

Header image courtesy of James in the US.

Discussion (26 total)

Nightwatch ·
As a Communications Officer, I need a pen that writes the first time, every time. I bought my first Zebra F-701 12 years ago, and very few pens can match its durability, its performance, and its price. While I own some more expensive, flashier pens, the F-701 is in my opinion, one of the best pens ever made.
Todd Davis ·
Been using Zebra pens for several years now... both as a Paramedic and now retired and working as a dispatcher. Just cannot go wrong with the Zebra Pens
Felix Mag ·
I love mine but I wish there was a .5 refill.
Muy recomendable, yo he tenido 2 en un periodo de 9 años, solo cambiar los repuestos y listo.
Buff ·
I've used the 701 with the 401 hack for years! I even mod JK refills (for the G301) so I can run gel ink. They don't work as well as the drop in ball point refills (the click isn't as smooth due to having to stretch the clicker spring), but I like it! That would be my only ask of Zebra - offer the 701 with a gel insert from the factory!
Gokhan B ·
Hello to all friends; I would like to ask about the black carabiner in the picture at the top of the page.can you provide links for information such as productions, web pages? thank you very much, have a nice week.
Masayuki Hatta ·
Zebra is a Japanese company, but F-701 is not known at all in Japan (actually it's not sold here).
ando ·
I didn't know that! Now I definitely need one! I LOVE Japanese gear!!!! I probably love everything about the country!
David Zack ·
I have the 701, great pen. Did the 401 hack. Wish I could fit the schmidt 900 in it. Not really fond of the Fisher refill. Using it but it blobs ink. Do not care if it can write anywhere.
David Zack ·
I meant the 9000. Have not tried the 900 series. Would be great it they wrote the same.
Joe Fulcher ·
I love the 701 for going on 5+ years and guilty of buying the 401's to mod it to an all steel writing instrument. I routinely carry 2 for the durability as an EDC backup as well as its designed use for taking notes and writing reports.
Minofdef ·
I still use the modded F-701 as my standard backup. Excellent pen. If I lost it I’d buy another one without hesitation.
Timothy M Griscom ·
While I use this pen, it isn’t all metal. Even with the recent change, it is still a steel clad plastic barrel.The click mechanism is also plastic. The new “premium”refill is smaller and only comes in black.
Chris Brown ·
I use the F-701 exclusively, particularly the newer ones that are all steel now. (Thank you Zebra!) I have found the only weak point for me was the clip, to remedy this I use the Fisher bullet pen clips in stainless they are way stronger and look a little better in my opinion. I also use the Fisher space pen refills which require the removal of the plastic guide cone in the tip. Working outdoors in the Midwest all year long I am very hard on my pens, but this combo has worked superlatively for me for years now. The space pen refills seem to last for an extraordinary amount of time as a bonus.
Greg ·
I love the Zebra F-701s for all the reasons that others have said. My only complaint is getting it open. I wish that the screw threads were above the knurling, closer to the clip. This would allow for better grip and the clip could be used for torque.
David Fairbrother ·
Writes quite well for a “cost effective” pen! I also use its stablemate the M-701 mechanical pencil.
Nwprepped ·
are the fisher space pen refills drop in? or is modification required?
Greg ·
Sadly, no. The spring indentation seat is different between the two refill types. I actually just tried it. The clicker lock won't engage when the Fischer refill is used.
Chris Brown ·
You need to unscrew the tip and take a pin is very small flat blades screwdriver and push the plastic cone out for the Fisher refill to work smoothly and properly.
George Jofre ·
For anybody still interested on this:
search youtube for "Zebra F701 Space Pen Hack *BEST METHOD*
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