Field notes have always been a part of my daily carry. Despite the advancement of cellphones and tablets, to me, nothing beats a hard pencil or pen and a notebook. From tracking spending, writing to remember or revisit, or to exchange information, the field notes journal is my go-to medium. When using covers to protect small notebooks such as Field Notes or Moleskine, there are plenty of options to choose from. Josh and Jen Koch of Koch Leather Company offer a Horween Leather Sleeve that provides a nice breakaway from traditional covers. By utilizing a design in which you insert the journal between the leather, the product provides dual functions and protection.
The field notes sleeve is constructed of three pieces of Horween Natural Dublin. Koch Leather Company refers to this as their chestnut color. Natural Dublin is a vegetable tanned leather which gives a bit more toughness in feel compared to its Chromexcel counterpart in my opinion. Koch also offers Horween Chromexcel in burgundy, black, and brown, and a vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak. The sleeve is hand stitched with waxed thread and edges come in nicely burnished.
The front of the sleeve presents two pockets. One is for a pen, which I thus far have carried a variety of averaged sized pens in from Pilot G2’s to Parker Jotters and Fischer space pens. The secondary pocket fits a few cards, a single AAA flashlight, or a small to medium sized knife. The design protects both accessories in a way such that I was not worried about breaking a plastic pen while sitting on the sleeve. As you can see, the pull-up in the leather is great once flexed and reveals the lighter color as the oils are spread out. The color settles from the lightest color once items have been regularly stored.
I normally carry my field notes in a messenger bag, but for the purpose of this review, I also implemented carrying it in my back pants pockets. Though the Natural Dublin is vegetable tanned, it is soft enough to form to your backside, but not to an extreme bending degree. On a few occasions it also fit into the breast pocket of my suit jackets. The sleeve design allows the back of the sleeve to be used as a writing surface. This worked fairly well when making sketches wresting the sleeve on my knee.
With a lot of companies using Horween their leather of choice, products must rely on design and craftsmanship to separate themselves. While Koch Leather also offers more traditional notebook covers, this sleeve offers a nice separation from the pack. The finite details such as the thumb slit to remove the notebook is properly placed and adds a touch of ergonomics. The burnished edges have held up nicely over frequent use and it has done its standard job of protecting my Field Notes. The logo on the back end blends itself in with this particular leather finish, but can easily be felt.
The Koch Leather Company Horween Leather Sleeve offers solid protection for your journals with an alternative design and dual functions. I could easily see this piece being used with a passport and travel identification. Being able to carry a Swiss Army Knife or flashlight has led to me favoring this setup over a traditional cover. At the price of $58 it presents itself well, especially with the quality of materials used and overall craftsmanship. As it continues to darken and gather small scratches and abrasions, I can only see it becoming more beautiful.