Rite-in-the-Rain Notebook Hack

Thanks again to Brian Green at Brian’s Backpacking Blog, I had something to do on this rainy day while I am just sitting around waiting to be called into work… This morning as I was poking around at blogs in which I frequent, I came across an entry that Brian has added to his blog about the Fisher Space ink pen (well, the insert). Carrying on from his use of Heat Shrink Tubing, he created a nifty, light-weight “ink pen” worthy of carrying on the trail. So, I thought to myself, I don’t have a Fisher Space pen, but I do have other ink pens, and some more Heat Shrink Tubing…

So, I searched around and found an ink pen and then pulled the insert out and grabbed some Heat Shrink Tubing to coat it with. Now, not only was this option lighter in weight, but it was also bright red, so it would be easier to not miss as I was packing up. As well, the Heat Shrink Tubing gave it a better grip than before. All in all, it was fun. But this only turned my mind towards something else I have been putting off… a notebook…

…which brings me to this post…

To date, I have always simply carried a small note pad that I bought for like $0.60 at Wal-Mart, a cheap Bic pen and stored it inside a Ziploc. The notebook weighs 2.5 oz (71 gm), the pen is 0.2 oz (6 gm) and the Ziploc is 0.1 oz (4 gm). All together on my scale, it weighed in at 2.9 oz (83 gm). This set-up has worked fine to date, but over time as I have scaled down the weight on everything else that goes in my pack, I have often pondered on how to scale this weight down too. Considerably though, this was the issue…

Sure I could cut a pen (or pencil) in half, or just simply take a refill, but that would only cut out like 0.1 oz, which was not enough for me to actually do it (at the time). I thought about tearing out a few sheets and carrying them only, but that just seemed a bit messy with loose paper. So, I occasionally found myself thinking about it, but then quickly dismissed it and continued using the set-up I listed above.

Then one day I decided to order one of the Rite-in-the-Rain journals/notebooks. The idea of a waterproof paper intrigued me and I saw it as a way to cut out the Ziploc at least, and hey, that was a start to the weight savings, right? The problem is, there are quite a few different sizes of the Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks, and just by looking on the internet at all the different sizes, it was hard for me to make a decision on one that was both light-weight and small, but not too small to be functional.

Once it was all said and done with, I ended up with model # 1773 from REI. It measures 7″ tall by 4.6″ wide and contains 64 pages (32 sheets), however, the weight of the notebook was not listed on the site. But, I ordered it anyway, and then immediately took care of this as soon as it showed up at my door. Sadly though, what I found was not what I had planned on, at all… This notebook weighed in at a whopping 3.6 oz (103 gm)! Instantly I decided that this notebook would not be going out with me simply because my other set-up was lighter than this notebook alone.

Which leads me to today…

As I was sitting there, making my version of Brian’s hacked Fisher Space pen, I again found myself pondering a lighter option for paper. Then, it just hit me…hack it up and take what I need! (Thanks Brian!)

So, here are the details, after the hack:

  • Rite-in-the-Rain Notebook (Hacked): 1.5 oz/41 gm
  • Pencil (sawed off to comfortable length): 0.1 oz/4 gm
  • Ziploc: 0 oz/o gm (the notebook is waterproof! I don’t need no stinking Ziploc…)

So, this gives me a total weight of 1.6 oz/46 gm (despite adding the above numbers, it actually comes to 46 gm when weighed together on the scale).  Now this is the “considerable” weight loss that I had been looking for since the beginning! I went from 2.9 oz (83 gm) with the first set-up to 1.6 oz/46 gm with the new set-up! That is almost half of the weight, simply gone. Sweet…

Now for a few notes on the making of the new set-up:

  • I did not need to punch the holes along the edges of the notebook since I cut the wire binding off. This left the small holes along the side edge in tact and is a suitable place to run the cord through. (Although, by punching these holes, I may have shaved about a gram off the total weight…  🙂 )
  • When tying the string through the hole, don’t tie them tight! (Now that I think about it, it’s pretty common sense…) Anyway, by tying them tight it does not leave enough room for the pages to open up at the binding. After tying them down in the video I ended up cutting those tie’s out and retying it, looser. I also bound it a bit differently too. First, I used the small holes along the edge (rather than the ones I punched). And secondly, I actually threaded the wire in and out through (5) different holes evenly along the edge of the notebook. (You can see this in the photo at the top of this post.) Then I tied the string loosely at each end. There is now sufficient room so that the notebook can open and close without any problems.

And another great thing about this hack is that I ended up with 22 refill sheets at home, for free (kinda).

Also, you will notice that I decided to use a pencil this go-around rather than a pen. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. I always know how much “ink” is in the pencil before leaving home. (If it is running low, I just grab another one.)
  2. According to the Rite-in-the-Rain notebook, a pencil, or an all-weather pen, provides the best results. In this case, I had a pencil (in other words, it was free).
  3. I can erase a pencil writing.
  4. The pencil can be considered a “consumable”.
  5. The pencil shavings can be used as tinder for starting a fire…

So, as you can see, I have my reasons for using a pencil. Sure, some are kinda out there, but hey, I needed to write something about it…  🙂

There is one little flaw in my system though. That will be storage while hiking. I prefer to keep my pencil and paper close at hand so I can jot stuff down while on the trail. Now that I will be using my new ZPacks Blast 30 backpack and Multipack, the pencil & paper will now ride up front, in the Multipack. However, I need a way to contain the pencil. With my prior set-up my pen would ride in the Ziploc, plus the business end of the pen was retracted inside the pen. However, retracting the tip is obviously not an option with an ordinary # 2 pencil, as well, if it were to simply be free inside the Multipack it could potentially stab through something (like me!) as well as be more likely to break. (Although even if it breaks, it’s still not the end of the world. I just need to resharpen it, or use some duct tape to put it back together again…)

So, for now I am thinking that I will simply sandwich the pencil between the pages of the notebook. For the most part, this should keep the pencil in place and even offer a bit more protection. So, if anyone has any lightweight ideas on how to carry the pencil in this situation, I would love to hear them. (Please just leave those comments at the bottom of the post.)

And there it is, my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook hack. I hope you enjoyed the video and the reading and I thank you for taking the time to do so. And like I mentioned, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. As well, I would be interested to hear what kind of writing set-up everyone else is using, so please feel free to leave your method below too.

Til next time,


About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
This entry was posted in DIY/MYOG, Gear, Notebooks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Rite-in-the-Rain Notebook Hack

  1. Brian Green says:

    Also, next time trip off all the small holes on the pages and covers – would look clean and shave micrograms 😉


    • Stick says:

      I hear ya on saving the micrograms, but I am actually now using them to tie the string through rather than the holes I punched. Kinda like it… I was actually thinking about only going with 5 sheets instead of 10. That will cut out another 0.5 oz…


  2. Brian Green says:

    Here’s how I carry my #2 pencil with my small RITR 374-M memo book. Hope you don’t mind the link: http://www.briangreen.net/2010/07/small-pens-for-backpacking.html


    • Stick says:


      I actually came across that yesterday too. Great stuff. I have been trying to figure a way to do that with mine too, but I think that since your’s has an actual spine, then that helps a little.

      Thanks again,



  3. Brian Green says:

    Ok, you’re beginning to sound like a stalker! Always reading my blog. I’m trying to think up some crazy little project to write about just to see if you’ll do it 🙂

    You know I’m just kidding, right. It’s great that you find inspiration in some of my posts and even beter that you then run with them to make them your own! That’s what it’s all about. Sparking ideas and sharing them. They may or may not be useful of exactly what you might be looking for, but you can adapt an idea or even a technique to get you where you were heading.

    I love, love, love your videos. My sone Jack and I watched this one over breakfast this morning and he about spat out his milk when he heard you say Brian’s Backpacking Blog – priceless! Another nice post Stick.


    • Stick says:


      Too funny! Great comment, made me smile! Thanks.

      I have been keeping up with your blog for quite a while now and have always appreciated your entries. I think here lately though I am so hyped up about my hike this coming weekend that I am really getting into these little things. I have made some pretty huge changes to my gear list lately, namely the big items. This has only fueled my want to improve on those little things that I have put off…and then there is your blog posts…

      So man, thanks again for the time that you put forth in your blog and all the other internet projects. I know that on my end, simply doing a blog post can be quite time consuming, so while it may be a joy to do, it is still work. So thanks.

      That is great to hear about your breakfast this morning. And to be honest…I have done the same. It feels like quite an honor when I see my name or a reference to my blog or what not in other’s sites/post. So, cool.




  4. Nice little modifications. I carry with me the “Moleskine Ruled Volant Notebook Red XSmall” and the Fisher Space Pen.


    • Stick says:

      Nice John. One day I will have to get one of those Fisher Space Pens, or at least the refill. Maybe it will be a good suggestion for a stocking stuffer next year, huh? 🙂

      Do you carry the whole pen and pad?



  5. Hendrik says:

    Counting the pencil as a consumable made my day 🙂


  6. Ben says:

    Hey Stick,
    nice hack. I have been looking for a way to cut the weight of my Rite In The Rain notebook, especially since I just got a new one for Christmas. I made a cap for my pencil out of duct tape. Wrap a small piece of tape around your pencil sticky side out. Next put a tiny strip over the end to close it off. Then put a piece of tape, sticky side in, around it all to finish. Of course I lost it since it was tiny.


    • Stick says:


      I was thinking of doing something like this and attaching it to the notebook. I dunno though. Right now it is sandwiched int he middle of the notebook. It looks like this may work ok, but I will see. I really don’t want to add any more weight if possible, but if it needs it, well, it needs it. Thanks for the tip though!



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