Staff Picks

The Pens the Gear Patrol Staff Couldn’t Live Without


July 2, 2019 Home By Photo by Chandler Bondurant

Part of working at Gear Patrol is participating in neverending product debates: Are boutique skillets worth the price? What are the best wireless earbuds for running? Can a single watch count as a collection? But the most passionate debates always revolve the things we all have and use daily. Like pens. From the mighty Sheaffer to the humble Bic, these are the pens you’ll see around the GP office.

Bic Round Stic Grip Xtra Comfort Ballpoint Pen

“I’ve tried every type of pen. Ballpoints, fountains, rollerballs. These cheap Bics work the best and I’ve been buying them, in bulk, since high school. They have the ‘fine tip’ (‘fine’ is important), they’re inexpensive and, most importantly, they don’t run or smudge.” — Oren Hartov, Assistant Editor, Watches

Uni-ball Grip Fine (0.7mm, Knoll logo)

“The Uni-ball Grip is a classic — simple, smooth and saturated. This one has the Knoll logo, which happens to match my tote bag.” — AJ Powell, Project Manager, Gear Patrol Studios

Inventory Mechanical Pen

“The Inventery Mechanical Pen is one of those writing instruments that just feels right in your hand. Every pen stroke feels strong and deliberate. Ink delivery is smooth from its German Schmidt P8126 ink cartridge. The design of this pen is very minimal; it looks like it’s just a stack of 3 cylinders. However, it features a flattened edge so it never rolls off your desk, which is good because this 57g pen is machined out of pure brass.” — Hunter Kelley, Associate Designer

Skilcraft US Government Retractable Ball Point Pen

“I got turned onto these ballpoint pens by an editor at my college paper who had been in the Army. He always had a whole mess of them around the office and I would always take them. What I enjoy about them is how strikingly plain they are. They are a bit sleeker than most retractable pens, they barely have any branding and have these three silver bands on the barrel. They write okay, too — smoother than most ballpoints. These pens have been made in the USA by National Industries for the Blind for US Government agencies since 1968 — and they remain virtually unchanged. Being made for the government they have to meet some lengthy requirements, including being able to write continuously line for one mile and work in extreme temperatures.” — Charles McFarlane, Content Producer, Gear Patrol Studios

Caran D’ache Metal Ballpoint Pen

“The hexagonal body ensures that it’ll never roll off a table or pad, which is a nice little detail. It’s got a smooth action and the classic pocket clip completes that retro look Caran d’Ache is going for with this one. This one is made even more special as it was an anniversary present from my wife. Since it takes Goliath ink cartridges I’ll have it for the rest of my life.” — Ryan Brower, Project Coordinator, Editorial Operations

Rotring 800 Mechanical Pencil

“I’m an inveterate sloppy writer with commitment issues that extend to putting ink on paper, so using pens just stresses me out. The only problem is that nice mechanical pencils are rarely pocketable, and the few that have retractable tips tend to be butt ugly. The exception, which I’ve been loving for the better part of two years, is the Rotring 800. With a fully retractable tip mechanism, angular German design and hefty metal body, it’s a joy to fiddle with, look at and use. But it does come with a fair number of caveats, the main one being reliability. I read dozens of reviews complaining of permanent mechanical failure (I’ve had nothing of the sort so far) and wobbly tips (a real but purely aesthetic issue) but I’ve yet to have serious or unfixable problem that couldn’t be solved with its eraser’s built-in unjamming rod or a little bit of fiddling. Still, I worry every time I drop it.” — Eric Limer, Editor, Tech

LePen 4300 Series

“My 4th grade teacher, Pearl Bayliss — a fellow lefty with similarly poor handwriting — evangelized the LePen, and I’ve followed suit. Its felt tip makes my shitty writing look better (think about how your signature looks in sharpie versus fine point) and something about the ink composition means that when you drag your left hand across freshly written words, things tend to stay put.” — Henry Philips, Deputy Photography Editor

Pilot G-2 (0.5mm)

“This pen is the equivalent of a Toyota Highlander — widely available, versatile, premium Japanese build quality, reasonably handsome and a ‘no-worries-if-lost’ price. The gel offers thick, opaque coverage on most surfaces while avoiding that dreaded railroad effect. The retractable function keeps paper and pockets tidy. Oh, and it’s safe on a plane. The circumference of the barrel fits my hand and though it’s a bit slower at drying and maybe not as loved by the pen nerds, it suits me best. I don’t need anything fancier, but then I don’t feel like I’m slumming it either. Why 0.5mm? Because 0.3 is like writing with an X-Acto knife and 0.7mm is essentially a crayon. 0.5mm seems to roll the smoothest within the confines of my office jockey note-taking work life.” — Eric Yang, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Sheaffer Intensity

“When I received this as a gift, the idea of ‘appreciating’ a pen was new to me. But a smooth twisting action to reveal or conceal the tip turned out to be as satisfying as the feeling of actually writing with it.” — Zen Love, Staff Writer, Watch Desk

Pilot G-2 (0.38mm)

“Many pens are great but there is always one fatal flaw: I have found none other with a 0.38 [tip]. It somehow puts down a thin line of ink that is heavy while never skipping a beat. The click action is sturdy and bouncy for all of your nervous ticks. The grip is commanding and comfortable. I love this pen so much I often buy a twelve-pack just to give to people in the office. I then see them using the 0.38 for the next year.” — Joe Tornatzky, Art Director

Zebra G-301 Retractable

“As someone who uses a paper notebook and is left handed, finding a pen that won’t leave streaks on the paper and my hand can be somewhat challenging. This Zebra G-301 Gel Retractable Pen is a very solid everyday pen that travels well and doesn’t leave a mess. Be aware that the pens do run out of ink quickly so stock up on refills if possible.” — Zach Mader, Vice President, Advertising & Partnerships

Pilot The Better Retractable Ballpoint Pen

“I first used these in college to take notes, which, coincidentally, was the first time I’ve used a pen until it ran out of ink. They’re affordable, for one, but the Better Retractable feels perfect, from its ribbed grip to its confident click. They write smoothly and come in three colors and various point sizes; I prefer the 0.7mm fine point.” — Nick Caruso, Coordinating Producer

Bic Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pen (Medium Point)

“I’m currently out of stock of my favorite Pilot Precise V5 Stick Rolling Ball Pen in green, which I started using because my old boss swore by them. (She did all her edits in green to make the document look more uplifting, rather than super negative with a bunch of red marks all over the place.) My backup is the classic Bic Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pen, Medium Point. The grip is just right, the black ink doesn’t smudge and it’s lightweight to boot. The flow of ink is perfect whether I’m writing out a to-do list, story ideas and thank you notes. It hasn’t run out on me yet.” — Meg Lappe, Staff Writer, Outdoors & Fitness

Zebra Blen (0.5mm)

“Nendo, the Japanese creative firm that designed this pen, described it as the pen equivalent of a compact car ‘that fulfills small needs of our daily lives.’ In other words, it’s not for the pen enthusiast, it’s for my dumbass, and I love it for that. It’s got a not-too-sticky rubber grip, the tip is brass-weighted and the clicking noise makes me just a little too happy.” — Will Price, Staff Writer, Home & Design

6 Designers Name Their Favorite Everyday Pens and Pencils

Take it from people working in one of the few industries people still regularly use and abuse writing tools. Read the Story

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