Review: Quo Vadis Habana Notebook

Earlier this year the fine folks at Exaclair, Inc. (distributors of Quo Vadis, Rhodia, and Clairfontaine notebook lines) sent me out a little goodie box. In this box, was a Quo Vadis Habana notebook. For the past few months I’ve been using this journal to chronicle my tarot degree homework. As you can see from the image, I even customized the Habana with a sticker a friend made for me. Now, it’s time to share my thoughts on the notebook with you all.

I received a Large Habana notebook and it measures 6 1/4 x 9 1/4". It’s about an inch longer and wider than the large Moleskine. For me, this doesn’t pose a problem but for people who are comfortable and familiar with the smaller size, it may take some getting used to. A paper band touting the features of the notebook sits wrapped around the notebook. I quickly removed this band before snapping any photos, guess I was too eager to break in the new toy. A pamphlet sits inside the book cover that talks about Quo Vadis and Clairfontaine's commitment to helping our natural resources by making greener paper processes and products. Click the link to read the rest of my review.

The cover has a luxurious "leather look" and feels smooth and cushioned when you run and press your fingers across it. The notebook does have some flexibility built in and does not crease when you fold and bend it. This in itself makes the Habana a good “in the lap” writing journal. While the cover may not be waterproof, I did test out what would happen if the cover got wet. And as long as the water does not sit for too long, you can wipe it off without harming the notebook’s cover.

I tried not to compare the Habana to a Moleskine (and failed). Of course, it’s hard to not compare any notebook that comes with a elastic closure and back pocket to its cousins. But that’s something we all want to know about notebooks these days, right— “How does it stand up to a Moleskine?” Yes, the Habana does come with an elastic closure and a back pocket. However, the Habana’s back pocket is constructed with card stock and secured to the inside of the back cover with what appears to be rigid ribbon cloth. And it’s useful enough to carry around a slim stack of index cards. So far I’ve carried about 10 cards in that pocket.

But what really impressed me, and sets the two notebooks apart from each other, is how the Habana reacts to use. The Habana consistently lays flat. I was able to start writing from the very first page and despite a missing book ribbon, I never really lost my current page. And that’s something I have yet to really do with my Moleskines unless I crack the spine really hard and threaten to split the notebook in two. I’m now past midway through the notebook and no matter which page I am on the book continues to keep its place.

The Habana uses the Clairfontaine paper line, which is known for their super-smooth and acid-free/archival qualities. Personally, I wish more notebooks would use acid-free paper so that my thoughts could get handed down to the next generation for review. The Habana contains 80 wide-ruled sheets. The paper really does feel extra smooth to the touch. The sheets are a brilliant white color and the rule-lines are a pleasing light gray color that do not distract from writing on the pages. It also feels as if the paper is a bit thicker than other journals I’ve used recently.

The addition of the thicker paper makes it work great with a wider range of pens. In the few months I’ve used the notebook I’ve alternated between a Levenger True Writer rollerball pen, a Pilot Hi-Tec Coleto loaded with black, blue and green .4 inserts; and a standard ball point pen. In all three pen cases, the ink never smeared, and I even tried to get the ink to smudge by wiping my fingers across it after writing a word or line. I could see the words on the other side due to the brightness of the paper but it doesn’t detract from readability. There isn’t any true bleed through in the notebook. When I run my hand over the paper I can feel the bumps from where the pen touched the page, but this doesn’t disturb me. The image to the right shows how the pens in my collection did against the page. Click on the attached link at the bottom of this post to view the image in its full-sized glory.

What good are all these statistics if you don’t really take the notebook out for a test run? And boy did I test this notebook out. The Habana is quite sturdy. I loved writing and carrying it around with me. The covers provided a hard surface that allowed me to write in it without the need for a table top. The book stayed in place as I cradled it in my right hand and it never slipped out of my grasp. Most of the time it sat in my lap while I wrote out the first draft to various exercises for my correspondence degree. I never had issues with the book bowing inwards or folding or warping in on me. In fact, this notebook went everywhere with me. It’s even fallen onto the ground several times and the cover still looks new.

I may have found a high-quality alternative to the ever popular Moleskine. The Habana has become my traveling notebook. The size and sturdiness of the book make it a great for those times when you need to write a lot of ideas down, or compose longer drafts of personal writing. If you’re looking for an alternative to Moleskine or just want to try out Clairefontaine’s paper, I recommend you give the Habana a shot.

The Quo Vadis Habana Large notebook is priced at $20 and comes in 4 stylish colors. Quo Vadis also offers a pocket-sized Habana at $15 and it also carries the same features as its big brother.

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Nice notebooks

They look like the perfect candidates for a journal or creating something special.

I'm interested in the comparison to Moleskines, especially since Moleskines are starting to wain in quality.

It's a pity they don't all come with your sticker as the little critter is cute



I agree. The notebooks are great for journalling as well as project keeping. As far as quality goes... I'd say they may be better than the new Moleskines that come out. The Habana's stitching seems tight and holds up to the abuse I put it through (I tend to manipulate and open the journals up very widely). When I'm finished with this notebook, I'll order a second one and compare the consistency of the designs.

The sticker on the cover is a replica of the "logo" I use when I do freelance writing. I have a friend in the Sign business (Bigfoot Signs in Fort Collins, Colorado) who also owns a vinyl sticker making machine. She printed up the little guy as a sticker and I put him on this notebook. I'm happy to report that so far he's holding up well.


What do you do when you find the perfect notebook?

Thanks for the great review. I've been thinking about getting one of the smaller ones, but I'm a bit confused over the paper weight changes that they've been making in some of the American/European offerings for this.
One question: I have stacks of different notebooks that I bought over the years but never got around to using. It seems like this might be the final one for me as I think it meets every requirement I have. Now I'm reluctant to buy it because then I feel like I should stop searching even though I enjoy the process. Can you see yourself stopping and saying "OK, no more looking. I'll just buy these from now on."?

I know the feeling...

I know what you mean. I have a lot of unused notebooks as well. I like having them. Even when I find one I really like using I continue looking for new ones.
I do it because I enjoy it. I enjoy feeling/examining the paper, the binding method, the covers, the thoughts and care (or lack thereof) put into the item and I do it for inspiration.

Just a few thoughts of mine...


To answer the question

Short answer... yes, I like this notebook enough that I could prolly use it for as long as they keep publishing it.

Longer answer, yes... but I think I'll always want to look around for other hand-made and interesting journals to purchase and compare to. I recently purchased a "Wicked" brand journal because I liked the design and style. But it doesn't mean that I'll be wanting multiples of those to use for eternity. A paper junkie will always want to redefine and seek out new and interesting books to use and abuse. But in the meantime we always have those notebook series that are tried and true.

But yes, I'm looking forward to using more of the Habana to capture my thoughts.

Good luck and happy scribbling,

I've started using my 2010

I've started using my 2010 planner made from a Quo Vadis Habana large, and I love the size! If it needs any improvement, it's in the number of pages and also thinner line space.

Unfortunately, Quo Vadis products are not easily available in Malaysia.