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Why You Should Always Carry A Pen

There are only two general ways through which humans learn: either our own trial and error or through the dissemination of knowledge from one person to another. Even lessons learned in a book or on the internet had to first be put there by someone. But anyone who has ever played a game of telephone could tell you that word-of-mouth is not the most effective and reliable means of informational exchange. Sometimes important things get lost somewhere down the line. With a tangible record, however, the potential for crucial data to be lost can be significantly minimized. That is why the written word is so important.

One of the hallmarks of any civilization is some form of written communication. The Sumerians had cuneiform. The Egyptians had hieroglyphics. The ancient Chinese used a system called Oracle Bone Script. In fact, the only reason we have any knowledge of antiquated forms of communication is because of the discovery of tablets, scrolls, tomes, or otherwise. While languages vary wildly in style and substance around the world, there have always been two necessary constants in the production of written records: a surface on which to write and a utensil with which to do the writing.

On The Record

In our ever-increasingly digital world, it’s easy to think that physically writing things down is as archaic and outmoded as using an abacus to do math. Most people nowadays carry a smart phone in their pocket or are within reach of a computer at nearly all times and it seems plenty easy to punch in notes, to-dos, ideas, etc. on your various computing platforms. The truth is, however, there are some very real mental and physical benefits to keeping a pen on you whenever and wherever you go. If you have not already made space for a pen in your EDC gear, here’s why you should.


In 2013 two professors, Pam Mueller of Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA, conducted a study to find out the most effective way that students remembered their lectures. What they discovered was that, despite the length and accuracy of the notes taken by laptop users, students who put pen to paper retained information at a much higher rate and scored better when tested on said information, even if those laptop users got to go back and study their notes. It would appear that there is a very real connection between physically writing things down and committing those things to memory.


Technology is fickle. Phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs seem to go obsolete as quickly as they make it to market. And if you keep any piece of tech for long enough, the programming can become corrupted - on its own or through repeated abuse - and you’ll end up losing data. Maybe all of it. So its a good idea to keep a physical record of any pertinent information - such as phone numbers, addresses, job history, directions, etc. - written down in a notebook as you acquire it. And you’re going to need a pen to do that. It’ll certainly outlast whatever iteration of the iPhone just came out because, if it’s a good everyday carry pen, you can regularly drop it onto the ground or into water and it’ll continue to work afterward.


There are plenty of occasions in daily life that require you to have quick access to a pen. If you frequent a bank, for example, you know that you have to sign your checks before you deposit them. Most restaurant purchases require your autograph at the conclusion of your meal, as well. Any time you are presented with a physical form - think doctor’s office, polling place, the DMV, etc. - you’ll be scribbling your information in by hand. Often, one is in a hurry to get these things taken care of because, honestly, who wants to spend extra time at any of these places? If you have your own EDC pen, you can swiftly take care of any paperwork and be on your way. And you’ll have the opportunity to be a hero for anyone who came unprepared. People will notice.


Whether you are constantly connected or not, the quickest and most frustration-free way of passing bits of information from yourself to someone else is by physically handing it to them. Yes, you can text, email, or share phone numbers, emails, casual comments, or otherwise. But then you’ll have to unlock your phone or sign into your laptop, navigate through a bunch of menus, select the proper app and open it, potentially navigate another menu to input contact info, and then fumble around with an unresponsive keyboard before sending whatever message through the ether to your intended recipient. Or you could just write it down on a piece of paper with your everyday carry pen and hand it to the person.

Functional Forms

As far as particularly specialized tools go, pens are surprisingly important to the way we as a species conduct our daily lives. And rather than depending on the kindness of strangers, servers, bankers, etc. you could just be prepared enough to tackle life as it comes at you and carry one yourself. Whether you’re trying to leave a strong impression or just make your life more convenient and expedient, having a handy writing utensil can make all the difference. And to alleviate some of the stress of searching for the right one, we’ve come up with some things to look out for below.

Refill: Always pay attention to what kind of refill a pen requires. Some pens use semi universal refills and others don't. In the case of very specialized shapes and types, you want to make sure that the refills are available to purchase in a manner that suits you.

Material: The lasting power of your pen is almost entirely determined by the material out of which it is made. And - thankfully - durability is not tied directly to price. You'll also want to look out for the materials of the pen's deployment. Is it all metal or does it have plastic pieces that will easily break? Watch out for shoddy construction.

Size: A question intrinsic to the very idea of everyday carry. While, for some, a full-sized pen is no problem to haul around, others require something a little more compact. You don't want to weigh down your pockets any more than they have to be, but you also want to be sure that you're not sacrificing functionality.

Mobility: Not entirely independent from size, you want to pay attention to how you will carry the pen. Do you want an easy-access pocket clip, or is a pen that attaches to your keychain a better fit for you? If you know the best method of carry for you, you'll have an easier time figuring out the right pen.

Take Notes

Tec Accessories Pico Pen

TEC Accessories PicoPen

Though most pens are fairly portable, they can be a cumbersome addition to some people’s EDC gear. If you’re looking for something a little more unassuming, there’s the PicoPen by TEC Accessories. Astoundingly small, this keychain mountable writing utensil is only 3.25 inches in length and made from durable stainless steel. It comes equipped with a rare-Earth neodymium magnet cap for easy access and security. And it uses a standard D1 “multi-pen” ink cartridge, so refilling the pen is simple and convenient.

Purchase: $20

Fisher Space Bullet Pen

Fisher Space Bullet Pen

Typically, people don’t consider utilitarian objects to be pieces of artwork. The Fisher Space Bullet Pen, however, has been exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for years. This compact pen, which is 3.75” when closed, features a brass construction and opens into a perfectly balanced full-sized 5.25” pen. The pressurized Fisher PR4 ink cartridge works at any angle, in zero gravity, or even underwater. And it is fully manufactured and hand tested in the USA.

Purchase: $20

Rite In The Rain All Weather Trekker

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Trekker

If you’re looking for a keychain pen, but you also want something with some serious toughness, check out the Rite in the Rain #98 All-Weather Trekker Pen. This 4” all metal pen is durable in its own right, but the pressurized ink cartridge inside makes this writing tool all the more impressive. With the ability to write upside down, on wet paper, and in extreme temperatures (anywhere from -30 to 250 degrees fahrenheit), this pen is a great no-frills workhorse.

Purchase: $38

Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen

Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen

Having a pen on your person at all times is incredibly helpful, but sometimes you need a little more from your writing instrument. Enter Gerber’s Impromptu Tactical Pen. This pen’s design was the result of the company’s decades of tool crafting experience and input from actual police officers. Made from machined Cerakote steel and featuring a glass-breaker tempered steel tip, this clicker-style American-made pen is handy for taking notes and can be used to extract yourself from some tricky situations. And the included Rite in the Rain cartridge ensures that it’ll work in the most extreme conditions.

Purchase: $72

Karas Kustoms Bolt Pen

Karas Kustoms Bolt Pen

Not only is the Karas Kustoms Bolt Action Pen a handsome and unique spin on a traditional ballpoint clicker, but it’s also tough enough that, even with some serious abuse, it could be the last pen you even need. Made from American machined metal and featuring a bolt-action clicker - yes, like a rifle - this ergonomic 5.625” pen works with all Parker ballpoint compatible refills - including the Fisher Space Pen refill - and comes equipped with a stainless steel clip and hardware for rugged portability.

Purchase: $115

Paper Trail

If you're going to carry around a pen, you should probably also carry around something on which to write. A notebook is the perfect counterpart to your EDC writing utensil and, just like a pen, will come in handy far more often than you may realize. You could probably find a scrap of paper most of the time or write on your hand when you don't have another option, but scraps tend to end up in the trash and, if you're at all concerned with personal hygiene, you're going to end up washing the notes off of your hands. And who is to say that you'll have the chance to transfer the information before that happens? Carry a notebook, instead. These are a few of our favorites.

© Photography by Gallantry

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