The rise of the smartphone has left many people believing they no longer require a pen and an EDC notebook, to their detriment. While the idea of being able to snap out your phone and jot down a digital memo isn’t bad, the time required to get out the phone, find the proper app, open the app, start a new file through the menus, type in the note – assuming you still remember it at this point – and fight with what autocorrect thinks you’re trying to say is so time consuming that no one does it. It’s far simpler to keep an EDC pen on hand and a bit of paper for collecting all your errant thoughts.
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A good EDC pen is one that is cheap enough you can lose it, reliable enough that it won’t die after days in your jeans pocket, sturdy enough to survive a trip through the wash, and tough enough that should you need to use it as a tactical pen or last line of self-defense, it won’t fail you. That’s a lot of boxes to check for a humble writing implement, which is why there’s no substitution for the best EDC pens.
Some of us would lose our train of thought if our editor didn’t keep yelling at us, and we need a quality pen that isn’t meant to go the distance. Nice, fine points, a simple but sturdy design, and smooth gel writing make these our favorite in the disposable arena. Purchase: $4
A nice choice for southpaws, the Jetstream uses gel ink that dries quickly for fewer smudges if you’re quick on the draw. It produces a slim line every time, without the blobbing issues that you’ll find with most ballpoints.
Among the pens you can afford to lose, the F-701 stands out above all others. A knurled grip lets you keep it in hand whether drafting, sketching, or penning your memoirs, with a retractable tip that won’t ever leave you with holes in your pockets. Purchase: $6
True Utility Telescopic Keychain Pen
More of a novelty, since the slender end can be uncomfortable when deployed, it starts off as a tiny 2-inch piece of stainless steel that pops out to nearly full length. Less than an ounce, it’s a good keychain choice or backup EDC option. Purchase: $11
GL-Sail Tungsten Steel Tactical Pen
6061-T6 hardened aluminum that hits 90 on the rockwell hardness scale, this is not to be trifled with, unless you’re doodling and trifling around, in which case the LED flashlight and Tungsten glass-breaker can provide as much entertainment as the pen itself. Purchase: $17
Tec Accessories Picopen
Smart thinking made for the forgetful, the keychain cap on the Picopen keeps it handy and in mind. Magnets hold the cap and stainless steel body in place, yet retain a feather light half-ounce weight that won’t add girth to your pockets. Purchase: $20
Tuxedo-level class and chiseled tip that makes every chicken scratch look elegant, the cap and barrel are stainless steel, with a brushed matte end that is kind to your hands even during extended writing sessions. Purchase: $26
Part of the contracting pen market, the Pico has a compact build that hops into a big ballpoint with just a click. If you like a big grip, expect to fall in love with this. Purchase: $29
Inkless Metal Pen
Compatible with refills from both Pilot and Fisher, the Grafton was built to last a lifetime. It begins with a single piece of anodized aluminum which has a brass pocket clip bolted right into the body. The clicking mechanics are smoother than almost anything else out there, and don’t degrade even if you’re a nervous clicker.
Rite In The Rain All Weather Trekker
Many try, but few can handle the sheer pain that the Trekker and take. Able to write when the weather drops well below zero, as well as up to 250 degrees on the F scale; turn it around, turn it upside down, take it to hell and back. It’s ready to go forever. Purchase: $38
Machine Era Brass
Heavy brass can go wrong in many a pen, which is why the marvelous minds at Machine Era balanced this so perfectly that you’ll barely notice the heft, unless you need it for fighting back. There’s no moving parts to fail, and Pilot G2 refills fit easily in the broad body so you’re never low on ink. Purchase: $38
Fisher Telescoping Space Pen
The Fisher Bullet Pen tends to get a lot of the press, though it’s overrated for our coin. On the other hand, their expandable pen has all the Bullet features in a smarter build. There’s no cap to lose and a broader grip for easier writing without pinching your wee fingers uncomfortably. Purchase: $40
Perhaps the most recognizable tactical pen on the market, the Impromptu writes in wet or dry, has a glass and skin-breaking steel tip that is also draws a fine line during field maneuvers. Purchase: $43
BigiDesign Solid Aluminum Pen & Stylus
Useful because it has a silicone stylus tip along with a 6061 aluminum body and titanium clip, this might just bridge the gap between using a notebook and making your smartphone into all the writing surface you require. Purchase: $45
Ian Schon Pen
All American and made in Massachusetts, there’s a Schon to blend with any style. Get it in bronze, brass, titanium, steel, or aluminum it’s guaranteed to draw envious glances from all who behold it, and last long after the cows have retired. Purchase: $58
Karas Kustoms Bolt
KK machines their Bolt pens in-house to ensure pure quality right up until it hits your hand. The bolt-action is ideal for EDC since it won’t deploy accidentally, and there’s no clicker to break as you fiddle during endless meetings. Purchase: $60+
Karas Kustoms Retrakt
The Retrakt would make the list just for being such a beautiful hunk of machined copper. Tack on the stainless steel clip, easy refillable body, and disappearing tip, and you’ve got an EDC pen that will last for life. Purchase: $60+
Tactile Turn Mover & Shaker
You need to pick one up to appreciate how well-balanced and adroitly mechanized the Shaker is. It doesn’t have any special features, other than feeling amazing no matter how you use it. Purchase: $65
CRKT Tao 2
What you have here is essentially a Fisher Space Pen capable of writing at any angle that’s been built into a serious weapon by CRKT. Go ahead and take it into the desert, into the arctic, or even under the sea. It will write under any conditions.
Maxmadco Bolt Pen
Smooth and uncluttered Maxmadco’s take on the Bolt pen is a little smoother and has a handy spring mechanism that allows for slick single-handed operation whether you bat righty or lefty, and rounds out nicely with Torx screws that keep the full stainless steel parts locked together forever. Purchase: $85
BigiDesign Ti Arto
Made for the person who prefers variety, the titanium body of the Arto is just the beginning. It happily and easily accepts more than 200 types of inks and inserts, so you can find the cartridge to fit your lifestyle. Purchase: $85