Observer Collection Papa

Perhaps the best notebook cover I’ve ever owned.

Sometimes, when you find a new brand, you don’t end up buying the first item which drew you to the brand. That was the case with Observer Collection gear for me, as my first pickup was the Whisky wallet. The actual item which drew me to the brand was this Papa notebook/passport wallet.

It looks so good, and it is in fact so good. This is also one of those items that is most certainly not going to be for everyone. It’s quirky and imperfect, and yet it goes most places with me now. I love it.

Materials & Construction

Everything here is top notch, it’s a little hard to explain why or how they are this good, but they really are. The Papa uses Italian vegetable tanned leather and suede.

The Papa is a notebook/passport wallet. On the front is what the Observer Collection calls a ‘reductive window’ which is designed to hold paper tickets, or a phone. On the back is a smaller version designed to hold a pen, or other similarly shaped items (also specifically designed to fit a Paris metro stub, but I cannot speak to that one).

Inside both covers are two pockets on each side which are sized to hold cards or cash. There’s a larger open pocket which is sized to hold the cover of your passport, or passport sized notebook (on both sides).

All of this is made in the USA, and measures roughly 4.1 by 5.8 inches. It’s rather thick no matter how few items you store in it, but when fully loaded out it can get quite thick.

In Use

I’ve been using this for a while now as my travel sized notebook. I keep two Traveler’s Company Passport Notebooks in it. I also have found it holds vaccination cards well, which at this point serves more as a reminder of a fuckin nutso time than it provies any value. Some cash, my Costco card because I never have that when I need it, business and calling cards, my Passport Card (great backup photo ID), and my Tactile Turn Slim Short Side Click pen which is the perfect pen for this slot.

Whew, all of that is stuffed into the Papa, and it’s quite large. Too large for anything not jacket or cargo pants pocket sized. And yet, I keep carrying this.

I will note, that the front large reductive window for tickets or a phone, absolutely has proven useless for me. My phone won’t fit, and I’ve yet to have a ticket that works there. I don’t get it. But at the same time, it allows the suede to show through, and feels great when you pick up or hold the Papa.

The design and heft of this allows it to lay flat when open, even if your notebooks will not. It’s easy enough to write in the Papa without removing the notebooks. I’ve found that the reductive window pocket design looks really cool, but is actually not ideal for using them day to day. They are certainly not bad pockets, but there are better designs out there than this for functionality.

Because of that, you need to carefully select what you keep in these pockets, or hidden behind the larger pockets for keeping the notebook covers tucked into place. Not only because it can be hard to get the items out, but as each will add lumps to the writing surface of that side of the notebook.

There’s something special about this notebook. It can go from being a Passport cover, to a travel notebook, or split both duties. It holds so many random tidbits of stuff for me, that I am always pleasantly surprised when I remember “yep, it’s in the Papa”. More than any of that, the Papa has allowed me to memorialize quick thoughts much faster and easier — without the distraction of opening an app on my iPhone. Writing by hand always feels a little less formal, a little more intimate, and a lot more proper for thinking. Then again, it’s much easier to carry only your phone — so there’s that.

Overall

Items like this tend come and go a lot from my gear. I get an idea that I’d love to carry something like this, get it setup, and then at some point I stop carrying it. I never really think about why I stopped, I just do. The Papa though, it keeps getting used. It’s been with me on every trip, and almost every time I leave the house since I got it. It might be left in my car, but it has more or less been with me everywhere.

That’s perhaps the highest testament I can give to something like this: I use it a lot, like to use it, and keep using it. It doesn’t fit well in a lot of my pockets and the Passport sized Traveler’s Company Notebook cover can do all this just as well in a trimmer setup. But it’s missing that intangible connection that you get with the Papa — which really makes the Papa feel like a companion tool in my setup and not just another thing.

Buy here, $230

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