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This is the ultimate 160gsm notebook review you will need! We go into a ton of details on each of these amazing 8 thick paper bullet journals!

When I first started journaling, everything in the Bullet Journal world centered around 120gsm paper. If you could find coated 120gsm paper in a dot grid it was like pure gold and you hung on to it! Then Archer and Olive developed a small notebook back in 2018 with 160gsm paper and the whole community lost its mind over it! For ages (and still is) Tomoe River Paper was the holy grail in watercolor paper for journals.

I’ve been a user of Archer and Olive since they released their first notebook, and NOW, I actually mange the Design Team. So I am fully aware of the brand and its features. But like any stationery addict, I need more, and wanted to go research what my alternatives are when it comes to 160gsm notebooks and cost, as well as the comparison of quality! If you want to see the full A&O Review head over to this blog post!

Now I have been journaling for a while and have more journals than I can probably use! But I really wanted to find some reasonable views on journals that might be up and coming and a little more affordable than the A&O notebooks. A&O is notoriously a luxury brand and a little more pricey, but there is a reason for this and we will go into this in a little more detail later! So I went out and purchased all the other notebooks listed in this Review – With shipping to New Zealand the cost came in just over $200usd for all the notebooks.

Spoiler alert! If you are wanting to know my top 3 picks for 160gsm notebooks! The ultimate winners are:

How did I structure this 160gsm notebook review?

Today we review the best 160gsm notebooks available right now. Overall the similarities outweighed the differences, so for the differences we will go into some detail about those.

I am a numbers/ data nerd and a stationery nerd! So I divided this review in sections per notebook. Each Notebook gets it own section, and a score. The score is based on the following characteristics:

  1. Values and Responsibility – 1 Point
  2. Packaging – 1 Point for nice packaging
  3. How the notebook was made – an average of score over
    1. Cover
    2. Paper Color
    3. Paper feel
    4. #of Pages (over 160 = 1 point)
    5. Index/ Additional Pages
    6. Numbered pages
    7. Dots are 0.5mm apart
    8. Back Pocket
    9. Elastic Closure
    10. Pen Loop
    11. Book Marks (1 point for 2 or more)
    12. Did it come with extras?
    13. Did it smell funny?
  4. Cost – Below $20 – 1 Point
  5. Pen Test – No Bleeding/No Ghosting – 1 Point
  6. Watercolor Test – No Bleeding/No Warping paper – 1 Point
  7. Fountain Pen Test – No Feathering or Scratchies

There were a couple of characteristics that were the same across the board – this included the fact that all the notebooks were 160gsm paper, they all had sewn-in binding, they all had a dot grid, and all the dots were 0.5mm except for the Wordsworth and Black which was annoyingly off by a couple millimeters.

What did I use for the pen test?

I wanted to use the juiciest pens I could find. Juicy but consistent! Pens and stationery that would put a 160gsm dot grid notebook through its paces!

I wanted to be consistent over each notebook so used the following pens and supplies:

  • Fountain Pen: Lamy Fountain Pen
  • Highlighters: Stablio highlighter, Faber Castell highlighter, Mild Liner
  • Watercolor: Prima Marketing Watercolors, and Prima Marketing Watercolor Pencils
  • Tombow Monotwin Alcohol Maker (I would like to state, you shouldn’t use an alcohol marker on journal paper, as it will bleed through everything that isn’t marker paper)
  • Brush Pens: Karin Pro Marker, Tombow Dual Tip, Ecoline, Actylograph, Tombow Fudenosuke, Crayola, Sakura Koi
  • Gel Pens: Ink Joy, Pilot v5, Gelly Roll
  • Fineliner: Faber-Castell Fineliner, Scribbles that Matter Fineliner

What is 160gsm paper and why is it important?

The term “GSM” stands for “grams per square meter.” This is how we define paper weight.

The weight of different types of paper is measured from a sample sheet cut to one square meter in size. No matter the length or width the paper becomes, the weight measurement is always taken from the square meter sheet.

For example, paper with a weight of 80 gsm or 100gsm (LT1914) will be much, much lighter and thinner than paper weighing 160 gsm. Usually watercolor and thick cardstock are in the high 100’s and can sometimes go all the way up to the 400’s in gsm! When you are looking for a thick paper dotted notebook it can be difficult and tricky to find exactly what you are looking for!

How many different types of 160gsm Notebooks are there?

Thick bullet journals can be found everywhere now. The thick paper notebooks come in varying page counts from about 128 to 220 pages. I counted a total of 13 that I could find – I wasn’t able to review all of them, but intend to get my hands on them in the future

  • Notebooks included in this review:
    • Archer and Olive
    • Tekukor
    • Owl Notebook
    • Tumbitri Meri
    • Scribbles that Matter
    • Maisie Lane Co
    • Smart Planner Co
    • Wordsworth and Black
  • Ones I could not get my hands on
    • Notebook Therapy (The shipping took forever!)
    • SeQes (Sold out)
    • Mindful Hookup (I felt really awkward about buying one as they had similar designs to A&O which didn’t sit well with me)
    • Eclectic Scribbles (Didn’t love the cover options)
    • Amanda Rach Lee (Didn’t arrive in time)

I hadn’t really heard of some of these until I started looking for them, and boy am I glad I did! I learnt about some new alternatives and it also reaffirmed my love in Archer and Olive.

Watch me review 8 different 160gsm bullet journal notebooks!

Archer and Olive 160gsm Notebook review

Archer and Olive scored 5.2/7

Overview

When you first open you are met with a luxury product, the box is beautifully detailed and crafted. On opening you are met with a paper wrapped notebook, and within the paper lies a stunningly made, extra pretty gift of pure joy!

When I originally completed my Archer and Olive review they had only just released the first set of notebooks – which at the time were revolutionary.

Environmental Responsibility and Values

Archer and Olive prides itself on its values. As a woman owned and run business, this little business really packs a punch! It speaks openly about inclusiveness, actively supports and promotes artists of all races and genders and promotes fair pay and credit for art created. One of the core values of A&O that really stick out to me, is the one on Mental health. Bonnie prides herself on speaking openly about her mental health diagnosis and how journaling has over help her overcome some of those challenges.

One of the other core values of this business is their commitment to environmental responsibility. As we go through this review you will see that not many other businesses focus in on this level of social accountability and responsibility. A&O ensure that the manufacturers used, pay their workers a fair rate. Their packaging is recyclable and the covers are either ethically sourced fabric covers or vegan leather.

Customer service is one of the the things that A&O does really well. They are responsive, quick and always willing to help out where needed.

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseArcher and Olive
Cost$36
CoverHard
SizesB5 A5 B6 Travellers
Paper ColorBright White
Paper FeelModerately Smooth
Pages192
IndexNo
Numbered pagesNo
Dots0.5mm
Grid/ Boxes26 x 38
Dot ColorLight Grey
Back PocketYes
Pen loopYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark2 (One with & Charm)
Paper160gsm
ExtrasNone
Shipping time USA to NZ6 Working days tracked

Pen Test

The pen test here was interesting. I have been using these notebooks for a while and know how they handle water and pens the best, so I almost used this as the baseline and the other notebooks had to stand up to the quality of this notebook. There was no ghosting or bleed from even the Alcohol marker.

You can see the A&O notebook holds up exceptionally well to both juicy inked pens and the watercolor. The alcohol marker was not visible and there was no ghosting or bleed. There was barely any feathering with my fountain pen.

Other Comments

Personally I love the little Ampersand pendent – It made for a really sweet addition to the line up and makes it feel really personal. There isn’t much else that is overly different about this notebook.

I have seen many people complain about the cost of this notebook. At $36, this notebook is the most expensive in the line up, but when you consider the values that are going into this business, I strongly believe that cost is going towards making the world a better place.

Tekukor

Tekukor scored 3.6/7

Overview

I had heard alot about this notebook. I was really surprised at how grubby the fabric cover was immediately after opening it. There is a little gold foil emblem on the front and the elastic closure is probably the biggest I have even potentially seen.

Environmental Responsibility and Values

There is NO information online about any values or environmental responsibility. This is really disappointing. The Amazon listing say the paper is made in Japan, and the belly band says the paper is Acid free, as well as it being printed and assembled in China. So with just this in mind, the carbon footprint would be huge, with paper being made in Japan and shipped to China.

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseAmazon
Cost$20.97
CoverHard
SizesA5
Paper ColorOff White
Paper FeelRough
Pages192
Indexno
Numbered pagesYes (Light Grey)
Dots0.5mm
Grid/ boxes26×38
Dot ColorLight Grey
Back PocketYes
PenloopNo
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark3 ribbons
Paper160gsm
ExtrasNA
Shipping time USA to NZ12 days

Pen Test

The juicy pens were terrible in this notebook. There was a ton of bleeding from the Karin Markers and the Ecolines! The watercolor was clearly evident on the other side, although it didn’t bleed. The Monotwin Alcohol Marker didn’t fully bleed through but it definitely did ghost significantly.

Other Comments

I kinda like the 3 ribbons. The paper is slightly off white in comparison to the other notebooks I looked at. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the off white color if I wasn’t looking at so many notebooks! But I was, and I did.

Owl Notebook

Owl scored 4.1/7

Overview

Spoiler Alert. I HATE THIS NOTEBOOK! Sweet baby llamas! It has a chemical smell to it that is INSANE! The single ribbon started fraying the second I opened it. They say you get what you pay for and at $11.80 I fully believe that with this notebook. Look – as a starting notebook this is cheap, and I guess cheerful. I guess one of the things that makes this notebook cheerful, is the stencil that comes with it.

Environmental Responsibility and Values

If I could avoid comment on this, I probably would. There are a couple of things that annoyed me immediately, the account for this notebook is at AliExpress. This is known to be bulk manufacturers with minimal ethical labor practices.

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseAmazon
Cost$11.80
CoverHard
SizesA5
Paper ColorCreamy
Paper FeelSmooth (Coated)
Pages160
IndexNo
NumberedNo
Dots0.5mm
Grid/ Boxes26×39
Dot ColorPale- Light Grey
Back PocketYes
PenloopYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark1
Paper160gsm
ExtrasStencil
Shipping time USA to NZ12 Days

Pen Test

Another reason this notebook failed across the board. Karin Markers, Crayola, Ecolines all bled through the paper. The sharpie started showing through quite a bit, but not terribly. There was ghosting on the Gel pens, and Fineliners which really surprised me.

Watercolor held up surprisingly well. Minimal warping!

The belly band was kinda fun with some measurements but really had little to no relevance to a bullet journal or journaling in general.

Other Comments

Look, overall Ill say it again – you get what you pay for and this is true for everything in life. So for $11.80 you’re getting something thick – It would still be better than something of a similar cost that is 100 to 120gsm.

Tumbitri Meri

Tumbitri Meri scored 4.9/7

Overview

When I was first introduced to Tumbitri Meri, I loved that there was a new notebook on the market! You can see my full review of Tumbitri Meri here. I think one of the things I loved was that it was designed in Australia, and comes with an adorable bujo stencil ruler!

The thick paged notebook comes in a lovely gift black gift box, I think that is pretty cool.

Environmental Responsibility and Values

What I also love about this notebook is that it is also run by a small, woman owned business. While this is awesome and shows that small business can thrive on Amazon, there is no strategy behind the values or environmentally responsible values that seem to come with smaller business.

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseAmazon
Cost$23.95
CoverHard
SizesA5
Paper ColorBright White
Paper FeelSmooth
Pages220
IndexYes
Numbered PagesYes – Dark numbers
Dots0.5mm
Grid/ Boxes26×28
Dot ColorSmall Black dots
Back PocketYes
PenloopOn Spine
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark3
Paper160gsm
ExtrasRuler Stencil
Shipping time USA to NZ12 Days

Pen Test

The pen test is somewhat disappointing. The Karin markers, Ecoline and Crayola’s all bled through, the watercolor is clearly there but didnt bleed, and you can see where it has warped the page. The alcohol marker bled only a little but is mainly ghosting.

Other Comments

I like this thick notebook as a starter notebook, its always had a soft spot with me, and I still quite like it!

Scribbles that Matter

Scribbles that Matter scored 3.1/7

Overview

Oh Scribbles that Matter (STM), What have we as consumers done to anger you so!? Have you stopped loving us completely? Not only did everyone love the coated 120gsm scribbles that matter paper, but it seems the quality of these notebooks has gone dramatically downhill!

The Pen loop immediately started coming loose – the front page is labelled incorrectly. Sooooo annoyed. I bought the Pro and the first page says its “Starry Night” which is their blackout notebook. Yeah nah.

It comes in a fun little box doodle box but isn’t really needed.

Environmental Responsibility and Values

Honestly – if they could just focus on quality I think they would be on a better track!

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseAmazon
Cost$25.97
CoverHard
SizesA5 B5 B6
Paper ColorBright White
Paper FeelRough
Pages150
IndexYes, Key, Pen Test Page
Numbered pagesYes – small grey
Dots0.5 mm and Center line
Grid/ Boxes26×38
Dot ColorDark Grey
Back PocketYes
PenloopYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark2
Paper160gsm
ExtrasNA
Shipping time USA to NZ12 Days

Pen Test

Oh STM – There is some very slight feathering with the fountain pen, but overall it faired well. But for the brush pens, the grey dots are almost “water proof” and shine through any ink. The Karin Markers definitely bled through. Other than that, there is no ghosting or bleeding from other markers or the watercolor. Very very slight bleeding from the alcohol ink but its more like ghosting than anything else!

Other Comments

Get your shizz together STM! Recoat your paper, make it awesome again and swim in your lane!

Maisie Lane Co

Maisie Lane Co scored 5.2/7

Overview

Well this notebook came and surprised me! From its little details on the spine to the lovely custom names over the front cover! The custom design no the front feels like such a fun touch and I really liked getting something with my name on! My Notebook also came with some washi tape and an adorable little ruler!

Environmental Responsibility and Values

I appreciate that this business has taken the time to develop and think about an environmental strategy and values.

Their environmental policy begins with our journals. They talk about chosing to use faux leather over real leather because they do not agree with leather practices and it has only 1/3 of the environmental impact. It reduces the need for water, chemicals and waste. I love this sentiment!

They claim to only use biodegradable and/or recyclable packaging. When I recieved my package it was gorgeously wrapped in tissue paper and it felt so heartfelt!

“Our journals are first wrapped with a paper belly band and then placed in a recyclable low-density polyethylene bag that is sealed with a recyclable sticker.” 

I love that they are thinking about this and it makes my heart happy!

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseMaisie Lane
Cost$24.00
CoverHard Custom
SizesA5
Paper ColorBright White
Paper FeelMedium Smooth
Pages192
IndexNo
NumberedNo
Dots0.5mm
Grid/ Boxes26×28
Dot ColorDark Grey
Back PocketYes
PenloopNo
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark2
Paper160gsm
ExtrasRuler
Shipping time USA to NZ6 Days

Pen Test

Lets talk about how this thick paper notebook fared! The Karin Maker bled through a little, but not intensely so. The watercolor barely made a dent. The alcohol ink ghosted more than it bled through.

Other Comments

This notebook really did come as a surprise. I actually really liked it! The price was not insane and I loved that they had considered the environment! As I say, this notebook was a surprise and I really loved it!

Smart Planner Co

Smart Planner Co scored 3.2/7

Overview

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got this notebook. I hadn’t heard of it before and saw it on Amazon and grabbed it got this review. I was pleasantly surprised by the Index, Key and Pen Test pages. BUT, it smelt SO bad! It reeked of this weird papery chemical smell!

Environmental Responsibility and Values

They have a website, and on the website they essentially talk mainly about how they are helping people be more productive and organised.

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseAmazon
Cost$24.97
CoverHard
SizesA5
Paper ColorBright White
Paper FeelMedium Smooth
Pages170
IndexYes
NumberedYes – Tiny
Dots0.25
Grid/ Boxes26×39
Dot ColorDark Grey
Back PocketYes
PenloopYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark3
Paper160gsm
ExtrasNA
Shipping time USA to NZ12 Days

Pen Test

Bleeding and ghosting everywhere. I’d have to say, regardless of score, this notebook was one of my least favorite. The pen test didn’t help it much either! Bleeding from watercolor, bleeding from Karin Markers, Ecoline and ghosting from the crayola’s. The alcohol markers came right through too.

Other Comments

The 3 GIANT ribbon page markers felt a bit excessive. I quite liked the black interior though, that was a little different and a little fun! The Pastel pink color wasn’t really my vibe, but it seemed ok.

Wordsworth and Black

Wordsworth and Black scored 4.8/7

Overview

Well this was a rather odd notebook! I wasn’t expecting it, as I had never seen these before. It arrived in a gorgeous box with a sweet little ribbon pull out – I liked that! Because I had never seen one before, I really appreciate the little info pack that came with it! For $19.95 this was really well presented!

I think what really surprised me was that it seems to be quite a popular brand, but a little google doesn’t give much in the way of information! It does however come with a rather adorable set of stickers!

Environmental Responsibility and Values

There is not much on amazon to tell us what this company is about and its values, the little insert focuses on “quality” and the features of the notebook.

What are the key elements of this 160gsm notebook?

Link to PurchaseAmazon
Cost$19.95
CoverHard
SizesA5
Paper ColorBright White
Paper FeelSmooth
Pages192 (186 numbered pages)
Indexyes
Numbered pagesyes
DotsAnnoyingly 0.45mm
Grid/ Boxesabout 26×28
Dot ColorBlack
Back PocketYes
PenloopYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Book Mark2
Paper160gsm
ExtrasStickers
Shipping time USA to NZ12 Days

Pen Test

The Karin Marker, and the Ecoline bled right through these “thick ink proof paper” pages. The watercolor warped the pages but not to badly. It did not like blending the watercolor pencil though! And considering it had blended smoothly on all the pages before them, I don’t think it was user error.

It seemed to fare really well with the fountain pen! I was really happy with that and it seemed to go swimmingly!

Other Comments

I quite like the cover, again it has a really funny smell to it, but its actually not that bad, and feels really robust! Which I guess is great! Again as a first notebook for newbies, I really don’t hate it! Overall it scored a little less than A&O and was interesting as it delivered on a quality feel for a low cost price!

Closing Remarks

It was great stepping out my A&O comfort zone to test some new notebooks! In our ultimate notebook review, you can find not only notebooks but also planners we love, and it might be a little less specific than a specific 160gsm notebook review.

So if you are looking for the best 160gsm notebooks, and wanting to know where you can find them, we have them all listed easily with links for you to be able to find them and try them yourselves.

For many using a 160gsm notebook can be a luxury, so pace yourself. If you are starting out and new, then don’t get caught up in the A&O hype, only to freak yourself out about using a 160gsm luxury notebook, test your mettle on a cheaper notebook!

Which is the best 160gsm Notebook?

These here were the final scores! I wanted to keep this 160gsm notebook review as fair as possible! So if you are a numbers nerd like me, or a stationery nerd, enjoy the below data table on all the notebooks!

Nicola Knobel

Passionate curator of pretty things

Hi Lovely! My name is Nicola and I am the face behind My Inner Creative. I am a die hard (obsessed) bullet journalist, and a over excited creative. Please note that some of our posts contain affiliate links, this means that at absolutely no additional cost to you, I can make a small comission from your purchase. You can read more about that, and me over at my "About page"
 
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