Back to School Supply List for Pen Enthusiasts [2023]

It's that time of year again and back-to-school is upon us. In this post, you'll find a current list of our must-have writing tools for students. These items provide utility, value, and excitement to use. Studying will be far more productive and fun.

Tom and Phoebe wrote the original school supply list in 2021. Since many of those suggestions still apply today, you can watch the video below to start and then read on to find additional, updated items to get students ready for the coming school year.

In developing this school supply list, we made each suggestion based on three criteria:

  • Limited budget - students typically have many expenses (tuition, books, dorm living) and limited income. Hey, you have to eat!
  • Quality item built to last - because you shouldn't have to sacrifice quality for cost.
  • Makes work, studying, and writing fun - these items put the "fun" in function.

Regardless of whether you're shopping for middle school or college school supplies, these writing essentials are great for all ages. Even if you're already out of school and working, you can still enjoy the benefits of these excellent writing tools and accessories.

Best pens (and pencils) for writing/ note taking

Caran d'Ache 844 Mechanical Pencil - $24, $19.95 sale

  • Swiss made, click-top 0.7mm pencil
  • brightly-colored, hexagonal design iconic of the brand's pencil heritage
  • eraser under cap

Caran d'Ache Nespresso Pencil Set - $24.75, $19.80 sale

  • set of 3 woodcase pencils
  • limited edition collaboration with Nespresso
  • made from responsibly sourced FSC Swiss beech wood
  • HB lead made with 25% recycled coffee grounds
  • Awesome smell. Seriously, it's worth a sniff.

Pilot Frixion 4-color multi-pen - $16.35, $12.95 sale

  • Erasable gel ink technology, disappears with friction
  • Write in 3 colors - Red, Blue, & Black, EF 0.5mm
  • includes backup refills in each color

Lamy 2000 4-color multi-pen - $99, $79.20 sale

  • German-made, textured makrolon finish w/ stainless steel front section.
  • Push-action mechanism that uses gravity to select the various color inserts.
  • Spring-loaded clip.

Retro 51 Tornado - starting at $30, $24 sale; $40-$60 for special editions

  • Many styles available - Dr. Grey - human skeleton, Dmitri - periodic table, Albert - equation for E=MC2, Space Shuttle Discovery.
  • Twist-top rollerball pen uses gel ink rollerball or parker-style ballpoint cartridges.
  • Collectible limited editions.

Best pens you'll probably find at the office supply store

Pilot G2 Retractable - starting at $1.74 each

  • Smooth-writing gel ink in several color choices
  • Lightweight, ergonomic design.
  • Buy them by the dozen or individually.

Pilot friXion Clicker - starting at $2.93 each

  • Heat-sensitive ink erases when friction is applied to the paper.
  • Convenient, retractable design. No cap!
  • Refills available in several colors.

Rocketbook Wave - $27

Now, you didn't think we would put together a complete back to school supply list and not include any fountain pens, did you? Since most US schools do not focus on penmanship in their curriculum, it is likely that today's students never get a chance to write with a fountain pen. It's a shame because they are missing out on one of the most pleasurable, personal writing experiences that will make note-taking and essay writing infinitely more enjoyable.

Best Fountain Pens for Students

TWSBI Swipe - $26.99

  • Cartridge/converter fill fountain pen
  • #4 size Jowo German stainless steel nib
  • EF, F, M, B, 1.1mm stub
  • TWSBI jumbo ink cartridge provides a quick and easy way to fill your pen.
  • includes two types of high-capacity converters: a traditional screw-type piston converter and a spring-loaded pump converter.

TWSBI Eco - $32.99

  • piston-fill, larger ink capacity, bottle-fill only
  • includes wrench & silicone grease for maintenance
  • #4 size Jowo German stainless steel nib
  • EF, F, M, B, 1.1mm stub
  • many colors available, including special editions

For the beginners and the budget conscious, TWSBI offers an ideal, inexpensive fountain pen that gives the writer plenty of thrill in being able to properly care for their writing instrument. Watching the ink slosh around the barrel is plenty fun as well!

If your budget allows, one of our customers' all-time favorite fountain pens is a marvel of modern convenience. The Pilot Vanishing Point retractable fountain pen is a "quick draw" pen ideal for on-the-go notetaking and jotting.

Pilot Capless / Vanishing Point Decimo - $180, $144 sale

  • Convenient, retractable 18kt gold fountain pen nib
  • Includes Pilot proprietary cartridge/converter (CON-40)
  • EF, F, M nib sizes
  • Slimmer, slightly less expensive than standard Vanishing Point
  • Phoebe's personal favorite. Goldspot is sending her off to college with this pen!

Best Pocket EDC Fountain Pen

Kaweco Sport - starting at $25

  • Pen measures 4.06 inches / 106mm capped.
  • Faceted cap posts on the back for a comfortable 5.27 in. / 134mm length.
  • #5 size German stainless steel nib
  • EF, F, M, B, or BB sizes (calligraphy also available)
  • Fills with international ink cartridge, Sport converter (sold separately), or by eyedroppering the barrel.
  • Durable resin body can withstand the daily rigors of school and work.
  • Many colors and styles available. Add a pocket clip if you prefer.

Stylus pen for iPhone or iPad

Fisher Cap-O-Matic Ballpoint Pen with stylus - $34.50 sale $29.33

  • Fisher's pressurized refill writes in zero-g, extreme hot & cold environments.
  • Touch capacitive stylus for modern touchscreen devices.
  • Keeps your devices fingerprint free while precisely writing or drawing on the screen.
  • Less costly finishes and models without the stylus

Best School Notebooks

Clairefontaine

  • Smooth, 90gsm French-milled paper.
  • Fountain pen-friendly, doesn't bleed-through, feather, etc.
  • Blank, graph, or lined page rulings.
  • Staplebound - $4.50, Spiral-bound - $13.95
  • Pocket-sized Roadbook- $11.00

Rhodia Pads

  • Formats for ideas of all sizes.
  • Smooth, 80gsm French-milled paper.
  • Perforations make it easy to remove pages.
  • Blank, steno, graph, dot grid, or lined pages.

Paper is important because fountain pens use liquid ink and tend to render lesser papers a bleeding, feathering mess. We discussed the difference between using good paper versus bad paper in the Best Notebooks for Fountain Pens video. In short, it’s not pretty if you use just any notebook you find at the school store.

At Goldspot, we offer a variety of fountain pen-friendly paper notebooks, notepads, and pocket notebooks. There are all types of notebook sizes, page formats, and bindings to best fit your system of note-taking and organization.

Find a notebook, or two or three, that you feel will best accommodate your semester’s workload.

Pen holder for desk

Crab Pen Holder - $7.95

  • 8 colors styles made from PVC plastic
  • Crab claws can hold writing tools of various sizes and weights.
  • Super adorbs. I mean, how could you not?
  • Crabs in this photo are holding Narwhal Pens.

To bring your writing supplies everywhere you study, we suggest investing in a good pen case. There are great options for a carry of under 5 pens and a notebook. You can carry both a writing instrument and notebook in one place using an A5 size organizer from Shibui for $95.

Pen / pencil case for carrying to class

Esterbrook 2Go Pen Cup - $53.96

  • Carry up to 6 daily writing pens in the comfort of this travel-ready pen cup
  • Make anywhere your writing desk.
  • The case cinhes at the top to protect pens in transit.
  • Unfurl the outer canvas to display the pens on your workspace

Rickshaw Pen Sleeves - starting at $19.00

  • Featuring colorful prints and designs, some of which match certain pens.
  • Super comfortable polyester plush lining keeps your pens snug and comfy.
  • Made in San Francisco, USA

Conclusion

  • Regardless of the tools, the curiosity to learn is the most important item you need to supply.
  • Mistakes will be made, but that's what erasers (and extra paper) is for.
  • Investing in yourself and your process always pays off.

Best of luck to all graduates moving up to higher education. We hope that this list helps outfit your tools for achieving great success.

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