“The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.” — Terry Pratchett, English humorist and author
No matter how many note taking apps you might have on your smartphone, tablet, and laptop, there’s nothing that can quite replace the role of a pen and paper. That’s more than just a hunch: Scientists have shown that we remember better when writing with pen and paper than when typing on a tablet or smartphone.
But beyond the practical uses, there’s also the satisfaction that comes from writing with a beautiful, well-balanced, smooth action pen. Those are the types of pens we’re going to introduce you to in this guide.
We’ve been testing and evaluating the best EDC pens around the NutSac offices for years, and have developed quite a deep appreciation for the following brands and their writing implements. We hope you’ll love them just as much as we do, once we’ve guided you through how to find the best match for your everyday carry style.
How to Choose the Best EDC Pen
There are plenty of pens out there marketed to the everyday carry community, in a wide range of prices, styles, and materials. This section of the guide will help you demystify all of that and hone in on what elements are most important to you, and which ones you can let slide.
Size and Shape
A pen is a pen is a pen — until it’s in your hand, where it can feel vastly different depending on its size and shape.
EDC pens come in three major sizes: A standard full-length, a slightly shorter version, and mini pens that can easily clip into your pants pockets.
Which one is right for you? It really depends on how big your hands are, and how you hold your pen to write. We’ve found full sized pens to be a great addition to our desktops, mid-sized ones as pretty perfect to keep in our EDC bags, and mini pens as a nice addition to our pocket setups.
We’re not talking here about how many uses you can find for your pen — we’re talking about how many types of ink refills it can take.
The best EDC pens are compatible with a variety of ink refills, so you can find the type of ink and nib setup that you enjoy most. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a single ink cartridge. And if you don’t like that, you simply won’t like the pen. If you’re particular about your writing experience (we are), keep that in mind while looking for an EDC pen.
How the pen is made, and what it’s made out of, will determine a lot of your satisfaction with it.
We look for smooth designs first and foremost, with a good balance between size, weight, and grippiness. That can come in the form of stainless steel pens, brass pens, or lightweight titanium pens.
But no matter what, we look for pens that can stand the test of time. And if a company offers a lifetime warranty on their EDC pens, all the better.
There’s no way around it: A really good EDC pen is always going to be more expensive than your generic, throw-it-away-when-it’s-empty ink pens.
But the range of prices for EDC pens spans a wide area of budgets, from about $40 to around $100.
On the more affordable end, you’ll find pens with limited refill types and heavier materials; on the pricier end, pens with lightweight construction and tons of types of refill compatibility. If you’re on a tighter budget, deciding how much each of these elements means to you will help guide your decision on which EDC pen is best.
Now, onto our picks!
Most Versatile: BIGiDESIGN Arto
We’ve had pens from Big Idea Design around the NutSac offices for months now — and they’re so often our first pick for jotting down notes and ideas. That’s because when it comes to attention to detail, BigiDesign is downright obsessive about making perfectly balanced, guaranteed for life pens.
The Arto pen from BigiDesign comes with a screw-on cap, and a dial in the back for extending or shrinking the pen nib while you’re writing. It’s meticulously machined from solid titanium, with an anti-slip grip that’s a joy to hold.
But perhaps most impressively, the Arto is compatible with a whopping 750 types of pen refills! That makes it a “future proof” pen which, paired with Bigi’s lifetime guarantee, makes this a real buy it for life pen.
Best Minimalist: BIGiDESIGN Ti Click EDC Pen
Our everyday carry pick for storing in our bags is often BigiDesign’s Ti Click EDC Pen. Equipped with a high tension titanium pocket clip, it’s a redesigned take on the classic click pen that’s durable, pleasurable to use, and versatile.
Made from solid titanium, the Ti Click EDC Pen offers a solid blend of lightweight balance, a handsome appearance, and excellent longevity. And it’s compatible with a solid range of about 100 different ink pen refills, making it a great option for minimalists who insist on having their writing implements finely tuned.
Best Value: Everyman Grafton
Very few (if any) EDC pens offer quite the range of colors and styles as Everyman’s Grafton pen — but none can match it at the affordable price this pen is offered at.
An anodized aluminum body is paired with a heavy duty bolt on clip for this click pen, making it a great one to throw in your everyday carry bag. The aluminum gives it a good balance of weight and durability, even at this fair price point. And a deep groove grip makes it quite comfortable to write with, with minimal slippage.
Everyman’s even gone so far as to make custom pen refills for their Graftons, with a smooth action and tons of ink per cartridge. Of course, that means there are limited options for alternative inks; so you’ll need to test one of these out before you decide whether it’s right for you.
Best Mini EDC Pen: Everyman Brass Mini Twist
Brass: It’s probably the most heavy duty material that you’ll find for EDC tools, and it’s a real love it or hate it choice for construction.
Everyman’s Brass Mini Twist Pen does a great job of balancing that weight with utility, through shortening the entire pen. It’s a hefty little beast (1.8 ounces at just over 5 inches), but its heavy duty clip makes it quite comfortable to carry in your pocket or EDC bag.
Buy It For Life: Tactile Turn Bolt Action Pen
Tactile Turn’s pens are one of the more recent additions to our offices, and let us tell you: We’re really impressed with them.
While they’re not exactly astonishing to look at, each one of these pens is entirely made in the USA from premium materials — either titanium, copper, bronze, or zirconium.
The mechanism on the Bolt Action Pen feels so rock solid, we’re pretty sure we’re going to own this pen for the rest of our lives. And depending on the size of pen you order from Tactile Turn, there’s a whole list of compatible refills to choose from. Overall, it’s a truly remarkable brand.
Click It Forever: Tactile Turn Side Click Pen
And we couldn’t make a list of the best EDC pens without including our pick for the most satisfying, fidgetable pen we’ve found: Tactile Turn’s Side Click Pen.
Just like the Bolt Action Pen above, this writing tool is made in the USA from your choice of four different materials, in three different lengths. But its unique clicking mechanism is really where it’s at — just make sure that you’re not too close to everybody else in the office while you’re clicking it back and forth all day!
Runner Up Best Value: Refyne Pen
Next to the Everyman Grafton Pen, the Refyne EP1 Stainless Steel pen is your next best bet for an affordable EDC pen.
It’s a bit on the heavy side, but with good reason: The physical vapor deposition process coating gives it a huge amount of scratch and corrosion resistance that you really can’t find elsewhere at this price. We also enjoy the removable/customizable deep carry pocket clip, and the bolt action deployment of the pen.
Best Rollerball Pen: Baronfig Squire
Most EDC pens, and the ink refills that they’re compatible with, are ballpoint pens. But if you’re addicted to the silky smooth writing action of rollerball pens, you’ll want to check out Baronfig’s Squire Rollerball Pens.
They’re a nicely weighted stainless steel pen, available in six colors, with a straightforward and minimalist design. That’s really all you need to know — if you prefer rollerball pens, this is your best bet for a durable EDC pen option.
Best Tactical EDC Pen: Williams Defense Pen
Our last pen on the list is a real outlier: Part writing implement, and part self defense tool. Designed by James Williams — a longtime martial artist from Vass, North Carolina — its sturdy aluminum body and heavily molded body make it comfortable to hold, whether as a pen or as an impromptu weapon in times of trouble. Oh, and it has a pressurized ink cartridge too; more expensive to replace, but fully capable of being used in even the most extreme weather conditions or environments.
Frequently Asked Questions
And to wrap things up, let’s take a look at the questions we’ve heard guys asking about EDC pens online.
What is an EDC pen?
An EDC pen is a more durable, refillable pen that’s meant to be used for years. They’re tougher than most office desk pens, and much nicer than disposable ink pens.
What length of EDC pen is good?
Standard sized EDC pens hover around 5 inches in length, while mini pens are around 3.5 inches.
What is a tactical EDC pen?
A tactical EDC pen is meant to be used as either a writing implement or a self defense tool; their handle designs are different from standard pens and easier to hold as a weapon.