Investing in a quality writing instrument has plenty of benefits, and an especially tough pen can easily last a lifetime. In this installment of Carry Smarter, you’ll discover what to look for to make sure your next pen is built to last, and what types of pens might best suit your needs. Lastly, we list 8 of the toughest pens you can buy to make your search (and next writing session) go smoothly.
What makes an EDC pen "tough?"
Materials: Metals like aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel result in buy-it-for-life levels of durability.
Construction: Knurled sections and deep grooves ensure a secure grip when working with gloves or bare-handed in inclement weather.
Features: Tough pens do more than just write — some have pointed ends for self defense or breaking glass in emergency situations. And when they do write, they use special ink that writes anywhere, in even the harshest conditions.
- Car Keys
- Sinn 103 St
- Aunts & Uncles "Dog" Wallet
- LG Nexus 5
- Spigen Slim Armor Nexus 5
- Field Notes Expedition
- Böker Plus Tactical Pen (09BO091)
- Leatherman Skeletool
- Nitecore MT1C
A tactical pen sits front and center in this EDC from Hendrik, an IT Admin.
3 Types of Tough EDC Pens
Tactical Pens: These pens are seen in plenty of tactical and survivalist EDCs, and for good reason. Extending their usefulness beyond writing, many tactical pens double as glass breakers and self defense tools for emergencies. Design details on tactical pens include aggressively knurled sections and ridges for grip, at least one pointed end, and refills that can write under the harshest conditions.
Machined Pens: Not all pens have to be “tactical” to be tough. Several makers improve upon your favorite everyday pen by machining new bodies entirely from metal. These pens have more heft, a premium feel in hand, and increased duratbility that blow disposable plastic pens out of the water. Machined pens can accept tons of different refills, so you can be sure to find something to suit your writing style.
Everyday Carry Pens: These days, more and more pens being designed specifically with EDC in mind. An ideal EDC pen has a small footprint, is built to last, and can easily be carried. Lots of EDC pens allow the cap to fit onto the back of the pen (or “post”) to extend an otherwise short pen into something comfortable to write with. Several designs integrate keychain loops so that you never leave the house without a pen on you.
Now that you have a clearer picture of a “tough” pen, here are some of our favorite examples:
This rugged tactical pen from Gerber is made from steel and deploys via a reliable push-button mechanism. The tip of the pen doubles as a glass breaker, should you need to get yourself out of a dangerous situation. Included with every pen is a Rite in the Rain refill - this pen refill writes in any condition, wet or dry.
CRKT Williams Tactical Pen
If you’re after those tactical features, but want a more subdued look, consider the Williams Tactical Pen by CRKT. The pen’s body is contoured for comfort both in hand and in the pocket, and its pointed end can break glass when you need to. Aluminum construction, hard coat anodization, and a matte black finish all protect the pen from daily wear and tear.
Smith & Wesson Military Pen
The Military Pen by Smith & Wesson has that easily recognizable, signature tactical pen design. With the strong grip you get from wrapping your fingers around its ridges and knurling, this pen isn’t going anywhere. The click-on cap reveals the writing tip and a sturdy steel clip keeps the pen secure in a pants or shirt pocket.
Tactile Turn Titanium Shaker
Crafted from grade 2 titanium, The Shaker is a sleek and durable machined pen that takes a plethora of refills - including those by Fisher Space Pen. The unique lay pattern cut into the grip provides just the right amount of grip while adding some visual flair. The silent knock mechanism is satisfying to “click,” especially for fidgeters to keep their hands busy.
Karas Kustoms Bolt
6061-T6 aluminum makes up each of the Bolt pens from Karas Kustoms. Not only is the extension mechanism unique and fun to use, it prevents accidental opening in your pocket. The Bolt is substantial in size and built like a tank. Although it looks like it should weigh a ton, the aluminum construction cuts down on weight for a very comfortable writing experience.
Another quality pen crafted from titanium is the TechLiner from Ti2 Design. The unique needlepoint exposed tip allows the writer a better view of the precise spot the ink hits the page. Held in place by a rare earth magnet, the textured cap is secured on the back of the pen while writing and over the tip while in your pocket. Available in several eye catching finishes, the TechLiner will fit in with any EDC.
SCHON DSGN Pen Project
Designed specifically for EDC, the SCHON DSGN Pen Project is made from carefully sourced materials and labor for an overall polished product that doesn’t break the bank. The pen is a pocket-friendly 4” when closed, and a comfortable 5-3/4” when opened - ideal for both carrying and writing. The pen ships with a Fisher Space Pen refill to get you writing anywhere you need to.
Available in rollerball or fountain pen, the Kaweco Sport is one of the better pocket-friendly pens out there. The aluminum version is precision crafted in German and virtually disappears in pocket. Their slogan, “small in the hand, great in the pocket” ties in with EDC beliefs and is a great explanation of what the Al-Sport has to offer.
We’ve introduced you to a bunch of the toughest pens for everyday carry use. Let us know your most rugged pen of choice in the comments below!
Words and photo by Ed Jelley.