Dingbats* A5+ Wildlife Collection Notebook Review

Hi everyone! As you can see from the title, today’s post is going to be a little out of the ordinary for this blog. I’m reviewing the A5+ notebook from Dingbats*’s Wildlife collection, the notebook I’m currently using as my bullet journal. This is the second bullet journal I’ve ever used, and I started it back in January for the new year.

I reviewed the notebook I was using last year as well—the Scribbles that Matter Pro. You can go check out that post by clicking right here.

I still have quite a few pages left in my Dingbats*, but since I’ve been using it for the past six months, I have a lot of opinions on it, and I thought a review might be helpful for people looking to switch journals halfway through the year.

Please note that this post is not sponsored. I bought this notebook with my own money and all the opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine.

Notebook: Dingbats* A5+ Wildlife Notebook

Color: Dark Blue

Cover Design: Blue Whale

Features:

  • Vegan leather cover
  • 1 ribbon bookmark
  • Elastic closure
  • “This Journal Belongs To” page
  • Pen loop
  • Expandable back pocket
  • 192 pages
  • Perforated pages
  • Lay-flat binding

Paper: 100gsm coated cream-colored paper with a 5mm dot grid.

This company also has another notebook line called the Earth collection, whose design more catered toward bullet journaling. It has numbered pages and preprinted index and key pages, among others. The notebook I’m reviewing today is not from that line. Mine is from their original, more basic notebook collection, so keep that in mind as you go through this review.

Also keep in mind that the pros and cons I list below are my opinion. If you like one of the things I hate or vice versa, that’s great. My goal with this review is just to let you know what my experience has been with this notebook, the positives and the negatives, so that you can make a more informed decision about your next notebook.

Pros

The quality of the cover. There may not be as robust a selection as there are with some other brands, but the eight cover design options that they do have are nice, and the quality of the cover is amazing. I have been using my blue whale journal since January, taking it with me everywhere I go, and the cover still looks almost exactly the same as the day I first got it out of the package. The only wear that I see is very miniscule damage to the corners of the covers.

Plus, I love the look and feel of the cover overall. The vegan leather of the cover is textured, and in the center is a very minimal debossed image of whatever animal you chose—mine has a blue whale. I really like how they turned the aesthetic design of the cover into a very tactile experience.

The lay-flat binding. Like most notebooks, this journal did have to be broken in a little bit before it laid flat perfectly, but since then, I have had no issues whatsoever. In my last journal, I had issues with several pages where the glue extended too far, and the pages wouldn’t lay flat properly. I haven’t encountered that at all in this journal, which was a welcome relief.

It’s affordable. When I bought my notebook, it was a little under $20 US (not including shipping), and according to the Dingbats* website, that’s still the price today. Considering some other bullet journal options are significantly more expensive but have either the same or fewer features than this pretty basic journal, I think this is worth it.

The slightly larger page size. This journal is an A5+ size instead of the standard A5, giving you a little extra room on each page to fit in your spreads. If you find that regular A5 notebooks are just a little too small to fit all the content you want on one page, but you don’t want to jump all the way to a B5, this one might be a good choice for you.

The number of pages. It has nearly 200 pages, which is great. I’ve been using this notebook for almost six months at this point, and I still have a bunch of blank pages left. I might even be able to fit the whole year into one journal, which would be amazing.

With that being said, I think the page count it gives on the company website might be a little inaccurate. It says there are supposed to be 192 pages and mine seems to have a few less, but that might be a manufacturing error. It’s not that big of a deal.

Cons

The pen loop and the ribbon bookmark. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate that this notebook has these things. I prefer notebooks that do, and I wouldn’t want them gone. However, with this specific notebook, I had a couple of issues with them.

The first is minor. The journal only has one bookmark, and I would personally prefer for there to be more—at least two, so I can have one bookmark on my current week and another on my monthly spread or whatever page I want to reference regularly. That’s not a huge deal though, and their Earth collection notebooks do have more than one bookmark.

My real problem with the pen loop and bookmark was how poorly they were secured into the journal. Since I started using the journal in January, I’ve reattached the pen loop twice and I’ve almost lost the bookmark because it fell out.

I don’t think I’ve been especially rough with these things, either. I do use my journal every day, and I take it with me pretty much everywhere I go, but I did that with my last journal too and the pen loop and bookmarks never came out of that one. Arguably, I was even rougher with my previous notebook, because I took it to class and work nearly every day for all six of the months I used it, with no quarantine keeping me at home. Meanwhile, my current bullet journal has barely left the house in the past two and a half months, since the stay-at-home orders started in my state.

Smearing, ghosting, and bleeding. Because the paper is coated, pens don’t dry very quickly, and they smear easily. I’m an impatient person and I tend to set up my spreads quickly. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve messed up a spread I was otherwise happy with by accidentally smearing a pen. And because the paper is cream-colored, using white out or white gel pen to cover up mistakes doesn’t work very well. At this point, I usually just sigh and let it go, but it’s still frustrating.

Also, pens do ghost a lot, and inky pens like the Tombow Fudenosuke will occasionally bleed. Usually, the ghosting doesn’t bother me that much, because once you write on the other side of the page, it’s not as noticeable, but it’s definitely still there.

After coming from my Scribbles that Matter, where basically nothing showed through to the other side of the page, it took some time for me to get used to the Dingbats* paper, and I still don’t love it.

Here is a picture of the back of my pen test page. It may be kind of hard to tell in the photo, but all of the pens I tested ghosted, some more than others, and both the hard- and soft-tip Tombow Fudenosuke bled through the page in some spots.

Notable

I want to talk about a couple of other things about this notebook, because I think other people might care about them, but I can’t really categorize them as a “pro” or a “con” for myself because I’m ambivalent about them. 

The first one is probably going to be the biggest deal-breaker for a lot of people, and that is that this notebook does not have numbered pages.

I prefer notebooks with numbered pages in general, so I would probably be annoyed with this too if it wasn’t for the fact that I went in and numbered all the pages when I first got the journal. I essentially turned it into a pre-numbered journal, and I was fine with that. If you don’t want to go to that kind of trouble, though, and you really want numbered pages, then I would recommend going for a journal with pre-numbered pages.

Secondly, as I mentioned before, the notebook has no preprinted pages. If you want a space for a key, or an index, or a color code, or anything else, you have to draw those in yourself. This didn’t bother me because in my last journal, there were preprinted pages for some of these things, and I didn’t end up using them very much. I was happy to draw my own index in this journal, like I was happy to number my own pages. But if you prefer to have those basic spreads already laid out for you, this notebook is probably not for you.

Finally, and this is just a little warning: Keep in mind that all the pages in this notebook are perforated. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. It’s nice to be able to easily tear out a page whenever you need to and either start over or use that page to cover up mistakes, but you also have to be kind of careful with them. It hasn’t happened frequently, but there have been a few pages that started to tear out when I didn’t intend for them to, like here:

It’s only been in a couple of places, though, so I wouldn’t call it a big issue.

Overall Thoughts

In general, I would say this is a good notebook. I definitely prefer my last one over this one, because smearing and ghosting bother me and having to reattach pen loops and bookmarks really frustrates me. I am not planning on using another Dingbats* notebook for my next bullet journal (I’ve already purchased the journal I’m using next), but I think I would consider using one again in the future. I’ve been curious about their Earth collection journals, so maybe someday I’ll use one of those.

I am, of course, going to continue using this journal until it’s full, though, and I would definitely recommend that others give it a try.


I hope you enjoyed this review! Let me know if this was helpful, and feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below! I’ll see you next time!

-Ariel

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