The 10 Best Padfolios
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Even in today's gadget-obsessed culture, some prefer to take notes the old-fashioned way: with a pen and paper. Any of these padfolios will give you easy access to a notepad, while also storing your pens, thumb drives, mobile devices, and more. We’ve included a range of models, from budget-friendly choices to those that let the world know you’ve got some extra cash to drop on accessories. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 09, 2020:
Before we discuss our choices, we'd like to quickly note the distinction between padfolios and portfolios. The former tend to be light and slim, have few pockets, and close with something other than a zipper. The latter are usually beefier, with plenty of pockets and compartments, as well as a zipper closure to keep everything safe. This is in theory, however. In reality, the terms are thrown around interchangeably, and there are so many hybrid-type models that it's tough to draw a hard line between them. Here, we've let the "pad" part of padfolio be our guide; in other words, these can all hold some type of notepad and allow you to write on the go.
As to our picks, we still find that the included options can meet a variety of needs and stylistic sensibilities, so we've kept them, with one exception. The Saddleback Notepad Holder has become tricky to find, so we opted to remove it. Because it would seem a glaring omission not to include at least one option from this popular leather goods company, we added the Saddleback Medium Leather Portfolio to our Special Honors section, instead. Technically, it would probably be considered a leather portfolio, as per the name; however, it's slimmer and lighter than many portfolios, and doesn't have a zipper, so it could just as easily work as a padfolio.
We also added the Paper Junkie Business on the strength of its fabric cover. Not everyone wants leather, like the Leatherology Organizer, the Rawlings Heart of the Hide, or the Cutter & Buck Legacy, nor do they want faux leather, such as the Stylio Folder or the Wundermax Professional. Of course, a fabric model may not fit into a very rigid business environment, but for students and many office workers, it will get the job done — and it's less expensive than most, to boot.
May 21, 2019:
All of the items continue to satisfy users and pose no readily apparent quality concerns, so we did not need to remove any from the list. We did, however, decide to move a couple items ahead of the Saddleback Notepad Holder once we noted its rather considerable bulk and the fact that its pen holder is too small to accommodate certain writing utensils.
Upgraded the Royce Leather Presentation to the top slot based on a variety of factors, including its classic, professional appearance and impressive craftsmanship. Users point out that while the front pocket for documents is quite tight at first, it will stretch enough through regular use to accommodate a significant amount of paper while still maintaining a slim profile.
Added two options to the Special Honors section, both of which offer distinctiveness and keen attention to detail. They’re made with genuine leather, which produces an elegant look and adds to their overall durability. The Franklin-Christoph model is available in two sizes.
Mission Mercantile The traditional, brick-and-mortar specialty leather goods shop may be less prevalent today than in past decades, but the concepts and feelings it represents — craftsmanship, character and authenticity — are as valuable as ever. These models are built for longevity, and you can almost detect the aroma of cigars, sawdust and polishing oil when you use them. missionmercantile.com
Franklin-Christoph The design philosophy that drives Franklin-Christoph is based on two ideas: simplicity and uniqueness. This zippered selection offers ample capacity for notebooks, pens, tablets, phones and documents, with a distressed leather exterior that looks rich and feels soft in your hands. franklin-christoph.com
Saddleback Medium Leather Portfolio Backed by a 100-year warranty, the handsome Saddleback Medium Leather Portfolio will help keep you efficient and on task. It’s made from simple, rustic cowhide that’s enhanced with a pigskin lining and quality stitching, and it's available in a variety of handsome colors to match your style. saddlebackleather.com
An Ultimate Organizing Tool
A lot of these padfolios also have compartments for phones and tablets.
Padfolios are pretty simple little devices when you break them down. Essentially, they're like a cross between binders and wallets, designed to hold a great deal of your personal documents while providing necessary business tools at your fingertips.
Most padfolios are leather-bound, for the waterproofing that leather provides, as well as the professional look that will complement business attire better than a nylon or another petroleum-based material.
The "pad" part of the padfolio refers specifically to the notepad around which the unit is designed, though most of the time when somebody unzips one of these things, it's hard to predict whether there's a paper pad or an electronic device hiding in there.
I still don't entirely feel comfortable taking notes with electronic devices. Even with all that could go wrong on paper–you could lose it, soak it, burn it, toss it (this is starting to sound like a Daft Punk song)–there's still something more permanent to me about writing information down than typing it in. Maybe I was born just a little bit too early. For what it's worth, I didn't get a cell phone until I was 17, and all it had was calls, text, and a brick breaker game.
Which isn't to say that a padfolio can't appeal to those rapscallion youths. A lot of these padfolios also have compartments for phones and tablets. And, according to a study by the Advertising Specialty Institute, millennials love desk accessories!
Your Padfolio And You
If I was a betting man (which I am, for the record), I'd wager a good amount that you're not necessarily going to pick your padfolio based on its superiority in content. The amount of things it can hold, the number of compartments, etc., don't hold much sway over the most important consideration: How does it look on you?
If you want a soft leather that's going to last, make sure it's quality hide.
I mentioned this earlier, but it's important to consider your padfolio investment as a fashion accessory, otherwise you'll never want to leave the house with it.
Imagine a fashion spread. Setting aside the fact that the porcelain china doll of a model in that image may or may not have had that padfolio Photoshopped into her hand, it's undeniable that its burgundy color wonderfully electrifies the light blue of her dress. Just imagine how that same burgundy shade could tame a wilder canary yellow ensemble, and you'll begin to see the potential diversity of this accessory.
So, keep the features in mind. If you've got a tablet you want to take with you, make sure it'll fit. If you want a soft leather that's going to last, make sure it's quality hide. But don't forget to listen to your gut on this one. You know your style; let it shine.
How The Padfolio Can Fight Child Labor, Sort Of
In 1826, Godillot of Paris made a carpet bag with a hinged frame of iron. This was the first sealed luggage of its time, and it is the predecessor to the briefcase as we know it today, and that, in turn lead to the advent of the padfolio.
Before that, most traveling required some kind of trunks made either of wood or of metal.
Before that, most traveling required some kind of trunks made either of wood or of metal. The good thing about trunks, of course, is that it's harder for baggage porters to tell if there are people stowed away inside. Bony stowaways tend to poke out a bit through your standard cloth bags.
Over time, the carpet bag was sized down considerably, and later, as electronic correspondence entered the modern business world, the need to carry enough material to fill an entire briefcase was diminished.
It almost feels like a loss, though, to think that kids aren't going to get to play at being adults by manipulating a briefcase that's clearly too big for them, and try to amble out the door with it on their way to "work." That was one of my favorite games as a kid, and it's adorable to behold.
Some of the larger padfolios might offer a similar experience, but the electronic devices within are more or less targeted at children already, so the juxtaposition loses its power. It's almost too easy, and possibly too expensive, for kids to handle and use them.