Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

spartan wanderer

A Review: Fisher Space Pen

When people hear about how little I own, they naturally assume that either dislike material things or am simply ambivalent about what tools I buy to plod on through this deep, dark wilderness we call life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love solid products and research everything I buy before I buy it, probably a bit more than I should. I want something that is stylish, functional (preferably doing more than one thing) and is going to last me a while. This philosophy extends to everything. Yep, even a pen. 

Some of you old school guys might remember another pen review I did years ago. I still highly recommend Zebra pens, but I lost mine. It was a perfect opportunity to test out a pen that everyone has been talking about, from outdoor enthusiasts to EDC nerds, and that pen is the Fisher Space Pen. This is a very special pen who’s abilities will likely exceed any normal person’s needs. Let’s talk about it.

History Lesson

The urban legend is that, in the 1950s, NASA poured an insane amount of money into developing a special pen that could write in zero gravity while the Soviets just resigned themselves to using pencils. That’s not really true. Paul Fisher independently invented the Space Pen with his own capital and in 1965, asked NASA to try it out. After that, both NASA and the Soviet space program bought a shitload of them from Fisher, and the Space Pen was born.

What does it do?

The Space Pen was, well, a pen that could write in space. Zero G was the main obstacle that Fisher wanted to overcome, and he did that. However, selling a pen to NASA is a very specific niche and not that profitable compared to the research it took to develop it. Hence, the pen was adapted to do a load of other cool things.

Pressurized Altitudes - Let’s talk about what we know already. The pen’s cartridge is pressurized with nitrogen at 35 psi, which is why you can write in space with it. This also allows you to write at extreme altitudes, up to 3,800m. I experienced my own normal pens failing at 4,100m in while hiking around Mount Amnye Machen. This pressurized cartridge also guarantees the pen a 100 year shelf-life. 

Extreme Temperatures - The pen is guaranteed to write in the temperature range of −30 to 250 °F (−35 to 120 °C), great if you’re either an Antarctic or volcanic researcher. In Daqing, temperatures can reach that baseline in the winter, so this actually has some relevance to me. Although you can bet your ass I’m not sitting somewhere on park bench writing out there in that. 

Extreme Wetness - Again, the pressure forcing out the ink even allows this pen to write underwater or on top of grease. I tested this out using a Rite in the Rain notepad, and will throw up a video with this and a couple of other tests later. 

So, if you have any job that requires you to work in extreme conditions, this is the pen for you. I go hiking occasionally, so I guess it would be useful on the trail, but other than that, I can’t say that any of these features are relevant to me other than something I can brag about. If I ever start bragging about what my pen can do, please gently whisper in my ear to stop. 

Space Pens for everyone!

For such a specialized pen, I assumed there would only be couple of different styles. I was wrong. It’s actually amazing how many models and colors there are to choose from. I settled on the matte black Cap-O-Matic and the raw brass Bullet. I use the Cap-O-Matic as an everyday clicker ballpoint and it performs beautifully. I chose the raw brass Bullet as a fancier pen to use for meetings and such, and the brass will naturally oxidize overtime as it comes in contact with your skin oils, forming a nice patina. If you want something more colorful or an American flag, there's that too. 

Field Test

I really want to test out some of these features, notably the writing underwater, writing upside-down and writing in the extreme cold. Unfortunately, I’m writing this from North Carolina who winter forgot, so I’ll film all of this in Daqing where the temperature is still a dependently low -25°C. Until then, I’ll leave it up to you to decide weather the Space Pen is worth it or not!

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