23 October 2023

Are A5 Organisers Too Big and Bulky?

How do you manage to use an A5 organiser, aren't they too big and bulky to use on a daily basis? 

That is one of the various questions I've been asked in the many years I've mainly used the A5 format. 

What are the advantages of using A5? 

  • Larger page size that gives you plenty of space for even the busiest of people.
  • The ease of being able to create your own inserts. 
  • A5 paper is available locally (for me) 
Yes if you use a large ring (30-35mm) size A5 then yes it can get quite heavy and bulky. My current A5 weighs in at 1.16 kg (2.56lbs) that includes:
  • 15 months of week on two pages inserts printed on 80gsm paper (2024 included)
  • All my accessories, pens etc
  • Information and notes pages etc etc. 
The A5 I'm currently using is a Gillio A5 Compagna that I bought several years ago in navy blue. I have fitted 30mm rings to it. 

In my case my A5 mostly sits open on my desk like in the photograph above. Therefore the weight and bulk is less important to me. 

However, there are times when I travel with my organiser and I need something a bit more compact. How do I cope with that? 

A5 organisers are also available in smaller ring sizes. In my 'collection' I have A5's in 35, 30, 25, 20 and 16 mm ring sizes:
  • 35mm - Typically Van der Spek Customs or Touch Me Manger size.
  • 30mm - Typically Filofax Malden, Finsbury etc.
  • 25mm - A lot of Filofax and other brands available in this size.
  • 20mm - I have a Filofax Fusion A5, but this size was also used in the Filofax Adelphi, Luxe and Pennybridge Zip organisers. 
  • 16mm - Filofax Heritage, Chester Compact A5
See this list on FiloWiki for all Filofax model details. 

I have found using smaller ring sizes when travelling not a major problem to overcome. This last summer I travelled to Slovenia and Austria for three weeks and I needed to use something a bit smaller and lighter. 

I opted to use the organiser section out of my Filofax Fusion iPad case/organiser which has 20mm rings, it is also fairly hard wearing and light. 

I reduced the number of pages I was carrying by omitting a lot of my reference/information pages that would not have been used during the trip. 

I was still able to carry my 12 months (2023) diary insert, blogging calendar and some notes and information pages. Basically just the essentials for the trip. 

When at home, in the past I have used the Filofax Heritage on my desk with just the 12 months of diary inserts, blogging calendar and a few notes pages. The other sections I have put in another A5 because I don't refer to them every day. The advantage of this set up was I could easily carry the Heritage in my messenger bag. 

Read the full review I did of the Heritage Compact A5 here. One disadvantage to the Heritage is the lack of pockets in the cover for additional paperwork and cards etc. 

Please note: Exact ring mechanism measurements can vary depending on the date of manufacture. A5 Compact size organisers made before August 2021 come with slightly smaller 15mm rings; those made from August 2021 onward contain 20mm rings.

There is also the Filofax Chester Compact A5 which gets over this issue. 

With so many options available in A5 I'm sure there is one that will be the right size for your every day needs. 

Here are my top tips for how to use your A5 without it becoming a back breaker!
  • Choose the right ring size binder for your every day needs, don't go too big!
  • Be strict with what pages you keep in your A5, do you really need lots of spare pages, just in case!?
  • Consider splitting your sections between every day and not so frequently required. 
  • Use a second A5 for the less frequently used sections so your every day ones can be contained in as small a ring size as possible. 
  • When travelling only include the pages you will actually need on that trip, remove unnecessary pages and leave them at home. 
  • We all have a tendency to add to our organisers, no matter what size, set yourself a reminder to review the contents of your organiser on a regular basis, I do this every 6 months. If nothing else it will refresh your memory as to what is stored in what section. This is something I need to do myself after discovering the weight of my current A5 set-up!
Are you put off from using an A5 organiser? Would you reconsider using one now? 


  1. Thank you Steve, interesting as always! I had a Malden A5, but for work since years I’m using A5 compact Heritage it fits all my needs.

  2. One correction - 16mm - Filofax Heritage A5 - I do not think Filofax sells them anymore. On their product pictures for A5 there are still indeed the old versions with 16mm and smooth ring surface, in reality they now come with 20 mm rings and two visible pins in the spine of the rings. Ugly as hell in brownish rust like steel, not silver.. I returned mine when ordered one and was taken by surprised receiving 20mm. Its obvious - bigger is better nowdays so the overstuffed Filofaxes close to explosion are the new trend and are for some reason wanted . . .at least from video reviews on Youtube. If you want thinner profiles and 11 / 15 mm rings - the Plotter and Etsy shops like WuzhiStudio or Japanese Ashford - are your only options. Filofax no more, unfortunately.

    1. Hi, Thanks for your observations. I will add a note to the post to show that there have been changes. As you say some of the 'first release' are still around new or second hand which is like mine. But even a 20mm ring one is going to be fairly compact.
      Once again thanks for your contribution.

  3. Steve, thanks for this post on an issue I find very pertinent. I used Personal size Filofaxes for several years but, after my career progressed, needed something more for work and went to an A5. I tried a few different A5 binders, but they tended to become too heavy to carry around with me all the time as i would stuff them to capacity (as you say 25 and 30mm rings are not for daily carry). When the Heritage Compact came out, I bought one, and now use two A5s -- a large 30mm Stratford for archival purposes and the Heritage Compact for current use. Two tactics I use to combat "Filofax bloat" are i) weekly grooming, part of my regular Monday morning planning routine, and ii) to produce a series of reference pages formatted for A5 paper on my PC -- I can print them out as needed to carry in my Filofax, or refer to them on my laptop. Anyone have any other tips?

  4. I need the space of an A5 for my weeklies but it's too bulky for carrying it around, so I use a traditional A5 weekly planner, and I have a separate personal Filofax I use as a bullet journal. It contains my monthly to do lists, the daily logs, and all the lists I need. This system works so well for me!

  5. Thanks for clarifying about the A5 Heritage moving to 20mm rings two years ago. Also note that the A5 Compact Chester has been shown as out of stock/ unavailable (certainly in the UK) in all colours for many months.

  6. I carried a Half Letter Day Runner Pro and then an A5 Filofax for about 12 years, everywhere I went, because I felt that due to the nature of my work, I needs more writing space than a Personal size could offer. While it was admittedly bulky, I have also always carried a messenger bag with me everywhere I went since my high school years, so I always had room to carry my organizer.

    In 2013, having mostly mothballed my consultancy, I moved to a Personal Buckingham, because I realized that I was no longer willing to carry my A5 Bridle. I also chose at that point to use my Filofax as my wallet, so that I would be forced to always carry it with me. I now find my Personal to be slightly too bulky, but I am willing to put up with it, because there isn't a smaller size that meets all of my needs.

    At one point, I even went to the trouble of designing an entirely new format I called "Chibi" that was slightly smaller than Personal, but the expense that would be involved in making even one prototype is so high that I realized that continuing to carry my Personal is still the best option for me. The only times I find it difficult is for formal events, but those are fewer in my life, now.

    If I ever hit the lottery, I'll form a new company and start producing my Chibi organizers for sale, but for now, it remains a dream out of reach.

  7. Thanks for your interesting post. I agree with you -- the Personal page size doesn't have enough space for business use. But I think it is an excellent compromise of being easy to carry (in a briefcase or bag, of course) and large enough for personal use. I will most probably go back to a Personal-size Filofax when I retire. Interesting that you designed your own format!

  8. For years we have been looking for a practical notebook, preferably with rings if possible, in A5 for quick notes at home, which should definitely fit into a very narrow compartment (2.3cm) in our coffee table.
    We have always been annoyed with bound notebooks or other impractical alternatives because normal ring binders are simply too thick for the table compartment.
    And then a few months ago I came across the Systemic Notebook Covers from the Japanese manufacturer Kokuyo - and we are absolutely thrilled and happy. It comes with a practically structured, high-quality spiral notebook, which we use for other things.
    For the cover we bought the Kokuyo Campus Smart ring binder, which has a special ring system made of plastic with 20 very small rings (approx. 1cm).
    The great paper - 10 sheets are included - can be purchased later; we also punch simple paper ourselves with a 1-hole hole punch. About 25-30 sheets fit into the ring binder.
    The cover is simply brilliant and incredibly versatile.
    It has many different, variable compartments/pockets, including on the outside on both sides (even the new Kindle Paperwhite with a 6.8 inch display fits in there), ribbon markers, a pen loop and an elastic band for closure.
    And also an ingenious, fold-out compartment that can accommodate slightly larger notebooks than A5 (it can be folded completely and the cover then becomes a kind of writing board).
    The whole thing is also very light and robust.
    We now have both versions of the cover (1x only with an outer material made of textile with 2 permanently attached ribbon bookmarks in black and 1x made of textile and imitation leather with 3 ribbon bookmarks, 2 of which can be exchanged, in navy).
    For the coffee table we use the slightly thinner one made only from textile - including the ring binder, the whole thing is just 1cm thick (the ring system nestles into the spine of the cover).
    I use the second one as needed, for example for drawing.
    A total of up to 3 notebooks fit in the cover (including 1 with rings or spiral).