Pilot Explorer Fountain Pen (Grey) Review
– Handwritten Review –
- Review Ink: Included black Pilot cartridge
- Review Paper: Bull & Stash notebook
- Description: An affordable entry into the Pilot line of fountain pens, made to celebrate their 100th anniversary.
- Nib: Medium, steel
- Filling Mechanism: Cartridge/Converter (not included)
- Weight: 11 grams
- Measurements: 5.5″ capped, 6.5″ posted
- Color Options: Blue, Red, Green, Light Blue, Grey, and Pink
Handwritten Review Scans:
The Explorer is one of Pilot’s newest offerings in the world of entry-level fountain pens. It’s a metallic plastic pen. Everything except for the steel nib is plastic. The pen is very much plastic. To be honest, I’m having a hard time with this one, especially when put up against their more affordable Metropolitan. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just in competition directly with another pen that Pilot makes and that’s the only thing that makes it hard to recommend. Either way, let’s take a closer look at the Explorer and what sets it apart from the pack.
This pen was sent over for consideration by Goldspot Pens. Guess what? We’re giving one away too! Keep an eye out for a separate post for giveaway rules and instructions on how to enter very shortly. Should you not want to wait, you can snag a Pilot Explorer from Goldspot for a hair under $24.
Appearance & Packaging:
The metallic plastic on the Explorer is quite nice. Out of the available colors, the grey spoke to me the most (huge surprise). There’s some nice depth and shine to the material, and I think it comes through nicely in photos and in person. The main decoration on the pen is in the form of matte black plastic ridges with shiny spots showing through in between. You can see this on the tail of the pen body and top of the cap. There’s also similar ridges on the other end of the cap where it meets the body of the pen. They look pretty cool and add some visual flair to an otherwise straightforward pen. Another interesting design element is the multi-layered cap. There’s a circular window in line with the Pilot logo that adds some depth and visual intrigue to the pen. It doesn’t serve a purpose other than looking cool, and to me that’s totally fine. Supporting the steel nib, you’ll find a clear plastic smoky grey grip section with a slight flare near the nib to prevent inky fingers.
Packaging of the Explorer doesn’t make much sense to me. It feels too nice for the pen. There’s an outer cardboard box that holds a pill-shaped plastic clamshell case with a foam insert. The pen is presented nicely, and I think a little bit too much so for the pen. I know it’s probably super cheap for Pilot to use a case like this when ordering thousands of them, but I would forego fancy packaging and reinvest that money into improving the pen. A more durable metal clip would make a huge difference.
Nib Performance & Filling System:
Pilot nibs (steel included) are usually pretty darn good. The medium nib on my review example is no exception. It lays down a nice line, perhaps a bit on the thinner side for a medium. There’s not much else to say, other than it just plain works. If you’re looking for an entry-level fountain pen that’ll start right up and give you a pleasant writing experience, it’s hard to go wrong with a Pilot.
Inside the box, you’ll find a black ink cartridge. There’s no included converter, but you can use one with the pen. Pilot uses proprietary converters to fit their feeds, so keep that in mind should you want to use your own bottled ink. A CON-40 should do the trick, but it does add another seven bucks onto the price of the pen.
Being made entirely of plastic without the added weight of an inked up converter inside, the Explorer is very light. Weighing in at a scant 11 grams, it’s barely noticeable in hand. For reference, a Lamy Safari weighs 17 grams, a Pilot Metropolitan weighs 26 grams, and the Lamy 2000 weighs 25g (a pen I consider to be a great balance of heft, comfort, and feel). If you prefer a lightweight pen, the Explorer is a great option. Personally, I think the lighter weight paired with the plastic construction makes the Explorer feel a bit cheap. Posting the cap while writing adds some significant length to the pen which can be a bit unwieldy. If you shed the cap, then the weight of the body alone is down to a feather-light 6 grams. For me, it’s too light. My preference is for something with a bit more heft and a solid feel. The Explorer is not that pen for me. Those with arthritis or carpal tunnel may appreciate the weight when it’s hard to write with something heavy for long periods of time.
- Metallic plastic looks great
- Smooth Pilot nib
- Plastic body feels cheap in hand
- Questionable durability, especially the plastic clip
- Fierce competition in the lower end price bracket
- Box feels nicer than the pen
I just don’t know about the Pilot Explorer. There are sure to be some people out there who will like the pen, but I don’t think I’m one of them. For $10 less, you can get the excellent Pilot Metropolitan with a metal body, same nib, and slightly more classic styling. I’d recommend starting there over the Explorer. The name and back story also bother me a bit too. There’s nothing particularly adventurous, durable, or inspiring about the Explorer – something that it should be with such a name. This was one of the pens released for Pilot’s 100th anniversary, and I think I expected more from such a solid brand in the fountain pen world. I love my Metro, Vanishing Point, and 823 so it’s a bit of a let down to see something that had some fanfare leading up to it be so mediocre. Again, this is all personal opinion. Some people will like the pen for things that I see as a shortcoming. If the price was $10 instead of $25-$30, I think my review would be much different. Thank you for reading, and thanks again to Goldspot for sending the pen over to check out.
Disclaimer: This pen was sent for review and giveaway purposes, free of charge. Please do your due diligence when ordering something based on someone else’s recommendations.
5 thoughts on “Pilot Explorer Fountain Pen Review”
Your concise, to-the-point honesty in this review is really appreciated. You note all the nuances. I especially enjoy how you pick up on ironies such as that the packaging “. . . feels too nice for the pen.” Jeez. One can only wonder what goes on in the Pilot “think tank” to allow a riddle like this pen to be marketed as part of the 100th year celebration! Your point is well-taken that Pilot already has a superior, entry-level, proven winner in the Metro. Why not a few celebratory Metros to mark the occasion? Perhaps a multiple nib package, or some clever artwork?
(An aside: I agree to a certain extent about the quality of the Metro and it’s value at this price point, but will argue that the Platinum Preppy is a better writer, does not dry out, and is a better pen on several other counts. It is a shame that Platinum has not upgraded the Plaisir shell -such as by getting rid of the cheesy chrome ring that looks like it came out of a boardwalk gumball machine- to a more sophisticated and handsome docking shell. It could then also compete with the admittedly great looks of the Metro.)
Again, your honesty is refreshing on an Internet full of sycophants who seem to love every product they get for free, and merely worship at the shrine of consumerism. You supply the only antidote that can ever work (a mature integrity), and for that I heartily thank you.
Hey Brian, thank you for the kind words! It’s definitely a bit of a disappointing release. Since Pilot makes so many great pens, this seemed like a major misstep.
I didn’t love the Preppy for a few reasons. The color on the nib flaked off, and the bodies were a little fragile. I did have mine set up as eyedroppers, so perhaps that played into it as well.
In my case, I typically try to purchase review items that I think I’ll like. It’s a lot of time and effort spent on something that’s negative, which can be a bit of a bummer. I genuinely think there are a few redeeming qualities about the pen and some people may find my cons to be their pros. Either way, thanks for the comment and kind words and thanks for reading the site.
I would love to see reviews of either the Sailor or Platinum msuic writing pens.
I’m actually quite fond of mine. It feels kinda cheap, true, but I think the nib does its job just fine and I’m not too worried about it getting dinged up or anything.
Additionally I think the two “eyes” on the cap are there to help in pulling the pen out of a sleeve.
Ed, new here to your site, and I like it! Keep up the great work. I did, however see something that maybe I’m wrong on, or it got missed.
On my two Explorers, the writing on the nib says “Super Quality Japan” on them. When I checked my older (probably a year or so old), they say “Pilot Japan” on them. I believe the “Super Quality” nibs are the same as used in the Prera–which are pretty decent nibs, better I think, than the older Metro nibs.
Anyone know if the newest Metros come with the “Super Quality” marking on the nibs? I’m half tempted to order one to find out!
I do agree though, I MUCH prefer the heavier, metal build on the Metros, you feel like you are really getting your money’s worth, compared to the cheaper feeling (but well done) plastic on the Explorer.
Food for thought, please don’t take it as anything else, love your site!