The world of vaporizers is easier to navigate than you think.
In the early 2010s, I had a few friends with tabletop vaporizers and it always felt like an event when they whipped them out. These tabletop varieties took time to warm up and calibrate before we could take turns sucking either a rubber hose or a vapor-filled bag. Believe me, it was a production, so I relegated it to the novelty weed category alongside six-foot gravity bongs and phallic pipes. Cut to 2019 and I’m outside Target rifling through my bag in search of one of my four different vaping devices for a quick puff before I go buy white wine.
“Vape users are spared from smoke because vaporizers use low heat.”
The end of prohibition created a dizzying surplus of cannabis, which in turn led to the popularity of extraction. Hundreds of pounds of cannabis can take up a lot of real estate, but when concentrated into manageable amounts, all that weed becomes easier to store, easier to move, and frankly, far more versatile as a product than dried flower. With extracts and concentrates, users experience clean, nuanced highs without combusting and inhaling caustic smoke. No ash, no skunky perfume, no cannabis crumbs, no bong water or resin-crusted bowls, and most of all, significantly fewer carcinogens.
Vape users are spared from smoke because vaporizers use low heat. To give you a little perspective, cannabinoids begin to vaporize around 284°F, but joints and bong rips burn at an impressive 450°F. In lieu of fire, vaporizers use convection or conduction to maintain low temperatures while preserving those precious cannabinoids and
If you’ve ever wondered what differentiates vaporizers, why they’re so popular, and what to factor in when choosing one, then this is the guide for you.
What: Preloaded with extract for on-the-go use
Who should use them: Everyone and their mother
When you want to audition extracts before committing to a reusable pocket vape, all-in-one, disposable vapes are the way to go. Old Pal, Leune, and dosist all make pre-filled devices that are ready to go, and options like dosist's bliss thc-plus dose pen are already calibrated to deliver consistent dosages with each draw. They are also less likely to have temp controls, making the entire experience incredibly simple. For better or worse, they’re ultra discreet and will likely disappear in a backpack pocket full of actual pens. For those who are new to vaping, all-in-one vapes are a great way to explore concentrates without breaking the bank.
Pen Vapes for Concentrates
What: Batteries to be used with concentrate-filled cartridges
Who should use them: New-ish vape users looking for more variety
The most common of the aforementioned devices is the cartridge-ready, 510-thread, pen vape. Pen vapes are basically just batteries, and you may hear them referred to as such. They connect to the atomizer located in the base of a cartridge, making contact (hello conduction!) to heat the product to the correct temperature. My first pen came free with my extract purchase, which illustrates just how abundant these devices are and their negligible cost compared to the concentrates and extracts they vaporize.
Precise temperatures are critical to a positive vaping experience, so discerning vapers may not jive with low-end pen vapes because the conduction method of heating can result in a burnt or unevenly heated product. Most mid-range and high-end pen vapes have adjustable temperature settings, so overcooked product is less of an issue. Pen vapes are ubiquitous, but when shopping for your own, look for a brand with at least three temperature settings, like the Vuber Pilot Pro or G Pen. And be sure to pair them with premium products like Old Pal's Purple Punch Cartridge or Heavy Hitters Pineapple Express Cartridge.
Pen Vapes for Flower
What: Devices that vaporize dried flower
Who should use them: Flower fanatics who want to give their lungs a break
If you’re looking to vaporize dried flower, there are now plenty of vapes that do just that. Grasshopper and Atmos Jump are two highly rated examples of dry herb pen vapes that utilize convection, and as such require a different type of maintenance. While oil pen vapes only require you to change out the cartridge once it’s used up, dried herb vapes require more deliberate cleanings and specialized tools to do so. But the experience is fresh, healthy and more than worth the effort, so grab some Dark Dosi or Alien OG and give it a shot.
What: Advanced devices that vaporize flower, concentrates, and/or extracts
Who should use them: Vape connoisseurs
Portable vapes are similar to pen vapes convenience-wise, but shape and temperature control are where they differ. Products like the PAX Era or G Pen Gio (which both require compatible cartridges), Atmos Micro Pal, and OOZE Cruze are all examples of palm-sized portables that share a lot of the same qualities as pen vapes. They tend to be a little more advanced than your average pen, and as a result may not come off to the untrained eye as straight-up writing instruments. If you pick one of these up, be sure to pair a PAX with a pod like Maui Wowie PAX Era Pod, and no Gio is complete without a Gelato Pod.
There are also portable vapes on the market that vaporize dry herb as well as extracts and concentrates. They're a bit more complicated than your concentrate-only vape devices, and their cost reflects that. In portable dry herb vapes, flower is vaporized in a chamber via convection as opposed to the conduction method most concentrate vape pens utilize. Devices that can perform the dual services of convection and atomizer conduction aren’t being given away for free with a half gram of extract, but they’re worth every bit of the expense if you’re diametrically opposed to smoking via combustion. PAX 3 and Kandypens' Miva 2 are both top-notch examples of portable vapes that deftly handle extracts as well as flower. Pick one up and pack it full of some Indica Live Resin from Dime Bag to end your day the right way.
What: Add-ons for dry herb, extracts, and concentrates
Who should use them: Advanced vape connoisseurs
Dry herb tanks and wax atomizers are common ways to modify pocket vaporizers designed specifically for use with oil cartridges, dry herb, or dabs. They allow you to have more functionality at a fraction of the price of a portable dry herb vaporizer or dab rig. The learning curve can be steep, and modifications to the vape can often include replacing the battery as well as the e-coil heating element in favor of more powerful versions, but it can be well worth the effort.
What: Large devices for dry herb, extracts, and concentrates
Who should use them: The most diehard of vape connoisseurs
Maybe you keep them on your kitchen counter or bedside table, but the point is these vapes are too big for on-the-go use and are more in league with the hefty vaporizers I was rhapsodizing about in paragraph one. Aside from size, what differentiates tabletop devices from pocket vapes in most cases is the heating feature. Most desktop vaporizers utilize convection, passing precisely heated air over the dried herb, vaporizing trichomes evenly and efficiently without burning off cannabinoids and tasty terpenes. In 2010, the Volcano was the height of my recreational vaporizing. But now my mind is getting regularly blown by the vast variety of recreational vaporizers that are power-tool-esque and in some cases borderline decorative. For example, Da Buddha and Arizer Extreme Q are both desktop vaporizers that could plainly sit on any bookshelf or end table as an ornament. The Storz & Bickel Plenty, on the other hand, looks like a cross between an electric auger and a cordless drill.
Dab rigs can also fall into this category. The water-filtering, torch-heating, multi-chambered process definitely qualifies as a desktop operation, but high-end devices like the Puffco Peak are streamlining this process by incorporating electronic heating elements. In any case, desktop vaporizers are an investment, so take your time before committing wholeheartedly to one of these formidable pieces of machinery.
Integrating vapes into your old-school smoking repertoire is a great way to diversify your proverbial weed portfolio. Consider starting with a disposable pen, and if you love the effects, graduate to your own multi-temp pocket vape. And if you reach the final frontier and invest in a tabletop device, invite me over sometime. I love a good novelty.