Buyer's Guide to Vaporizers (for Beginners)
We’ve put together a “talk to me like I’m five” guide of terms and considerations that might pop up in your search for the perfect vape.
Why is vapor better, you ask?
The most important thing to understand is that vapor does not combust your material. Instead of the fire-hot heat you get from a lighter, a good vaporizer uses steady, gentle heat without ever burning. The upsides include:
- Significantly reduces byproducts
- Eliminates need for butane lighters
- Reduces long-term risks caused by smoke
- No strong, lingering scent
- Discreet appearance
- Portable if that’s your preference
- Versatile between dry herbs and concentrates
FIRST: How Do You Like Your Herbs?
What’s your most commonly used form of legal herb and tobacco (also known as “Boo” around these parts of the interweb)? Vaporizer manufacturers tend to target either a particular material type or versatility as a point. Long-time vapers recommend you get a separate vaporizer for dry herb and concentrates. However, many beginners like to start out with a single multifunctional vape--often called a 3-in-1 or 2-in-1 vaporizer. Here are a few of the terms that will come up in when reading vape descriptions:
Concentrates --These include liquid e-juice, oil, wax, and glass extracts.
Dry Herb --Flower in its unprocessed form. Dry herb enthusiasts should consider the size of their loading chamber. Desktop and ultra-portable vaporizers tend to outshine slender vaporizer pens when it comes to ground material. To keep your dry herb vape operating at high performance, grind your herbs well to stop clogs. 7th Floor Vapes has even gone so far as to include a self-stirring function for dry herb.
Liquid-- Oftencalled essential oils or e-juice, this low-viscosity concentrate is typically found in cartridges (or “tanks”) that are either reloadable or disposable. You’ll want to get a device with a threading that matches your preferred cartridge brand, 510 being the most universal.
Glass -- This solid extract is wax in its sturdiest form (pictured above), usually shattered into smaller pieces and praised for being easier to work with than wax in a honey form. It can typically be used with any wax concentrate vaporizer.
Wax -- Thick, viscous, and honey-like. Called “glass” in solid form. Waxes work well with eNails and portable/pen vapes. Wax-friendly devices often include a glass dome or attachment. Because wax thins into a liquid when heated, many engineers have added spill-proof designs such as Cloud Vapes’ “Generation Snap” technology to protect your pocket.
SECOND: How Portable Should it Be?
Couchsurfers and outdoor adventurers may have a different opinion in how travel-ready they need a vaporizer to be. The three main levels of portability include the stationary desktop vaporizer, the battery-powered portable vaporizers, and-- most portable and lightweight -- are vape pens.
Desktop Vaporizer --Vaporizer technology all began with trendsetting desktop vapes like the timeless classic Volcano by Storz & Bickel. These devices plug directly into a wall outlet. This makes for unmatched cloud power that doesn’t dwindle over time, but does sacrifice movement.
Portable Vaporizer --Portable and ultra-portable vaporizers are the in-between of desktop and pen models. Models like the Storz & Bickel “Crafty” deliver more power than a slender pen while still boasting the battery power that allows you to take it anywhere. In general, portables use your uncontained dry herb or concentrate, rather than a threaded cartridge.
Vaporizer Pen --If you’ve used the writing utensil before, these are easy to distinguish. Most vape pens feature a slender silhouette for on-the-go vapor. While a few pen models offer dry herb compatibility, their strength typically lies in concentrates. If you already have a favorite cartridge brand, find out what threading and battery/temp matchup they recommend in a pen. Concentrate-makers can have a specific recommendation the way brewers believe a certain beer tastes best out of the right shape glass.
E-Nail --eNails and eRigs are for waxy concentrates and aromatherapy dabs only. These devices use electronic heating instead of a torch like the Triple Jet Flame Torch by Cinderwitch pictured above.
THIRD: Quality Parts & Features
These are the bits and pieces you may want to customize to your own vape style. When you’re just starting out, you’ll just want to have a basic understanding as to what these do.
Atomizer --This is the heating chamber that turns concentrates to vapor. Beginners will probably prefer a popular clearomizer pen that uses disposable cartridges in which the heating device is included and doesn’t need to be maintained. If you are opting for a refillable concentrate tank, it’s good to know that ceramic atomizers are generally most popular. While dry herb atomizers do exist, the technology still tends to put your herbs at risk of burning.
Forced Air -- Forced air vapes typically propel clean vapor through a “balloon” or “whip” tube using an internal fan. Some advanced devices even allow you to control this airflow. You’ll most commonly find this feature in a desktop device, but engineers have begun to introduce forced air into portable technology.
Coil --This is one of the most integral elements of your atomizer, typically crafted from titanium. You’ll want to be careful not to injure your coil in cleanings as it will compromise your device. You can see a variety of coil-atomizer combos pictured below--the coils is the piece that looks like a spring. A “rod” or “wick” feeds your concentrate through the coil for even heating. If there is no coil, it is called a “dish” used to directly load in thick concentrates.
Thread --These are the parts of your vaporizer that look like a screw, and the thread is the measurement we use to match it. You’ll probably find most vaporizer pens, attachments, and battery bases fitted with universal 510 threading. However, it’s best to double check before you accidentally purchase a more obscure size that’s hard to match at the cartridge store.
FOURTH: Temp Range
Nearly all of today's vapes come with optimized temperature presets. Vape pens require the leastamount of temp control, while digital vaporizers offer total control.
The 101-level vaporizer rule of thumb is:
- Under 356°F is too low to get the job done- 390°F to 410°F is ideal in activating ingredients with a smooth vapor- 455°F or higher risks combustion.
Connoisseurs will have much to say about their own personal preferences, but this is a good starting point. Many one-button devices eliminate the guesswork entirely with microchip technology that automatically maintains an optimal temperature. More advanced enthusiasts, however, may prefer the precise temperature control of a digital vape display.
Convection vs Conduction Heating --
Conduction heats the air around your material, while convection heats your material directly. Conduction tends to be the preferred method of vapor production, because it has a lower risk of combustion. Many devices will use a combination of both methods.
LAST: Battery Power
This isn’t an issue desktop vapers need to consider, but portable and pen users will want to get familiar with. The best thing you can do to maximize battery efficiency is flip through your device’s user manual with customized instructions. This will help you get to know your vape without getting too technical. Before you buy a device, read user reviews of the model you’re considering to see how the battery holds up in real life.
The following list will give you a basic understanding of battery terms so you can get the idea if they come up:
Lithium Ion --This is the most popular battery type. Compared to traditional rechargeables, lithium ion holds twice as much energy, is lightweight, and better on the environment.
mAh -- (milliampere-hour) is how long your battery will last before it needs to be recharged. You’ll notice a more compact device, like Cloud Vapes’ 250 mAh Mini, will have a lower mAh than heftier portables, like the full-day Vapium Summit Plus 3300mAh. This is because they have less to power up and can be recharged quickly on the go.
Voltage, Ohm, & Wattage --You can take vaping to the next level by diving into these aspects, but the beginner can typically trust the manufacturer to make the right call here. Adjusting these amounts can create massive vapor clouds with more complex devices like APVs and Mods. For a sneak peak, you can take a look at this chart:
That’s it! Not as intimidating as you thought, right? Now you can start shopping for your perfect vapor style with confidence.