As vaporizer use continues to permeate our lives consumers have a mind-blowing amount of devices to choose from to help them enjoy vaping. People who are just entering the vape-scape will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed by the multitude of options presented. Different heating methods, concentrate vs. dry herb use, style of the vaporizer, the choices can seem daunting. Gimmicky vapes can easily lead users astray (hint: no good product is described as “dab-tastic”) and but a bitter taste in their mouth after a less than ideal maiden vape purchase, so it is essential to do a little bit of research before snagging your first vape. Aside from just performance, price and personal style are critical factors in discovering your perfect vape: it’s not silly to want a device that reflects your vibe and outgoingness so embrace the choices presented to you. Hopefully, this guide helps make your initial vape purchase a smooth one.
PEN, PORTABLE, OR DESKTOP VAPE?
Right off the bat, you should figure out how you’ll be using your vape. Are you a commuter that needs to enjoy dry herb on the bus? Or maybe you’re a homebody who has an “only consume 5 feet from bed” rule, no matter your lifestyle there is a perfect vape for you. The three major type of vaporizers are vape pens, portable vapes, and desktop units. Vape pens and portable vapes have much more of a mobile factor than desktops, but desktop vaporizers tend to be more reliable and long-lasting than smaller units.
The three vape-sketeers!
It may seem like vape pens and portable vapes are the same thing, but some strong distinctions seperate them. While vape pens are technically portable vapes, portable vapes aren’t vape pens, this is like in geometry when the teacher blew your mind with the “a square is a rectangle by definition, but a rectangle cannot be a square” lesson. Vape pens are shaped after their namesake, pens. They’re uber-portable and tailor-made for active users, the heating system on vape pens is usually conduction, meaning the heating element is in direct contact with your dry herb or concentrate. The reason conduction heating is used in these models is the speed at which it heats up, but conduction can sometimes lack in the flavor department as the heating element may heat up too quickly to extract all the flavors of your concentrate or dry herb. Vape pens come equipped with pre-calibrated temperature settings as they are too small to offer full temperature control.
In the battle of pen vs. portable, we all win.
Portable vaporizers are thicker and more “boxy” looking than vape pens. Still very portable, this type of vaporizer will produce more considerable clouds than vape pens and have extended battery life. As opposed to conduction heating, portable vaporizers often use convection style heating which means that air is heated up and then passes over your material vaporizing each portion evenly inside the oven. Convection heating is preferred by those who want to experience the full flavor of their material. Some portable vapes come equipped with precision temperature, giving you absolute control to the degree your material is vaporized at. If you’re looking for a heftier unit that can produce rig-style hits from the palm of your hand than a portable vape is for you, these units can produce colossal vapor clouds and flavor experiences that vape pens cannot match all while still being able to travel with you anywhere.
Actual photo of a desktop vape before it is tamed.
The “big bodies” of the vape world are desktop vaporizers. These are for users who want to vape in the privacy of their own home for an extended session. If you’re someone who tends to lose things (things shaped like, pens lets just say) desktop vaporizers are the perfect vape to kepp track of. Desktop vape’s heating systems are more efficient than pens or portable units, extracting the perfect combination of flavor and effects from your dry herb or concentrate. All desktop vaporizers have temperature control, so you can experiment with different flavor experiences from your strains or concentrates. Price wise this style of vape is definitely in the upper-echelon, but for those looking for consistency and reliability, the money will be well spent.
CONCENTRATE VS DRY HERB VAPING
After you’ve decided on the style of your vape it is important to distinguish if you’ll be enjoying concentrates or dry herb from your device. This will ultimately come down to the effects you’re used to feeling when consuming from a pipe or cone. Concentrates will provide a much higher potency compared to dry herbs. Vaping dry herbs makes it easier for users to measure out their dosage as you can remove dry herb from your bowl if you think you’ve packed too much, whereas concentrates it is only really possible to add material to your session, so starting off with a small amount and slowly adding is usually the wisest decision for those new to vaporizers.
Flavor extraction is one of the more important aspects of finding the right vape, the taste of your material is meant to be enjoyed and enhances the overall experience of consumption. Vaping dry herb lets you get a taste of all the flavor compounds since it is just the pure, unfiltered material that is being consumed. Vaporizing concentrates, since all of them go through an extraction process, means there is a tendency to give out a more distinctive flavor as some terpenes may be lost during extraction. To combat this “flavor loss” a lot of vape companies construct their vape ovens out of inert ceramic so that there is no “off-taste” to your concentrates.
KandyPens offers a coilless ceramic atomizer to boost your flavor experience
There really isn’t a “right” answer to this question. It used to be that dry herb vapes dominated the market and therefore had the most current tech installed in them, but as concentrate use has gained more traction the playing field between dry herb vapes and concentrate vapes has leveled considerably. If you’re a user who enjoys each form of consumption and want to hedge your bets you can always get a “dual use” vaporizer.
The Boundless Tera is easily switched between dry herb and concentrate use
Knowing people don’t like carrying around too many accessories vape companies like Boundless have created dual-use vaporizers. Thanks to stainless-steel inserts a lot of dry herb vapes can easily convert to vaping concentrates, you’ll just add the concentrate to the included pad and insert it into the chamber of your vape. Dual compatibility vapes are a fantastic way to experiment with either material and will never leave you out to dry if you only have dry herb or concentrate.
Find Your Vape Price Point
In the search for your perfect vape it is important to know that you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to find a well-performing vape, but like any other electronics purchase skimping out on price will probably lead to performance problems later on. If you’re more of a casual consumer, there is no problem with spending less than $50 on your vaporizer. Users that want to jump head-on into the vape-pool can go for higher-end models that easily breach the $200 mark, like the above mentioned Tera, that will never leave you wanting more regarding performance.
Tried and true companies like SOURCE have produced models like the Source 10Cig Quartz that can vaporize concentrates wonderfully for as low as $10, it is important to note that while other vaporizers can be found for the same price point, you should always buy an economically friendly option from a well-established company. Un-branded units tend to not provide customers with adequate support or in some cases even instruction manuals. It’s not misguided to think you can get the perfect vape for cheap, but it would be foolish not to research the brand you’ll be trusting with your dry herb or concentrate enjoyment.
SOURCE provides two atomizers with the $10 10Cig Quartz
More pricer vaporizers, like desktops or portable vapes, are going to wow you by their consistent performance and even vaporization. The majority of desktop vaporizers will be in the $200+ range and are perfect for at home consumption. When you enter the higher price range of vaporizers construction and quality of the unit sky-rockets. Heating elements will often be entirely separate from the unit’s electronic’s to produce toxin-free vapor. The OG of the desktop vaporizer, the Volcano, has remained virtually unchanged since it’s debut for one reason: it just works. This example is a little more expensive than most (coming in at a cool $479) but is a testament to how pricer vaporizers often perform as well as their sticker price suggests.
YOUR PERFECT VAPE STYLE
This is where things get a little more fun when searching for your perfect vape. Most of the models you’ve seen on this page have been some combination of black, silver, or black and silver. This is great if you’re looking for subdued, stealthy like vibes (or a huge Raiders fan) but some people might enjoy a vaporizer with a little more personality and charm. While the color of your vaporizer has no bearing on its performance capabilities (other than discretion), it can help to put you in the right mood during your session.
Brands like KandyPens and Pulsar offer colorful vaporizers that are not only eye-catching but high performing as well. Aesthetically vaporizers tend to skew towards the “mundane,” which makes sense given the level of discretion some people need. If you’re looking for your first vape to take to a festival or group outing, you won’t be lacking for options.
GOOD LUCK ON YOUR JOURNEY
Don’t get discouraged if your perfect vape is eluding you, take time to do a little bit of research into what performance needs you have, vibe you’re going for, and make sure to budget. For more in-depth info on what vaping is as a whole check out our "What is Vaping" page. There is a vape out there for everyone!
Charles Mockler is a vaporizer critic and writer at The VaporNation Blog, a leading source for expert opinions and information about vaporizers. His blogs are read by tens of thousands of people each month. He specializes in the latest technology trends including induction heating and decarboxylation.
Charles' goal is to provide readers with reliable, helpful, and balanced opinions on vaping. He does not recommend vaping to those who don't already smoke, but his articles do offer advice for existing vape enthusiasts including reviews and how-tos about the latest vaporizers. Charles has reviewed and tested a myriad of vaporizers and recommends people do as much research as possible before buying any vaporizer.
Charles was introduced to vaping after moving to Los Angeles during the vaporizer boom. A fan of "true vaporization," he prefers convection vapes with ceramic ovens. His articles include What is an Induction Vaporizer?, How to Decarb Dry Herb, and 8 Best Electric Dab Rigs of 2018.
A graduate of the University of Montana, Charles now resides in the Greater Los Angeles area where he reviews vaporizers and hosts a podcast about the Los Angeles Clippers.