You’ve finally decided to buy a vaporizer.
You may have already tried one owned by a friend, and you love how great the vapor tastes and feels, and how much product you can save.
You’re probably excited and eager to make a purchase, but also confused. It’s not like buying a glass pipe, where your options are usually limited to many variations of the same thing.
Instead, it seems like each vaporizer requires a set of skills. There are new terms and strange parts that don’t seem to fit anywhere. Prices are consistent only in that they all seem high, and sellers often assume you already know the language.
You might even want to give up searching for one. “At least smoking isn’t so complicated”, you think to yourself.
Fortunately, choosing a vaporizer is not as difficult as it first seems. By examining your needs, and the several broad categories, it’s possible to narrow your choices.
After reading this article, think about your preferences and how they relate to each of the points discussed. Then, compare the features of each of the models that catch your eye. Narrow it down to the ones which meet your needs. By the time you’ve done this, your list should have just a handful of options.
Let’s get started.
1. DO YOU WANT TO VAPE HERB, CONCENTRATE, OR BOTH?
The first thing to consider when looking for a vaporizer is what you plan to consume, or “vape”. It may sound obvious, but it makes a big difference. If you only vape concentrates, you probably won’t want a desktop model. If you only vape herbs, you won’t want to look at pen vapes.
Most retailers and vaporizer manufacturers will indicate whether a particular model is intended for herbs or concentrate. If you can’t figure it out, and you can’t get to Google, check out how it’s designed to work:
- A vaporizer designed for herbs will usually have a chamber, made of metal, glass or wood, and large enough to hold ground up plant material. A chamber is similar to a bowl.
- A vaporizer designed for concentrates will usually feature a tiny coil, about the size of a grain of rice, at the bottom of a small metal or ceramic cup.
Many vapes designed only for herbs can be used, with varying degrees of success, to vape concentrates. But it’s always better to use the product as it was designed. If not, you run the risk of breaking parts or voiding the warranty.
You can cover all bases by choosing one of the few models designed to be used with both herbs and concentrates.
2. DO YOU WANT A PORTABLE VAPORIZER, A DESKTOP VAPE, OR A PEN-STYLE VAPORIZER?
If you’ve already looked online, you’ve discovered there are almost countless options. With so many styles, it can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you can break all those vapes into three broad categories: Portable, Desktop, and Pen-Style. There’s also a fourth group sometimes called Semi-Portable. Most people don’t use this fourth term, but it makes things simpler, as you’ll see in a minute.
- A. DESKTOP VAPORIZERS
A desktop vaporizer is one that sits on a flat surface and allows you to vape almost hands-free. You’ll have to handle a whip or a bag, but the body of the vaporizer remains in one place.
Desktop vaporizers must be plugged in while in use. You will need to have a table, or a clear space on the floor, and access to a nearby outlet.
All desktop models allow you to vape herbs. A handful of models also vape concentrates, but this is not a common feature.
If you’re careful, you can often put a small amount of concentrate in the middle or on top of a filled herb chamber. Make sure the wax or oil doesn’t drip down inside the vaporizer as it heats. It will cause a mess, and might ruin your expensive device. Search around to see if others have reported success in vaping concentrates with a specific model, and don’t pass on a desktop vaporizer just because you enjoy concentrate from time to time.
Desktop vaporizers can be further categorized by those that use whips, and those that use bags.
- WHIPS: You might see some vaporizers referred to as “whip style”. Hot air is forced or pulled into the herb chamber, and vapor develops. The vapor is then inhaled through a long, flexible hose, or whip.
This style resembles a traditional hookah. All models allow for one hose; some models allow up to four people to vape at once. The entry level desktop models are all whip styles.
- BAGS: Bag-style vapes are less common, but still very popular. A bag of vapor can be consumed immediately, or it can sit for a few hours. You can share one at a party without worrying about breaking the vaporizer. And, it is harder to accidentally combust your material when filling a bag than when inhaling through a whip.
In a bag setup, a fan forces hot air through the herb chamber. But, instead of going through a whip, the vapor fills a plastic bag.
Some bag style vaporizers include a valve on the bag attachment so you can set it down after filling. Without a valve, it is impossible to save the vapor for later. If you like using bags, you will regret not having a valve. Vapor escapes quickly.
The bag method is the easiest on the lungs. By the time a bag is full, the vapor is at or near room temperature. Many vaporizers do a good job of cooling the vapor as you inhale, but a bag is the only way to guarantee cool vapor.
A small number of desktop vapes can handle both whips and bags. With these models, you get the best of both worlds. You can inhale through the whip, use the fan to assist your inhalation, or use the fan to fill a bag. These combo setups are the most practical and versatile, and the popular models are all highly regarded by reviewers and users.
- B. PORTABLE VAPORIZERS
Portable vapes are just that; they are portable because they do not depend on AC power. Some models run on butane or similar gases, but most use rechargeable batteries. There is an enormous variety of options. The best ones allow you to use them on the go, and also while plugged in to a power source.
Pay attention to a portable vaporizer’s components. Cheap materials, like rubber and some plastics, may cause the vapor to taste harsh or strange. It’s never nice when your vapor tastes like burning plastic and chemicals! The best models use metals such as steel.
Purchase a model with as little glass as possible. Glass parts on vapes are notorious for breaking, even on desktop models. This problem is even worse with portables, so make sure you buy something well-made and solid.
- C. PEN VAPES
Pen-style vapes look like, well, pens. They are usually long and thin and are often small enough to conceal in a pocket, or even with your hand. While some companies claim to sell models which can be used to vape herb, most are only good for concentrates; the coils get too hot and cause the herb to combust.
Even if you only plan to use concentrate with your pen vape, choose carefully. Some models are intended only for oil, or only for wax. The distinctions will usually be apparent on the packaging or website, but sometimes it gets confusing. Just remember, if it looks like an e-cigarette, and has a tank to be filled, it probably only takes oil.
There are countless choices when it comes to pen vapes, and many are nothing more than different versions of the same base model. Your best bet will always be to read reviews.
- D. SEMI-PORTABLE VAPORIZERS
Some vapes can be called semi-portable; they use either AC power or a rechargeable battery. You won’t see it as an official category, but this makes it easier to distinguish between models. These vapes tend to be larger than a typical portable, and may have a longer battery life.
A semi-portable is an excellent choice if you:
- vape frequently throughout the day,
- often vape in groups, or
- travel short distances with your vaporizer.
You can’t fit a semi-portable in your pocket, but they are much more versatile than desktop vapes.
- 3. WHERE DO YOU PLAN TO USE YOUR VAPORIZER?
Next, consider where you will store the vape, and where you will be using it.
- If you live with your parents or in a dorm, if you have kids, or if you simply don’t want anyone to know what you’re up to, choose a portable. It will be easier to hide and quickly conceal.
- If you want to vape during lunch or after work, you can keep a portable with you, or in your car, during the day. Some vapes are small enough to conceal in a bag, briefcase, desk drawer or pocket.
- Desktop units are convenient, as they have no battery to worry about, and you can leave them on for hours or even days. But, desktops also are larger and have more parts to put away.
- Some vapes heat up faster than others, but even the fastest vaporizer takes time to reach optimal temperature. Don’t underestimate the pleasure of having an “always on” desktop vape in your home.
- 4. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO VAPE?
After you figure out when and where, you will need to consider how you plan to use the vape. Think about how often you like to smoke, and for now, assume your vaping habits will be similar. Do you consume all your product in one fast session, or do you like to spread it out over a few hours? A small battery may be a big annoyance if you constantly vape throughout the day.
Pay attention to features and reviews, rather than flashing lights and cool features. If you find something that has useful AND fun features, that’s great. But if you make a purchase without research, you are likely to be unhappy.
- 5. WHO ELSE WILL USE THE VAPE?
Consider the nature of people who will be using the vaporizer. If your friends – or you – tend to be excitable or clumsy, a vaporizer with lots of little glass parts will undoubtedly break at just the wrong time. A vaporizer with plastic or metal parts will be much more robust.
- 6. WILL YOU BE SHARING?
To narrow your options, first, consider how you prefer to smoke. If you like long, drawn-out sessions, you may not be happy with a vaporizer that heats your material the entire time. Instead, think about finding a model which allows you to turn fans and heat on and off separately, or which allows you to remove the material from the heat between hits.
Conversely, if you often smoke in groups, you probably won’t be happy with a vape that runs on a small rechargeable battery. You will want to consider a portable with a more powerful battery, or even a semi-portable. You can keep your new vape plugged in and charged most of the time, but you’ll still be able to pass it around gatherings.
- 7. WHAT IS THIS ABOUT CONVECTION AND CONDUCTION?
Every vape has a chamber, the small “bowl” which holds herb or concentrate. A quality herb chamber will make a big difference in the quality of the vapor. It’s almost as important as the quality of the material you vape.
The chamber can be made out of wood, metal or glass. Metal is the best choice – it is hard to break, it won’t affect the flavor of the vapor, and it helps heat travel evenly through the materials.
As you look at your options, you may see the words “convection” and “conduction” come up. These are the two different ways the material is vaporized inside the herb chamber. You don’t need to know much about this subject right now, but it helps to understand the difference between the two.
Convection: In some models, known as convection vaporizers, super-heated air travels over the herbal material and vaporizes the compounds. The heated compounds are then inhaled as vapor. Convection models usually provide superior vapor quality. It’s easier to evenly vape all the material, and it’s harder to accidentally combust.
Conduction: In conduction models, the chamber is heated via an external source. The material inside is vaporized as the heat travels, or is conducted, through the chamber. Conduction vapes can be good, but are often tricky.
- 8. HOW MUCH CAN YOU AFFORD TO SPEND ON ACCESSORIES?
Don’t forget to consider accessories when you buy a vaporizer. The cost can really add up once you start buying everything else. Consider the following:
- What is included with your purchase? Some vapes seem like a great value. But, to properly enjoy them, you need to spend more on accessories than you did on the vaporizer.
- What accessories are available for the vape you want to buy? Some companies don’t offer useful accessories of any sort. If you want a car charger, it may not be an option no matter how much you are willing to spend.
Some useful accessories extras are almost never included with any vaporizer, but you’ll want to have them anyway. At least, you’ll want:
- a good quality grinder
- an extra pack or two of screens.
Also worth having on hand are:
- carrying cases,
- air fresheners,
- cleaning solutions, and
- backups of breakable parts.
There’s nothing worse than not being able to vape because you can’t clean the chamber, or because you broke your glass bowl.
- DON’T FORGET THE MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY
The last thing you will want to consider is the warranty.
Always buy your vaporizer from an authorized retailer; when possible go to the manufacturer directly. You may think you’re getting a great deal on eBay, Craigslist or AliExpress. But, just like all vaporizers are not created equal, warranties are not the same, either.
If you buy from an unauthorized retailer, you might get a genuine product. You definitely won’t get the peace of mind of a manufacturer’s warranty. Here are two important things to consider:
- How long does the warranty last? Different manufacturers have different policies, but five years is the minimum you should consider.
- What does the warranty cover? Look at what is or isn’t covered. Some vapes come with a warranty that covers everything, including glass, while others don’t seem to cover much at all.
A vape is a significant investment, and if something happens, you will appreciate a good manufacturer’s warranty.
If you’ve read all this, you know enough to confidently choose your first vaporizer. If you still have questions, don’t worry. Vaping can be as simple as smoking, or it can develop into a lifelong hobby. While you will be set up and running the moment you get home with your first vape, there is always more to learn. Jump right in and have fun; there’s no way to mess up.