Help! I want to buy a portable vape but there’s so damn many!
The explosion in recent years of portable vaporizers entering the market means there’s now a bewildering variety of models to choose from. Which is great, but it can make choosing which one to go with a bit of a head-breaker.
Before working your way through review after review, it pays to be aware of the general range of features and limitations to bear in mind when making your choice.
Let Vaporizer Blog lead you through the variety of ingenious devices and help you focus on the most essential things to consider when you’re ready to buy your first portable vape.
Gas or battery?
Remember: vaporization is essentially quite simple. You heat some air to around 200 degrees, then suck or blow this through a ground sample of herbs. At this heat, the essential volatile ingredients such as oils, terpenes and cannabinoids aerosolize out of the herb and are inhaled.
In practice, a large and varied number of approaches are taken to achieve this. The heat source – butane gas or battery? Design – sturdy and functional or cool? What kind of inhalation is preferred? How easy is the device to clean?
BTW, when we talk about ‘portable’ we are referring to handheld devices that are operated with one hand, using a cordless heat supply and that works with dry herbs.
The first thing that will strike you is the vape’s design, obviously, as this is what it looks like from the outside. Consider how big and heavy the vape is to get an idea if this fits with your desired way of vaping on the go.
Will it fit in a back pocket? Your inside jacket pocket? Or will you need some kind of carry case, backpack or bumbag? How relaxed do think you’d feel whipping it out in public, or surreptitiously taking a lungful on your way into a cinema (say)? In short, how stealthy is the device? How attractive is its finish? Which is more important to you?
Materials and style
Vapes can be made of anything from wood, to brushed aluminium, to stainless steel, glass, various types of plastic, and combinations of the above. What do you prefer to feel in your hand? In your mouth?
Design also determines the vape’s stylishness, its ease of use and interface – how you switch it on, how you know when the battery is charged and when the temperature’s right for vaping. All these things vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Under the skin
Under the outside shell is where the real action takes place though, and deserves equal attention. How is the air heated? Most devices heat a metal or ceramic plate or the whole herb chamber and rely on the user inhaling to move the hot air.
This mix of conduction and convection can create singing of herb at the bottom or sides of the chamber, but you’ll need to step up to a desktop vape for pure convection heating.
How hard or soft you draw can have an effect on the temperature; some vapes use a computer chip and/or a sensor inside to smooth this out.
How soon is the vape ready to take a hit from? Butane delivers near instantly; most battery vapes need a longer or shorter heat up time. Three minutes might not bother you, but if you’ve woken up with severe pain you want something a bit speedier.
Assault on battery
Using a battery (generally Lithium-ion, but some use a simple AAA) for heat, how quickly does the vape reach the vaping temperature? How quickly does it charge and discharge with normal use?
If you’ll mostly be using the vape at home, it doesn’t matter how often you need to charge it. If want to take it away for a weekend, how long you can keep it charged will be more of a factor. Some portables have (optional) car adapters, and most these days have a USB as well as mains capability.
Those that use butane gas need some kind of barrier between the flame and the herb sample (or it would just ignite). Butane is fast, cheap and portable but some users have issues with un-burned residual gas, or just can’t get the knack of heating without burning.
When you inhale the vapor coming off your herb sample, how freely does it flow? Obviously this is not something you can try out online but our reviews always mention ‘the draw’. Some users like to sip small puffs, others like eye-popping lungfulls of thick vapor.
Does the mouthpiece feel welcome in your mouth, whether made from metal, plastic, ceramic or glass? Does this matter to you?
Cannabinoids are incredibly sticky and pretty much impossible to clean off with water. Isopropyl alcohol (ISO) and a cotton bud are usually enough to remove all the sticky goo that accumulates, but some vapes may have hard to reach areas that can shorten the usable life of the device.
Drawing power can deteriorate if a vape is not kept clean – especially any meshes or filters that the oily hot air passes through. How and where to clean is usually easy to discern from the chamber and airflow design.
But since the only way to fully assess ease of cleaning is to use the vape for some time, it’s worth reading what the manufacturer recommends, what our reviews suggest, and checking online forums.
A vape for life?
Related to cleanability is the device’s longevity. How well is it built? Are there any known weak points? The length of guarantee gives some indication of how it is expected to perform.
Are you a butter fingers? How will the vape survive being dropped? Most makers can deliver spares of breakable parts. But how upset will you be if that cool, shiny finish wears or scratches too easily?
Is money no object? Do you plan to build up a collection of vapes as you search for the best for particular situations? Or do you need a functional, entry-level vape that’s not necessarily the most beautiful object to look at?
There are vapes worth trying just for the novelty of their design and vaping approach alone, and judging by forum posts around the net, a lot of vape users progress to being collectors.
It’s your vape
So consider what your own requirements are. Vaping is a personal, even intimate experience. There are not many electrical devices you will put in your mouth or that deliver an essential medicine, so make sure you enjoy the experience!
Choosing to vape is a lifestyle choice, so whether you vape heavily for health or occasionally for a safe, tasty, calorie-free way of winding down after work, whether you plan to vape in public or away from mains power for extended periods, all are important factors in your vape choice.
Finally, as ‘dabbing’ with pure cannabinoid concentrates has grown in popularity in the US (but pretty illegal in most other countries), so we’ve seen a convergence of e-cigarette and vape technology with ‘e-pens’.
The majority work with highly pure concentrates only; some claim to vape herb too, but in practice most of these simply burn it. But if you are after an ultra-portable and have access to wax, shatter or oil, here are our Top Ten e-pens – some do genuinely work with herbs.
For you “old schoolers” though, here are our favorite 10 portable vapes: http://www.vaporizerblog.com/portable-vaporizers/