Visual Guide: How to Use a Vape Pen

how to smoke dabs what are dabs

So, you've probably heard about dabbing:  superheating a "nail" to vaporize concentrates like wax, shatter, or isolates. Dabbing is a great way to consume high doses of THC (or CBD, for that matter), but it can be intense for the uninitiated.

If the whole blowtorch thing weirds you out or the price tag of a quality desktop dab rig seems steep, don't write off dabbing just yet. Did you know you can smoke dabs with a load-your-own style vaporizer pen?

Don't get it twisted: we personally find dabs to be highly enjoyable and we recommend anyone try one before swearing them off entirely. That said, you don't NEED a dab rig.

This is because, technically, a 'dab' is just a small dose of concentrate. This essentially means that no matter where you heat it up, you're dabbing. If you already own a portable vaporizer, read on for pointers on how to use it for dabbing as well as oil-based concentrates.

If you're looking for your first pen, there is no need to spend more than $60 - $100 for a reliable, quality vaporizer. There are many different vape pens on the market, and they all work in generally the same way (despite what the enormous range in price points would suggest).

  1. Understand How Your Vaporizer Pen Works

    how your vaporizer works

    Regardless of make or model, almost all dab pens have the same basic anatomy: a battery, an atomizer/chamber, and a mouthpiece. First, take the mouthpiece off the pen to expose the chamber. You should see a coil, or heating element, inside. As a quick refresher, vaporization occurs when cannabis concentrate is heated to a specific temperature range where the cannabinoids and terpenes begin to boil off into a gas without combusting (catching fire and burning).

  2. Get the Important Vape Pen Accessories

    best vaporizer accessories for smoking dabs on the go

    We recommend storing your dabs in an air-tight, smell-proof container to ensure that flavor and potency are preserved. Silicone is our favorite dab-friendly material for its nonstick properties, but a glass container would also do the trick. Speaking of silicone, silicone dab mats are great for saving any spilled dabs, as even the stickiest concentrates can be recovered with your dabber instead of lost to the table or floor. If you're seriously in a pinch, some parchment paper folded around the dab will do, but if you dab with any kind of regularity, do yourself a favor and invest in a few basic tools.

  3. Select the Right Concentrates

    what is a dab

    Now that you have your pen and dabbing tools, you need concentrates. While it is possible to load a dab pen with nearly any type of concentrate, there are certainly some that work better than others. Solvent-based extractions that produce oil (free of plant matter) vaporize best in pens. This means concentrates like BHO, PHO, and CO2 oil are ideal for load-your-own vaporizer pens. In our experience, there are certain types of concentrate consistencies, like budder, wax, and sugar, that vaporize better than others, like shatter. Not only do they tend to vape more smoothly in a pen, but these softer consistencies also tend to be easier to work with and load on the go. If you don't have access to concentrates, you can follow our guide on how to make dabs at home. You can also buy CBD isolate (shown in image below), which is a very effective extract for relief from pain, anxiety, and inflammation.

    Learn More about CBD

  1. Load Your Vape Pen Chamber

    smoking dabs vaporizer pen

    Given the high price tag of quality concentrates (or, alternatively, the effort you put into making your own), it's important to handle them properly. Touching concentrates with your fingers will degrade the quality of your oil, so use a dabber to collect the concentrate from your parchment paper or container.

    what is a dab

    Place the concentrate near the coil, taking care not to inadvertently bump the coil with your tool (they can break!). Use the inside rim of the chamber to scrape any residual concentrate off the dabber. Storing your dabber against the Dab Mat in the lid of the Safety Case will help ensure your other supplies don’t get sticky.

  2. Taking Dabs from Your Pen

    how to smoke dabs with a vape pen

    Now you are ready to vape! Press and hold the ‘on’ button through the duration of your inhalation. The best rips will come from slow and steady draws as opposed to inhaling as hard as you possibly can. This is because the only way to draw air through the pen is via very tiny air holes at the bottom of the chamber that naturally restrict airflow. Many dab pens have adjustable temperature settings; it is important to select the correct one for you. Lower temperatures will produce more flavorful hits with less throat irritation, while higher temperature settings will provide more powerful hits with dense clouds of vapor. Although it sounds obvious, it is important to make sure that your battery is fully charged for consistently potent and flavorful hits. Many people stock an extra battery or charger in their vaporizer pen case to ensure they never run out of power.

  3. Priming the Wick

    how to smoke dabs with a vape pen priming the wick

    If you prefer thick vaporous hits, you may find that pressing the button down for a few seconds before you begin inhaling is more effective.  This is a technique known as 'priming the wick.' Normally you would do this with the mouthpiece already on, but we photographed this action with the chamber open so you can see what happens inside the vape. Essentially, it pre-melts the concentrate so that it sinks to the bottom of the chamber and fully surrounds the heating coil. Simply hold the ‘on’ button down for a few seconds until the concentrate has melted down into the chamber and it begins to vaporize.

  4. Store in a Smell Proof Vaporizer Case

    Loading a vape pen with the Safety Case

    As you can see, smoking dabs on the go require a few critical tools and vape pen accessories. By using a smell proof vaporizer kit, you can keep everything organized and ready for the next time you want to load your pen on the go.

Common Questions

How big of a dab should I put in?

As a rule of thumb, fill your chamber ¾ full or less.  Much more, and you can have problems with clogging or overflowing. Some pens perform well after adding a dab the size of a grain of rice, while others can hold nearly a half a gram of concentrate -- it all depends on your pen's chamber. Deeper chambers with larger capacities typically perform better with more concentrate, whereas smaller, shallower chambers do well with small dabs.

Furthermore, if you set the pen down prior to consuming the oil, it can sometimes leak and create a sticky mess. To maximize the flavor and effectiveness of each rip, we recommend loading only what you intend to consume immediately. This ensures that the chamber won’t leak prior to being stored in a protective place like a safety case.

How long of a hit do I take?

This will depend on the specific make and model of your pen. Most pens only allow the ‘on’ button to be pressed down for a short time (i.e. seven to nine seconds). This is to ensure that the heating element and associated vapor does not get too hot and begin to combust the concentrate. It is more efficient to take several shorter draws, as opposed to a single massive rip.

When do I need to reload?

You will need to reload your dab pen when the hits become less vaporous and begin to taste like the heated wick (as opposed to the flavorful, terpene-rich concentrate). As soon as you feel like you aren’t getting a great hit, it’s time to check the chamber to see how much concentrate remains. If the chamber is nearly empty, it’s time to reload. However, if it is still full, it likely means that your battery is losing charge.

I keep accidentally pressing the button of my pen, is this avoidable?

Yes, most dab pens come with a locking feature that inactivates the ‘on’ button. Simply press the button five times consecutively and the light should blink, indicating that the ‘on’ button has been deactivated. To unlock the dab pen, quickly press the button down five times consecutively again.

Can I vaporize CBD?

Yes, just make sure to use high-quality organic material from a reputable brand like Ambary Gardens or CBDistillery. Our favorite is Ambary Garden's 99% CBD Isolate

Can I travel with my vaporizer pen?

Yes. We recommend using a quality vaporizer case for carrying all your dab pen essentials in an organized fashion and ensuring no more sticky pockets or broken pens. As long as you follow the TSA guidelines, you can even take your vape pen on the plane!

Which Vape Pen is Best?

the best vape pen

We recommend you select a vaporizer with no metal coil or silica wicks in the heating chamber – like the Ceramic Vaporizer by Black Rock Originals.  This is the best portable vaporizer we have tested to date. The benefits to an all-ceramic chamber are smooth, flavorful hits that truly mimic dabbing as opposed to vaping.  The ceramic chamber also eliminates the potential of harmful metals leaching into your concentrate during vaping.

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